Roadschooling Chicago

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Every summer we head back to Wisconsin to spend time at the family cottage in the north woods of Harshaw, WI as well as for visiting family and friends in Appleton, Manitowoc, and Milwaukee.  Over the years we have flown in and out via Chicago due to cheaper fares but never really played there. So, this summer we intentionally made a 4 night trip to Chicago as our son has wanted to visit Fermilab and UL as well as see the Shedd Aquarium and Willis Tower.  So for this roadschooling adventure, we took my mom and my 8-year-old nephew along with us.  

 

I know our itinerary was not typical but we were staying in Naperville instead of Chicago as we originally had a guided tour scheduled for Fermilab and wanted to be near the place we were going to be spending a full day at.  However, we found out the tour dates changed and we no longer had a guided tour. We were still going to be visiting Fermilab but we had more flexibility on when. In addition to being closer to Fermilab and Morton Arboretum, we knew Naperville had a direct train route to Union Station.  Sadly, that got canceled due to a freight train accident that canceled several early morning routes and delayed others by up to 3 hours. Thus we drove into Chicago for 2 days and played out in the suburbs the other full day. We stopped at UL on our way back to Milwaukee so it was not an out of the way trip for us.

 

The following is what we did:

  • Fermilab (1st floor, 2nd floor, and 15th floor are open to the public and free, guided tours on select days monthly have age requirements, and have trails as well as bison on their greater grounds)
  • Willis Tower Sky Deck
  • Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago Money Museum (free & next door to Willis)
  • Shoreline Water Taxi (this company offers an architecture tour as well as water taxi service from Union Station/Willis Tower to Navy Pier and from Navy Pier to Shedd Aquarium)
  • Navy Pier (free to walk and has a fun splash pad)
  • The Adler Planetarium (a member of ASTC and offers reciprocity, and they have a nice beach behind them)
  • Shedd Aquarium (sadly no longer had reciprocity for Houston Zoo)
  • Morton Arboretum (has reciprocity with select gardens)
  • Lederman Science Center (small, free museum on the grounds of Fermilab as well as hold summer programs for teachers and middle & high school students)
  • Underwriters Laboratory / UL (corporate headquarters, stopped for a photo and was able to enter the lobby and my son visited with staff, they hold public events and tours periodically throughout the year.

 

And here was our list of alternatives:

  • The Field Museum (After the hecticness of Shedd we went to Adler and the beach behind it and opted to not do the Field Museum but all 3 are near each other and share parking lots,  The Field does have ASTC reciprocity)
  • Museum of Science and Industry (reciprocity with ASTC)
  • Cernan Earth and Space Center at Triton College  (reciprocity with ASTC)
  • Museum of Science and Industry (reciprocity with ASTC)
  • Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum (by Lincoln Park Zoo which is free)
  • International Museum of Surgical Science (south of Lincoln Park Zoo)
  • SciTech Hands-On Museum (a suburb of Chicago, close to Naperville, and reciprocity with ASTC)
  • Garfield Park Conservatory (free, west of downtown Chicago)
  • DuPage Children’s Museum (in Naperville)
  • First Division Museum at Cantigny (in Wheaton)
  • Jurica-Suchy Nature Museum (located on the second floor of the Michael and Kay Birck Hall on Benedictine University)

 

Hopefully, these lists will inspire you to explore the Chicago area.  I know there is, even more, to see and do in Chicago. Go explore!

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Geometry for High School Credit

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Flexibility in curriculum and supplemental materials is a huge plus to homeschooling.  Thus, we used significantly more materials to cover geometry than what is typically used.   We used multiple online programs because they used different instruction styles, different sequences, and had different ways of solving some of the problems because of the different country of origin.  Khan Academy is from the USA.  Knowre is a joint Candian and American venture.  Mathletics started in Australia and the UK and has spread to Europe and the USA.  It is important to understand that there is more than one way to solve a problem and have exposure to instruction styles of other countries.  We had a couple traditional textbooks for supplemental purposes.  We used other non-traditional books and videos too.  The following is a list of our resources for high school Geometry.

