Thursday, August 28, 2014

PA Wildlife: Eastern Coyote

As I grew up, I never heard about any coyotes in our woods. As I read about the creature and its history in Pennsylvania, I now understand why.

The Eastern coyote can be one of four colors: red, blond, dark brown, or tri-color. Females are 35 to 40 pounds while the larger male generally is 45 to 55 pounds. Many have black lines on the front legs from top to bottom.  Their bushy tails look like a fox’s.  On their heads are ears that stand up and come to a rounded point. Like their wolf relative, coyotes howl and yip. Coyote are most active at night but they  also hunt in the mornings.

Coyotes prey on deer, small mammals, and birds. They also eat plants and fruit. Even pets and livestock are part of their diet but to a much lesser degree.

Coyotes stay with their mate for several years and sometimes live with more than one litter for up to two years. Other adults may stay nearby and help with the feeding of the litter which averages five to seven pups.

A member of the dog family, the Eastern Coyote is a result of a wolf and western coyote cross breeding. This makes them larger than the western cousin.

Little is known about the early history of coyotes in Pennsylvania. Hunters and trappers of the 1700s and 1800s may have turned them in and called them wolves. The oldest proof of them living in Pennsylvania is a photo taken in the 1930s. Men saw very few of them until the 1980s when their population seemed to explode. Experts believe that they migrated from the New York Catskill Mountains. The largest population at that time lived in the Pocono Mountains. By 1990 coyotes lived all over the state although most stayed in the northern half. In 2003, the estimated Pennsylvania state coyote population was 25,000 to 30,000.

Coyotes can now be hunted and trapped year round and in unlimited numbers.

Life Lesson: The story of the migration of coyotes into Pennsylvania and their explosion of population is reminiscent of how sin can move into one’s life. Telling oneself, “Oh, it won’t hurt to do it this once,” can be a pathway down from the mountains that allows sin to spread, hurting oneself and loved ones. Romans 1:21-32 shows the progression sin can take from few to many.

Dear God, help us to stop sin at the mountain pass and keep it from detonating our lives.


Hayden, Arnold. “Eastern Coyote,” Wildlife Note—175-39. Pennsylvania Game Commission
Pennsylvania Game Commission

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

PA State Parks: Greenwood Furnace

Up Big Valley through Belleville over the mountain down into the valley lies a unique slice of history, Greenwood Furnace State Park. My introduction to the place came as a child when we used to picnic and swim there. Little then did I realize the rich history of the place.

Greenwood Furnace State Park is located at the site of a charcoal-fueled iron furnace which operated from 1834 to 1904. Many of the original buildings remain. Walking the grounds and reading the numerous signs telling of each building’s history, one can almost imagine the sounds and sights of the 1800s operation. In addition, the visitor’s center shows a video and the museum adds even more to one’s imagination of what it had been like.

Each summer, Paul Fagley, the resident historian, offers classes for teachers to learn about charcoal burning and archeology. See my experience at the charcoal burn in my February 2014, Pennsylvania History Class 2 blog

Here are a few snapshots I've taken in the park:

Inside the museum, a wall mural of the original furnace building

What is left of the original furnace building

Ironmaster's Mansion

Church added in 1865

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Homeschooling Using a Child’s Interests

1. Find out what your children’s      
Lego Creation by Matt
interests are by observing, asking 
questions, and praying. 

The interests of some of our children showed themselves early and easily. Suzanne liked to make things almost from the day I brought her home from the hospital. Not quite, but it seems like that. I remember fixing up a little corner in our trailer where she could create. A small table, a small chair, and lots of fun things to glue onto paper. Matt fell in love with Legos. Tad’s interests developed more slowly. He drew cars first, then began to notice makes and models on car trips. Ben, at a young age, liked people!  

2. Think and pray about how to use these as motivation, learning experiences, and sometimes, a full year’s curriculum.

My key to Suzanne lay with her skilled hands. We shopped at A. C. Moore often. When I picked curriculum for her, I looked for kits, models to assemble, and things to cut out. When we cleaned our storage room a year ago, she and I threw out six garbage bags of projects she had made. Nothing lost. The value of those projects have shown up in her care for her own home, her landscaped yard, and her joy in her various jobs. 

