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).
Healthworks Kid's Museum*- This is always fun for the whole family.  You can learn something and get the kids moving.  TIP-We try to go around lunch time to avoid large crowds/school field trips. 

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 $40 for the school year (September - July). I think you must live in Penn School District.

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

Preschool & Kindergarten Lesson Plans




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


Finding balance has been a reoccurring theme in my life. Each day I seek ways to walk the fine line between two ideas, some feels like one step too far in the wrong direction will result in a stumble or flat out fall.

I walk the line......

between contentment and complacency.

between flexibility and wise preparation.

between knowing if God wants my silence or my words.

between extending grace and speaking truth.

between idleness, and being still in recognition that I am not the one in control.

between avoiding self-centeredness, but still recognising the importance of self awareness.

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

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

between forgiving, but not enabling continued bad behavior.

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.












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.

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'. 













Coffee Table/Game Trunk

In our small house, I have learned that almost every piece of furniture need to do double duty if it is worth taking up a lot of room.  Functional with storage is the best find there is. 

 The boys learned how to play checker recently. My husband and I have loved playing with them and were looking for more games we could play together.  Most of  other our games were in the closet and not easy assess for the boys, so this was a perfect solution.   Then I saw this old trunk at a garage sale for $7.  The boys have played checkers or some type of board game almost every morning since I finished it.  I don't have a great before picture because I didn't really know how it would turn out.


Materials Used:

  • Old Trunk
  • Acrylic Antique White Paint and Brushes
  • Painter's tape for squares
  • Acrylic Sealer (2 to 3 coats)




Crock-pot HawaiianMeatballs

This is a kid-friendly recipe that my kids ask for seconds and taste great as leftovers.
 I have also found this is a budget-friendly crowd-pleaser that I can make quickly for potluck or carry-in dinners.  Easily to double the recipe for large crowds. Serve with rice of your choice, or by itself.
GLUTEN FREE CROCK POT HAWAIIAN MEATBALLS 

Prep Time- 5 minutes
Cook time- Crock-pot low for 3-4 hours
Serves-5-7 people

Ingredients:
  • 28 oz. package of precooked, frozen meatballs 
  • 20 oz can of unsweetened pineapple tidbits -or chunks, depending in large you like your pineapple (put juice aside)
  • 1  large green pepper, diced
  • 3/4 to 1 cup of  brown sugar
  • 3 TBSP. cornstarch
  • 3 TBSP GF Soy sauce
  • 1/2 cup of white vinegar
  • 1 Can of sliced water chestnuts, drained (optional)
  • Cup shredded carrots (optional) 
Directions:
  1. Put meatballs in crock pot and top with green pepper and drained pineapple tidbits. 
  2.  In a separate bowl mix reserved pineapple juice, brown sugar, cornstarch, vinegar and soy sauce. 
  3.  Pour sauce over meatballs, pineapple and green peppers.  Cook on low for 3-4 hours or until heated through.  
  4. Serve over rice.

Organization for First Grade MFW

I used home school logo to help unify all our materials.



Teacher Binder
I keep this binder in a large basket, along with student sheets and teacher's manual.


Inside the Binder
Kid's Binders

Dry erase pages
Folders for finished work
  • Finished Proverbs Copy Work
  • Finished Math U See work pages or tests
  • Finished Student Sheets
  • Finished Art Projects








Kid's Shelves
Each child has his own shelf with notebooks and materials.
  • Student workbook
  • Bible Notebook and Reader
  • Nature Journal

UPDATE 3/2014: Since writing this we have stopped using "Drawing with Children" and use "Draw, Write, Now" Books for art.  
We also have stopped supplementing with First Language Lessons and just use the reading program in Teacher's Manual and phonic readers for Language Arts. First Language Lesson is good L.A. curriculum, but my boys were not reading yet so we needed to focus on phonics and the Manual and Workbook were plenty.

First Grade Booklists for Boys

Adventure books to inspire a boys faith

O       Good Morning, God
O       The Squire and the Scroll
O       The Evergreen Wood
O       His Mighty Warrior: A Treasure Map for Your King
O       The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe





Other Read-Alouds for First Grade

O       Frog and Toad series
O       Click Clack Moo
O       What do you do with a tail like this?
O       Owl MoonThe Blue Fairy Book by Andrew Lang
O       Charlotte's Web
O       The Boxcar Children
O       Heidi
O       The Cricket in Times Square
O       The Five Chinese Brothers           
O       The Littles
O       Rikki-Tikki-Tavi
O       The Velveteen Rabbit
O       Mr. Popper's Penguins
O       Five Children & It
O       Flat Stanley 
O       Dust for Dinner 
O       Daniel’s Duck
O       Ivy and Bean
O       Margaret and Margarita: Margarita y Margaret by Lynn Reiser 
O       There Is a Bird on Your Head! by Mo Willems 
O       Carlo and the Really Nice Librarian by Jessica Spanyol
O       Edward and the Pirates Written and illustrated by David McPhail 
O       You Read to Me, I'll Read to You: Very Short Fairy Tales to Read Togetherby Mary Ann Hoberman
O       Henry and Mudge by Cynthia Rylant (Aladdin, 1996). 
O       I Knew You Could by Craig Dorfman, illustrated by Christina Ong 
O       Diary of a Worm by Doreen Cronin, illustrated by Harry Bliss



A Day in the Life: Our Homeschool Routine. MFW 1st Grade


I get asked all the time when we "start" and "end". My answer is almost always, "We start after coffee and end when we get done".  Some days it is 11am and some days it is 1pm. Below is an example of typical day of our home-school if we are home all day.

