Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Canopies & Whelks

I don't want to be one of those homeschooling parents that has to make every experience a learning one.  Sometimes fun times are just fun times and that's okay.

But, sometimes learning comes so naturally during fun times that it hardly feels like learning.  We had a couple of those experiences last week in Florida.  And I really love it when that happens.

We like low-key vacations, so our daily routine quickly became mornings at the beach and afternoons at the pool.  There were three exceptions.  On our last afternoon there, we watched a free (yipee!) ski show which included a young man ranked first in the world (in his age group) in barefoot skiing.  That was really cool... and a bit painful to watch.  How he doesn't get water up his...well, you beyond me.


Another time we drove a half hour away and hunted for shark's teeth on a rocky beach known for it's toothy debris.  Do you know about shark teeth?  I didn't, so don't feel bad if you don't.  Sharks have several rows of teeth with the front row sometimes holding over 100 teeth.  They eat their prey so violently that some of those front teeth are bound to come out.  No worries.  The tooth behind the missing one (in the next row) simply moves up to take it's place and a new tooth begins to grow in the very back row.  This is why shark's teeth are so plentiful on certain beaches.

The third excursion was a trip to the largest state park in Florida, Myakka River State Park.  There, we went on a hour long air boat ride where not only did we learn a lot about the park's ecosystem, but we saw 13 alligators (by Sam's count) and a bald eagle.  We also climbed a 35 foot tower...


...walked along a 85 foot canopy suspension bridge and then climbed a second tower which reached 74 feet into the air.  At the top of the tower was a magnificent view.


Sam and Sadie had fun hunting for shells at the beach like a lot of kids do.  What made their finds even more fun is that over the past month, we've been studying about the creatures that inhabit those shells and learning all kinds of incredible things about them.


You know how sometimes you find a shell that has a perfectly round little hole in it?  Ever wonder what makes those little holes?  It was likely a whelk (a sea snail).  These seemingly sweet little creatures don't take no for an answer when the bivalve creature won't open it's shell to let the whelk devour it.  So, the whelk excretes a shell softener and uses their proboscis (a long stalk) to actually drill a hole into the shell and eat the soft creature inside.  Not so sweet now are they?

Oh!  And we can't forget to talk about sea stars (also called star fish).  They are such graceful and elegant creatures aren't they?  Well.  Did you know that instead of eating with it's mouth, the sea star's stomach actually comes out of it's body to begin eating it's prey?  When it has partially digested it, it moves back into it's body to finish the job.

We started reading about Cnidarians yesterday- creatures that belong to the phylum that includes jellyfish and sea anemones.  Let's just say I'm glad we didn't read about them before heading out to the beach.

I'll tell you what, though.  Sometimes it takes being in a different environment to get a fresh realization of what an amazing God we serve....

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  1. Fun post! Gorgeous photos, too. Sounds like you had a wonderful and educational vacation. I always learn best when I read about something and then get to experience it first-hand. I am with you when it comes to the jellyfish - some things are better left in ignorant bliss :-)

    Thank you for sharing!

  2. Our favorite way to learn- experience it. Thank you for sharing your experience - so interesting. Fun, fun, fun.

  3. Boy would our grandson love to be where you were...looks like you had a glorious time on a beautiful day.

  4. Wow, your photos are 'computer wallpaper' worthy! That looks like terrific fun. We're heading to Florida this Christmas to visit inlaws, and I think we must go out alligator hunting...!

  5. Fun fun fun! Love the photos...really beautiful. I guess this might be considered "unschooling" in a way? I'm not so sure about unschooling...but I think aspects of it can be incoporated, and are without really trying, into home schooling.

    (I've been reading lots and lots on homeschool...still praying about it for Ian...would you pray for us...again? I am really torn...)

  6. It sounds like you had a lovely holiday at the beach (as they say in England)! I love that kind of vacation where there is no agenda or schedule. I think we're due for one like that! I can't even remember the last time just our immediate family went somewhere and did... nothing in particular but enjoyed God's creation.

    By the way, I just discovered a new curriculum last night (new to me anyway) and I ordered one book for my youngest daughter and I to do together (she's 9). I'm including the link for you to see:

    It's from Queens Homeschool and it takes a Charlotte Mason approach to science. I also use Apologia Young Explorer's Series which I like very much, but I thought this would be great fun this summer and into the fall. You can see a preview as well there.

  7. Such GORGEOUS photos! And I learned a few things reading your commentary today too...thank you! That poor little creature that was eaten by that sea snail...I had no idea! I'm so glad you had such a lovely time! :)


  8. Florida never looked so lovely! I loved all the photos, but you saved that last one to really knock one out of the park. Looks so relaxing! You even look like your strolling along that boardwalk (which you're probably doing since it's hard to do more than a strolling pace with a little one.)

  9. Beautiful photos! Nature definitely shows us that our God is awesome. It's even better when you can put what you've been learning together with the real deal.

  10. Wow! These pictures are amazing! I guess when I think Florida I think overcrowded beaches with barely clad beach-goers. I don't think I even realized how beautiful the state is. You can keep the alligators though.

  11. So beautiful there & what amazing pictures! Sounds like lots of relaxed learning going on for everyone (even for me as I read it :) )
    Have a great day


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