February 2015- South Florida Winter

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I have this love-hate relationship with February.   It feels like such a short month and we have so many birthdays, Valentine’s Day, Black History, Presidents, great weather for field trips.  So much to do. But somehow we have managed to make the most of our February and squeeze in a lot of learning.

Kate observing the wildlife on the Anhinga Trail, Everglades National Park, 2/2015.

Kate observing the wildlife on the Anhinga Trail, Everglades National Park, 2/2015.

Every year we return to Everglades National Park during the dry season and this year we had two visits, including a family camping trip over Valentine’s Day weekend.  Our first visit was with the Returned Peace Corps Volunteers of South Florida.   This is our third year participating as nature guides for local children from various non-profit organizations.  My husband and I worked with a great group of kids from an after school program in Homestead.  We spent most of our time on the Anhinga Trail, where we saw wildlife up close.  It was the perfect way to conclude our novel, Alligator Crossing.

My husband teaching the kids about water.

My husband teaching the kids about water.

The best part of this month was the great weather for our morning walks.  We observed the lovely buds on all the mango trees, including the one in our own backyard.  (I never observed this before.) After learning about epiphytes (air plants) and seeing them on the trails at Everglades National Park, we started seeing them everyday on during our walks, too.

Mango flowers in the South Florida winter.

Mango flowers in the South Florida winter.

We discovered my new favorite tree, the Starburst tree and some mornings we were lucky enough to catch a glimpse of the green parrots that visit our neighborhood.  We decided to put a bird feeder in our front tree, in hopes that from now on we might make some bird friends.

Double-breasted cormorant, one of the wading birds at ENP.

Double-breasted cormorant, one of the wading birds at ENP.

After completing our read aloud, Alligator Crossing we created a book project.  Instead of a report we created a box which contained the elements of the book with words and pictures.  We completed our Minecraft Homeschool Intro class.  Ironically, she enjoyed the actual online class more than the build time on their server.  Each week we learned about five amazing creatures, such as the coconut crab, red panda and the peacock mantis shrimp.   We decided to skip the next session but will probably sign up again in the summer for another of their Intro level courses.

We finally completed Level 1 of our AAR program. We actually started that program around this time last year.  To celebrate we’re going to take a break before starting the next level (for me) and we’re going to visit the American Girl store in Miami (for Kate).   In the meantime, we will work with an online reading program, Explode the Code.  I need something that she can do more independently.  I think AAR is great, but it’s teacher intensive and I need a break before moving to the next level.  I’ve also heard great reviews on ETC so I purchased some of their workbooks to reinforce the learning at home off-line.

As we complete the month we’re spending some time on Black History with a few great read alouds, including


Meet Addy  from American Girl and Sweet Clara and the Freedom Quilt.  Typically fourth grade is when Florida History is covered, so we will be be starting our Florida History and Geography Unit next month.  We have a few great field trips planned for this unit and hope to visit St. Augustine some time this year, as well.

When the month started I couldn’t imagine how much we would be learning, observing and doing together.  I realized the most important reason why I chose to homeschool was because I wanted to see her love to learn.   I’m trying to tune into what she’s excited about and make those our learning priorities and the result is fewer struggles and a happier kid and happier mom. The other day she told me, “Mom, we’re like besties”.  I initially turned to homeschooling because I felt out of options, but it seems more and more like this was the best option for us.