Schooling in Pajamas

Memories of Kansas- 2015

Here is another post about our trip to visit family during the summer of 2015. Warning: it is a bit long but I felt having this section of our trip in one spot was the best way to go. My husband’s family live in Kansas so over our 19 years of marriage and then some we have traveled to Kansas. When we went this time, I wanted to be a bit more intentional about capturing memories and having things the boys could look back on. After all, how many times can you visit a place and not see any of the sites?

Right as we got into Kansas, we ran into a large storm. This storm was producing a tornado somewhere on the path we were to travel. Luckily we did not have one on the road we were actually travelling on but we did have to pull over at a small out of the way cigarette shop and listen to the weather. Having previous lived in Tornado Ally for 10 years, we know the importance of paying attention to the weather especially the clouds. They speak volumes if you know to pay attention. We ended up waiting out some heavy rain and wind for about 30 minutes.

Every time we go to Kansas, we eat with his brothers and their families whenever possible. We drive about 30 minutes from my father-in-law’s house to Fort Scott. We love to gather at this place called Sharkey’s Pub and Grill. It has great food and of course is decorated with sharks and fishing photos.


While in Fort Scott, we made a side trip to the Fort Scott National Historic Site. We’ve driven right by it before and never knew.

Fort Scott National Historic Site lets you walk and see how a fort in the still forming plains was set up. The fort was established in 1842. It has a place in history for its part in the Bleeding Kansas conflict. I would highly recommend visiting here if you are in the area.

We also visited the National Cemetery that is located in Fort Scott. Here is the page that explains its history along with the rules and regulations to be buried there as well as adding flowers.

We also took a trip to Chanute to see more of his family and of course do the “when I was young” tour that we are always treated to.  While here we went to the Safari Museum. This was a real treat and all five of us enjoyed it immensely.  The museum curator was an extremely nice gentleman. The gift shop is not very big and we did not find anything we wanted to buy as a memento which was too bad because there were several nice things in the shop. You can take pictures with out the flash. There are some hands-on activities for the kids as well.

I took the boys to Kansas City with me one day. We made a stop at the Mine Creek Battlefield State Historic Site on our way up to the city. Unfortunately, it was closed the day we stopped by so I will be putting this on the list of things to do on our next visit out there. We managed to get some outside pictures though.

Once in Kansas City, we went to the Crown Center. There we walked around, ate at Fritz’s Railroad Restaurant, and went to Sea Life Aquarium.  The Sea Life Aquarium is attached to Lego Land with the aquarium starting to the left and Lego Land to the right. Both share a gift shop. We enjoyed seeing all the sea life and just could not pass up visiting another aquarium. They certainly do not get old for us. This is a military friendly facility and I was able to get a discount with my retired spouse i.d. which certainly made it easier money wise to visit.

This was an experience for us. You order your food through a phone that is at your table. It is cool but since the kitchen area is really loud it does makes it hard to hear the person taking your order. Then food is then brought to you via a train & tray system. The train, as seen in the photo above, runs around the top of the wall. It makes the train sound and whistles as it moves. The food comes in a box which is then pushed off onto a silver tray at your table. That is then lowered down to your table kinda like a dumbwaiter type system. We had a blast watching the trains come from the kitchen and trying to predict where they were going. The Restaurant also has model trains in windows that you can watch. Food was typical diner style food consisting of burgers, chicken, and hotdogs. Glad we went but probably would not go out of our way just to eat there again.

The boys had a lot of fun at the aquarium. The kid’s area was a treat with lots of hands-on and talking exhibits. The fun facts spread throughout was enough to keep my older ones interested.

As we drove through Kansas City, we snapped pictures of things we thought were interesting. Okay, my son took pictures while I tried not to get lost in all the construction and one way streets. Ack!! We did manage to drive by the Kansas City library parking garage which I first saw from a pin on Pinterest. The trees made getting a good picture hard but we took a few anyway.

Thanks for sticking around until the end. I look forward to exploring more of Kansas on one of our return trips.

