Exotic Cat Refuge


This week,  we drove out to Kirbyville, TX to the Exotic Cat Refuge there, run by Monique Woodard & family.  We met some amazing cats, including: Shambola, Chezza, brothers Simba & Doctari, and Natasha the Siberian Tigers; Tony the Indonesian Tiger, Kantu the Rhesus Monkey and more than a few horses and donkeys. All of the animals at this refuge are rescues, some with medical issues (Shambola has only one lung and Chezza is cross-eyed and awaiting surgery), while others were rescued from some pretty horrific circumstances (like Simba & Doc). You can read about the individual animals and their stories here.



Miss Monique is a fantastic lady! She walked us through her facility not once, but twice! You can clearly see the devotion and joy in the relationship that she and her family have with these cats.

One of the things that Miss Monique talked about was the costs of running such a facility. As one of the only sanctuaries of this kind for cats in the US, demand is high while space and funding are limited. She mentioned that her electric bill during the summer can run as high as$2,300.00 and that each of the seven big cats eat 65lbs of meat per day. The Exotic Cat Refuge & Wildlife Orphanage is also state and federally certified, and complies with USDA and Texas Parks & Wildlife regulations (which means spot-checks and permits).

If you’re in a position to sponsor an animal, donate food or supplies, volunteer your time or services, there are many ways that you can help make a difference for these animals!



We had an amazing time visiting, and look forward to going again. Many thanks to Miss Monique and her lovely family for having us out!


If you’re looking for resources to go along with this trip, here are some that you might find helpful

  • Tiger Lapbook –
  • Life of Pi (book and movie) & The Jungle Book (book & movie)
  • Big Cats (Discovery Channel on YouTube) –
  • Big Cat Recue Video (bobcat – an example of what kinds of things these cats may be rescued from) WARNING for content – it’s mostly only one man speaking, but the situation may be a trigger for some – happy outcome though!
  • Endangered Cats of North America –
  • IUCN Red List of Endangered Species: Panthera Tigris –
  • SeeTheWild Cats –
  • Tiger – creative writing worksheet –
Houston Museum of Natural Science

HMNS – Jan 10, 2013

The Houston Museum of Natural Science offers free admission on Thursday afternoons from 2PM to 5Pm. This time frame generall works very well for us; it allows everyone to do school work in the morning and meet up for lunch and be at the museum at 2PM.

We did just that; had lunch at the Garden Center and grabbed our free tickets. We got a nice surprise – the Butterfly Hall was discounted that day, too, so most of us got tickets for that as well.



If you’ve never had an opportunity to go to the HMNS, try going on a Thursday – the main/permanent exhibit halls are free, which is awesome, and makes the whole trip less spendy if you decide to get tickets to one of the other exhibits.

For lesson tie-ins, you can find complete outlines by grade for the permanent and current traveling exhibits here:


Tobias the Adequate

Texas Renaissance Festival School Days 2012

Something we look forward to all year long is the Texas Renaissance Festival School Days. This year was no exception, and merriment was had throughout the land when the morning of our trip finally dawned. Of course, some of us missed dawn, because we were sleeping… but late start notwithstanding, today’s excursion to Plantersville was, as expected, tons of fun.

Getting off to a late start meant that we ended up missing some of the shows that we wanted to see. No Tartanic, a ren faire staple, and sadly we missed seeing some of the Shakespearean performances we well. That was sad, but the things we did see definitely were nothing to cry about. It was such a lovely day – perfect for faire-going!

We got there at lunchtime, so before we went into the faire grounds, we ate lunch, then trekked down the aisle to the main gates. After getting our tickets and stopping by the ATM, we made for the Blacksmith. That’s always our first stop, as per the request of one of the young men in our band of merry men. He’s got his eye set on smithing in the future and loves to see them in action.


Then we stopped by the Cursed Well,

and made our way down to the shops in Sherwood Forest. The kids all had to have something from a rock shop (I looked for them on the TRF Vendors list and couldn’t find them – I’ll update this later if/when I find the shop name).

