Thailand : 30 day packing list

Happy Monday! Last night I slept in my bed for the first time since mid-January. Wow. What an amazing feeling. I love traveling, but who can beat snoozing in their own bed, hogged by their own huge dog? I didn’t think so. I wanted to republish this post today since I’ll be stuffing all this goodness into my own bag this evening. On Wednesday, I’m embarking on my first official travel guiding trip. Five first-time travelers (to Asia) will be in my hands – better wish us luck 😉

Katie here : Sarah’s in Thailand! What a lucky bum! But really, I’m so excited for her and can’t wait to hear about the adventures as she travels. During her first stint in Thailand, she kept a lengthy journal on her Tumblr account and it was amazing – all of our friends and family were anxious waiting for each new post. If you’re interested in that experience, those posts are still accessible – just scroll down to November 2011 through April 2012 in her archive. Today she’s checking in with a timely post on packing and staying calm when your luggage takes a different plane ;-). 

Once upon a time, packing was a completely daunting task. I remember I would call my friend Kandy and we would pack together, which really meant wandering around our respective rooms talking about random things and placing an item or two in a bag every twenty minutes or so. Fast forward ten years and packing is a breeze. I have an easy foolproof method that I stick to and my packing gets completed in no time. Today I wanted to share a sample packing list for spending one month in Thailand and how I go about packing in general. Continue reading

Share on FacebookPin on PinterestShare on TumblrTweet about this on TwitterEmail this to someone

Teachable Moments : Letters

Living with kids, we’re realizing that there are teachable moments all around us! So we’re turning them into a blog series. Example number 1 : BUGS!

I guess it was about a year ago, when Alex was just turning three, that we started to pay more attention to letters. It began with singing the alphabet and spelling his name, and then we started to help him identify the letters all around him : pointing out letters that we saw on daily adventures, spelling words on packages and in store windows, and it’s snowballed from there.

learning_letters

Early on, we realized that we could minimize a lot of letter confusion if we just stuck to one case, and for now our focus is on uppercase letters. They’re everywhere! 😉

And in this post I wanted to share a few of the fun ways that we’ve increased the letter play in our house. Continue reading

Share on FacebookPin on PinterestShare on TumblrTweet about this on TwitterEmail this to someone

My First Year With a Smart Phone

live seasoned

*flip phone high five*

Slightly over a year ago, my best friend shoved her old iPhone into my hands and said something like, ‘It’s time! Please use this.’ And so my journey began. After a month of constantly charging the out battery and yet loving my new smarty pants life, I decided to man up, and shell out over half a grand for a new iPhone SE.
I grumbled as I walked into the Verizon store, muttered under my breath as I looked at overpriced cases and screens and felt utter remorse as I walked out poorer yet somehow more equipped. After a few purchases on Amazon to protect my pocket computer and several hours of downloading apps and playing around with all the new-to-me features, I fell in love completely. This cycle is somewhat familiar as usually I’m immediately repelled by something or someone only to fall head over heels the next week. It’s odd, yet consistent and therefore I prepared to enter the honeymoon phase.

As a way-late-to-the-game smart phone user, I wanted to share my observations and experiences of my transition. In the past, I was never a phone person. I’d lose my flip phone for days at a time or let my nephew chew on it, only to have his slobber seep in and make it disfunctional and still not really worry about it, but this is more than a phone, it’s a lifeline and its cord is now wrapped around my neck, let me explain to you just how tightly..

As a smart phone user, I fit in. I don’t receive sidelong glances or ‘OMG, you still rock a flip phone!?!’ Comments anymore. I can bring my phone out at work without feeling unprofessional and it’s no longer a topic of conversation amongst all my friends. I’m no longer Schu who has a flip phone. I’m simply Schu.
Where do I begin? Let’s start with my number one love, my profession, photography.

