Posts Tagged ‘Journey North Mystery Class’

I have forgotten how to title posts

February 8, 2018 @ 8:20 pm | Filed under:

I opened my drafts file here yesterday and saw that the last post I started was a one-line fragment written on January 16:

We’ve been sick, most of us. Just a cruel bug: aches, sore throat, cough.

—Which I suppose answers the question of why I fell off the internet for a month. 🙂 My cough hung around for a good while and still hasn’t vanished entirely. But I’m more or less back to myself, and everyone else is fine. But yikes, that virus really squelched my plan to get back in the blogging groove!

And now I can’t get any photos to upload here. Hmm. I was going to pepper you with photos of the incredible bloom happening in my neighborhood right now—crocuses and camellias and hundreds of little daffodil spikes—but no luck. Well, some of it’s at my Instagram if you’d like a peek. (You can view IG pics on a laptop without needing to log in or download the app, FYI.)

What else are we up to? Journey North Mystery Class, flying solo for the first time in many many many years. (Sniffle.) It’s Huck’s first time participating. He and Rilla each picked a mystery city, and I took the one that looks to be somewhere in Antarctica. Plus we’re charting photoperiods for both Portland and San Diego, to compare. Huck is much more into the charting than I expected. Then again, he loves math. Rilla tolerates the math because she likes the discovery part of the project so much.

Things we’re reading together: Paddle-to-the-Sea (the last first time!); The Children’s Homer (“you purchased this item on Feb. 5, 2005,” Amazon tells me); Our Island Story; and Moominsummer Madness. And the usual assortment of poetry books!

Oh, and Huck had a birthday. This baby? Is nine years old.

(Huh. So photos from my archives still work. Just can’t get new ones to upload. Okay. I can work with this.)

(I remember the first time I put that shirt on him, and Rilla, who would have been around 3 1/2 or 4 at the time, exclaimed: “He’s wearing a MAN SHIRT!”)

midweek notes

April 20, 2016 @ 8:20 pm | Filed under: , , ,
Milo Winter illustration from Aesop for Children

Milo Winter illustration from Aesop for Children

Things we’ve explored together so far this week:

Robert Browning’s “The Pied Piper” (first part)

Thomas Hood’s “A Parental Ode to My Son, Aged Three Years and Five Months” (a family favorite)

Aesop’s Fables—”Belling the Cat” and “The Lion and the Mouse”

Ace, the Very Important Pig by Dick King-Smith

The Jazz Age

Founding of Jamestown (teens and littles are on different history tracks)

Gustav Klimt—”The Kiss,” “Tree of Life” (and this art project)

Plus loads of Journey North prep! Our group’s big Mystery Class reveal party is tomorrow—one of my favorite events of the year.

Mid-April Adventures

April 17, 2013 @ 5:45 pm | Filed under: , , ,

Oh, the broom, the bonny bonny broom…*

Yesterday we had our Journey North Mystery Class wrap-up party. Huge fun all around: each family revealed its Mystery City location and we celebrated with a feast of dishes from the far-off locales. (Even the one American city in this year’s batch is far-off from us here in San Diego.) I won’t say more about the secret locations, since I know some of you are participating in your own groups and may not have had your big reveals yet. But ohhhh, was the food good.

I’ll give this much away: Beanie’s and my contribution were these Icelandic pancakes (pönnukökur).


(Beloved Carl Larsson print hiding a snarl of electrical cords.)

Here’s the recipe we followed, and here’s a delightful video demonstration by Icelandic cook Margret:

How to Make Icelandic Pönnukökur from Iceland on Vimeo.

At the end of the video she demonstrates the most common ways to serve the pancakes: sprinkled with sugar (as we did above) or spread with jam and a generous dollop of whipped cream. I didn’t think the cream would hold up at a potluck, but you can be sure we’re going to give that version a go very, very soon.

*My sweet broom is in bloom, lightening my heart not only with its sunny blossoms but also the way it puts one of my favorite Scottish ballads into my head every time I glance its direction.

Tomorrow Jane, Rose, and I are off on a new adventure—a Peterson family first: open house at the university Jane plans to attend in the fall. Talk about blinking. Seems only last week this happened:


Even the sick days are pretty darn great.

February 1, 2013 @ 8:08 pm | Filed under: , , ,


With Beanie: did our first week’s charting for Journey North. Mystery City #1 has very nearly the same latitude as ours, judging from its photoperiod, and Bean entertained me with a list of the countries around the globe at roughly our parallel. You see why I love this project so?

