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Our first couple of days off of school were shockingly educational, and I feel the need to document that, here, for all time, before they sink into electronic comas.

School ended on Monday, and Tuesday evening, the twins and I attended an event in their school parking lot, hosted by the high school astronomy club. We gathered to observe the Transit of Venus, which, for the record, I had never heard of before the flyer came home from school. It involves the planet of Venus (well, duh!) passing between the Earth and the sun – appearing as a black dot (yes, that’s the official term) that takes roughly an hour and a half to cross the sun. Neat, huh?

photo credit – The Guardian (UK)

Neater still when you get to wear cool solar eclipse shades. Actually, you take them on and off about two million times while you wait for the clouds to pass because, with them on, you can’t see a damn thing BUT the sun, and you certainly don’t want to be looking straight at it, without them.

There were also a dozen telescopes with solar filters set up, part of a grant the high school received, to allow a clearer view of the actual event. We started out lined of behind one of these, waiting, until I lost the boys to the playground while clouds continued to TOTALLY block the sun. Is that a cloud eclipse? They should call it that.

By the time the whole thing really got started, we had handily befriended an amateur astrologist gentleman with his own super awesome telescope with solar filter. I know you’re dying to know HOW we met him, so I’ll tell you. I was talking to a teacher from school, when he interrupted us saying, “Hey, did one of you just say that you’re a LIBRARIAN? I need to ask you about circulating a private library!” Yes…..a librarian pick-up line, they DO exist. Ha ha.

At any rate, I recommended some online databases, and he set up his scope for the boys and a few other kids to use. We ALL saw Venus in transit, although, in typical form for my family, we kept asking each other things like, “Seriously..did you see it, or are you just saying you saw it? If you really saw it, what did it look like?” (We’re a very suspicious group…..um, well, the boys are. I just didn’t want anyone to miss out. Yeah, that’s right).

Not missing it was critical, as, if I haven’t mentioned already, it happens once every 105 years, so the next time is 2117. In a somewhat confusing twist, it happens in “pairs” every 105 years, so the last one was actually 2004. I can guarantee you that there are not enough white boards in the world to explain that one, at least not to ME.

The day after the event, the excitement continued, as the boys experimented burning leaves with a manifying glass — an activity that was discussed by the presenter Tuesday evening. Introduced as “we wear solar glasses to look at the sun because, otherwise, our eyes will burn faster than a leaf under a magnifying glass on a summer day, ” they’d never done it, so I let them have at it Wednesday morning.

Pretty cool — I’d never actually done it myself – a fact that Scott attributed to my being a “big book dork” when I was a kid.

And, the fun didn’t end THERE!

At a yard sale last weekend, I picked up a puzzle of New York City that claimed to be 4D — is the 4th dimension “time”? I think so. At any rate, the pieces are all foam and form two layers. Into the second layer, 3-dimensional plastic buildings are inserted into spots in the puzzle, to “build” New York City.

A closeup of the first layer.

The completed first layer – 544 pieces

The completed second layer – 43 pieces – to be laid on top of the first, anchored by eight double-layered posts. I’m honestly not sure what the second layer brings to the party, except that it creates the “holes” to stick the buildings in.

Now, this next part excited me and was of NO interest to the kids. The 4th dimension consisted of a detailed timeline of the city, so that you could add buildings in the order in which they were built, watching the area become more congested and developed.

A BIG yawn for the kids. So, we put them in as we found them in the box.

It was so much fun hearing the boys talk about both trips they had made to New York with me, and how they remembered Greenwich Village, Trump Tower, Times Square, Chinatown, etc.


It gave the three of us hours with the TV off, which is always nice. AND, for a yard-sale find, I was surprised to see how “current” it was. The timeline included the “removal” of the World Trade Center towers in 2001 and the subsequent addition of the “Freedom Tower” One World Trade Center in 2013 (although I understand that the date has since been pushed back several years). The boys understand 9/11, but they steadfastly refused to remove the twin towers, and I can’t say I blame them.

All in all, a nice couple of days together. Since then, we’ve been hanging out at the dog park and the pool.

What’s the most FUN “educational” thing you’ve done? (either yourself or with your kids, if you have them).