The camera is amazing. HDR capabilities and a front facing camera, holy shit, what a difference. This is both good and bad. I’ve stopped taking my DSLR everywhere, which is nice for my back and my woes about it being broken, lost or stolen, but obviously the images are not the same caliber. Even though the file sizes are quite different and the depth and detail is completely lost, smart phones take an amazing image and this fact shouldn’t be overlooked. The live view photo feature on newer iPhones is absolutely awesome. The moments before and after the shutter clicks warms my heart, make me laugh till I cry or cringe with embarrassment, all of which I’m  thankful to have on record. The best camera is the one you have with you, which makes this little camera great.

My sense of direction has shifted. I used to know where I was at every second of the day. My sense of direction was killer since I’d have to memorize maps and directions, take a mental note of city layouts and be prepared to improvise if a road was closed or nonexistent. Most times I’m aware of my location because I’ve trained my brain to hover above the scene no matter if I’m walking, driving or riding public trans, but there are times now when I’m down right lazy about. I noticed this most recently when I was in Chiang Mai, Thailand. I drove a motorbike around the city for almost two weeks and yet I had to completely rely on my passenger to tell me exactly where to go. What’s even worse? The city is a perfect grid, not at all difficult to navigate and I had visited before when I was smartphone-less and got around just fine. Those two weeks presented me with the stark reality that I rely on my smartphone too much at times when I should be exercising my brain as well.

I have a record of everything
. I take images and notes of just about everything I do, whether it’s pertaining to travel, conversations or random thoughts, it goes in my phone. I think this piggybacks off my last point, I’m relying on this phone instead of storing info in my brain – is this a good or a bad thing?

All my media is on one device
– this efficiency is welcome. I’m no longer packing a GPS, iPod, camera, flip phone and tablet with me. I haven’t gotten lost in the past year, I’ve taken easily 10,000 images on my phone alone, I haven’t had to be tortured by the radio and I can post to Instagram any damn time of day and we all know that’s the main reason I upgraded to a smart phone.

Group texting and airdrop save me time and help me deeper my connections.
Wow. Group texting alone is enough of a reason to have a smart phone. I used to spend so much time being absolutely frustrated trying to piece together group texts and half the time the subject matter was so unimportant (sorry boos) that it really wasn’t worth the effort. Now I create group chats and talk my friends’ ears off about nonsense without having to decode the responses. AirDrop is a luxury for a photographer, no longer am I feeling guilty about not sending that random person that picture or wasting hours (seriously) editing, organizing and emailing people candids after parties and nights out.

There’s an app for that.
Uber, kindle, mobile banking, Etsy, WordPress, Waze, Airbnb, and the eight airline apps allow me to move through the world with ease. I haven’t been to the bank in months, I rarely have to stand in line at an airline counter for a paper boarding pass and I can blog while I fly. Sometimes I can’t fathom how I got anything done with my flip phone.

Even though my life is markedly more efficient with a smart phone.

I’m very self conscious whenever I’m using my phone while hanging out with family or friends.
I’m constantly apologizing and feeling quite bad about it, which I think is a symptom of using a phone without internet for nearly a decade longer than everyone else. No one else seems to notice or care when everyone is in the same room yet completely absorbed in their phone, but I sure do. I still think twice or ask permission before using it when I’m out at a restaurant or on the job, something that usually garnishes a strange look from my companions.


I forget how to deal with situations without the ease of internet,
for instance, I’m about to land in Adelaide, Australia and I had this moment of realization at the airport that I couldn’t call an Uber without data. Instead of waiting and using a taxi, I went ahead and enacted my travel plan so that I wouldn’t be without the internet.. is the convenience really worth $10 a day to me? Apparently.
I’m constantly multitasking and checking in and connecting, for no reason. Yes, get your shit done, but at night when I should be reading or crafting or watching Netflix (which I haven’t done in MONTHS) I’m fucking around on my phone. I have no idea what I’m doing because it’s definitely nothing of substance. I’m probably flipping through my five emails and three instagrams and for what!?

I need to put my phone physically out of reach or I pick it up.
Why? I’m not sure. It’s an awful habit and I hate myself for it. How did I become so absorbed in a screen after just one year that I managed to avoid my entire adult life?