(FWIW, here’s how I described it to my local homeschooling list this morning, wanting to make it clear you don’t have to be some organizational goddess to pull this thing off: “If Mystery Class sounds daunting to you, let me just add that I forgot all about it until this morning and am sitting here in my pajamas, coughing my lungs out, hair not yet brushed, huddled on the couch calculating photoperiods with [Beanie]. A few simple math problems—she’s doing most of the work. 🙂 [Huck] is climbing on the back of the couch. Scott’s got Elvis playing. I’m checking Facebook while [Bean] does the next calculation. In case you were picturing some super-organized activity requiring a ton of preparation and concentration—this isn’t that!) 🙂

With Jane and Rose: watched the first video lecture (very short) for a Coursera class we discovered yesterday, and which Jane has signed up for: Fantasy and Science Fiction: The Human Mind, Our Modern World. (I loved the reading list. Some great stuff there, and a number of things I’d been meaning to read with the girls this year anyhow.)

The first text is the Lucy Crane translation of Grimms’ Tales, available for free download at Project Gutenberg. The instructor (Professor Eric Rabkin of the University of Michigan) mentioned the intriguing fact that the illustrations (beautiful, just my cup of tea, see below) in this edition are by Crane’s husband, Walter Crane, who wrote about book (explained Dr. Rabkin) about the role of illustration in books. Which! Got! Me! Very! Excited! And when you put ‘Walter Crane’ into Google it autosuggests ‘Walter Crane arts and crafts movement’ Which! More! Excited! Still! My cup of tea? More like my bathtub of tea, my swimming-pool of tea. And now (having spent a bit of happy, albeit sniffly, time on teh Wikipedia and other avenues) I have added Yet More Things to Read to my impossible list.

Walter Crane illustrationYou see what I mean?

So we zapped the Lucy Crane text to the Kindle, and I read the first story aloud to Rilla—“The Rabbit’s Bride,” which I didn’t remember at all, though I thought I’d read Grimm backwards and forwards, including some of it in German. (Digression: true story: my friend Caryn and I got banned from the high-school library for a full semester in tenth grade due to uncontrollable outbursts of giggling over an assignment for our German class. Look, you spring the original version of Rapunzel on a couple of unsuspecting sophomore girls and what do you expect? Suddenly she had twins! Zwillinge! So that’s how the witch knew she was entertaining a visitor!)

(Thing is, I fervently believed I loved that library more than anybody in the whole school. Me. Banned from a library. I couldn’t believe it. My intemperate book-hoarding habits probably spring from this brief and interminable period of deprivation.)

Anyhow, “The Rabbit’s Bride.” I did not see that ending coming. Nor the middle, for that matter.

At Huck’s naptime there was cuddling (cautious, on his part: “I don’t want to get sick, Mommy”) (sigh) and at his request, another round of the much-loved Open This Little Book, which gem I’ll be reviewing for GeekMom one of these days. (Talk about illustrations to swoon for. Delicious.)

Then lots of Japan Life with Rilla and Beanie—a game we like to play, which involves massive amounts of casual math and spatial reasoning, but of course they aren’t seeing it that way, it’s just fun.

I missed out on some of my favorite parts of the day—walking Wonderboy to school and back; my long morning ramble with Scott—but by mid-afternoon I was feeling better than I have all week, and I got outside to water my neglected garden. Was relieved to see my young lettuces are looking spruce. So are hordes of weeds.

A hummingbird, a funny solar-powered grasshopper, a cup of mint tea with honey. “I can’t believe how much I’m not sick of you,” says the mug, a gift from Scott. 🙂

Two very dirty children scrubbed clean after concocting Mud Soup or some such delicacy in the backyard.

Tonight I’m missing the much-anticipated reception for the San Diego Local Authors Exhibit at the downtown library, very sad not to be there but it wouldn’t be nice to carry this cough out in public. But I’m sure there will be something nice on TV with Scott later (he DVRs the best things) and I have two compelling books in progress on my Kindle at the moment: a gorgeous collection of Alice Munro stories given to me by one of my favorite people in the world, and a review copy of a book called Washed Away: How the Great Flood of 1913, America’s Most Widespread Natural Disaster, Terrorized a Nation and Changed It Forever—how’s that for a title that grabs you and won’t let go? So far, so gripping. The levee just broke in Dayton, Ohio. Entire houses are floating away with people on the rooves. (Roofs? What are we saying these days?) I’m chewing my nails off.

Journey North Mystery Class!

February 1, 2013 @ 8:50 am | Filed under:

Journey North Mystery ClassIt’s time again for one of my favorite events of the year. We’ve been doing the Journey North Mystery Class since forever—missed last year, but Beanie’s enthusiastically on board this year and we’re getting set up today.