Hot Springs, Arkansas

I’ve been absent from the blog for a couple of months so I haven’t gotten all of our summer vacation pictures blogged yet. When everyone is in school things get a bit hectic with time management. I’m on break for a couple of weeks before my classes start up again so I’ll be updating quite a bit in order to catch up.

During our summer trip we drove down to Hot Springs, Arkansas on our trip back to Georgia. I was excited to visit Hot Springs which I had been wanting to do for a long time. When we got their it had been raining off and on so we weren’t sure what we would be able to do. We made a last minute decision to spend the night since the next day was going to be decent weather wise. I am glad we did though we did not get to do all I had planned.

We stayed at the historic Arlington Resort Hotel & Spa which was a real treat. The staff was friendly, the atmosphere quiet, and the hotel itself was rich in history and charm.


hotspringsarkansas13  hotspringsarkansas14


The Arlington Resort Hotel & Spa is located right across from Hot Springs National Park. We walked to everything we went to while there with the exception of doing the Duck Tour. The section of Hot Springs you go to for the National Park and other attractions requires you to park at a public lot if you are not able to find other parking which charges by the hour. It is a bit of walking so bring really comfy walking shoes.

The Bath House Row houses the Park Services gift shop where you can buy souvenirs and get your National Park Passport stamped. This was a fun section to walk through. We visited a bath house set up as a museum but you can visit several that are still running spa business.  Here are two pictures from the bath house we visited. It had gorgeous mosaic windows throughout. This picture is of one on the ceiling. The next picture shows how they got the hot spring water into the bathhouse and then various rooms.

As you walk through this section you will find art galleries, shops, restaurants & cafes, and touristy activities.

We also took time to walk one of the trails that run behind Bath House Row. There are several that split off from the main trail we took. It was peaceful walking through looking at all the  nature and spotting where the springs gurgled up through the ground.

Overall, this was a great little side trip however I don’t think we would have planned a trip just for here alone. There were a few things associated with the park and the area we did not get to do.  For example we did not get to go to such as the Mountain Tower.

Check these sites out for more information.

Hot Springs, Arkansas

Hot Springs National Park

Hot Springs, Arkansas

A trivia fact just for you. Did you know Hot Springs, Arkansas is the boyhood home of former President Bill Clinton?

How to use Rod and Staff English 3 in a Not- So Textbook Way

We are using a non-CM friendly textbook for grammar during our third grade year. We are using Rod & Staff which is a textbook and originally written to be used in a classroom.

Here is some information on Rod and Staff.
Rod and Staff do not have their own publisher. You can look here. English 3 has 125 lessons in 5 units with review built-in. You can purchase a set which includes a student book, teacher manual, test booklet, and worksheet booklet for around $38.

I actually found a teacher book and student book used for around $15 which worked for us since we are not using worksheets and traditional tests. You can look around places like Ebay and Vegsource, local curriculum sales, and other online used sources. We are on a tight budget this year so used is what I went for. I don’t mind buying new but I do like to check around if possible.

Now let’s walk through how we use Rod and Staff.

The first two lessons are on using a dictionary and alphabetical order. D is still at that stage where he sings the alphabet song silently to figure out some of the letter orders but that is okay. He is 8 and the more we work on alphabetizing that easier it will be for him. Right now I am using this as a “get familiar” exercise which will come in handy later as he takes on more ownership of his work.

Day 1:
To start the lesson-

Let’s sing the alphabet song!

To which we promptly sing it  with as much gusto as possible. This of course wakes up dad to whom we apologize. Getting D’s focus back to the task at hand is seemingly impossible as all he wants to do is march around shouting out the alphabet. Sigh. Five minutes have now passed and finally he is back at the table after telling him his token was being turned to the red side. That spells trouble for him.

Now that we’ve refreshed ourselves on the order of the letters, tell me about our  names.

Now I’ve done it again. He is in a fit of laughter as he tells me our names. Not what I was looking for at all.