I was adamantly against smart phones in the past because I wanted a clear line between work and life. I wanted to have to walk into my home office and log on instead of being inundated with work nonsense at all hours, little did I know it wouldn’t be work that would disrupt and call to me, it’s social media and ‘connection’ and hours of redditing instead. Owning a smartphone is a powerful lesson in self control, which I seem to possess very little of.
I’ve learned to set boundaries. I don’t answer work calls after hours if I know they’re not urgent. I’ve turned off all those tiny red notification bubbles so they don’t nag me and I’ve tried (and I fail every day) to open apps consciously not out of habit.

I suppose overall, having a smartphone has made me more mindful of how mindless I have the potential to be. It takes a certain amount of strength and willpower to voluntarily disconnect. I felt superior in the past, as if I didn’t need a smart phone and I didn’t need to be connected and that was absolutely true. I got by perfectly fine, but that doesn’t change the fact that once I became connected, I jumped in headfirst and I’m still trying to come up for air. I’m completely addicted to this tiny internet machine that rewards me with comments, likes and validation even if I detest the whole notion. It’s only when I travel (without access to wifi) that I feel truly connected again. I’m forced to look around, notice, interact and trust myself instead of google. It’s magical and it’s something I’m working on every day wifi or no wifi. I’m curious to see how I’ll transition from a new addict to a seasoned user, I’ll update you in a year, but until then I urge you to become conscious of your use and how it helps or hinders your life and relationships.

Share on FacebookPin on PinterestShare on TumblrTweet about this on TwitterEmail this to someone

WIPS III

Happy Monday! … or should I use a question mark after that phrase? I’m never sure.

Today I wanted to summarize some of the projects that I’m working on at the moment.

It’s been about a year since I’ve done one of these posts, and looking back at that post made me realize that: 1. I would like to get better at doing these posts more regularly (I find it inspiring to see what people are working on and it’s nice to see some progress shots rather than just the polished and finished pieces), and 2. I have to get better at following-up on the projects that I share. For example, the hat from the last post turned out so good (I wear it all the time!), but the mittens are still in their unfinished state, which is sad because I know that once they’re done I’ll use them all of the time.

{Weaving}

WIPS_march2017b

First up is the weaving! My dad gifted me this table/lap loom for Christmas, and I love it. I like the challenge of this art form – thinking about the “picture” I want to create, wether it’s mountains, abstract trees, or just a free-form burst of color. I’m also really happy to have a use for all of the odd bits of yarn that are left over from previous projects.

The other fun side-effect from learning this new craft is that now my eyes are open for examples of weaving everywhere! I’ve become obsessed with project updates from other weavers on Instagram. I fell in love with this huge weaving while shopping (and want to recreate something like it for one of our walls – imitation is the greatest form of flattery, right?).

And as you can see in the photo below, Amax has taken an interest in my new projects, so I’m excited to get him started with a little cardboard frame loom ASAP!

WIPS_march2017

{Knitting}

On the knitting needles, I’m working on a sweater for myself. It’s the Bohus inspired turtleneck from Vogue Knitting Winter 2015/2016. This is a top-down knit (you go back and add the turtleneck at the end). I’m really excited about it, and have been working on it so much over the past week, that I’ve made a lot of progress since the photo below was take. Now the body is nearly complete!
WIPS_march2017c

Not shown in this post are the two sweaters that I’m knitting for the boys that are nearly complete, but have been completely ignored since I started my sweater. eek! I’m hoping to finish up theirs this week and then take them on our next winter camping trip for some photos – nothing like a good finished project photoshoot to inspire actually finishing the project.

{Sewing}

But don’t worry, the boys are getting plenty of DIY attention. I was also gifted a serger for Christmas, so I’ve started to experiment with sewing clothes from knitted and spandex fabrics. This was something that I was always nervous to do on my regular sewing machine, but funnily enough, I’ve since experimented and successfully sewed spandex on the regular machine! WIPS_march2017d

Above is a simple boatneck shirt that I made for Luc. This was my very first serger project, and I’m so happy with how it turned out – look at those seams!

After that project, I sewed a pair of spandex leggings for Alex. The leggings were a bit more complicated with their elastic waist and the more slippery fabric, but they’re passable!