Online Programs:

  • Mathletics Geometry (100% completed, 92.9% mastery of 114 skill areas)
  • Knowre Geometry (100 % completed, 98 % mastery of 71 units)
  • Khan Academy Basic Geometry (100% Completed 98% mastery of 112 skill areas)
  • Khan Academy High School Geometry (110 skill areas, 100% attempted and 96% mastered under the old system, 98% mastered under the new system)

Books Used:

  • The Penguin Dictionary of Mathematics by John Daintith and R.D. Nelson
  • Zome Geometry: Hands-on Learning with Zome Models by George W. Hart & Henri Picciotto (Used with Zometool Pieces)
  • Murderous Maths (10 book set) by Kjartan Poskitt
  • Mathematics Enhancement Programme Demonstration Project Pupil Text (4 book series for GCSE test prep: 1-6, 7-12, 13-19, & 20) by CIMT University of Plymouth.  (This is the UK math system and presents problems very differently than the US. The project practice books all have answers online. They are used for students to prep for their A-Level exams)
  • Geometry by Ron Larson, Laurie, Boswell, and Lee Stiff
  • Geometry by  Ray Jurgensen, Richard Brown, and John Jurgensen
  • Dr. Math Introduces Geometry by The Math Forum at Drexel University
  • Dr. Math Presents More Geometry by The Math Forum at Drexel University

Videos Used:

  • The Code by Athena and the Creators of The Story of Math
  • Geometry by  Standard Deviants
  • Geometry the Complete Course: Cylinders, Cones, and Spheres by TMW Media Group
  • Geometry the Complete Course: Prisms, Pyramids, and Polyhedra by TMW Media Group
  • Geometry: Figuring Out the Area by Standard Deviants
  • Geometry The Complete Course: The Area of Polygons by TMW Media Group
  • Geometry the Complete Course: The Logic of Constructions Through Applied Theorems by TMW Media Group
  • Geometry the Complete Course: Inductive Reasoning & Deductive Reasoning by TMW Media Group
  • Geometry the Complete Course: Fundamental Geometric Concepts by TMW Media Group

Astronomy for High School Credit

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One of the advantages to homeschooling through high school is we get to pick more science classes than typically offered in traditional high school.  And living in Houston with access to NASA, it is only fitting that we added Astronomy to our high school science classes.  Due to the number of planetarium visits, observatory tours, and observations through multiple telescopes this class was considered a lab science.  The following is how we covered Astronomy:

Online Class:

  • Astronomy: State-of-the-art by Chris Impey from Steward Observatory at the University of Arizona via Udemy

 

In-person Classes:

  • Civil Air Patrol Astronomy Lessons (Civil Air Patrol’s “Astronomy Activity Booklet as a compendium to AEX Astronomy Module”)
  • Held a private star viewing night at the Greater Houston Soaring Association glider port
  • Full Expedition at George Observatory (Two-hour adventure class, students spend half of their time as astronauts aboard the spacecraft and the other half at the consoles in Mission Control. All students are astronauts and mission controllers.)
  • NASA Homeschool Days (special astronaut lectures and hands-on experiments)
  • Junior Ranger Night Explorers (completed workbook and earned the badge)
  • Junior Ranger Eclipse Explorer (completed workbook and earned the badge)
  • Becoming a Spacewalker (Purdue University had a 10-day curriculum to compliment Astronaut Jerry Ross’ book)

 

Videos Used:

  • Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey by Cosmos Studio & 20th Century Fox
  • Core Astronomy by Ambrose Video
  • At The Edge of Space by NOVA
  • 400 Years of the Telescope: A Journey of Science, Technology, and Thought by PBS Home Video
  • Bill Nye the Science Guy: Outer Space by Disney
  • Moon (Our Partner in Space) & Jaw Drop (Eclipses & Auroras) by Science Discover, Film Ideas Inc.
  • Sun (Powerhouse of the Solar System) & Galaxy (Our Milky Way) by Science Discover, Film Ideas Inc.
  • Discovery (History of Astronomy) & Night Sky (Navigating the Constellations) by Science Discover, Film Ideas Inc.
  • Bill Nye The Science Guy: Comets and Meteors by Disney
  • Bill Nye the Science Guy: The Sun by Disney

 

Books Used:

  • The Mysterious Universe: Supernovae, Dark Energy, and Black Holes by Ellen Jackson
  • Aerospace Dimensions Air Environment Module 3 by Civil Air Patrol
  • The Cosmic Adventures of Alice & Bob by Cristy Burne & Aska
  • Astrotwins: Project Rescue by Mark Kelly
  • Astrobiology: The Story of Our Search for Life in the Universe by National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)
  • The International Space Station by Franklyn M. Branley & Scott Carpenter
  • Exploring Space: Astronauts & Astronomers by Judy Monroe Peterson
  • Astronaut Living in Space by Kate Hayden
  • Moonshot: The Flight of Apollo 11 by Brian Floca
  • The Constellation Draco: The Story of the Dragon by Amy Van Zee
  • The Constellation Taurus: The Story of the Bull by Arnold Ringstad
  • The Moon Book by Gail Gibbons
  • Space: Discover the Universe by Miles Kelly
  • Exploring Our Sun by Dr. Mae Jemison
  • Earthwise: Sun by Jim Pipe
  • Stars and Constellations by Elizabeth Bennett
  • The Planets by Jeff Bauer
  • The Solar System by Jeff Bauer
  • Becoming a Spacewalker: My Journey to the Stars by Jerry L. Ross
  • Buzz Aldrin Reaching for the Moon by Buzz Aldrin
  • 1000 Facts About Space by Pam Beasant
  • Solar System: A Visual Exploration of the Planets, Moons, and Other Heavenly Bodies that Orbit Our Sun by Marcus Chown
  • The Planets: A Journey Through The Solar System by Giles Sparrow
  • Universe: A Journey from Earth to the Edge of the Cosmos by Nicolas Cheetham
  • The Cosmos: Astronomy in the New Millennium by Jay Pasachoff and Alex Flippenko

 

Museums, Observatories, & Planetariums Visited:

  • Houston Museum of Natural Science Planetarium (the following planetarium shows: Unseen Universe, Tales of a Time Traveler, Arcs to Auras, Black Holes, Edge of Darkness, Solar Superstorms, Dark Universe, Starry Night Express and Passport to the Universe)
  • McDonald Observatory Visitors Center (guided tour)
  • George Observatory (star viewing, sun viewing, and meteor showers)
  • MIT Solar Eclipse watch party (had special viewing scopes and glasses)
  • NASA Johnson Space Center (open houses and special tours)
  • Space Center Houston
  • Phillip and Patricia Frost Museum of Science
  • Museum of Science Boston
  • Telus Spark
  • Discovery World Science and Technology Museum
  • Explora

Roadschooling San Antonio

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Two summers ago we did a short mini-vacation to San Antonio with friends for a Texas History adventure.  We stayed near the riverwalk for 2 nights. I was in charge of our itinerary. And now that summer is fast approaching, I thought I would share our itinerary to inspire others who want a quick roadschooling adventure in San Antonio.

