Field Trip to the Chocolate Factory

It’s field trip Friday and today we really felt like Charlie when we went to visit a chocolate factory in a nearby town! The hour long tour started with a video on the history of chocolate, which was really interesting. I’m always intrigued to think about the first person to decide to try a food. I mean, who looked at that funky cocoa bean pod and said, “hmm, if I take out these seeds and dry them for 5 days, then grind them to a powder I’ll have something delicious on my hands?” According to the video, the Aztecs were the first to have this stroke of genius. They mixed cocoa powder with water and made the world’s first hot chocolate called chocolatl. Montezuma apparently drank up to 50 cups a day of the stuff! My kids decided a frozen version would be better in the 90 degree heat.



Once we saw the video we started our actual tour, hair nets and all. While the company once had a huge factory and even contracted for the likes of Hershey, Mars, and Nestle, they sold all that off and today have a small factory that makes artisan chocolates. The man who started the business actually went to college with my grandfather, and with an engineering background he designed all the machinery specifically for their factory. He also invented the mold to make those chocolate oranges that fall into slices when you whack them on a counter.

We also got to sample several kinds of chocolates and learn about just how chocolate is made. The kids enjoyed pretending to be judges on the Food Network as our guide encouraged us to smell the chocolate and listen to the snap it makes when you break it before we ate. We were also supposed to let the chocolate melt in our mouths before swallowing, but it was really HARD. Nothing is as good as finely made chocolate!

To be honest, I never realized there were so many factories near us. Our town is big in service industries and shipping, but apparently there are a lot of really cool little factories that are doing international business right in our backyard. I got ideas on where to go by visiting this site that shows factories by state and city. Check it out and see what gems you can find near you. You might even get to leave with a bag full of yummy treats like we did today. Best field trip Friday so far!



Science Fun: Non-Newtonian Fluid

solid-and-liquid One of our good friends is an engineer for the Army. On a visit to their house a few years ago, he wowed all the kids by making a substance for them that was liquid in the bowl, but turned to solid when you applied pressure to it. These types of solutions are called ‘Non-Newtonian Fluids’ and they are really cool!

The best part is that they are super easy to make. All you need is 1 cup of water and 1 1/2-2 cups of cornstarch. Start by mixing in 1 1/2 cups of the cornstarch to 1 cup of water. If the mixture is too runny, add in more cornstarch a little at a time. We usually find that 1 part water to 2 parts cornstarch works best. You can add in a little food coloring as well if you’re feeling really creative. 🙂

Mix well with a fork or whisk

Mix well with a fork or whisk

Once you mix the water and the cornstarch, you will have a soupy liquid in your bowl. Have the kids push down on the surface with their finger and they can feel it turn to a solid! They can also scoop the liquid into their hands, but when they rub their hands together it will become solid.

Rub your hands together to turn it into a solid

Rub your hands together to turn it into a solid












This can be a messy experiment, so I would have the kids play with it outside or over a non-carpeted area. My two still love to make this and play around with it, even though it’s been years since they first saw it. It’s a great boredom buster for summer afternoons, and the kids love to amaze their friends with it as well.

For those of you science geeks like my friend, you can read all the scientific explanation of non-Newtonian fluids on Wikipedia.

6 Weeks of Summer Fun

Well, as I said in my first summer fun post, flexibility is the name of our game. This past week we had torrential downpours almost everyday, which hindered our ability to do several items on our list. We also started the week with a double sleepover, so we just made it up as we went along. We did manage to go to the pool twice, visit a factory that makes robots for theme park rides, have a movie night, and just a lot of fun. So keeping in mind that this is not worth the digital paper I’m writing it on, here is our general plan for the rest of the summer. (I’m only planning 6 weeks even though we aren’t starting school back until August. The kids have several day camps (in fact my daughter is at one this week) where we won’t be doing anything else).

Robotics factory wax molds

Robotics factory wax molds

T-rex robot

T-rex robot

Home Management Monday:
We didn’t get to the water shut off activity last week. In addition to that, we will learn about:
-Full laundry lesson. How to use each cycle, what to dry and what to hang, etc.
-How to work the specialty features on the oven/dishwasher/microwave. They know the basics, but I want to teach them delay cycles, bake time, speed cook, etc.
-How to properly iron a dress shirt, what the different iron settings are and how to read a clothes label.
-How to read a recipe. This will be more for my son, but my daughter loves to cook so she won’t mind.
-What to do when the power goes out or a breaker trips. Where the breaker box is, how to reset a GFI plug, candle safety, and where we keep our camping lanterns.
-Fire safety. How to put out a grease fire, practice opening the windows and crawling out, how to use a fire extinguisher, and go over again the tips from the fire department on what to do in a fire.