In the process of just those two projects, I’ve learned so many new techniques, and just like the weaving, I’m now paying attention to clothes, patterns, and new-to-me sewing resources online. I have plans to sew a few simple things for myself, and (of course) I want to continue blogging about these projects, so when I do, I’ll share some of those resources, tips, and tricks in a future posts!

~

So, that’s what’s going on in this house, what about you? Do you have any fun projects going on? Any new skills that you’re learning?

And most importantly, what are you doing to calm your mind when you think the news can’t get any crazier, and then {BAM!} someone’s wires are tapped? Or crossed. Yes, the wires definitely got crossed somewhere along the way.

Share on FacebookPin on PinterestShare on TumblrTweet about this on TwitterEmail this to someone

Death – The Greatest Equalizer

The sun must rise and the sun must set, where there is life there must be death.

Death is our greatest teacher – the equalizer. On earth we are all the same, but we try to make ourselves feel different, death reminds us of our identical nature. It is difficult, but learning to appreciate the beauty that is brought about by the closing of a life instead of focusing on the darkness is important for healing and growth. What else can we do? When reality doesn’t align with our expectations of ‘how things should be’ is when the real work of deeper consciousness begins. When events still challenge us emotionally we know there’s much more work to be done. Because I’m feeling challenged this week, I’d like to pass on another challenge to you: how are you behaving? How are you carrying out your days? How are you fostering your relationships? Ask yourself these three questions and say the answers truthfully aloud. If you’re feeling uneasy about the answers, now is the time to alter your course, to clean up, to mend, because whether you acknowledge it or not, each sunrise brings us closer to our final sunset and while you may envision yours to be way off in the distance, someone you love may be preparing for the darkness.
Forgive me if you also follow our Instagram account @LiveSeasoned and you saw this already today. I find myself coming back to these thoughts and re-reading this paragraph each hour as a reminder so I figured I would also post it in this sphere. Go be your best self this weekend, cherish this gift of life.

Share on FacebookPin on PinterestShare on TumblrTweet about this on TwitterEmail this to someone

Sydney Coastal Walk


You’ve spent a few days in Sydney and you’re ready for adventure. The Coastal Walk is the best way to stay close to the city center while enjoying a bit of nature and getting some exercise in. If you go about completing the entire walk from Coogee to Bondi it’s about six km and will take you anywhere from two to three hours, but I recommend packing a little beach backpack, starting in the morning and seeing where your day takes you.  Along the way, there are plenty of opportunities for side quests. You can challenge yourself by scrambling over boulders, refresh yourself by taking a swim in various tidal pools and beaches and of course there are plenty of places to stop and eat and drink throughout your journey. 


Like most of our travel posts on Live Seasoned, we like to give you a general idea for your day or adventure, but leave the details up to you. For that reason, I’ll point out a few of my favorite places to take a dip and grab a bite to eat, but otherwise, the world is your oyster. Pack your bag, slather on some sunscreen and have one of the most beautiful walks of your life. The Coastal Walk is not to be missed. I trotted along this path five days in a row never tiring of the scenery. 



Before I ventured to the coast, I was under the impression that it would take up a full day, which it certainly can, but I didn’t realize you could hop on and off the walk, take a bus to one area and then walk or uber to another, the possibilities really are endless. On my final day in Sydney I decided to walk north from Coogee to Bondi and then turn around and walk all the way back. With ample rest and refresh time throughout it was quite an easy walk and the perfect final day on the eastern coast. This walk is suitable for young and old alike, beginners and uber fit altheletes, it’s really perfect for everyone.


What to pack:

  • Sunscreen
  • Water bottle 
  • Sunglasses
  • Sneakers (it can be done in sandals)
  • Camera
  • Turkish towel or sarong




Highlights:

Take a dip in the rock enclosed tidal pool near Coogee. After you cool off, scramble over sandstone boulders, sunbathe by the sea and brave the incoming tidal waves. 

Now it’s time to begin the walk, head north to Gordan’s Bay and enjoy the pristine views. 

Take a seat in the shade at Bundock Park for a little rest while you watch the surf lap along a collection of rocks, fondly referred to at Wedding Cake Point, way out in the ocean, don’t worry, you’ll see them. 