From there, we stopped to watch the Birds of Prey show,

then comedian Tobias the Adequate. Here are the boys when asked to ‘catch his head’ should it pop off with his final trick:




Three hours was about all this old mom could handle… plus the gates close at 4PM, so we were off for our drive home. Not bad for a days’ work, I’d say!




Card-Making for Veterans

To commemorate 9/11, we met up at one of our mom’s homes with a bunch of papers, scraps of fabric and glue to make some cards for the veterans at the Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center in HoustonTX. The kids wrote words of thanks and appreciation, encouragement and praise for the sacrifices that our veterans have made.

In total, we sent over 30 cards, representing over 2 hours of time spent by 2 moms and 3 students.

“We will never forget.”


Welcome, Triangle Homeschoolers!

We are so glad to have you joining us! If you’re new to the area, or to homeschooling, or just looking for an active group, then you’ve come to the right place. Triangle Homeschoolers is a homeschooling support group for parents in the Golden Triangle area of Southeast Texas (Beaumont, Port Arthur, Orange) and surrounding areas who are, or are interested in, homeschooling/unschooling their children. We try to update our blog frequently with our recent adventures. If you’d like to join us, or get more information about our groups, please contact us.

We’re also continually on the lookout for new places, events and field trip destinations for our group. If you have a suggestion, or are a business owner or facility administrator that you’d like to have us visit, please let us know.

Thanks for checking our group out!



Secular Homeschool Conference – Roger’s Park

Triangle Homeschoolers Summer Mini-Conference

Today, our group held the first ever secular homeschool conference in Beaumont. It wasn’t a big fancy affair; there were a total of 7 moms and 12 kids there. But you don’t need a huge group for an event to be successful!

Our seminar covered the basics of getting started. I said that I would post links to many of the things we talked about today, so here they are:

*Homeschooling and Texas Law*

Homeschooling Law in TX  (synopsis)

HSLDA website

  • In Texas, homeschool families are considered private school and as such, are are not subject to regulation by the school district or state (this includes standardized testing and compulsory attendance edicts), and are exempt from school-time curfews (with identification).
  • Since homeschooling is legal in Texas and operate independently from a school district, you do not have to allow the school district representatives to ‘review’ or ‘approve’ your child’s curriculum.
  • The only the requirement for legal homeschooling in Texas is to homeschool in a bona fide manner, with a written curriculum consisting of reading, spelling, grammar, mathematics, and good citizenship. This can be as simple as a sheet of paper with these subjects written on it.

*Methods and Philosophy*

The method an philosophy has to do with how you think that children (your children) learn best, and what you think school should be. We all start out with preconceived notions about these things, and sometimes, we find that we were right all along. Other times, we may need to choose a new direction. Reading about the various styles of homeschooling that are out there gives you a ‘niche’ for what you are already thinking. For the most part, why re-invent the wheel? Homeschooling has been around for generations. Though each new generation adds a new twist on an old idea, when you’re just starting out, knowing where you fall in the ‘structured…. unstructured’ scale can help find resources that will be closer to what you’re looking for and makes a good place to begin your research. Here are overviews of some of the more well-known methods and philosophies out there:

*Learning Styles and What they Mean to You*

Everyone gathers information about the world through three sensory receivers: visual (sight), auditory (sound), and kinesthetic (movement). Some people rely most on visual cues, others prefer auditory input, and still others learn best through movement. Educators refer to these differences as learning styles. How does knowing your child’s learning style help? By identifying your child’s dominant learning style you can tailor their education to lean heavily in that direction so that they learn best. Public schools tend to be ‘one-size-fits-all’ in their approach. Homeschooling with an eye toward your child’s learning style will help make schooling more enjoyable for you and the, and maximize their learning potential.