 

Here is what we did:

  • Rio San Antonio Cruises River Tours
  • Briscoe Western Art Museum (a short walk from River Tour, on the Riverwalk, and was free the day we went)
  • Alamo
  • San Antonio Fire Museum (neat place, next to Alamo and our hotel)
  • Towers of the Americas (a short walk from the Riverwalk)
  • San Antonio Missions National Historical Park (junior ranger program available)

 

Here were our back-up options (in case it was too hot or raining):  

  • Battle for Texas Experience
  • Ripley’s Haunted Adventure, Guinness World Records, and Tomb Raider 3D
  • Ripley’s Odditorium, Wax Works, and 4D theater
  • Witte Museum
  • The DoSeum

 

The Alamo has free educational resources:

lesson plans

teacher’s handbook

 

Battle for Texas Experience has free educational resources:

 4th grade TX History guide 

7th grade TX History guide 

 

Hopefully, this list will inspire you to explore more of the areas within San Antonio. Remember, this list is not exhaustive but just enough for a quick trip. Travel is a great educational tool; go explore!

Roadschooling College Station, TX

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We utilize travel as a serious part of our education plan for homeschooling our son.  I also use the terms roadschooling or worldschooling depending on where we go and what we do. Simply put, roadschooling is the act of learning on the road.  Our most recent worldschooling adventures can be seen here and our last roadschooling adventure can be read here.  

This roadschooling post was inspired by my generating a list of other museums for our TPPG gathering at A&M for Physics Fest.  Texas A&M is located in College Station and can be a day trip from Houston. We choose to stay overnight for multiple nights for A&M’s annual physics festival due to the TPPG gathering.  However, A&M holds all kinds of special events and open houses that are perfect for all students throughout the year. Thus, we go there a lot. We just were there earlier this month for 3 days of physics fun.  We also like to add additional museums to our trip.

Here is a list of museums in the college station area:

J Wayne Stark University Center Gallery (on A&M)

Memorial Student Center Room 1110, 275 Joe Routt Blvd, College Station, TX 77843  hours are 12-6 Sat & Sun, 9-8 Tues-Friday, free

 

Sanders Corps of Cadets Center (on A&M)

1400 Coke St, College Station, TX 77843  hours are 8-5 Mon-Friday, closed Sat & Sun

 

Hall of Champions at Kyle Field (on A&M)

161 Wellborn Rd, College Station, TX 77840  hours are 10-4 Mon-Friday, closed Sat & Sun

 

Albritton Bell Tower (on A&M)

In roundabout on Old Main with intersections of Jones St. and Lamar St.

 

Bonfire Memorial (on A&M)

Spirit Ring, College Station, TX 77843 (off the Polo Rd parking lots is the path to the memorial)

 

A&M Campus Tours (on A&M)

First Floor, Rudder Tower

The Appelt Aggieland Visitor Center provides tours between the hours of 8-5 p.m., Monday – Friday

 

George Bush Presidential Library and Museum (near A&M, separate parking area from the central part of A&M campus)

1000 George Bush Dr. W, College Station, TX 77845  hours 9:30-5 Mon-Sat and 12-5 Sun, $9 adults $3 children

 

Children’s Museum of the Brazos Valley

4001 E 29th St #80, Bryan, TX 77802, hours 10-5 Tues-Sat, closed Sunday & Monday, adults $7 and children $6

 

Brazos Valley African American Museum

500 East Pruitt Street, Bryan, TX 77803, hours 1-5 Tues-Friday, 10-4 Sat, closed Sunday & Monday, adults $5, students $2, children 5 & under free

 

Brazos Valley Museum of Natural History

3232 Briarcrest Dr, Bryan, TX 77802 hours 10-5 Tues-Sat, $5 adult, $4 children

 

Museum of the American GI

19124 Hwy 6, College Station, TX 77845 hours 10-5:30 Fri-Sat, 12-5 Sun, adults $6, children $4

 

Veterans Park Loop

3103 Harvey Rd, In the Athletic grounds near S1-S6 softball fields, College Station, TX 77845-9414 (have to walk the loop to see all the statues & plaques)

 

Carnegie Center History Library

111 S Main St, Bryan, TX 77803 hours 10-5 Tues-Friday, Closed Sat/Sun/Mon (research center, and genealogical research center)

 

Finding bluebonnets

Bluebonnets are a spring tradition and can be found on campus or on any of the country roads around the area during March and April.