After a little refresh, it’s time to head further north towards Clovelly Beach. If the rough Sydney surf intimidates you, the Clovelly ocean pool is the perfect solution. Swim a few laps, drip dry on the sunbathing deck and then pop into Sea Salt cafe for a little snack. 

After a nibble, prepare yourself for Shark’s Point, a massive rock cliff that is sure to take your breath away. Sit and meditate here for a moment before walking on towards Clovelly Bowling and Recreation Club where you should certainly buy a drink to enjoy in the air conditioned event ballroom that overlooks the ocean. 

Once you’ve had a proper break and you’re all cooled down, walk through Waverly Cemetery towards Nelson’s Bay and Bronte Beach. Bronte baths is another nice seaside salt pool for swimming and lounging or you can head to Bronte Road, the street behind and parallel to the beach and park, for a lunch prepared with fresh ingredients. Over the course of the week, I ate at Jenny’s & Bronte Bela and both were yummy.

The next section of the walk, between Bronte and Tamarama is absolutely gorgeous so really take your time on the cliff and cave section and do some exploring.


 Round Mackenzies Point and  enjoy the final stretch to Bondi Beach. Bondi is a surfer’s paradise and you’ll likely see hundreds in the water at any one time. After strolling past the beautifully painted cement wall that separates the grass and sand at Bondi, stop at Lush Cafe to reward yourself with a snack and libations.

You could easily end the night here by watching a movie in the park or grabbing dinner at one of the dozens of restaurants on Campbell Parade, but if you’re up for it, you could also stroll back once you’re feeling refreshed.


If you decide to walk back, which you should because the sun hasn’t set yet, end your night at Coogee Pavilion. It’s an enormous restaurant with multiple bars and a ton of game and play areas for families downstairs and lots more ocean view seating upstairs for a calmer chill, outdoor garden type of vibe.

After dinner and drinks, you’ll probably have to crawl back to the car, but I know it was worth it.

Pack a bag, tie up those trainers and hop on the coastal walk and remember, jumping off the path occasionally makes the experience last longer and fuels you for that next flight of stairs so take my suggestions and nibble, drink, meditate, swim and play along the way. Enjoy!

Share on FacebookPin on PinterestShare on TumblrTweet about this on TwitterEmail this to someone

How To Make Your Hotel Room Feel Like Home


Growing up, we camped a lot. With so many tents and trailers around, it was really rare as a family of six to stay in a hotel room and even if we did, it was usually overcrowded, sterile and uncomfortable. I have a faint memory of the excitement of discovering the door inside the hotel room that could connect our family’s two rooms, but besides that I remember feeling uncomfortable in the new space, bored and quite hungry. What can I say, I’m a grazer. I like my snacks. Fast forward twenty years and I frequent hotel rooms and Airbnb’s often for work and play.
I realized that I’ve come a long way. I love exploring these new spaces and I can feel instantly at home almost anywhere I travel to. Maybe it’s because I’m lucky enough to find lovely spaces or maybe it’s a few simple necessities that transform any hostel or hotel into an instant oasis. Here’s a few of my favorite comforts that morph a hotel room into a home. You’ll notice that most have an element that elevates the vibe, atmosphere and energy of the space and after all isn’t that what makes a house a home?