Learning Styles

  • Auditory – listeners: They may learn to talk early on, and may enjoy listening to tapes and playing musical instruments. Auditory learners are often talkative. They may like to read aloud, recall commercials word for word, or do tongue twisters. In school, they may memorize math facts much more easily in a song or poem than from flash cards.
  • Kinesthetic – hands-on: Kids who love taking things apart to see how they work, or who are obsessed with building toys may be kinesthetic learners. Kinesthetic kids are often in constant motion, their movements are well coordinated, and they are anxious to crawl and walk as quickly as possible. In a classroom, kinesthetic learners can be fidgety. They’ll often be the first to volunteer to do something —anything—active. They want to do an experiment not watch it or read about it.
  • Visual – watchers: As babies, they are often drawn to lights, colors, and movement. They revel in colorful toys and piles of picture books. Visual learners enjoy and learn easily from pictures, handouts, videos, and films. In school, they can learn science principles by watching a science experiment rather than having to conduct the experiment themselves.

Not leaving the teacher out, there are different teaching styles, too. One of the great benefits of homeschooling is the ability to tailor-make your education program. Everything is yours to try, tinker with or discard in favor of a new or changing idea or need. As a teacher, you’re interacting with your child in a different way than as a parent. The two are closely related, of course,  but what you want for your child may be different at an age, o what they need from you may call for more or less structure. So learning your teaching style is also helpful. I am sure there are more, but the way I like it explained best is Directive, Guide and Facilitator. All of these can work with basically any schooling philosophy or method, though it might take some finagling.

Teaching stylesTeaching Styles

  • Director – had total control over all aspects of the child’s education. Parent sets mood, tone, lessons, materials, and every aspect of what the child learns. I see this as more of an elementary level style of teaching, though some children who tend to be easily distracted may work better having everything laid out for them.
  • Guidance – Parent still sets most tone, but has slightly more input from the child. Parent helps guide the child to subjects, activities and research that are in-line with his/her interests and goals. I see this as more of a middle-school style of teaching, though may work for independent children who work well alone.
  • Facilitator – Parent is solely there to facilitate – to learn about and promote learning through the child’s interests. And/Or the parent is there to help, but the child’s education is largely self-directed. I see this more of a high-school age style of teaching, but also works well for children who are very self-motivated and who need little by way of encouragement.

Obviously, this list is not complete, but may help you determine what your style is, and what your child may need from you. Often, if you have more than one child, each of your children may need something different from you.

*Curricula – Finding What Works*

Finding the exact right curricula can be absolutely overwhelming. There are literally hundreds of options, and often many options associated with different methods. Finding what fits your family can be challenging at best. First, knowing what fits in line with your personal philosophy and what method you want to use is important. That will eliminate may curriculum options right off the bat. Identifying your student’s learning style and your teaching style will further narrow the options. Once you have those things out of the way, there are several places you can begin.

Grade level (or age/peer group) can be a good place to start. If your child is being pulled from school, unless you know they were behind, you should be able to pick up with that grade level work. If your child was consistently getting lower scores, it might be worth it to drop down a grade and work on cementing the previous foundations before moving on. Don’t feel bad if you need to do that; your student will soon catch up and even surpass his peers.

Many parents feel that it’s a good idea to have a ‘spine’ – a framework that tells you what your child ‘should be’ learning. This is often found in the scope & sequence. What is ‘scope & sequence’? A couple of options are:

Core Knowledge K-8th Grade Sequence 

Texas Education Agency Scope & Sequence

You also want to figure out your schedule. Many homeschoolers take more frequent, shorter breaks than public schools. We school for 4 weeks, then have a week break, then pick up again. Others have different schedules; you’ll find out your own. That may be closely aligned to the ISD, or may be totally different. Do what works for your family.

*Getting Started – Homeschooling, Year One*

Tip #1: Don’t buy anything ‘big’ the first year – no curricula, don’t re-model your house. There are PLENTY of free homeschooling resources that you can use the first year. The last thing you want to be is locked into an expensive curriculum that both/either you and/or your child hate(s).

