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    Our Geocaching Adventure





    A couple days ago, the children and I had a couple hours of time to fill between school and dinner.  It was a sunny day, far too nice to stay indoors, but I wasn't in the mood for a playground.  So... we decided to go geocaching! What is geocaching, you may ask? Basically, it’s high tech global treasure hunting. A bit more specifically, someone in the world (the hider) hides a treasure (a cache) somewhere in the world, and someone else in the world (the seeker), tries to find it by using their GPS!

     

    Specifically, how does it work? Well, first, he hider creates a cache – usually a small Tupperware-like box (though it can be much smaller – called a microcache), often camouflaged, and fills it with trinkets, a pen, and small pad of paper.  The hider takes the box out to an undisclosed public location and hides it, and then records the coordinates – X(and Y) marks the spot, you know – by using their GPS.  Next, the hider uploads those coordinates to http://www.geocaching.com/ and describes a bit about the cache for the potential seekers: the size, the terrain, the difficulty of hiding spot, perhaps the contents of the box – particularly if the there is a special “prize” for the FTF (first to find), or a “travel bug” (a trackable tag that can be carried from cache to cache), and any clues (which are encrypted as to not spoil the surprise) if the seekers are having difficulty finding the cache. Next, someone else in the world (the seeker), goes online, chooses a cache that’s been hidden nearby, enters the coordinates of that cache into their GPS, and then attempts to find it! Once the seeker finds it, they take a bit of the treasure, leave a bit of new treasure, sign the log (if there is one), re-hide the cache (in the same spot) for the next seeker to find, and then log their find online, along with any extra hints, notes about the condition of the box or the hiding spot for future seekers’ reference.

     

    Adam and I have been geocaching on and off for the last 6 years; and have even hidden a couple ourselves. We’ve taken the kids geocaching on nearly every vacation we’ve been on, ever since they were babies.  It’s a way we’ve been able to reconnect with our love of hiking/climbing/outdoor activities without planning a full-on outdoors camping  hiking trip.  A geocaching trip can be a quick as a half hour stop, or a full day hiking adventure! The fun part for kids is that many caches contain small treasures – bouncy balls, figurines, toys, stickers, even money! I really enjoy the hunt! It’s a great family activity that combines nature, technology, and science, introduces you to new places you’ve never explored, and spans age groups (one trip, we went with both Adam’s grandmother AND our (then baby) daughter; and all had a great time!). 

     

    Yesterday’s seek was our first of the year, and my first time as the only adult on a geocaching trip; meaning, that I was both Captain AND Navigator!  This was also the first time I used the Groundspeak Geocaching app on my iPhone instead of the hand-held GPS.  Wow, what a difference!  Prior to the iPhone, you’d go to your computer before setting out, find a few caches that looked interesting, print off the details (in the event that you need to look at clues or re-read the description, etc.), then painstakingly enter each coordinate into your GPS & set way points. With the iPhone, the GPS, map, compass, and geocaching.com are all combined in one place – so there’s no printing, no entering coordinates – just pick your cache, and start hunting! Makes caching with kids much easier & more fun!

      

    We ended up finding two caches on this trip – the first being a bit more challenging of a find than the second – which was convenient, as by the end of the second one, the kids were wearing down, and it was starting to get chilly outside.  My 5-yo was really into it this time; she knew right where to search, was actively checking the GPS map, and making guesses as to what was in the cache. 

      

    My 2-yo was just excited to be able to run freely outside, through the woods and mud, and get a bonus toy! Both kids have asked me when the next time is that we’ll go out. Myself, I can’t wait until the next sunny afternoon that comes along – it’s just that much fun!

       

     

    To find out more about Geocaching:

    http://www.geocaching.com/

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Geocaching

    Follow Geocaching.com on twitter: http://twitter.com/GoGeocaching 

    Posted: Mar 27 2010, 12:13 by kelly | Comments (3) RSS comment feed |
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    Filed under: Children | Education | Outdoors

    Bringing Nature Indoors with a Nature Table!





    Yesterday, I found myself reading Amber Strocel’s blog and was inspired, as I often am, by her zest for life - and motherhood. In her post from Friday, she introduced me to the concept of a nature table.

     

    Now, it’s been raining here all day; and if you believe the weather report, is supposed to continue for the next three days.  A long rainy weekend with two little kids necessitates an engaging indoor activity! What better activity for a rainy day than creating a nature table?

     

    First, we brought the old craft table down from the attic.  It had recently been retired due to its small size & copious coatings of glue and paint. I couldn’t bear to just throw it out when we replaced it – and good thing – as it’s just the perfect size for its new life of holding little treasures. 

     

    The children covered it with my daughter’s old receiving blanket. It has roses on it & we considered that the first nature-y part of our nature table.

     

    Next up, we scoured our house for items brought in from outside, or things that reminded us of being outside.  It was really interesting to watch my children choose items – the two year old chose a soap dish shaped like a flower.  The five year old chose a flower sun catcher she’d painted. They added flower stickers, a beanie baby worm, two small plants, a painting, a photograph, animal figurines, two plants, and some seeds. 