  • Portable speaker – Music emphasizes whatever mood you’re trying to achieve. Want to relax? Wanna pregame or party? Want to block out your hotel neighbors who sound like they’re on their honeymoon or worse yet, like they’re preparing for a divorce? Perfect – blast those tunes. Adding tunes to the equation customizes each activity from your morning shower and bathroom routine to your midday yoga flow. Memories are also tightly tied to music therefor you truly have the power to burn your vacation into your memory by creating a special playlist for the occasion. Although I’ve used a half dozen portable speakers, I was recently gifted this beautiful bass powerhouse crafted by Bang & Olufsen and I could not recommend it enough.
  • Fuzzy throw blanket – Maybe this seems redundant to you. Obviously there are blankets in your hotel room, but there’s nothing like a cozy throw while you’re lounging on the balcony or curled up with a good book by the window. Usually hotel comforters are big, bulky, and (hopefully) full of down, which is nice for sleeping, but too much for a casual hang. Your fuzzy throw probably smells like home too, which helps if your missing your partner or kids. Bonus? When everyone is shivering under their scratchy airline blanket you’ll be snoozing away in your window seat and while you can’t hear your neighbors, they’re commenting on what a savvy traveler you are. Forget the stupid travel pillow and pack a throw instead.
  • Candles – It’s amazing how one flickering light can change the mood of a room. The soft glow and ambiance from a candle or two kicks overhead lighting’s ass any day. I always travel with a tea light if not something larger. If you have time to spare at your destination, shopping for a candle on day one makes for a fun mini mission. You’ll surely wander into a few inspiring shops and you’ll support a local maker with your candle purchase. I love, love, love this candle. It’s worth every penny and makes a beautiful gift.
  • Flowers – seems like a luxury, right? Actually, flowers are pretty inexpensive if you’re buying local blooms. It’s not like you need a dozen roses. While you’re out candle shopping, wander through a flower market or visit the farmer’s market and pick up a bouquet of in-season wild flowers. Each time you walk into your hotel room a smile is sure to spread across your face. *And while we appreciate this luxury on the road, we always make it a point of trying to buy local & seasonal flowers, or those that have the Rainforest Alliance certification.
  • Snacks – save yourself! Buy some snacks. Never be hangry again and please don’t settle for shitty vending machine chocolate. Treat yourself like the grown ass adult that you are. A simple stop at a local grocer, co-op or even a gas station is a mass improvement over the mini bar. My go to travel snacks usually include a bottle of keefir, hummus, crackers, fruit (something easy like a bunch of grapes, citrus or apples) and of course a nice chocolate bar. You really just need a few nibbles to tide you over when a snack attack comes on, it’s not like these are the groceries you’ll be living off of.
  • Tea – most hotel rooms will have an electric kettle or coffee pot in the room. Instead of drinking the plain Jane Lipton teas that are provided, pack a few of your own tea bags. I alway travel with tea and honestly it’s like a mini vacation with each cup. I’m instantly transported into a comfort zone and I can’t help but feel gratitude for taking such good care of myself. Apparently self care comes down to a cup of good tea for me. If you’re one of those people that needs coffee ASAP upon waking up, it’s not a bad idea to pack a little baggie of your own beans either. I skip this since I really enjoy trying out new coffee shops, but maybe a cup of your own Joe is what your travel mornings are missing?
  • Scents – weird one, huh? Not at all! Scents, like music, are strongly tied to memory and really we’re talking about aromatherapy here. You have the power to alter your mood and elevate your happiness with smells, so pack some! I highly recommend a paolo santo stick or incense, some invigorating eucalyptus oil for the shower, some soothing sandalwood oil for your bathrobe or pillow and even a little calming lavender satchel for your dresser drawer during the day and under your pillow at night. I know some folks who travel with essential oil diffusers and personally, I call them geniuses.


That’s that! Have I convinced you to pack a few more items in that backpack or suitcase? I mean seriously, imagine coming home after a long day of meetings or a chaotic trip through a local market and you walk through your hotel door greeted by a fresh bouquet of flowers. You immediately go about lighting a candle and burning some incense, pouring yourself a cup of tea, turning on your favorite album and curling up under your fuzzy blanket to reflect on your day. I think the only thing that could make the moment better is a piece of dark chocolate and thankfully you’ve thought of that too 🙂

Share on FacebookPin on PinterestShare on TumblrTweet about this on TwitterEmail this to someone

Teachable Moments : Bugs!

I’m starting a new series on the blog to share some of the education adventures that the boys and I go on; you can read my introductory post here.

bugs2_cover

Mamas and Papas, I’ve decided that fall through spring is the perfect time to investigate bugs!

You’re confused, I know, but hear me out : I spend those seasons vacuuming up all sorts of insects in our house. There are stink bugs, green lacewings, some wasps, flies, and sometimes lady bugs. So, rather than toss the dead bugs in the trash, they are the perfect specimens for learning.

bugs

Have your kiddos collect a bunch of bugs, and then start asking them probing questions that get them observing.