Tip #2: Look at your first year as an ‘exploratory’ year. Try different styles, experiment with times and days, try out different methods. See what works and what doesn’t. After a fully year, you’ll have a much better idea of your teaching style, and of your child(ren)’s learning style. You’ll be able to spend that whole year trying new things and ideas and will have a much better idea of how YOUR homeschool will work when you start planning for Year 2.

For me, setting up our space helped get me in the frame of mind. Having our school space separate from the ‘home’ seems to help us all focus a little better. That’s not to say that we’re trapped in here during school. We’re just as likely to work on the living room floor, retreat to their own bedrooms, have school on mom’s bed, have school outside, pack up and head to the park… all totally valid options. But just having that space helps me out a lot.  Of course, that’s not practical for every family, and many families just don’t want that. Again, do what works for you! There are so many options – if you don’t know what you want right off the bat, start with one thing, then change it if it doesn’t work. Flexibility is one of your greatest ‘teaching tools’.


Another tip is to join a homeschooling group. If there’s not one in your area, start one and you can learn together with the other th logonewbies. If there is absolutely nothing in your area, find a good forum or group to join online. Having someone you can talk to to vent, praise your children bounce ideas off of, share resources, talk about your latest field trip, gripe about your non-supportive family or in-laws… whatever – having that support is absolutely essential in my opinion.

The blogosphere is awesome, too. I have learned so much from reading other blogs! Moms that inspire, Moms that I am in awe of, Moms that make me laugh, Moms that really make me think… there are SO MANY homeschooling moms of every variety, of every style and method – it’s truly amazing how much these bloggin’ mamas share. Feel free to check out my sidebar – there are tons of links!


If you were able to be with us today, THANK YOU for coming out! If there is anything missing from today’s mini-con, please comment and let us know! Hope to see you soon!


Symphony of SETX Side-by-Side Concert 2012

For the last couple of years, the Symphony of Southeast Texas has hosted a ‘side by side’ concert, during which, students from local high schools are invited to perform on stage with the Symphony.

This year’s Side by Side Concert theme was ‘Musical Stories’. It was all about storytelling – how the music tells a story, how the story is enhanced by the music and how we associate the stories we know with music.

After the Star Spangled Banner, Maestro Tipton led the musicians in Entrance of the Gladiators, a piece by Czech composer Julius Fučík. Then Overture from the Pirates of Penzance by Arthur Sullivan. After those two pieces, Maestro Tipton talked to the students about opera and how the story relies on music to set the tone. Then he changed the topic to ballet and talked about how the music leads the dancers to tell the story. We were led in ‘waltz 101′ with a group clapping session to learn the beat of the waltz, and then heard Tchaikovsky’s Waltz of the Flowers.

Next up, we discussed how music plays a role in our lives without us even realizing it. Without being told what music was up next, the sympnony started playing. It was amazing to see the twittering among the students; how many of them recognized it immediately. To preserve the mystery, I am just going to link to it rather than tell you what it was. When asked for a show of hands after the song was finished, nearly the entire audience had their hands in the air.

After that, students from Westbrook high school came on stage. We recognized Karen Ji from previous performances, and Maestro Tipton introduced us to senior Dan Jacob Ellis, who plays the cello.

The first piece that the students joined in on was An American Symphony, composed by Micheal Kamen for the 1996 movie, Mr Holland’s Opus. The link is to the full song; the part that was played during the SBS concert begins at 5:13 if you want to skip ahead. The final piece was final from Pictures at an Exhibition by Mussorgsky, The Great Gate of Kiev.

In all, it was a fantastic performance by professionals and students alike! It is always such a joy and pleasure to attend these performances; we’re so very grateful to the SOST and their sponsors for hosting them.



If you’re interested in making a lesson based on these selections, here are some resources that might help:


The Man Who Planted Trees – Lutcher Theater

We took a field trip to Lutcher Theater in Orange to see ‘The Man Who Planted Trees’, a story about a man who lived in a barren area of France and spent his time herding sheep and planting acorns. Eventually, the acorns grew, and turned the desolate plain into a lush forest.

