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Sunday, September 14, 2008

Duck Creek is a placid little stream that flows through the bottomlands of Whipple. Placid until it floods, and then it can cut off our main access to our house (which is on one of the highest ridges in the county) for days at a time. That hasn't happened for quite awhile. It was a moderate summer in terms of rain and Duck Creek never raised out of its banks.

Most of the time, the creek is a wonderland for us. It's got tremendous diversity and abundance of minnows, darters, sticklebacks, sculpins, and gobs of crawfish. We love to take the kids down to wade slowly through its shallows, looking for stream life. The theme of our late summer has been aquatic.A monster mudbug, almost qualifying for lobsta status. We told the kids they were rock lobsters. We tried to teach them how to pick up a crawfish, but we both got pinched and there was a lot of hollering involved. Just when you think you have it, and that it doesn't notice you sneaking up on it, the little mudbug whips around and gets you good. OW!!

People are constantly asking me if we homeschool our kids. I've gotten the question often enough, and my answer is so often met with visible deflation and disappointment, that it puts me just a bit on the defensive. Before replying, I think how eager Phoebe and Liam are for school to start, because they love seeing all their friends. Direct quote from Liam: "Ahh, the sweet smell of the bus seats. The sweet smell of school."That said, he is equally able to soak in the wonder of a golden stream on a late-summer evening.

I deliberately keep the questioner waiting while I think, "Well, I show them things constantly, and explain what we're seeing. Does that count?" So I take my time answering. I suppose that I should follow Emily Post's recommendation for any question you find intrusive and reply, "Why do you ask?"
A baby bullfrog, probably metamorphosed only this year. Bullfrogs are two-year tadpoles. In their second year, they're almost the size of an apricot. You can tell it's a bullfrog and not a green frog by the smoothness of the skin of its back--a green frog has two raised ridges running from each eye to its rump.
Dodder, a parasitic plant that lacks chlorophyll, and twines from honest plant to honest plant, sinking little white teeth into their stems, sucking sugars away from them. It has the audacity to be orange, and it looks like a strand of fly-fishing monofilament caught in the vegetation. This dodder is in full bloom, with little white clusters of flowers. Sometimes it gets so thick on stream banks it looks like an orange tarp. A vegetable vampire.
Coming upon some peculiar bones at streamside, I summoned the kids to look and guess what they might be. We put the pieces together like a jigsaw, but they were no closer to the answer. The Science Chimp in me was pant-hooting. There are so many excellent clues here.
The long icky looking gray thing stretched over the bark is a piece of leathery skin. Any closer?

OK. I'm going to soft pitch it, kids. Here's a good piece of the thing that's still hanging together. The problem is, they didn't yet know this creature existed, much less lurked in the shallows of Duck Creek. I'm going to let y'all work on it in the comments section. Bruce, over there waving your hand, practically jumping out of your desk, I know you know!

So I tell them nope, we don't homeschool.
Not much, anyway.


Well, I guess there's homeschooling, and then there's homeschoolin' huhh... As to the mystery bones I'm votin' for a dinosaur (preferably from the Triassic)... what does Liam think?

Hooray that you have the choice to school your kids!

Your children would thrive in either environment, they have such great support from their parents.

I am guessing some kind of apolone - spinifera spinifera?

I saw my first Dodder plant in the woods this week on a hike with the motmot-- so your post is perfect timing. I've seen it on the roadside in the south from the car window and always called it the "silly string" plant.

I figure it was some sort of turtle.

I know it's a turtle because of the last picture, and I'm guessing it's a softshell turtle because I think there are two interestingly shaped jaw bones in the upper pic, and I'm pretty sure that Phoebes and Liam know about snapping turtles (specifically thinking of the instance when you passed the large female snapper laying eggs, I'm thinking near Duck Creek, when they were little)... I really hope I'm not drastically wrong :-).

I will leave the bones as they are and make no guesses.
Most interesting that someone presumes that because you spend a lot of time with your children, and show them the wonders of the world, that you home-school. Gee--I just thought that was good parenting.
The home-schooling craze frankly puzzles me. Except in cases where it is what one MUST do (for example, my mother home-schooled me in Africa), I think a child gains so much more by being schooled outside the home. I also wonder about the level of instruction a parent can give on ALL subjects. I know a great deal about literature, art, history and religion--but I am hopeless at math. So, had my children been home-schooled they would have been very lop-sided indeed.
Whatever happened to our support of public education which is really one of the great advantages we have in this country over most other countries in the world.

