Friday, January 30, 2015

Favorites of 2014: Top 5 Field Trips

Favorite #FieldTrips of 2014

One of our favorite ways to learn is to experience!  We love field trips - they get us out of the classroom (house) and often right into history.  I'm still trying to share about our fantastic trips from last summer and fall - we were really blessed to explore Central/Western Maryland and PA, New England, and to do a large loop of the Northeast when our family came to visit last fall.  When you plan field trips, make sure not to discount whimsy -- one of our favorite stops on the fall trip was to visit Punxsutawney Phil!  These are some of our favorite destinations.

1. George Washington's Mount Vernon

Field trip - George Washington's Mount Vernon

The staff at Mount Vernon has done a beautiful job of maintaining the house with original and period furnishings.  We enjoyed the house, the grounds, and the beautiful views - it's easy to see why Washington just wanted to go home and be a gentleman farmer.  Plus - we were delightfully surprised by the welcome film hosted by Pat Sajak!

2. Boston Public Garden & The Make Way For Ducklings Statues

Trip to Boston Garden and Make Way for Ducklings

This was a lovely hour spent in Boston when we visited last summer.  In a town filled with some heavy-duty history, it was a whimsical, hands-on stop that brought the timeless story Make Way for Ducklings by Robert McCloskey come alive for Jude.

3. Fort McHenry, Baltimore MD

Trip to Fort McHenry MD

 When we planned our big history trip last summer, this was a last-minute add-on.  We were heading to our hotel in Hagerstown, MD, and I gave Luke the task of finding a half-way point for us to take a break.  He chose Fort McHenry because of a reason I hadn't realized -- not only was it a key fortress during the War of 1812, but it also served as a Civil War prison!

4. U-Pick Farms

Pick Your Own Farms in south NJ

Fruit and vegetables don't just magically appear in supermarkets!  It's fun to see where your food comes from and to pick it yourself.   This list is some great PYO farms in southern New Jersey, but check online for your area. Odds are good, there's a farm not that far from you.  (And don't wait until fall - you might be surprised what spring crops are available!)

5.   Trail Hike Tips

tips for Trail Hikes

We found we really enjoyed our hiking this summer.  Important things we learned: wear sturdy shoes, we won't melt in the rain, and the view is totally worth the climb.

These two "bonus" posts are among my favorites as well. They're more about planning the trip than being on a trip, but are tips that made our trips much more enjoyable. 

Eating on a Vacation: the "Hotel Picnic"

Meal ideas for vactioning in a small hotel suite

Tips for Surviving the Gift Shop

tips for surviving the gift shop

©2012- 2015 Adventures with Jude. All rights reserved. All text, photographs, artwork, and other content may not be reproduced or transmitted in any form without the written consent of the author.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Luke's American Adventures: Washington and Lincoln

With President's Day coming, we're joining the crew in sharing our favorite president-themed posts.  All of our presidental posts here have focused on the first century of American presidents. Subscribe to Adventures with Jude or follow our Luke's American Adventures board on Pinterest to be notified when we add stories about post-Civil War presidents.  Luke has a Teddy Roosevelt post already outlined!

George Washington

History of George Washington

Happy Birthday, Mr. President?

Did you know that George Washington wasn't really born on his "birthday"?  He was born on February 11, 1731 as marked by the Julian calendar.  For several centuries, Protestant Britain refused to follow the Gregorian calendar, established by Pope Gregory.  When they finally made the change in 1752, it pushed the dates around and had to wait almost two extra weeks for a birthday cake!

A Biography of George Washington

Part I focuses on the George's youth, Part II his early military career, and Part III his role in the American War for Independence and his presidency.

George Washington, True Patriot
(A Schoolhouse Crew Review)

This story starts long before most others. I don't recall learning much about pre-Revolutionary George, beyond he was a surveyor by trade and a scout during the French & Indian War.  I had no idea the complexity of his childhood.  The first chapter begins as the newly commissioned General George Washington is standing on the shores of Boston Harbor.  He recognizes that he is giving up his lifelong dream of being an officer in the British Army - by their reckoning, he is now a traitor - and summoning the courage to begin leading a ragtag bunch of rebels.  It then moves into a flashback of Washington's childhood and youth.  Most history books list a man's accomplishments.  This book explores the man's psyche.

George Washington Field Trips:

Field Trips in the Philadelphia Area

A few George-related field trips are highlighted here.  One of our favorites is Valley Forge (a post from our trip there is in the works), and catching a re-enactment of the Christmas Day Washington's Crossing is on our agenda.

George Washington's Mount Vernon

If you're ever in the Washington DC area, it's worth taking a day outside the city and visiting Washington's home, Mount Vernon.  After having the privilege of sitting on the front veranda and watching the sun set over the Potomac, it's easy to see why Washington wanted to retire from public life and return to his gentleman farmer roots.

