Seizing the Moment

Homeschooling, like any other educational style, has its pluses and minuses, ups and downs, joys and challenges. But one thing I really enjoy about how we do school is the freedom and flexibility in how we organize our homeschool day.

I like to be planned and have a schedule so at the beginning of each school year I always come up with a written schedule for each of our kids that I print out and put inside a clear plastic cover so each subject can be marked off with an erasable pen and then reused each week. This school year I thought I’d be super organized and I worked hard to plan the exact times for each class and when each person would be working on what subject throughout the day.

But in addition to being scheduled, I also like being flexible and I soon realized that those exact times aren’t all that useful for our family. Sometimes kids wake up really excited to work on a writing project or other subject and want to get started on that first. Bryan (who teaches algebra and geometry to the boys) often needs to plan his math class for the day around other commitments, which means algebra could start at 9 am one day and 9 pm the next. I used to feel discouraged and frustrated that I couldn’t get us to stick exactly to the schedule, but now I realize that our flexibility is actually one of our biggest strengths.

Each kid (and parent) in the family gets to help decide how each day will flow, depending on what we feel like tackling first. And we can also schedule impromptu breaks between subjects into the day, like a some jumping on the mini-trampoline to get the blood flowing again or a few minutes with Ethan watching his favorite nature show on YouTube, Brave Wilderness.

A couple of days ago, we had beautiful weather. The sun was shining gloriously in the cloudless sky and the ducks in the river next to our house we’re quacking away. After lunch Katie asked if she could take a quick break to go feed the ducks some bread. She came back a few minutes later and excitedly told us that she’d spotted a mother duck and her six ducklings swimming along in the water. So, Ethan and I hustled out to see if we could spot them too. We did and the three of us enjoyed a nice break from math and English together as we oohed and ahhed at their fluffy sweetness.

After a little while, the task master in me reappeared and I called us all in to get back to our regular studies, but I really enjoyed that nature break with my kiddos. We don’t do that as much as we did when they were little tykes, but I hope we remember to do it more from here on out. It felt great to seize the moment!

img_5546

Bread in hand and on our way to find the ducks!

img_5545

Mama duck and her ducklings

img_5549img_5553

img_5550

Trying to get a better view.

img_5558

Heading home

img_5563

img_5564

This is our humble abode. It’s fun to live next to a river.

Advertisements

Animal Encounters

This month our family broke out of our normal routine to enjoy some encounters with animals at well-known spots in Ibaraki and Tochigi prefectures.

The first place we visited was the Aqua World Aquarium in Ooarai, which is about an hour away from us in Ibaraki Prefecture. For fifth grade science this year, Katie is studying marine biology with the Apologia science curriculum so we thought this would be a great chance to get up close and personal with some of the amazing creatures she would be studying about. 

Highlights here included watching penguins feed, dive, and swim around their enclosure, enjoying a truly amazing dolphin and whale show, and oohing and aahing over stumpy sun fish and smiling sea turtles.



Then later in the month, our family hopped in the car and headed an hour in a different direction to visit the Nasu Animal Kingdom with our good friends the Abarra Family.  Nasu is located in Tochigi Prefecture where we live, but this was our first time to explore the Animal Kingdom.  Wow, were we impressed!  
We were able to get very close to many of the animals and there was quite a variety of species: lazy sloths, napping bats, lounging capybaras, some adorable red pandas, and fuzzy-antlered reindeer were just a few of our favorites.  The wild bird show was also a treat.  We had a fun, full day of being with dear friends and enjoying God’s creation.  It was great!  We’re already looking forward to our next adventure, whatever that may be!


Bursting with Butterflies

Rainbow colors fluttering through the air, feathery antennas brushing our skin, the scent of juicy nectar and pungent flowers — these are the sights, sounds, and aromas that filled our senses when the kids and I visited Igashira Park’s  butterfly house last month.  The butterfly house was one section of a bird, flower, and butterfly exhibit on the grounds of the huge park.  We all entered the butterfly sanctuary expecting to immediately be pounced upon by friendly creatures who wanted to land on our heads, hands, and feet, but we soon discovered that getting to that experience would take quite a bit of patience and a little bit of creativity.

Austin seemed to be the most attractive to the insects flapping their wings all around us, but soon the rest of us were able to get some of them to stop and spend a few seconds resting on our fingers.  We found that staying super still, putting drops of nectar from the butterfly feeders on our hands, and even (oddly enough) carrying a coke bottle made us more attractive to the colorful creatures.

In addition to butterflies, the exhibit housed a couple of toucans, a few other small birds, some turtles, and a plethora of plants, including a tropical banana tree, which was our favorite.

All that communing with nature left us hungry, so we popped over to the cafeteria next door and feasted on some delicious ice cream cones before heading home for the day.

Igashira Park is in Moka City, about 40 minutes from our house, so we don’t go there super often, but with bicycles to rent, a “10,000 person sized pool”, an obstacle course, and other attractions it’s a fun place to spend a pleasant afternoon as a family.  We will definitely be back!

IMG_8411

IMG_8431

IMG_8418

 

Family Fun at Green Park

Friends from Katie’s jazz dance class recently invited us to have a barbeque at Green Park in Utsunomiya.  We’d never been there before, but were really impressed with how many fun things there were for kids to do!  After feasting on delicious barbequed meat and vegetables next to the Kinugawa river, the kids set off to ride funny bicycles and then test their physical prowess on the “over water obstacle course.”  There was also a water play area, a paddle boat lake, and venders selling ice cream, crepes, and other delectable treats.  The weather was perfect and we greatly enjoyed the time with our friends.  We definitely plan to visit again!

ImageImageImageImageImageImageImageImage

Fun with Snow and Igloos in Nikko

A few days ago, the kids and I hopped into the car with our good friend Yoshie and sped off for the mountains of Nikko to enjoy the Kamakura Matsuri. Matsuri means festival and kamakura are Japanese style igloos made out of packed snow. Two hours later, we were excitedly wading through knee-deep snow and the kids were “body sledding” down packed snow hills and enjoying every second of it. Even without the igloos to look at and climb inside of, Austin, Ethan and Katie were ecstatic just to be around so much snow and be able to play in it. In Utsunomiya it only snows a couple of times a year and even then it doesn’t get very deep — just a few centimeters, usually. It also melts quickly. So, the kids were jealous of peole who get to live in the mountains of Nikko with so much snow around them all winter. (I, on the other hand, couldn’t help but notice that there weren’t any grocery stores or other conveniences for miles around! I think I prefer just visiting…) The igloos were very cool, though, and some of them had tatami mats and a little barbeque stove inside them so you could eat a meal. We didn’t do any BBQ-ing, but we did buy warm “nikuman” (steamed bread with meat and spices inside) and ate those inside of an igloo so we could warm up a little. In addition to large igloos you could climb inside of, there was a huge area filled with mini igloos that had candles inside of them. Once it started to get dark, workers went out and lit all the candles. It was a beautiful sight!

Though it was a bit of a drive out there, we would definitely go again and would recommend the matsuri to anyone in the area, especially those with kids! If you go, be sure to bundle up! The night we were there it was minus 9 degrees Celsius — 7 degrees Farenheit. Burr!!

A Grassy Oasis!

Now that we have a nice lawn in our yard, we have been doing our best to enjoy it.  Picnicking with friends, spontaneously munching veggies off the vine, beating the heat through water play, observing nature, and just rolling around on the soft, mossy surface have been a  few of our favorite yard activities this summer.  Most recently, some of Katie’s preschool friends came over for lunch and then cooled off together by crowding into the baby pool.  Here is a little slide show of some of the fun we’ve had in our grassy oasis.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.