 

Hopefully, this list will inspire you to explore more of the area surrounding Texas A&M if you are ever in College Station or if you want a day trip from Houston.  Travel is a great educational tool; go explore!

World Schooling Round 9

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Due to some health issues I’ve not been adventuring very far but did get clearance for long haul flights and longer travel again.  So this time we planned a special return trip to Maui! This trip is to celebrate our 20th wedding anniversary early and accompany my mom for her first Hawaiian trip.  We were joined at my husband’s aunt’s place by his parents as well. Thus, the trip was a combination of a celebration (our wedding anniversary and his Aunt’s 50th year in Hawaii), educational for our son, and fun family time.

I wrote about our previous adventures to Maui with our son in Round 8  and Round 4. So a reminder that we consider Hawaii more of a world schooling adventure than road schooling because of how far the travel is to get there and the cultural differences between Hawaii and Texas!  This time my son got to teach my mom some Hawaiian words and help her with pronunciation. And especially the state fish named the humuhumunukunukuāpuaʻa (pronounced “who-moo-who-moo-noo-koo-noo-koo-ah-poo-ah-ah) because we knew we would be snorkeling with them.

Here is the list of our experiences on Maui for this trip:

  • Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary visitor center
  • Pacific Whale Foundation & their whale watch (saw lots of Humpback whales and listened to them with a hydrophone)
  • Maui Ocean Center
  • Iao Valley State Monument
  • Hawaii Nature Center & Kepaniwai Park
  • Maui Nui Botanical Gardens
  • Maui Bread Company
  • Kula Bistro
  • Ale House
  • The King’s Cottage & Maui Wine Tasting Room
  • Ulupalakua Ranch Store & Grill
  • Papawai Point (Whale Lookout Point)
  • Olowalu
  • Lahaina
  • Banyan Court
  • Pioneer Mill Co. Smokestack and Locomotives Exhibit
  • Lahaina Heritage Museum in Old Lahaina Courthouse
  • Honoapiilani Park
  • Dragon Tooth Trail
  • Nakalele Blowhole
  • Historic Iao Theatre (saw Pirates of Penzance)
  • Kalepolepo Fishpond
  • Kula Botanical Gardens
  • Ali’i Kula Lavender Farms
  • Ahihi-Kinau Natural Area Reserve
  • Maluaka Beach
  • Makena Landing (best turtle snorkeling)
  • Maui Quilt Shop
  • Maui Dive Shop
  • Haleakala National Park
  • Kaupa
  • Mokapu Beach
  • Valley Isle Lighting
  • Reed Lighting
  • Po‘olenalena Beach Park
  • Lava Fields of La Perouse Bay
  • Makena State Park
  • Five Graves
  • War Memorial Stadium
  • Ho’okipa Beach Park (saw Hawaiian Monk Seal)

Although Hawaii is a domestic destination it feels much more like an international trip due to the extremely long travel times.  On the way out we met up with grandma at the Phoenix airport as we were all on the same final leg. In addition to long travel times, there is a big time change adjustment, a difference in climate, immersion in Hawaiian culture, agriculture inspections, and lack of wifi everywhere.  It also is a great way to physically learn and experience WWII history, the geology of volcanoes, marine science, solar power, Hawaiian history and culture, trade winds, the power of waves, and much more.

We say it repeatedly, travel is an educational tool.  Thus, travel is a huge part of our homeschooling adventures.  Travel for you doesn’t have to be foreign countries or huge out of state adventures.  Travel could be local or “armchair” by using books, videos, your computer, or a postcard exchange  Traveling present an educational opportunity because of exposing children to the greater world and learning about being global citizens.  Please, be inspired, go explore!