 Fort Necessity National Battlefield

This gorgeous field is tucked away in Pennsylvania's Allegheny Mountains.  It was the site of the sole surrender in Washington's military career.   When he first arrived at Great Meadow as a British military surveyor, George Washington wrote that the meadow would be “a charming field for an encounter.”  Taking in the stillness of the open field, we could see what would make a young, still-idealistic surveyor feel this way.   After the loss of  Fort Necessity, he never again referred to war as "charming."  He returned to the area in 1755 as the aide-de-camp to Major General Edward Braddock.  After the loss on the road to Ft. Duquesne and the retreat to the woods around Great Meadow, Washington no longer saw any glory in war: "The shocking Scenes which presented themselves in this Nights March are not to be described. The dead, the dying, the groans, lamentations, and crys ... of the wounded for help were enough to pierce a heart of adamant." 

Washington Monument, 
South Mountain, Maryland
South Mountain is the site of the very first permanent memorial to George Washington.  On Independence Day 1827, townspeople from nearby Boonsboro marched up to the mountain peak and erected the base of the monument; by September the rest of the monument was built.  The hike up joins with several hundred feet of the Appalachian Trail as well.

Abraham Lincoln

Abraham Lincoln Speaks

This six-part series focuses on the speeches of Abraham Lincoln and how they foreshadowed, defined, and cemented in legacy the Lincoln Administration.

1. A House Divided - explore this famous speech that was the cornerstone of Lincolns failed Senate Campaign

2. The President's Job Description - Lincoln uses his first inaugural address to reassure the nation that his job is defined by the Constitution, not a platform.

3.  Liberty for All? shows that the Emancipation Proclamation was imperfect, but Lincoln's best tool for setting slaves free while remaining within the confines of his powers.

4.  A New Birth of Freedom - This two minute speech at Gettysburg includes the words "We here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain..." that have become a battlecry for all Americans, even in the 21st century.

5. With Malice Towards None - Lincoln's second inaugural speech begins the process of binding up a shattered nation, and reminds Americans that despite our differences, we are one and good in heart.

6. Now He Belongs to the Ages - these words spoken upon Lincoln's passing meant that the mighty President had died, but time has shown that it is truly all time that Lincoln belongs, and his legacy can be seen to this day.

A Thankful Nation

Thankfulness is older than America, but it was the efforts of Sara Hale and an executive order issued by Abraham Lincoln that established the fourth Thursday in November as a national holiday.

Join the Crew in celebrating President's Day! 

Presidents Day Resources

©2012- 2015 Adventures with Jude. All rights reserved. All text, photographs, artwork, and other content may not be reproduced or transmitted in any form without the written consent of the author.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Captain America Shield (with printable star template)

One of Jude's favorite super heroes is Captain America.  I think he'd wear his Halloween Costume every day if I let him.  Instead he has a pseudo-costume hoodie.

Everyone knows Captain America needs his shield, but this Captain didn't have one.  We had to fix that!


Large cardboard box
4 round objects to trace - each should be about 1-2" smaller in diameter.  We used:
12" pot lid
10" dinner plate
9" paper plate
8" mixing bowl
red, white, and blue paint
7" star template
chenille stems ("pipe cleaners")
duct tape (or other heavy-duty tape)


Begin by tracing your largest circle onto the box.

 Cut it out.  (This is probably a job for an adult.  A utility knife works much more efficiently than scissors.)

Using the remaining round objects, draw concentric circles on the cutout.

Begin painting the circles.  Paint the outside-most (1st) and third circles red. (Glitter paint optional.)

Depending on your paint, it may take a few coats to get it dark enough.  (Acrylic paint will be more vibrant with the first coat.  We use poster paint since it comes in washable versions, but it doesn't have the same coverage.) A blast with a hairdryer will help speed things along.

Print the star template.  Cut it out, place it in the center of the shield, and trace.

Paint the remaining outer circle and the star white.

Allow to dry (or use the hairdryer again).

Paint the outside of the star blue.

Bend a chenille stem into a handle, and tape the ends to the back of the shield.  (You may want to twist two stems together, and then shape the handle, to give kiddo a little more to hang on to.)

Now, go lead the Avengers and save the world!

©2012- 2015 Adventures with Jude. All rights reserved. All text, photographs, artwork, and other content may not be reproduced or transmitted in any form without the written consent of the author.

Friday, January 23, 2015

A Dream Come True

If you keep on believing, the dream that you wish will come true.

Oh, so true.

We're three years into our homeschooling journey, and so much has happened.  When Jude began homeschooling, the idea was maybe he'd go "back" to school in first grade.  Didn't happen.  Returning in second grade hasn't happened, either - he's in second grade now at home, and definitely not capable of being in a regular classroom.  However, he's grown so much, and it's weeks like this week that I'm reassured we made the right decision.

I try not to focus on the hard stuff with Jude, and all of the things holding him back from being "average."  While the focus of Adventures with Jude has been to share what we're up to, sometimes what we're up to is crying.  I've written about our down times, but they're part of our journey.  Our adventure hasn't been just field trips and cupcakes and lots of shiny new things to try out.  Sometimes, it's tears because a venue was overwhelming, or somebody ate the last cookie, or we've tried so many programs that we can't even decide if one more is even worth trying. (It was - sixth time lucky!)