In her senior year, I let her surge ahead and counted hours for a science course centered around her love of gardening. She gardened, read about plants, studied a little botany, and made flower garden plans. Even her nemesis, math, became easy for her as she studied catalogs, prices, and figured out costs. Another course that year developed from her interest in getting healthier and losing weight. She read lots of exercise and health books. She still loves that kind of book! Some other day, I may tell you how I logged a course using Ben's people interest.

Car by Tad
3. Dare to experiment!

You need to let go of the kind of school that happened inside the walls of a public school building. Most of traditional school depends on what will work with a large group. Homeschooling is different! Let people raise their eyebrows. Put away the fears that want to creep up. God can give wisdom and will direct when we ask.

An excellent resource for using high school age students’ interests is Delight Directed Learning  by Lee Binz

Landscaping by Suzanne

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

PA Wildlife: Bobcat

Imagine our surprise at seeing a bobcat when looking at some webcam photos my friend took. After all, how many bobcat have you seen? The Pennsylvania Game Commission says probably not many because of their shyness, ability to hide, and nocturnal habits. In 2000, the estimated population of bobcat in Pennsylvania was 3,500.

Bobcats in our state average 15 to 20 pounds, have gray-brown fur with dark spots and stripes. Their lips, chin, front of neck, as well as, their belly is white. Including their six-inch tail, they average 36 inches in length, just like the fisher.

What sets them apart from most other cats is their extra fur that extends down from their jowls. The other distinguishing characteristic is their longer back legs which give them a different gait.

Like the fisher, bobcats attack and eat porcupines. They also eat all kinds of small animals and carrion. They have little effect on Pennsylvania’s deer herd because they only eat the crippled or sick deer.

Some bobcats live up to 14 years in the wild and inhabit mostly mountains, isolated forests, and swamps. They seem to prosper best near clear cut forests because of the increase in small mammals that lumbering brings to the newly cut area.

Many bobcats used to roam this region, but with more mature trees and populated areas they declined. Beginning in 1970, the laws changed to protect them and subsequently allowed them to increase. In 2000, the Game Commission made the decision to again allow limited hunting of them.

Reference for writing this was Chuck Fergus’s Wildlife Note #3 on “Bobcats” published by the PA Game Commission online.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

The Niagara

Taken in the Erie Maritime Museum
Looking out the window, I could see the ship that I had wanted to investigate, but sadly the weather didn't permit it. Rain poured down so I had to be content touring just the Erie Maritime Museum that day. The ship, called the Niagara, is a reconstructed version of a ship first used in the War of 1812. The ship is also the official Pennsylvania State Flagship.

Inside the museum, we found plenty to interest us, uniforms of seaman, furniture used by captains, and drawings of sailors and their skills. We also learned lots of history.

From the start of the War of 1812, Britain took control of the Great Lakes. The United States government realized that to win the war they needed to be the ones in charge of the Great Lakes. With this goal in mind, the United States in January, 1813, ordered construction of ships at Erie, Pennsylvania: the Niagara, the Lawrence, and four smaller ships.

A month later, these ships became the fighting force against a British fleet in The Battle of Lake Erie. The Lawrence and two British ships battled while the Niagara sat blocked by another of the U.S. Fleet. Before the Niagara could get into position for fighting, the Lawrence became incapacitated, eighty percent of its crew, dead or wounded and all of its guns inoperable. With four remaining experienced seamen, Commander Perry took the flag, left the Lawrence and rowed to the Niagara. A crewman raised the flag and fifteen minutes later, Perry’s intense barrage and a damaging collision between two British ships brought the British to the point of surrender. The Battle of Lake Erie became the first decisive battle in the War of 1812. The victory boosted American morale.

The Niagara remained in operation until 1820 when the Navy sank it in the salt water to try to preserve it. During the 100-year anniversary of the battle, the city raised it, repaired it, and displayed it. In 1931, the Pennsylvania government took custody of it and again restored it, finishing in 1963. Unfortunately by the 1980s it became even more decomposed. This time when the builders restored it, they used mostly new wood and only kept the old in nonstructural places. In 1988, the Niagara sailed again on Lake Erie and Pennsylvania legislators voted to make it the official state flagship.

Today, the museum uses the ship for tours and as a floating history classroom for students. Middle-school and older students can actually help sail and maintain with prior arrangements.  

Chairs from the Lawrence at the Erie Maritime Museum

Oops, there's my handsome husband
pretending to be Commander Perry!