TX Gifted Education Funding is Facing Elimination

To all TX Gifted educators, parents of gifted, and gifted advocates:

This is a brief post to pass along information.  You may have heard from the TX Association for the Gifted and Talented that the gifted education funding in Texas will be eliminated if House Bill 3, the current public education funding bill, passes. Although we homeschool, we are a supporter of gifted education in public schools.  Our son received such services prior to our homeschool education plan began.  As a parent of an identified gifted student and as a constituent in TX I am still concerned about the status of gifted education in our schools.  Your voice matters and should be heard while there is still time to remove the language cutting gifted education funding from the bill.

The Texas Association for the Gifted and Talented have prepared a guide with simple steps you can take to encourage legislators to save gifted education in Texas.

Please visit TAGT’s Call to Action Guide.  Public testimony on HB3 will occur on Tuesday, March 12, in Austin.  The schedule for testimony is not available yet but TAGT will send out information to those on their list!

Gifted education in Texas needs you. Please act quickly.

Thank you!!!

Marine Sciences for High School Credit Homeschool Style

In a previous blog, I explained that we broke up biology into three areas to cover evolutionary biology, marine biology, and genetics.  This blog contains the materials we used to cover called marine biology in a class I called “Marine Sciences with Lab.”  Due to the activities we did and the dissections my son performed at the Houston Museum of Natural Science, it was appropriate to consider this a lab-based science class.  It should also be noted Ocean First Education offers high school level marine biology classes online or in-person if you live in locations near them.  We did their online classes and added additional resources and experiences.

Online Class:

  • Marine Science 101 by Ocean First Education
  • Ocean Literacy by Ocean First Education
  • The Truth About Sharks by Ocean First Education
  • Camouflage by Ocean First Education

Additional Videos Used:

  • Why Whales Do That? by Pacific Whale Foundation
  • Explore Coastal Louisiana by USGS Science for a Changing World
  • Bill Nye Oceanography by Disney
  • Bill Nye the Science Guy: Ocean Life by Disney
  • Bill Nye the Science Guy: Ocean Exploration by Disney
  • Planet Earth by Discovery Channel (5 DVD collection)
  • Oceans 3D: Our Blue Planet by IMAX
  • Sharks 3D by IMAX
  • Ocean World by IMAX
  • Oceans: The Mystery of the Missing Plastic by Green Planet Films
  • Oceans by National Geographic
  • James Cameron’s Deepsea Challenge by Millenium

Additional Books Used:

  • One Well: The Story of Water on Earth by Rochelle Strauss
  • Horrible Geography: Odious Oceans by Anita Ganeri
  • Tracking Trash: Flotsam, Jetsam, and the Science of Ocean Motion by Loree Griffin Burns
  • Come to the Ocean’s Edge: The Nature Cycle Book by Laurence Pringle
  • Water by Gerry Bailey & Steve Way
  • Sea Transportation by Gerry Bailey
  • Way Down Deep: Strange Ocean Creatures by Patricia Demuth
  • Giant Squid: Mystery of the Deep by Jennifer Dussling
  • Historic Hurricanes by Learning Resources
  • The Official Texas Hurricane Guide by National Weather Service Houston/Galveston
  • Water and Your World by Waterworks Education Center & City of Houston Department of Public Works & Engineering
  • Oceans by World Book
  • Oceans: A Visual Guide by Stephen Hutchinson
  • Oceans: an Illustrated Reference by Derrick A. V. Stow
  • The Highest and the Lowest by Katie Marsico

Dissections at the Houston Museum of Natural Science:

  • Horseshoe crab
  • Squid
  • Sea urchin
  • Sea star
  • Frog

Museums Visited & Other Experiences:

