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Monday, October 21, 2013

Children's Activites and Field Trip Ideas in Michiana

If you are like me, you need to need activities that get you out of the house in the long gray winter months of Michiana. Below are some fun places to get out of the house and enjoy Michiana without breaking the bank on gas or admission.  Almost all of them are indoor activities that can be done no matter what the weather.

South Bend, IN

*South Bend Museums with kid's attractions for FREE.  Passes for up to 10 people can  be checked out from the Downtown South Bend Library if you have a St Joseph Library card. for The History Museum, Studebaker Museum, Fernwood Botanical Garden (Buchanan, MI), and Health works! There are only a few passes for each day, so you are not guaranteed a pass, but it is worth a try! You must keep the receipt with them to get into the museum, and return them the next day by closing or there is a $6 free. Even without the pass, these museums are reasonably priced for a day out. 

Kids First Children's Museum at The History Museum*.  The Kid's First Children's Museum is in the Lower Level of the Center for History. It has a covered wagon, one room school room, and a trading post where kids can learn about pioneer life in a hands-on way.

Studebaker Museum*. This is a great car museum with real examples of the history of Studebaker vehicles, starting at horse drawn carriages up to modern day cars.  My boys especially loved the kid's play area, Studebaker Service Center, that included a mechanic shop with car their size and tools to fix it (play is geared towards ages 3 to 10).

Potawatomi Conservatories If you want to feel some heat during the cold Michians Winters, make a visit to this  beautiful conservatory full of plants from around the world.  Admission for Botanical Society of South Bend members is free. Adults $3 and children 3-14 years old $2. Under 3 free.

  • Trip Tip- Play "I-Spy' with the plants, and bring paper and colored pencils to draw what you see.

Debartlo Center for the Performing Arts .  There is a wide variety of music and performances that can range for many ages and prices.

South Bend Museum of Art. A beautiful art museum next to the St Joseph River East Race that also include Free Family Days throughout the year.

Snite Museum of Art- Notre Dame Campus.  Admission is FREE and open to the public Art Museum on Notre Dame campus. Check site for hours and family events during school breaks.  We like to visit the museum, then walk about campus lakes if it is a nice day! 

South Bend Chocolate Factory  Museum.  FREE 20 minute basic tours of how they make chocolate at the top of the hour, Mon- Fri 9am to 4pm.
You can also take 45 minute tour which included making your own chocolate covered spoon, for $4 for an adult and $1.

Rum Village Nature Center.  This park features walking trails, playground, and an interactive free nature center.  The nature center features a bee hive for observation and fun educational activities for the kids.  The Wildlife Viewing Room is a wall of glass to view the birds and squirrels eating outside.

Kroc Center If you are not a member , you can purchase  a day  pass to spend the day in the water park, fitness center, or play int he Gym for a fraction of what you'd pay at a water-park.  We did this last February and it was well worth the $26 we paid for our family of 4 to have several hours in the slides, pool, hot tub, and lazy river.  Rock Wall and drop-in fitness class can be added to your day-pass for  only  $5 more per person.  If you are a homeschooling family, check out The Kroc's Home-school U classes, featuring Gym/Health/Swim/Music.

Downtown South Bend Library

My kids already love the library, but if you don't live in South Bend and want to change it up a bit, drive downtown and experience reading in a train car. If you worry about returning books on time, don't fear because all South Bend library books can be returned to a PHM library box, and vice versa.
 Perks to this library:
  • Tablets in  the kids area quipped with education games
  • life-size trains cars to get kids excited to hang in and read
  • Family Movie days with new releases in their theater
  • Free Museum Passes  
New Carlisle
Bendix Woods Nature Center. Very interactive and fun free nature center, complete with live beehive and crawl through tunnel of underground animals.

Mishawaka, IN

Open Swim at Penn High School Penn High School opens their pool in the evening to families for a small fee for the school year.

Penn Harris Madison Library System

Check out all the library activities scheduled.  Some branches, especially Mishawaka Main, ask you to register beforehand for some events. Some of their events include:
  • Lego Club and Magic Tree-house Book Club
  • Teen and Kids Craft Days
  • Story-times for younger children. 
Hannah Lindahl Children's Museum Featuring interactive displays. They ask for groups of six or more to call ahead for time to visit.

Fire Station Field Trip-While most any fire-station will welcome the public for a tour, Station #3 in Mishawaka is practiced at group tours, located next to the St. Joseph Hospital.  I called ahead for a time, and invited two other homeschool families.  They gave us a great tour , including with the kids climbing in the truck and demonstration of turnout gear.  They also provided fire station goodies for the kids.

Granger, IN

House of Bounce Fun Center.  An indoor bounce house, check their facebook page for up to date hours and admission.

Elkhart, IN

Ethos Science Center  This field trip costs a little more, but is well worth it.  Check their site out for family evening programs, homeschool classes, and robotics programs! 

New York Central Railroad Museum  A fun train museum with history of trains and some  interactive models. Adults are only $5 and children $4 (3 and under are free) .  They have an outdoor train ride included in admission, NIBCO Express, that runs on Saturday at 11 a.m., 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. and on Sunday at 1 p.m. and 3 p.m.? 

Midwest Museum of American Art- Art museum in Downtown Elkhart featuring 19th and 20th century artists, with programs though out the year for families and children. 