  • You could start with an open-ended : What do the bugs look like?
  • And then get more specific : What color are they?
  • How many legs do they have?
  • How many wings?
  • If you’ve found more than one variety : How are the bugs different or the same?
  • And then you could build curiosity: How did they get in the house?

I try not to hammer them with questions. Instead, I like to sit back and let them explore, but the questions can help to get them thinking and/or they’re just handy to have in mind if you’re having a conversation about the insects and want to keep it going.

bugs2

Introduce your kids to scientific tools. We have a few magnifying glasses and the kids’ microscope that you see in the photo above. We also happened upon a super easy trick – use a macro lens on your phone to shoot a zoom-in photo of the insects. If your kids are like mine, they will be amazed at the detail! While they love using their tools, I’ve found that the tools don’t come with the strongest lenses and it can be hard for shaky/excited hands to keep everything in focus. Using the macro photograph is one of the easiest ways to expand your kids’ awe and curiosity about bugs – they can’t believe all of the details that are on the bug sitting there on the table (the fuzzy hairs, the patterns that just looked like stripes now are something else, etc.).

For better or worse, seeing the bugs magnified to this level makes it easier to anthropomorphize the insects, which can lead to some awesome learning conversations. My guys like to talk about the bugs families, what the different members of the family do, where they get their food, etc. And then this can lead to more detailed discussions about the social structure of some bugs, their lifecycle, the predator/prey relationships, and on and on.

When it comes to bug-related tools, we also have a bug box that’s handy when we’re catching and analyzing live insects.

bugs3

We also like to pull out the insect field guides to look up the insects we’ve found. The first time I pulled out this book, Alex went bonkers! He couldn’t believe all of the different insects that were in the book. So, I gave him plenty of time to just browse the book. Then we narrowed in on the insects we had, once we were on the right page, I had him find the specific insect, and then we read about them.

bugs4

My goal is for us to do activities like this over and over again whenever the interest arises, with the intent to increase the boys’ depth of knowledge each time. Some examples include teaching them the correct names of insect parts, the lifecycle of the insect, their role in the ecosystem. And here are a few other simple ideas for extending this activity:

  • draw pictures of the insects
  • discuss and paint a picture of their habitat
  • visit the insect exhibits at your local natural history museum
  • during the summer, we like to start by catching some bugs in the garden! This is one of the easiest ways to discuss the insects’ role in the ecosystem, their preferred habitat, and food. We don’t kill them, but we are still able to carry out a variety of the activities above, and this is where having the bug box is key to keeping your live specimens in one place.

If you’re a bug lover, a parent, or just someone with an idea, I’d love to hear from you! Do you have any other ideas for introducing kids to insects? Do you have any favorite insect facts?

Share on FacebookPin on PinterestShare on TumblrTweet about this on TwitterEmail this to someone

Teachable Moments : an Introduction

Now that Alex is nearing 4 years old and Luc is nearing 2, I’m starting to be more intentional with how we spend some of our time together. While they spend their days playing, I want to highlight more “teachable moments” that challenge the boys to learn new skills, whether it’s physical, practical, and/or academic. And since we blog about what we love and what’s important to us, I’m hoping to share some of these pre-school teaching adventures on the blog.

alex_stick

We’ve already started some of this work and sharing through the Cooking with Kids series, but I’d like to expand the posts to share some of the work we’re doing outside of the kitchen.

Our Learning Philosophy

If you’ve been reading our blog for a while, it’s no surprise that Sarah and I enjoy challenging ourselves to learn new things, and (of course), we love to share what we’ve learned with others. Much of what we do here on the blog is from the perspective of an amateur in that we’ve had no formal schooling in cooking, crafting, or potion-making, yet other things we do from the perspective of professionals (Sarah as a photographer and yogi, myself as a scientist, naturalist, and quasi-economist). Beyond spending years as a student, I’ve also worked as an educator in one capacity or another (volunteering to work with high school kids in urban gardens, being a teaching assistant in grad school, and teaching college courses). All that’s to say that we have many passions, some we’ve pursued through formal education and others we’ve pursued as hobbies.

beach2

beach

As you may expect, we’re keen to pass our love of learning on to the boys. The most important skills that I hope to nurture in them are to be observant of the world around them, ask questions about how the world works, and come up with ideas that try to answer those questions. I’m hoping to raise curious problem solvers. Of course, I’m also hoping to raise kiddos with a social conscious, but aren’t we all? I hope?