  • Snorkeling at Maui
  • Snorkeling at Lanai
  • Ocean beach exploration: Texa, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Florida, South Carolina, Georgia, New Zealand, and England.
  • Pacific Whale Foundation guided whale watching tour from Maui, including the use of a hydrophone
  • Atlantis Submarines Maui
  • Houston Aquarium
  • Sea Center Texas
  • Moody Gardens Aquarium
  • Houston Zoo Aquarium
  • Houston Museum of Natural Science
  • Phillip and Patricia Frost Museum of Science
  • Museum of Science
  • Maui Ocean Center
  • Cape Cod National Seashore (junior ranger badge earned)
  • Biscayne National Park (junior ranger badge earned)
  • Underwater Explorer (junior ranger badge earned)
  • Glass Bottom Boat Tour of the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary
  • John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park

 

Evolutionary Biology for High School Credit Homeschool Style

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Most high schools require biology for high school graduation.  However, around us, high school biology does not do an adequate job of exploring evolutionary biology.  Thus, we divided up biology to allow a greater depth of study.  This blog is about how we covered evolutionary biology.  A future blog will be about marine biology and another about genetics.  We called our class Evolutionary Biology and the following are the materials we used.

Videos Used:

  • Evolution: Constant Change and Common Threads by Howard Hughes Medical Institute
  • Darwin’s Secret Notebooks by the National Geographic Channel
  • The Day the Mesozoic Died by Howard Hughes Medical Institute
  • Bones, Stones, and Genes: The Origin of Modern Humans by Howard Hughes Medical Institute
  • EVO: Ten Questions Everyone Should Ask About Evolution by Hummingbird Films
  • Evolution: Fossils, Genes, and Mousetraps by Howard Hughes Medical Institute
  • Animal Life in Action: Evolution by Schlessinger Media Science Library
  • The Making of the Fittest: The Complete Series by Howard Hughes Medical Institute

Books Used:

  • Cycles of Life: Evolution by Andres Llamas Ruiz
  • Big History: From the Big Bang to the Present by Cynthia Stokes Brown
  • Eyewitness Science: Evolution by Linda Gamlin
  • Evolution: The Story of Life on Earth by Jay Hosler
  • Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species by Michael Keller
  • Evolution: How We and All Living Things Came to Be by Daniel Loxton
  • Evolution by Discovery Channel School Science
  • Horrible Science: Evolve or Die by Phil Gates
  • The Tree of Life: Charles Darwin by Peter Sis
  • Our Family Tree: An Evolution Story by Lisa Westberg Peters
  • Living Fossils: Clues to the Past by Caroline Arnold
  • Life on Earth: The Story of Evolution by Steve Jenkins
  • One Beetle Too Many: The Extraordinary Adventures of Charles Darwin by Kathryn Lasky
  • Evolution: The Story of Life by Douglas Palmer & Peter Barrett

Museums Visited:

  • Houston Museum of Natural Science
  • Phillip and Patricia Frost Museum of Science
  • Museum of Science, Boston
  • Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology
  • Harvard Museum of Natural History
  • Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History
  • Discovery World Science and Technology Museum
  • Explora
  • Canterbury Museum
  • Telus Spark

Roadschooling the Davis Mountains of Texas: the Hahn’s Crazy Christmas Camping Adventures

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Those of you who follow our adventures in homeschooling know that we utilize travel as a serious part of our education plan.  And, I often use the terms roadschooling or worldschooling depending on where we go and what we do. Basically, roadschooling is simply the act of learning on the road.  Some of our previous worldschooling adventures can be seen here and our last roadschooling adventure can be read here.  This time our adventures were known as the Hahn’s Crazy Christmas Camping Adventures in the Davis Mountains.  It truly was fun but a crazy adventure because of all the changes that had to be made.