We have more of a routine than a schedule.  My boys like to know what is coming next, but I don't want to be so structured that we can't be flexible.  The daily agenda (featured on right) helps me keep on track and show the boys what we will (hopefully) get done that day. I change it up each day, with some days including computer and some days including music.

The key for our family is a balance between planning and flexibility.  Without planning, NOTHING gets done.  Without flexibility we don't enjoy ourselves. It took us a few weeks to get into a groove, then sometimes we loose it completely.  My goal is to always be getting better, while still being OK with the days that just doesn't work.

Typical Weekday:

Morning
 Start at 9 or 9:30am
  • Calendar and calendar journal, 100's chart.   Spiderman likes to sit at the table to do his work, and Batman likes to lay on his belly on the blanket.  Either one works for me.
  • Bible- Proverbs or Bible activity in MFW 1st grade Teacher's manual 
  • MFW 1st Grade Student- Workbooks and Student Sheets, or Bible Reader and Notebook

  • Reading- Reading game from 1st grade Teacher's Manual (appendix) or Phonics Readers from our own collection or from Library. I usually take turn with he boys, depending on who gets done with their workbook or proverbs Copywork first.
  • Art- On days we do not have Bible Notebook, we use Draw, Write Now.  Drawing with Children did not work for us. Sometimes (if I am feeling very creative) I look on pinterest a craft that suits the story or science. I usually have one boy doing art while I read a phonics reader with the other.
  • Break of 20 to 30 minutes.  Essential for all of us, especially in first grade.  I get some materials ready for afternoon or throw a load of laundry in.  They play  on the kids trampoline or with toys.
  • Math time- We use Math-U- See. 

Batman was "teaching" us about Place Value.
 They love when I play student.
Afternoon
  • Lunch and 30 to 60 minutes of Rest Time.  If they don't nap, they look at books or draw quietly in their beds. This is essential if you are a mom who works from home.
Depending on the day the afternoon consists of a one to three of the following:
  • Library Trip on Mondays- pick up already reserved online books for next two weeks.
  • Outdoor play  
  • Board Games or Playing Legos (counts as problem solving right?)
  • Reading Books from Book Basket
  • Nature walk or exploration day Science experiment 
  • Art Project listed in 1st Grade Teacher's Manual or from Pinterest 
  • PBS Kids.  This is true if Mommy has work to do or sickNetflix is that because I have no voice I can set up an episode of The Magic School Bus that goes with our science.

  • Computer Time www.ABCya.com- about 30 minutes each and I try (don't always succeed) in picking their first game, like asking them to make sure they do a "Keyboarding game" before "building a robot".


Other Weekly Activities:
If we have a weekday morning activity, we only do the light afternoon projects, like book basket and nature walk. We also take Field Trips.

Heading to first day of Co-Op
  • Field Trips throughout the year. Sometimes we go with other home school families from our co-op, and sometimes we just hit a nature center by ourselves.
  • Bible Study Fellowship.  
    • Tuesday 9-11am Seriously GREAT preschool and school age program for men and women.  Find a class near you and you will be glad you did.
  • Co-Op Wednesday 9:am to 12:30pm 
  • Lego Club- once a month in the afternoon
  • Upwards Basketball










Crock-pot Apple Butter

This recipe could not be simpler, you can literally cook it in your sleep!.  And if you know how to can using a simple hot water bath, it makes Great Christmas presents.


Ingredients

  • About 3 to 4 lbs of apples- cleaned,  cored, and peeled
  • 2 and half cups of sugar 
  • 1 tsp nutmeg (dried ground)
  • 2 tsp of cinnamon  (dried ground)
  • 1/2 tsp  cloves (dried ground)
  1. Fill crock-pot with apples.  Add other ingredients. Stir until mixed.
  2.  Cover and cook on low setting overnight, about 10 hours, until butter is spreadable consistency.  I put mine on about 9:00pm and stirred again before I went to sleep at 11:30pm.
    • Note- All Crockpots are little different. I use LOW for my 16 qt round crock pot , but my 16qt oval crockpot is set on HIGH overnight because it heats slower.
  3. In the morning, if there is still liquid take off lid of crock-pot and cook on high until thickened.  
    • You can test the consistently by putting some on a spoon and letting it fall.  If the water separates from the apple, it isn't think enough. 
Storage
  • In fridge for 6 weeks
  •  In freezer for 6 months.  
  • Water bath Canning- 10 minute hot water bath, 1/4 inch head space. 

Homeschool Room Clock

We studied telling time in our math curriclum ,  Math U See , over the summer between kindergarten and 1st grade. Math U See does a great job with visualizing time, but it was still a hard concept for my kindergartners to grasp fully.

I was inspired by several ideas on pinterest, and ended up making this clock for our school room.

Materials Needed:
1.  I drew very simple petals,leaves, and stems, and then had my boys color them with colored pencils. After cutting them out I covered them each in contact paper. You can also use a laminator.

Tip for using contact paper to laminate-put the colored/displayed side down first to avoid wrinkles


2. Cut out your petals and space them evenly around your clock BEFORE you hot glue. Write  numbers on with sharpie.  Pay attention to the change direction on numbers between 30 and 35 minutes



3. I added "spacer petals" because I had made my "minute petals" too small.  I spaced them all evenly , and then began hot gluing.


4. Hot Glue Minutes and hours leaves/stem on bottom of clock behind petals. use heavy carstock when making leaves and petals so thet they stay up.

.


IF I HAD TO DO IT AGAIN, what I would do differently.
  1.  I wish I had made my hours leaf smaller and my minutes lead bigger, to better show which hand is which! 
  2. I would also use a lamination for the leaves and stem (the petals weren't such a big deal), so they didn't bend when hanging on wall.