You are right. Those are our names. Now tell me what we can do with our names using the alphabet.

Ahh, now I see that twinkle in his eye and the wrinkling of his forehead that tells me I’ve got him. Now he is tapping his chin as he thinks when suddenly he jumps from his chair and (here I have to remind him not to yell but he can whisper yell his answer) tells me put them in order. He tells me my name first and then his. He is correct but I have him tell me why they go in that order. With an eye roll he tells “because a comes first then d, don’t you know that already momma?”.

Let’s get out our book and see what it tells us. 

By now he has spied the dictionary laying on the table and only wants to flip through it. I must do something about his wandering attention.

We begin by reading the first two paragraphs along with the first column of words.

Now take out your writing board, marker, and eraser. Starting with the first column of words, put them in the correct order using the bold letter. Now look at the second column of words. What do you see? That is right. They all begin with the same letter. What do you think we need to do? That is correct, we use the next letter. Now put those in order. Look at the third column of words. Tell me about them. At this point he is already beginning to put them in alphabetical order. 

It should be noted here that I do not interrupt until he has completed putting the column(s) into order. Once done, we go over them. If something is not  in its correct place, I gently lead him to figure it out himself. Sometimes this might require him to sing the alphabet and that is okay. The point is for him to make the connection and then correct his work.

rodandstaff2 Here D is working on writing the words in alphabetical order on his board.

Now let’s look at the practice page. Work on columns 1 and 4. When you are done we will check the work together. 

I do not have him work on paper at this point. The board makes it easier to correct the mistakes plus the board is not used often enough to seem “common” for him. It still holds a “special” spot when allowed use.

Rod and Staff has a lot of practice built into to it. I do not have him do more than is necessary to ensure he has grasped the concept. This allows me to pull out more practice as needed or to use non-familiar examples as review.

That is it for the first lesson. We do 2 lessons a week.

Day 2
To start the lesson –

Today we are going to use a dictionary. What have you learned that might help you when using a dictionary?

I was sure when I asked this that I would get the answer promptly and with confidence. Instead, I get two minutes of “the look”. He just stares at me with his eyes all huge and well it reminds me of the look my cat gives me when he wants treats. I realize this may be a long lesson time. I admit, I am crest-fallen at this prospect so I immediately begin to revise our objectives.

Let’s think over what we learned during the last lesson from our book. 

Now he gets it and responds with put things in order though he does say it more like a question than the desired confidence of correct recall. Yes, we will use our skill in alphabetizing to use the dictionary. 

Turn to page 22 an let’s read about the dictionary. 

We read the short paragraphs on page 22. The example word is bouquet so we look that up. 

Note:This lesson is mostly useful in the practice section. This is where it wants you to practice finding the correct spelling of a word, the pronunciation, and answer some questions.

Let’s use the word bouquet. Find it in the dictionary.

Here we pause to look over the dictionary before using it. We locate each part of it, how the pages are laid out, the letters on the ends of the pages, and anything that strikes his fancy. This gets the awe and quest for exploration out of the way before diving into the task at hand. 

We find bouquet together with me pointing out the b at the edge of the pages. I guide him with gentle questions asking him to act like I don’t know how to do alphabetizing. To this he responds we would go to the page at the beginning of the “g” section. So we turn to that section. Now I can see he is getting a bit agitated so I again give him a nudge by explaining the words at the tops of the pages. This seems to help so he guides me to the first page with “go”. Now that he understands how the guide words work, he makes quick work of finding the page with bouquet on it. We browse through the entry and all its information.

Now before we end our lesson, let us look up five words.

 I give him these words – ant, house, friend, tree, brother. He is given time to find them on his own with intervention only upon his request. I must remember that I am not doing the work for him but must guide him. He needs to make connections without relying on my hints, clues, or other direct aids.

We done for the week. He spends the next five minutes browsing the dictionary and regaling me with all the information he finds.

Here is the dictionary we use in the lower grades. Of course we have several “higher” dictionaries available too.


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