The original plan was for two days camping at Davis Mountains State Park and then 3 days camping at Big Bend National Park.  It is a long drive, one way driving time is just under 9 hours from our house to Davis Mountains State Park. Big Bend National Park is a couple hours further which is why we were breaking up the trip.  However, due to waiting for my iron infusions to be completed before making reservations, Big Bend was sold out so we booked 5 days at Davis Mountains State Park with plans to do at least one day trip to Big Bend.  Sadly, the day before our departure, the partial federal shutdown began which meant another shuffle of plans. Thankfully, I had a list of options. After 3 nights of camping, we had to leave the Davis Mountains due to weather causing another shuffle of plans.  We received a national weather alert regarding wind advisories: 25-35 mph sustained winds and gusts up to 50 mph. 2 hours after we left they updated it to 30-40 mph sustained and gusts up to 60 mph. We couldn’t stay tent camping, so we moved our to one of the last few hotel rooms in Alpine, TX and started the trek back to Houston one day earlier than planned.  Thus, I will list where we actually went, the original places, and the optional places for those who want to travel to this side of Texas.

Here is what we actually did:

  • Davis Mountains State Park (They have tent campsites, RV sites, and a lodge for those who don’t want to camp.  We did tent camping. The park rangers were awesome!!! And, the Lodge looked amazing. The park has nice trails and 2 different bird blinds or wildlife observation areas.  Although no cell service, they do have wifi at the Lodge and their interpretive center.)
  • McDonald Observatory (We reserved the 2.5 hours guided tour and solar observation. It was a great tour!!!  They also offer star viewing parties with advanced reservations but due to the holidays, there were none being offered.  For those short on time, there is a visitor center.)
  • Chihuahuan Desert Research Institute Nature Center (This is a really neat place.  Our visit was shortened by the incoming storm.  We couldn’t see the mountains we had just left and it was quickly approaching here.  In addition, our son had a fall into cacti that resulted in us removing cactus spines for 30 minutes–always pack tweezers).
  • Marfa Airport & National Landmark of Soaring (We stopped at the gate but the airport was closed so we couldn’t see the official landmark.)
  • Chinati Foundation (One part is free, other parts are paid admission.  It is an art museum in a converter military fort. Original barracks and remodeled buildings from Fort D.A. Russel are still there.)
  • Marfa and Presidio County Museum (Tiny, free, and worth the visit.)
  • Marfa Lights Viewing Area (Quick stop between Marfa and Alpine, also sits on the old Marfa Army Field.)
  • Museum of the Big Bend (Tiny, more modern than the museum in Marfa, free, and totally worth the quick visit.)
  • Caverns of Sonora (We learned about them on the way out, so when we got forced off the mountain we made sure we could stop on the return drive to the Houston area.)
  • Cascades Cavern (We learned about this from the hotel in Boerne.  Stopped after check-out and before driving home. A neat cave and very different from Caverns of Sonora. This cave has living creatures and lots of flowing water.)

Here is where we originally planned on going:

  • Fort Davis National Historic Site (This was closed due to the partial government shutdown.  It was gated closed with posted closure signs. We pre-printed the junior ranger badges so we could still work on them and will mail them in.  You could see the fort from afar both from the road and from up high in Davis Mountains State Park.)
  • Nature Conservancy Davis Mountains Preserve (Due to holidays, no scheduled activities.  But you can call in advance to make special arrangements.  They also have open public days throughout the year. However, the weather caused us to leave the area.)
  • Big Bend National Park (Although the news reported it was “open”, the park was considered closed.  A National Park Service Ranger distributed flyers to the hotels and state parks indicating which roads would be open but that no visitor centers would be open, no facilities/bathrooms would be open, no trash service, Boquillas Crossing was closed, and no rescues.  You would have to call 911 for emergencies. The rangers at Davis Mountains State Park and the guide from McDonald Observatory were advising everyone to stay out of the national park. Thus we stuck to working on the junior ranger badges we pre-printed.)

Here were additional backup options:

  • Rattlers and Reptiles (Was closed for the holidays)
  • Fort Leaton State Historic Site (Due to change in weather and closed on the holiday, never made it there.)
  • Big Bend Ranch State Park (Due to change in weather and closed on the holiday, never made it there.)
  • Monahans Sandhills State Park (This is opposite direction from the route we chose when we were forced off the mountains early.)