Osolo Fire Station- The are ready and practiced for group ours and field trips, most appreciate you calling ahead for times.   They have a great variety of trucks for the kids to explore.

Ox Bow County Park-  Features a Museum and Monthly programs offered for children. 

Woodlawn Nature Center. This is an indoor and outdoor activity that could be done in nicer weather. "Woodlawn Nature Center is a small museum of natural history with 10 acres of woodland located in the heart Elkhart Indiana. The park is a sanctuary for native flora and fauna. Both the park and museum offer educational opportunities, hiking trails, and an outdoor picnic area. "

Buchanan, MI

Fernwood Botancial Garden*-  Only 20 minutes north of South Bend, you can also obtain  free pass to his garden from the South Bend Library.  Very child friendly!!!

St Joseph, MI

Curious Kids and Discovery Center.  St. Joseph Michigan, it is a completely interactive kid's museum.    It is also located across from Silver Beach, and has a beautiful view of lake Michigan.  I am told there is an indoor carousel next door to the Discovery Center.

Kalamazoo, MI

Air Zoo his is a bit of a farther drive, but if you want to car pool and make a day of it, it is worth the drive.

You may also be interested in:

Homeschooling in Indiana

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I walk the line....finding the balance in life

Each day I walk the fine line of balance between two ideas, and sometimes it feel like one step too far in the wrong direction will result in a stumble or a flat-out fall.

I walk the line......

between contentment and complacency.

between flexibility and wise preparation.

between authentic transparency and wise discretion.

between knowing if God wants my listening silence or my encouraging words.

between extending grace and speaking truth.

between lazy idleness and being still to know I am not the one in control.

between not making every conversation about you, but being relatable with shared experiences.

between self-centered focus and the need for self-awareness.

between serving in my gifting, while also pushing myself out of my comfort zone.

between letting go of hurt, yet still validating the impact of past abuse.

between accepting freedom from grace, but not presuming on grace and continuing to sin.

between forgiving and not condoning unrepentant sin or abuse.

between empathy for the origin of someone's pain, but not enabling the unhealthy behavior caused by that pain.

between being present in the moment, but still respecting the other people and obligations on my schedule.

between valuing spiritual disciplines, but not slipping into a works-based pride.

between creating healthy emotional boundaries, but not building walls made of bitterness and unforgiveness.

I seek Balance, Lord.  Only in you, and your helper of the Holy Spirit, can I find this.  Please help me today.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Cheesy Baked Potato Soup

  • Box of Low Swanson's Chicken Broth 
  • About 6 to 8 medium peeled potatoes, cut into small squares (I usually like leave a few unpeeled before cutting)
  • 2 stalk of celery, sliced  into small pieces
  • 2-3 carrots, sliced into small pieces
  • 8 slices of freshly cooked and crumbled bacon  OR cup of cubed ham 
  • 1/4 cup of dried onion flakes
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 tbsp dried parsley
  • 2 to 3 slices of American Cheese (for creaminess) 
  • 2 cups of Shredded Cheddar Cheese
  • 1 cup of milk ( I use skim, but for creamier soup you may used whole)
  • 1 1/2 tbsp cornstarch
  1. Bring broth to boil.
  2. Add potatoes, bacon, onions, celery, carrots, parsley, salt, and pepper.  Simmer uncovered until vegetables are tender. 
  3. In separate bowl, whisk cornstarch in cold milk.
  4. When all vegetables are tender add the milk/starch mixture, the slices of cheese, and 1 cup of Shredded cheese.
  5. Use the remains of the shredded cheese to serve on top of each bowl with crusty bread on the side.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Messages we send our children about intelligence

'Smart' is not something you are, it is something you do.
Messages we send our children about Intelligence.  

We believe firmly in our home that smart is not something you are, it is something you do. 

 As a child, it was clearly conveyed to me that you were either born smart or you were not. We still send this message a myriad of ways, many subtle, and many not so subtle.  We group our kids early, we label them. We assign the weight to the  intelligent subjects that must be learned for testing, and dismiss success or aptitude in any other type of intelligence.  

 'Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.' Albert Einstein 

 What a disservice we do to ourselves when we define 'smart' as static, instead of a continuous process.  We live in a world of 'haves' and have-nots', especially when we define smart as something you are either born with or not. 

With this static definition, we steal a child's hope, and taking away their motivation to continue to learn.  Why would a child continue to try when they are defined at birth?

 'Smart' is an action, a process.

The smartest people I have met are not the ones with the most knowledge.   The wisest men and women I know are OK with saying "I don't know" and then earnestly seek to learn even when it challenges them past their natural abilities.

I dream of how world of a child with a  learning disability could change if we preached the definition of smart as an action and process?  That child could have hope for growth.  They would not judge themselves as one of the 'have-nots'.  The process of a child with a 'learning disability' just takes different road, but they still can take the road to growth and wisdom.  How you walk the road to learning is what truly makes you 'smart'. 

My boys are "smart". Yes,they struggles with place value ,and more often than not switches their b's and d's in handwriting, but that is not what defines them. And no, neither of them like being wrong, but I hope they is never take to heart message that being wrong equals dumb.   Learning to be wrong is the first step to being 'smart'.