     

    We assembled the collected items and observed.  As lovely as it looked, we all felt like something was missing.  So…we donned our rain gear & headed out into the deluge! Outside was the real nature we were missing: rocks, leaves, seed pods, pine needles!
     

    A half hour later, soaked to the bone, but happy as clams, we returned with our cold hands full of nature’s gifts:

    We dried off our haul, added it to the table, and came up with this finished work:

    I think it turned out beautifully!  Yet, more importantly, when we were finished, my 5-year-old announced: “This was really fun Mom!”  And truly, that’s all I needed to hear.  Thanks again Amber for inspiring an afternoon of fun, education, and the simple (and free!) wonder and beauty of nature.

    Posted: Mar 13 2010, 17:47 by kelly | Comments (3) RSS comment feed |
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    Filed under: Children | Education

    The Big Questions





    Mom?

    Yeah?

    Do you know who Gandhi is?

    Yes.

    He taught people about peace.

    Yes, he did.

    When did he die?

    Hmmm, I’m not sure.  Maybe the 60’s?

    How old was he?

    I don’t really know, maybe in his 80’s?

    How did he die?

    I don’t know. We’ll have to look it up.

     

    Mom?

    Yes?

    Why are the days shorter in the winter when the earth is turning the same every day?

    Ummm, I don’t know.  I think it’s because of the way the earth is tilted.

    But why? The day is always 24 hours. But in the winter there is less daytime than in the summer.
    You’re right. We’ll have to look it up.


     


    Every night, after the lights are out, is when my children dig up the best questions. Not just the, “how many hours are in a day”-type questions, but the, “WHY are there 24 hours in a day”-type questions.  

     

    I realize we’ve come to a point, particularly with my 5 year old, that she’s asking questions to which many times I just don’t know the answers.

     

    It’s amazing.  Amazing how much she knows, how much she’s curious about, and the depth of thinking she’s doing to come up with these questions.  And yet, at the same time, I can’t help but feel a sense of disappointment in myself when I don’t know the answer to their questions.  I’m MOM; I should know, right?  So, I’ve fallen back on the, “we’ll have to look it up” response.  And many times, we DO look it up, but I often forget.

     

    I want to remember – for her – for them both – and to actively go to the internet and search with them the next day for answers to their questions.  Their sense of curiosity and wonder is so keen right now, as is their ability to process & save information; I want to take advantage of that, and not squelch it just because I didn’t know the answer. 

     

    I’m thinking of keeping a notepad right outside the bedroom door, and jotting down the questions I didn’t have answers for after they fall asleep, so that the next day we actually CAN look up the information.


    How do YOU answer the difficult questions?

     

    Posted: Jan 26 2010, 11:15 by kelly | Comments (2) RSS comment feed |
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    Filed under: Children | Education

    Montessori Inspired Organization at Home





    We love the Montessori method, and while we don’t use Montessori materials in our home, I have strived, since they’ve been enrolled in school, to structure our house in a more Montessori-friendly fashion. Both to ease the transition between home & school – AND because I believe that good organization of your environment leads to good organization of your mind!

    Below, I’ve taken several before & after photos of the last few months of rearrangement/organization in our livingspace to help my children do their work (play) in an organized way. The most important things for me were that they know where things belong (so they know where to get whatever toy or craft or game they want and where put them away) AND that they’re able to get their materials & complete the tasks they want to complete as independently as possible.

    Enjoy! Note: these photos were taken over a few month time span, so you may see similar items in different locations – i.e. the globe! We’re always working towards the BEST arrangement! :)

    First, our entry way before (left) and after (right):

    Their coats were previously hung on adult-height hooks, so they couldn’t hang them themselves. Shoes were just in a line, and helmets, mittens, etc. were in a basket – so it wasn’t obvious where to put things, and stacks of shoes/gloves, etc. often developed. I installed a rack w/hooks & baskets at their height. Baskets are used for mittens & hats. And the shoe shelf was built for shoes & helmets.

    Next, our toy/game area before (top left & right) and after (below):

     

     

    Previous to the renovation, games were stacked and piled in bins and on the shelf – things that were under other things weren’t often played with – and how to get items back on the shelf, or to which shelf things belonged was not easy to figure out. I ended up putting things away/straightening a lot in the evening. Afterwards, I strived for a more Montessori-esque one item per shelf (NO STACKING!) and clear & accessible places to put items. In one photo below, you’ll see the rolled up “work mats” – and then at the bottom, the children using them while doing their work!

     

     

    I’m also including a few spaces where I didn’t take before photos – just wanted to share with you! I picked a few of our house plants to arrange in a child-accessible plant area with spray bottle & watering can (which can be filled at the fridge by them). The reading area has a child-sized couch & natural light by the window. And finally, the craft area with a distinct drawer or container for each material gives the children the opportunity to be more creative when they can find just what they’re looking for!

     

     

    Posted: Nov 19 2009, 18:47 by kelly | Comments (5) RSS comment feed |
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    Filed under: Children | Education