This particular performance was by the Edinburgh-based Puppet State Theatre Company, which is known for  its clever combination of puppetry, storytelling, choreography as a multi-sensory experience.

I have to say that this is one of my favorite performances we’ve been to in a while. Since it was a small play; just the two gentlemen pictured and a small set with a handful of puppets and props, the theater opted to hold the performance backstage – so the kids got to see how ‘behind the scenes’ works. It was such a nice, intimate feeling.

The artists, themselves, were amazing. Very calm and they just made it such a great experience! They sprinkled lavender essential oil on a huge fan and wafted the scent through the theater, spritzed the kids with water-guns, waved birds on strings right over our heads and wrapped up with the scent of fresh mint. It was really a wonderful performance!

If you’re interested in seeing the story, there’s an animated version of the book on Vimeo here. A slight content warning from 7:00 to 7:40; and from 14:00 to 14:15,  if you have sensitive littles, but other than that, it’s very similar to the performance. There’s a study guide for the performance at Lutcher Theater’s website here, if you’re interested in using this as a unit study.


From a secular viewpoint, there are a couple of mentions of God and creation, but depending on your viewpoint, this could be simply a figure of speech shaped by culture, especially in light of a comment made about ‘man being as effective at God in something other than destruction’, and about Elzéard Bouffier’s accomplishments ‘being worthy of God’. There are references to Lazarus emerging from the tomb, and to the land of Canaan – again, this could be a literary reference rather than a religious one.


Talent Show

We had such an great time checking out our amazing kids’ talents!

We met at Claibourne Park in Orange, TX – did you know that they have a small amphitheater? It was perfect for our needs – next time, we will come prepared with a curtain, some music and lights!

We had three performers and an audience of nine – not bad for our first talent show!

Two of our performers showed off their kata, with thanks to Beaumont Shotokan Karate, and our third played several selections from Legend of Zelda on his ocarina!

After the show was over, we fed the geese and had lunch, then let the kids hang out on the playground for a while, where we were joined by a few more of our members.

Thanks to all of our performers – you all were great!


Village Creek Hike & Swim

photo by Amanda Pond

This week’s field trip was a 2.2 mile hike at Village Creek. If you’ve never been out to Village Creek, you should definitely give them a look-see. Admission is $3.00 per adult (13yrs and older) and free for kids (12 and younger). They have a fantastic pavilion with a small playground and kids hiking trail, and several miles of regular hiking trails.

The swimming area is a 1.1 mile hike along the creek-side, with ups and downs and some lovely hidden pools along the way. We saw tons of beautyberry bushes loaded down with bright purple berries (which we’re told makes delicious jellies and jams and is a natural mosquito repellent – the normal allergy warnings apply if you choose to try this method!!).

We had 4 moms and 7 kids (the littles didn’t make the picture) with us for this trip. We’d planned on having a science lesson as well, but by the time we reached our destination, all anyone could think of was getting in the water. Then, after the trek back to the cars, it was all about replenishing water and air conditioning. I guess that’s to be expected when you’re hiking in Texas in August in 95 degree heat!

Despite the temperature, we had a wonderful (ly exhausting) time, and the kids were already planning our next hike & swim when we were leaving, so I think it’s safe to say that they approved.


Safari Mini Golf

 Have you ever played glow-in-the-dark mini-golf? Neither had we until this week! Parkdale Mall has a new mini-golf place that is black-light and neon-paint decorated, and we met this week for an indoor adventure.

We had 4 moms and 5 kids meet up for some friendly club-wielding compatition. The kids kept score for about 5 minutes, then were lured by the black-light effects of the room and opted for a mild game of chase and some dance-party goings-on. The moms were a bit more competitive, with several ‘hole-in-ones’ and some impressive golfing fails.

If you didn’t get a chance to come play with us, here’s an online mini-golf themed math game you can try, and a lesson about ‘how it works‘.

If you get a chance, check them out. We had a great time and are looking forward to making this a rainy-day plan in the near future!