Monday, May 27, 2013

Annual CHS Showcase

My homeschool group, Cary Homeschoolers, will be putting on our annual brag-fest this Saturday. It's a chance for us to show what we have done over the year, and for people who are thinking about homeschooling, or who would like to get ideas, to come and see what some of us do and ask questions. It's also a great way for current homeschoolers to share ideas amongst ourselves. There will be curriculum to look at as well as various groups such as Lego League and Robotics.

We'll be there, so if you are in the area, come out and say "Hi!".

Middle Creek Community Center
123 Middle Creek Park Ave  Apex, NC 27539 

The website is here if you'd like to see more!

Monday, May 20, 2013

Sylvan Heights Bird Park, Scotland Neck NC

Late last week we took a field trip out to Sylvan Heights Bird Park. The name of this park has crossed my computer once or twice, but we had never had time to go. The opportunity presented itself on a semi-free Thursday, so I signed the kids up for a bird talk with some other homeschoolers and we drove the two hours east from Raleigh.

This park is really a motley collection of birds, mostly water fowl, from four continents. Many of them are rescues or birds kept for breeding and conservation purposes.

It was definitely worth the trip. I will say that I did have my misgivings. As we drove past acres of farm fields and the little bitty town of Scotland Neck, we really seemed to be in the middle of nowhere. Driving down a small entrance road and the small entrance sign, I wondered what we were in for.

We went in to a fairly nice welcoming building with the obligatory gift shop and bathrooms, and immediately, the kids were treated to a wonderful sight. An incubator stood in the entrance hall and inside that incubator, three ducklings were in the process of hatching out of their eggs that very moment.

The kids were pulled away from this, very reluctantly I might add, for a one hour class on bird biology and behavior. This class was to be for middle-schoolers and above, but the teacher was welcoming and willing to let the younger members of the group take part. She talked about eggs and specific features of them and why they are the way they are. She talked about feather types and structure. She talked about bird bones and flight and adaptations. It was a fairly good overview.

We got to see and gently touch a few birds after this. The first was a White-Faced Whistling Duck. Isn't she cute? Most of the ducks she showed us were hand-raised... so very tame.

This one was a Black-Bellied Whistling Duck from South America. She was a little more nervous.

Third was an Andean Goose, from the Andes, of course. 

I don't have a good picture of the last one, but charmingly, the bird felt most comfortable with it's wings spread out in a hug around the teacher. It was a Magpie Goose from Australia.

After the class we toured the grounds. The birds are in enclosures organized by continent, and I could have spent more time picking the very interesting birds out of the groups, but I think the kids enjoyed the "Landing Zone" the best. This was an enclosure with probably hundreds of parakeets. You can purchase little honey and nut sticks and the birds will very aggressively go after them. You have to be careful where you step, because they seem to also like to pull on people's shoe laces. We spent quite a bit of time in here. They were very amusing to say the least. 

You can also purchase, for a dollar, a small bag of pellets to feed to the flamingos. This was pretty neat, though it was also very clear that picking pellets out of people's hands was a very unnatural thing for a flamingo to do. I do hope those birds don't spend all of their time in that tiny enclosure.

 Some other random sights were some honey bees in the bathroom house on the trail. You open a door to plastic window showing the inside of the entire colony.

There is a beaver dam and a blind for bird viewing near it, though we didn't see anything that day. 

There was also a really nice koi pond with some enormous fish in it.

We actually ran out of time and didn't get to see everything, but I think the trip out there was worth it, and I very much look forward to taking some family members out there the next time they are in town.


Hawaiian Nene Goose

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Spring Thing 2013

A week ago we took part in an annual tradition in our homeschool group. It's something we call the "Spring Thing", and it's really just a Field Day for the kids and a Potluck lunch. We rent a large shelter in one of our parks and also use the baseball field to set up all kinds of games for the kids. 

I have to hand it to the moms who organized it this year. Everything went smoothly, as far as I could tell, and the kids all had a great time. 

Field Day consisted of: bean bag toss, long jump, badminton, hoola-hooping (and other little-kid things like balls and jump ropes), sack races, and an obstacle course. There was also a point where everyone got together for a really big tug-of-war... girls vs. boys, kids vs. parents... you get the idea. It was really hot out there, so beaning a friend with a wet sponge was a lot of fun in the end. 

Once all the kids were soaking wet, everyone headed over to the shelter for a few announcements and food. If you could have seen the anticipation on their hungry faces...well, you know growing boys especially gotta eat!

 I should mention that there were tables of free give-away curriculum and curriculum to just look at. There was an opportunity for people to come meet the various sub-group coordinators for the various age groups, and there were games and crafts for the little kids as well and face painting. 

A "Field Day" is something that many schools have each year and something that our homeschooled kids may miss out on, so we put together our own day and I think the kids have a blast. Our group is large enough that even if only 50% of the membership shows up, it's still a fairly large gathering. I'm not sure how many ended up coming this year, but it's been close to that in the past.

I love how the kids are willing and able to jump from activity to activity without much prompting and do their part to include everyone. Not only do the kids have a blast, the parents also get to see people they might not have seen in a while and catch up on things. I have brought family members to these events, and it always ends up being a great positive plug from our homeschooling lifestyle.