Our science experiments will come from things I’ve pinned on Pinterest and include craziness like microwaving Dove soap and making rubber eggs. Wednesdays will be spent at the pool and the beach (especially now that my son won a new surfboard!), and we will pick out our dollar movies each week to go see.

Field Trip Friday:
-We are touring a local chocolate factory
-We are heading down to a Natural History Museum we love and touring the college campus
-We are heading out of state to a park where there are wild horses and tons of sea life
-We are touring a newly renovated historic hotel
-We are playing tourist and going to see some historic sites nearby like an old school and jail
-We have old friends coming to town from out of the country one week, so we’ll go somewhere with them that Friday.

I’m looking forward to each thing on this list, and the kids are excited to see what is planned for each week. I’m keeping it a surprise so that it’s a little more fun, but most of all, I’m keeping it FLEXIBLE so that we can have a relaxing summer!

Summer Fun School Week 1 Plan

Our summer fun ‘school’ begins on Monday, and we’re all super excited! You can read about our overall summer fun ideas here. As promised, here is the plan for week 1:

Home Management Monday

The horror of the overflowing upstairs toilet is still fresh in my memory, so our very first lesson will be on how to turn off the water in an emergency and how to plunge the toilets. First we will go outside to the main house water supply and go over how and when to turn this off. Next we will go back inside and practice turning the water to the toilets off and on. Finally, we will discuss hypothetically (I hope anyway) how to unstop a toilet with a plunger.

Theater Tuesday

The summer movies don’t start this coming week, so we will bring the movies to us. I plan on using this cute family night movie printable from Dabbles and Babbles for our ‘tickets’ and I’ll grab some movie candy from Walgreens when we pick up our Redbox rental.

Wet Wednesday

In order to keep our first week low key, we will stay close to home and go to the neighborhood pool. I’m sure we’ll bring som friends along!

Thinking Thursday

Nothing gets my son going like a good challenge. Especially one that might go wrong and cause a huge mess. In that spirit, this week’s science experiment will focus on one of Newton’s Laws. We will be attempting this experiment from Steve Spangler Science thatOrdinary Life Magic shows on her site. The plan is to knock a pie plate out from under a raw egg. Should be a lot of fun…

Field Trip Friday

Our local homeschool organization is having a major book sale this Friday, and I have to go across town to drop off all my books. Since this will take the majority of the day, our field trip will actually start that night. There is a movie on tiger sharks being shown about an hour from us that Guy Harvey is going to be introducing, and since we love all things sharks, we’re packing up and heading down south to see it.


Summer Planning Begins


After an unseasonably cool May, the heat has finally arrived here in Florida. Memorial Day has come and gone, and summer is upon us. This summer I decided to try something different around here and not let the next several weeks be a blur of laziness and boredom. While we definitely take some time to do ABOSLUTELY NOTHING, after a short time both the kids and I long for something better. Nothing too serious, but something with a bit of structure.

So I did a little digging around on Pinterest for summer ideas, and inspiration struck. I realized that we could have some laid back fun that would also accomplish some important learning. First, I loved the idea of having a different type of activity each day like Powerofmom’s do it yourself summer camp. I also got to thinking about goals after reading this post by Simply Convivial. So I decided our summer would be divided up into activities each day, and those activities would be ones that would work towards my goals for this summer.

My summer goals are simple:

1. Make sure that the kids are familiar and comfortable with how to act in a basic household emergency. For example, the upstairs toilet started to overflow a few weeks ago. The kids had no idea how to turn off the water. What if this had happened when I wasn’t home? Disaster. These are the kinds of things I want to address.

2. Make sure that the kids can handle basic home ‘duties’ without my supervision. The kids have their regular chores that they do fine, but neither one are totally familiar with all the functions on the oven or the washing machine. I’m not sure either one can set the delay on the dishwasher. So I want to be intentional about showing them these things.

3. Make memories. Isn’t that what summer is for? I want to visit new places, spend lots of time in the water, and lots of time with friends.

Keeping those goals in mind, here is the schedule I came up with. In future posts I will write out our specific plan for each week.

Monday: Home Management Monday. This is where we will cover goals 1 & 2.

Tuesday: Theater Tuesday. Our Regal has $1 movies during the summer mornings, and this has become a kind of summer tradition for us.

Wednesday: Wet Wednesday. Easy – mornings at the pool or the beach!

Thursday: Thinking Thursday. I’ve found some great sites that have simple but cool experiments we can do with things around the house. My kids love a good experiment!

Friday: Field Trip Friday. We are lucky to live within a few hour’s drive of hundreds of fun places. We’ll visit some local sites throughout the summer – some new, some old favorites.

Of course, the schedule is just a framework. There will be some days when the kids are off at a friend’s house or I have an unexpected meeting that will not allow us to do what we’ve planned. But that’s the beauty of summer, we can just go with the flow. The last thing I want to do is make summer feel like a chore!