What are Teachable Moments?

While they’re still young, I’m not concerned about enrolling the kiddos in a rigorous academic environment, rather, I think it’s fairly easy to engage them in teachable moments no matter what we’re doing from one day to the next. For example, Alex is starting to identify letters of the alphabet and spell simple words. He doesn’t need worksheets to help with this, instead, we’re always finding moments to have him find letters (road signs, cereal boxes, books, etc.). And Luc’s learning is much more basic – he’s learning to form sentences, ask questions, and (of course) he tries to copy anything his big brother does from counting to jumping off the furniture. So we spend a lot of time talking to/with Luc (not at him) to help his language develop. I ask him questions, give him time to answer. Before he was even speaking in sentences, I would really listen when he was making noises at me, because often he had something he was trying to communicate.

farm

Whatever the subject manner, there’s often a way to relate to it in our day-to-day lives. For example, Calder and I were total dorks when we bought the NPS pass and talked about the utility we get just from knowing that we could go to any park at any time… and when I’m hiking in the mountains, a rock slide makes me want to talk about entropy – the idea that things gradually go from an ordered to disordered state. The bottom line is that there are so many moments in the day where we could stop, observe, and start an academic conversation about a whole slew of topics.

But those are big ideas. At the boys’ age, I like to follow their curiosity. Some days we’re using blocks to see who can build the highest tower, and why does one stay up while another falls? Other days we’re sitting outside for hours looking for bugs, watching where they go and what they do. And other days, we’re mixing food coloring into homemade gak to see what happens when we mix red with blue (purple!), but what if we add yellow and green too (brown!)?

Teaching Resources

Right now, given the boys’ ages, our conversations and teachable moments are really pretty mellow, but they’re there, and more are happening every day – especially with Alex.

I’ve started to look for some resources that I can refer to as I think about fostering a creative, problem-solving, independent environment in (and outside!) our house.

bats_letters

bats

For the most part, I’ve been leaning on my intuition and ideas from our mom who is a retired teacher, but I’ve also begun to turn to a couple of books:

  • Tinkerlab is a great resource for helping parents to foster a more creative and exploratory learning environment at home. It begins with a few sections discussing the importance of letting kids tinker, how to organize your home, and lists of suggested tinkering supplies for kids. Then the bulk of the book provides ideas for tinkering activities, organized broadly under the topics of “design, build, concoct, and discover”. There’s also a Tinkerlab website bursting with ideas and inspiring posts.
  • The Outdoor Classroom in Practice, Ages 3-7 is a great basic resource if you would like to have some practical help for creating a forest school environment. Admittedly, we aren’t spending our full days outside, but it is a major goal of mine to have a lot of the boys learning and activities taking place outside. This is a month-by-month guide with ideas for introducing children to the idea of a forest school and with a few simple seasonally-appropriate activities for each month.
  • The Kids’ Nature Book This book is out of print, but Sarah picked up a copy for us at a used book store. There are other versions of nature activity books available, but I really love this one. It gives you an activity idea for every day of the year – that’s 365 ideas! Some are super simple (measure the snowfall), while others are more intensive. The bottom line is that you can find an activity that’s appropriate for any moment and age level. I’ll come back to this book in a future post and talk in more detail about how I use it.

In addition to those books, as we all know, the internet is full of ideas, and I have a few Pinterest boards to help me keep those resources organized.

bugs

I’m exciting to start this series on the blog, and am thinking about a variety of future posts covering everything from how we create teachable moments while on vacation to our early experiments with learning letters. I know these posts won’t be for everyone, but I’m hoping that there’s a community of readers who would like to join in this discussion and share their teachable moments.

Share on FacebookPin on PinterestShare on TumblrTweet about this on TwitterEmail this to someone