Thursday, August 14, 2014

A Homeschool Success Story

Our third born son was the easiest baby, toddler, and preschooler. He played contentedly and never gave us much trouble except when we brought the fourth baby home. When I was busy, he smeared Fast Orange all over himself.

I did a lot of reading to the first two. Number three listened and at a young age answered questions about what I had read. He seemed really smart.

Imagine then my frustration when I had a lot of trouble teaching him to read. I had already taught the other two. This one didn’t respond to the same things. For one thing, he couldn’t remember the words from one day to the next. I taught him the sounds but they didn’t seem to stick in his head. To compensate, I read his other subjects to him, doing oral reviews and tests.  

After trying a few other reading programs, I purchased the Sing, Spell, Read, and Write which is very auditory. From a learning consultant and a homeschool convention speaker, I learned about brain dominance. I made him wear a patch over his left eye to change his visual dominance to match his other areas: hearing, hand, and foot. He did this until his right eye became dominant which only took part of one school year. He did not have peers who made fun of him. In fact, he really never knew he was far behind.The summer he turned eleven, he had a different swimming instructor. Her insistence on him moving correctly fit in with what I have learned about “patterning.” Gross motor skills are very important for brain development. That school year is the year that he learned to read.

His skills continued to improve. I read his other subjects for the rest of that year and some of the next to allow his reading ability to catch up to where he was in science and history. By his junior year of high school, he had become an avid reader, evidenced by the eighty age-appropriate books on his portfolio reading list. He actually enjoyed reading!

I substitute teach in public school where I sometimes work in learning support classrooms. I often see children who have the same problems as my third born. I haven’t seen the success stories that I had with him. 

Above all else, our miracle occurred because of God’s mercy in answering our prayers for our son to learn to read and for me to have wisdom for teaching him. I also had a stubborn hold on promises that I had received while reading his Word.

I hope this encourages some of you who have children who struggle. God can do amazing things! As I sit in my home office, I occasionally listen in on a Bible study that takes place in our home. Our son, the former struggling reader, leads it. 

2017 Note: This son graduated from Word of Life Bible Institute in August with a 3.97 average!

Monday, August 11, 2014

PA Wildlife: Fishers

Three Fishers
 What was that? I saw something similar to a cat up ahead when I walked up our neighbor’s road. Highlighted against the pale road, the animal looked black. Since I am very familiar with cats, I wondered about this creature’s humplike back and different gait. I asked several people. Finally, someone suggested a fisher. What? I had never heard of such a thing. I began to investigate.

From a children’s book, Follow a Fisher by Laurence Pringle, I’ve learned some interesting facts. The fisher is part of the weasel family. Most females weigh three to seven pounds. Males are almost twice as large. Average length from nose to the end of their long tail is the same as a yard stick. All fishers are covered with brown and black hair but females tend to be darker. Each of their four feet has five toes with long toe nails.

The most astonishing to me is the amount of time a female carries her young inside her body---about a whole year. What a long time to be pregnant! She also is still caring for her last litter of young while pregnant with the next and all by herself. Yes, the male doesn’t help.

They hunt mostly at night for small animals but also eat carrion, nuts, and berries. The most unusual food they consume is porcupine, an animal only tackled by two others, the bobcat and cougar. In fact, fishers have been introduced into areas that are overpopulated with porcupine to help control the numbers.

On the Pennsylvania Game Commission site, I found that fishers had almost died out in Pennsylvania but in the 1990s they brought them back by introducing 190 in the northern tier. The Game Commission believes that some also migrated from a re-introduced colony in West Virginia. One biologist, Dr. Matt Lovallo, believes that there are thousands now in Pennsylvania.

Friday, August 8, 2014

PA Memories: Kinzua Bridge by Amy K. Radford

Kinzua Bridge after It Fell
photo by Amy K. Radford
My mother grew up in the small town of Smethport, the hub of McKean County, PA. Every so often, we would make the four-hour drive in our yellow Chevy wagon to visit her hometown and family. In the days before technology, the drive was filled with music and games like counting pumpkins, Christmas lights, cows or white houses. Once the Quaker State eternal flame came into view, we knew were close.

A family tradition on those visits was to pack the family into my grandparents’ red and white striped van and go to Kinzua Bridge in Mt. Jewett, PA.

Kinzua Bridge is a part of a state park and was once known as the longest and tallest railroad structure in America, at 2,053 feet long and 301 feet high. It was a touring structure that spread across a great chasm that both excited and terrified us. We would walk all the way across the bridge, trying not to look down through the wood ties into the valley below.