Bottom shell from a turtle? (But do turtles have "skin"?)
Thats about all this very UNscientifically inclined city-dweller can come up with...

I was thinking dinosaur too! Yep! I am sure Liam was all over that one. :c) Your kids get more "homeschooling" than a homeschooler any day. Heck, we get homeschooled by you too Julie.

It is wonderful that your children are enjoying life whether it is school or at home/stream with you.

Thank you for not telling us and letting us work it out. I've been googling pictures of crocs, gators, even duck billed platypus then checked, and shucks, your in the US.
I'm stumped. Wish I could handle the stuff.

Perhaps it is nothing more than noticing that same kind of interest and dedication to your kids that some homeschooling parents have. It is obvious you do teach your kids, whether formally or not. It's clear you enjoy your environment and your kids…and teaching your kids about the world around them. Perhaps it’s just noticing that about you…it is lovely to watch!

Did Liam cart the bones home?

You do homeschool them. Phoebe and Liam have the best of both worlds - classmates and a home full of wonder and excitement. Heck, you homeschool your readers on-line! We get field trips, too.

I'll wait to see what others say about the bones.

You do homeschool them. Phoebe and Liam have the best of both worlds - classmates and a home full of wonder and excitement. Heck, you homeschool your readers on-line! We get field trips, too.

I'll wait to see what others say about the bones.

This all makes me want to skip work today and go play in the creek. On the mystery bones, I'm going to guess snapping turtle.

The carapace looks like a snapper. That's my best guess.

Ah yes, a snapping turtle it could be. Pic of one here

We don't get those in England but I do remember seeing one by the side of the road in North Carolina when I was there.

TR, AKA Timmers--you get the monkey biscuit for being first to correctly identify the soft-shelled turtle bones. Thanks for doing it auf Latin so people could keep guessing. Class act. I've got tentative ID's on your warbler shots but we've been without power for 12 hours so am only just getting to them.

And NatureMama, I'm delighted to see your dear smile and correct ID. Huge grin. Wanna talk about homeschooling? See NatureMama's blog!
The best part? Last weekend, Bill and I took the kids on the bike trail from Athens to Nelsonville and we spotted three softshells out basking, on the hoof!! Full circle!

For everyone who guessed snapping turtle, I had an unfair advantage in that I could see and manipulate the rather thin skin that had been its carapace, clinching the ID as a softshell. Good work, though.

KG Mom--exACTly. My kids would know everything that hopped or crawled into the yard, but woe be unto them when it came time for algebra or calculus. In fact, helping Phoebe with her math homework in grade 7 gives me cold sweats...what about when she's 17??

Beverly, thanks for your gentle perspective on the situation. I have to admit that I've built up some personal baggage about homeschooling that may have nothing to do with the intent of the question. But the woman who first asked if I homeschooled, looked aghast when I said no, and then followed with, "But surely you're vegan, right?"

well...Why do you ask?

Instead I laughed and asked, "Does steak count?"

I'm glad you told us the answer and didn't leave us hanging as I couldn't even venture a guess. I'm not an outdoorsy type and am probably unqualified to homeschool. We have a blast doing it anyway. ;)

Sounds like you a have great time exploring and learning with your kids. I think that's wonderful, no matter where they go to school.

Ah, I can understand the aversion to the homeschooling question. I get that same feeling when someone looks at me with youngest strapped on in a wrap and 3 & 5 yr. olds holding each hand and says, "You have your hands full!" I have finally conditioned myself to smile politely and say, "Better full than empty." It makes me good to have an automatic comeback.

i haven't read all the comments but i'm going to say snapping for the home schooling question i used to get that a lot, too, but only from people who met me while teaching. where i live the homeschoolers tend to be creationist zealots so no one who knew me ever asked me ;-) lovely pictures--thanks for taking us along once again.

Julie said: "...Instead I laughed and asked, "Does steak count?""

See...there ya go again; teaching kids why we have canine teeth!

LOL Good Job! I have taught myself just to bite my tongue and blink at stupid questions and rude people. I think my aghast look is what makes them think about what the heck they're saying. When they figure out they're being rude as the dickens, they usually apologize and back-off. I figure it's better than flippin' 'em off.

(sorta) ;)

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