I'm highly doubtful that Jude will ever go to a "regular" school again, but by now, I'm ok with that. We have our good days and our not-so-good days, but overall, he's thriving.  He'll get to where he should be at his own pace, and with our high school situation, I don't see any reason to push him into a classroom (where he really doesn't want to be - the thought of going to school even with Celia petrifies him) just to bring him back home again.  Since we began,  Luke's high school closed, and he began learning with us.  Matthew is now home, too.  In part, it's because we don't have a high school option for him for this coming fall, but we brought him home for 8th grade instead of waiting until 9th because we were convinced it was the better thing for him.  I never thought I'd be doing high school before most of elementary, and I'm not sure how we'll survive third grade, but when Jude gets to 8th or 10th grade, we've got plenty of great ideas! Damien is now beginning to transition to full-time school as well, and I think the most excited to do schoolwork, bugging and begging until he gets a turn.  One benefit of trying to reinvent so many wheels with Jude is that if nothing else, I have about twelve different curricula for him to try out -- plus any new ones we are blessed to review.  After three years, homeschooling isn't so "new" or "weird" anymore.

Remember how I said in the beginning homeschooling was an idea, not a plan, because plans never seem to turn out how you expect them to go?  I'd say now that it's many "ideas" that we're working out as we go.   It's OK, though -- because even though the journey has been bumpy, it's been one I wouldn't change.  Looking forward is still daunting, but stopping for a moment to look at how far we've come and how many friends we've made has been amazing.  I'm amazed at how much I've learned - not just from the books and videos I've taught from, but from Jude, too.

When we started out three years ago, my heart was grieving for Jude.  He seemed to have so much to overcome, and that first year just kept heaping on.   My heart knew that maybe what the doctors and therapists were saying was true about him then, but we refused to believe that that was the best he'd do.  One of the dreams I wished for him has come true.  Three years later, Jude is finally a reader.  I'm so proud of him. 

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Coconut Chocolate Pudding

Coconut Chocolate Pudding dairyfree

Who doesn't love chocolate pudding?  I admit, I'm a sucker for the "instant" variety.  I know it's probably not the most "wholesome" thing out there, but once I discovered the "shaker" way to make it (milk + pudding mix into a Tupperware-type container, shake until you count to 30, and fridge for half an hour),  it became my go-to dessert.  I have memories of Luke making the pudding when he was only two or three.  He didn't know how to count to 30 yet, but he could count to 10 three times!

After Matthew was diagnosed with a dairy allergy, we got away from pudding.  The instant stuff does not easily work with alternative milks (you can kind of coax it to work, but it's temperamental and iffy).   Plus, we have always had a gas cooktop.  Instead of kiddo making pudding, it was Mom stirring until it was done.  We started baking desserts instead - cookies and cupcakes were still kid-friendly to make but involved less open-flame-contact potential with high-energy toddlers.

This thick, rich version is almost as easy as the instant - there's no hovering and stirring while the milk heats, but it's still reliable with coconut milk.  (Younger children may still need a helping hand with the heating and pouring, but it's not all on Mom to prepare.)  This recipe will work with either coconut milk from a can (this is how we make it for Celia and Damien) or the coconut milk beverage that comes in a carton.  If you are using the canned version, make sure it's coconut milk and not "cream of coconut." 

Coconut Chocolate Pudding

1 13.5 oz can full-fat coconut milk (or 1 3/4 cups coconut milk beverage, ie So Delicious)
1 1/2 tsp unflavored gelatin (half a packet)
15 oz Enjoy Life chocolate chips (approx. 2 1/2 cups)
1/4 tsp salt

Shake coconut milk vigorously for 10 seconds.  

Pour milk into a small saucepan.  

Remove 2 Tbsp milk to a mixing bowl. 

   Turn on burner and heat milk until steaming.
Add gelatin into the coconut milk in the mixing bowl. Whisk until combined. 

bloom gelatin in 2 Tbsp coconut milk

Add hot milk to gelatin mixture and whisk until smooth.

Add chocolate and allow to sit 2-3 minutes (until chocolate softens and begins to melt). Whisk the mixture until smooth.

Whisk in the salt. Be careful to add it fairly evenly, rather than in one big pile.  (Tip: Pour the salt into your hand so you have better control over it.)

Cover and refrigerate until firm - about 2 hours. If you don't care for the "skin" that forms over cooked pudding, place plastic wrap directly on the surface of the mixture.

While you wait, tidy up. There's usually somebody willing to lick the whisk. 

Once the pudding is set, spoon into dessert glasses and enjoy.  Optional: top with shredded coconut.

©2012- 2015 Adventures with Jude. All rights reserved. All text, photographs, artwork, and other content may not be reproduced or transmitted in any form without the written consent of the author.
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