Other times we choose the exploration option. We hiked a trail down to the valley that allowed you to go under the bridge. Looking up from the ground caused us to realize how tall it really was.

In 2003, a tornado caused the bridge to be partially destroyed and many of us who had enjoyed this beautiful bridge were devastated. It had been such a special place to go with my family. 

10 years later I was able to visit the bridge again and was amazed at what they were able to do with the sight. The end of the bridge was repaired and a glass platform provideed a view down into the valley. The walkway also allows for amazing views of the Kinzua Valley.  There is also a trail along the side of the valley with a lookout that allows visitors to enjoy a view of the bridge and the surrounding valley.

That is what I love about Pennsylvania. There are little jewels tucked away off the beaten path.  They are where family memories are made and the beauty of the state can truly be enjoyed.

For more information on Kinzua Bridge visit:   
Pieces of Bridge
 on the Ground
photo by Amy K. Radford

The Former Viewing Stand
photo by Amy K. Radford

Amy K. Radford
 Take a look at Amy K. Radford’s terrific blog, Paradoxical Pen. She is a wife, mom of two, aspiring children’s author, and Adirondacks resident.  In addition to her past and current visits to Northwestern Pennsylvania, she’s also spent time in the Scranton area, going to college and working for a few years. Amy enjoys the outdoors, nature and spending time with her family.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Lucretia Mott

During my Sunday School class one day I made the statement, “When a pastor explained submission to me it saved my marriage.” Whew, I opened a can of worms. I got a startling reaction from this group of what I consider very godly women.

“Women have a right to do what they want to do.”

“Too many men lord over their wives because of that verse.”

Had the women’s liberation movement infiltrated the hearts of these women? Or had they had bad experiences with men who didn't follow the flip side of the Biblical admonition in Ephesians 5:24-25, love your wife as your own body?

I usually avoid reading or thinking about women’s liberation advocates, even historical ones. They bother me. I believe in equal rights, but many take it too far.

In researching for my next book, I found one couple who followed both sides of the admonition in Ephesians 5, James and Lucretia Mott who lived in the early 1800s.

In Philadelphia where they lived, James worked as a merchant buying and selling cotton until he switched to the silk business. He didn't want to have any part of the cotton industry because slaves produced it. He and Lucretia both hated slavery and wanted to do something about it.

James was one of those gems who valued his wife’s gifts instead of being intimidated or jealous of them. He showed his love for her by appreciating her gifts. One gift she had was for public speaking. He admitted that he did not have speaking ability but wanted his wife to use hers.

Their Quaker denomination encouraged women to become preachers. Lucretia became a very good preacher because of her natural speaking ability.

As a preacher, Lucretia worked to right a wrong that she couldn't bear. James and Lucretia wanted to see all slaves freed. In the mid 1800s when she bravely began her crusade, slavery occurred freely all over the inhabited part of the United States. Many realized its cruelty but others felt it necessary for their financial health. Lucretia attended the first meeting of national significance, the American Anti-Slavery Society in 1833. She was the only woman to say anything. Many prominent men lacked the nerve to speak at that meeting because in that year of 1833, those against slavery had a rough time. Many people mocked them, rioted against their meetings, and caused personal injuries. Lucretia Mott did not let fear stop her from doing what was right.

Both James and Lucretia became part of the Underground Railroad which secretly helped runaway slaves. One time a mob threw a brick at James Mott narrowly missing his head. Another time they housed the famous Henry “Box” Brown who had escaped slavery after being shipped to the anti-slavery office in Philadelphia.

Lucretia passionately spoke against slavery in church and helped form a woman’s anti-slavery association. She even went to London to an Anti-Slavery Convention. At the convention, the men in charge didn’t let her speak so she spent the time making friends with the other women. Later those friendships became valuable to her next cause.

The slavery issue became settled when the Civil War ended. Lucretia Mott then turned to the issue that the Anti-Slavery Convention in London had burdened her with. Not allowed to speak there, she realized that women needed to be treated more equally. She began to work for women’s rights and helped form the first convention on women’s rights in Seneca Falls, New York. They drafted a document which she was the first to sign saying that women should be treated fairly in the home, workplace, church, and government. In 1920, forty years after she died, Lucretia’s work led to the vote that gave women the right to vote. Because of Lucretia’s husband’s encouragement, Lucretia used her gifts to help change the world. 

Monday, August 4, 2014

Pennsylvania Homeschool Record Keeping

 Covers of portfolios
What record keeping do you need to do to comply with Pennsylvania Homeschool Law? Four things: attendance, a daily log, a portfolio, and a health record. If you homeschool from the beginning, you only need these things from age eight. Remember though from my last blog, if you already had your child registered in a school, you will need to do one for every year from that point on.

Attendance: 180 days is the required amount of time. The two simplest ways to keep attendance is by dating the log or marking a calendar. I always dated and numbered the log entries, but you can simply cross off the days you have school on a calendar. Students can do this. Just check to make sure that he is keeping up with it.

Log: Another chore we have in Pennsylvania is to keep a daily log. There are several ways to do this but my favorite was to plan my lessons and check off what I did. When the children got older, they could check off as they completed each subject. From reading legal counsel concerning the law, I found that all that is necessary is to list the resources that you used each day. You can do this with a code system on an attendance sheet. M equals Math, etc. List the entire titles of the books you use somewhere and give each a letter code. You can do this on several sheets of grid paper. You can still make lesson plans, but you are not required to turn them in. Include your child’s extra reading with either of these methods so you can compile a book list for the portfolio. 
Example of a log

The Homeschooler's Journal

Portfolio:  Homeschool supervisors, in most cases, the mother, have to be able to prove that their children made some progress through the school year. Samples of school work are to be included in a notebook officially called a portfolio.

Eight to ten samples of each subject for the whole year are sufficient. I set up my notebook with dividers before the school year started and added at least two times, midway and at the end. I kept all the finished, corrected papers in a plastic tub for each child. When I was ready to add to the portfolio, either the child or I sorted the papers into subjects and choose what we wanted to put in. At the end of the year, I added a list of textbooks, a list of their reading, pictures of field trips, and cover illustrations, either photos or a drawing by the child. I included my child’s name and the school year dates on the cover.

Health Record: Here are the health records you need to keep on file.

Every year you are to record height, weight, and Body Mass Index (BMI) You can find a calculator for doing the BMI online.

First year of school: medical exam, dental exam, color vison and stereo vision. (some districts require a TB test)

First and Second Grade: hearing test.

Third Grade: dental exam and hearing test.

Fifth Grade: color vision if you haven’t had it done before.

Sixth Grade: medical exam and a check for scoliosis

Seventh Grade: dental exam, hearing test, and a check for scoliosis

Ninth Grade: (some districts require a TB test)

Eleventh Grade: medical Exam, hearing test

(These exams can be expensive. You may want to contact the school district and see what services you can acquire from them.)

Resources I used to write this:
Pa Homeschool Law a website by Beth Phillips

Guide to the PA Homeschool Law by Howard and Susan Richman (I used the Twelfth Ed. May, 2003)

Friday, August 1, 2014

Pennsylvania Wildlife: Whitetail Deer

Spotlighting? Yes, that is what we call it. After everyone piles into the car, we drive around country roads or through fields, and look for whitetail deer.

As a child, my family owned a 200 plus acre farm. In the evening our favorite line from my father would be, “Do you want to go spotlighting?” Three of the major fields of our farm had forests surrounding them. We would drive up a dirt road which branched off into each of the three fields. There my father would position our car just right so that the headlights would shine to show any deer grazing there at night. Sometimes, we would see whole herds. Other times, just a single would pop her head up. The prize ones had a huge rack on their heads. I learned to count deer. The more we saw, the better the night. Later, we got a handheld spotlight and could examine more of the field. I don’t remember that we saw any more than with the headlights of our car.

My husband and I also go spotlighting. We use a handheld spotlight with the most powerful light available. Our car has to stay on paved roads since we don’t own a farm. The most memorable night for me was on the Lewistown Narrows many years ago. We had heard that there was a white deer showing up there. Traffic was at a minimum back then on that road. As we approached the mentioned sight, my husband shone the light up the bank, and there she was! Not all white, she had a saddle of brown, but what a thrill that was!

The other fun we have these days is seeing trail cam pictures from cameras placed at strategic spots in the woods. They are movement sensitive to take a picture whenever something walks by. A friend of ours has gotten some really unique pictures this way. I've been given permission to share these to show you some of Pennsylvania’s white tail deer. Even though the last one looks like a white deer, it is not. 

The Flying Banana and Other Pennsylvania Transportation came out in paperback last night. Check it out.