Here’s a post I wrote several years back full of nuts and bolts info.

To dive in today, you’ll print out a form and a graph and begin calculating photoperiods—the amount of time between sunrise and sunset—for your own town and the ten Mystery Cities around the world. Don’t worry, it’s not too complicated. You chart this info each week for ten weeks. (New Mystery City data is posted on Fridays. Today’s the first day!)

If you’re doing it on your own, feel free to downscale: choose just a few mystery cities to chart. Maybe one for each kid?

Holler if you have any questions at all. I love this project immensely! Geography, science, math, mystery, FUN!

Journey North’s Mystery Class: A Progress Report

March 16, 2006 @ 3:13 am | Filed under: , ,

In late January I posted an announcement about the Journey North Mystery Class project that was about to start. This has been our first year participating in the project, and I have to tell you, we are having the best time. Can’t believe we haven’t done this before!

We’re about halfway through the project, and it gets more exciting by the week. Here’s Journey North‘s description:

The Mystery Class investigation is an 11-week hunt in which students try to find 10 secret “Mystery Classes” hiding around the globe. The changing amount of sunlight at each site is the central clue. Students take an inspiring journey from knowing only sunrise and sunset times, to discovering exact locations of the 10 Mystery Classes. Mystery Class begins January 30 and ends May 5, 2006.

Here’s how it works. Every Monday we visit this website to find out our local sunrise and sunset times for that day. The amount of daylight between sunset and sunrise is called the photoperiod. Week by week, we have recorded each Monday’s photoperiod on a graph, watching our hometown photoperiod get longer and longer every week. The gray days of February were made a little less gray by the knowledge that we had some twenty minutes more sunshine every week.

Every Friday, Journey North sends out sunrise and sunset data for the ten Mystery Classes. Using this information, we calculate the ten Mystery Class photoperiods and add this data to our graph. (We are working as part of a group with other families from the 4RealLearning message boards; each family calculates the data for one Mystery Class, and we pool our results.)

Graph_2Here’s what our graph looks like so far. (Click to enlarge.) You can see how almost all the lines are on their way to converging at a central point: that’s the 12-hour photoperiod line, which is where everyone will be next Monday, March 20th, on the vernal equinox.

Almost everyone, that is! Mystery Class #6 has been enjoying 24 hours of daylight since the project began. This means they’re somewhere in Antarctica…You can (faintly) see their line at the top of our chart.

The photoperiod data is helping us narrow down the latitude of each Mystery Class. By comparing each Class’s photoperiods to our hometown photoperiod, we are able to make guesses about how far north or south of the equator these hidden classes might be.

This week was a big week: Journey North released the longitude clues. To help us calculate each Mystery Class’s longitude, we were given their March 20th sunrise times in Greenwich Mean Time. By calculating the number of minutes between Greenwich’s sunrise and each Mystery Class’s sunrise and dividing by four (because the earth spins one degree longitude every four minutes), we have been able to determine each Class’s longitude, including whether they are east or west of Greenwich.

So now we’re really narrowing it down! Jane and I are beginning to make our guesses about where the Mystery Classes are located. In the weeks to come, Journey North will give us additional clues about culture and terrain. In late April, our group and others all over the world will submit our guesses, and the following week Journey North will post the answers.

Already we have learned so much during this project. Never again will I have trouble remembering which is latitude and which is longitude. There has been a lot of math and a lot of globe-spinning. (Mr. Putty has been getting a workout!)

If you’re kicking yourself for not having joined in the fun this year, it’s not too late. It would take some serious work to bring your graph up to date, but the data is all still available and it could certainly be done. Or you could just drop in to 4RealLearning and eavesdrop on our group’s speculations. Click on the “Great Outdoors” forum and look for topic threads labeled “Mystery Class.” We’re still collecting longitude data from our group members, and we’ve agreed not to start guessing out loud about locations just yet—we want to give every family a chance to do the guessing on its own first.

And if this isn’t your year to join in the fun, there’s always next year. Regular readers of this blog know that I frequently post links to Journey North—for example, I love the Monarch watch that begins every spring, as we follow the butterflies’ progress from their wintering grounds in Mexico to our own backyards. All of Journey North’s activities are free and tons of fun.

Interesting related links posted by our group members:

Antarctica Journal
World Daylight Map
Daylight Savings Time Map (This site gave us a clue a couple of weeks ago when the sunrise/sunset times for one of the Classes suddenly shifted by an hour.)
On the Same Day in March: A Tour of the World’s Weather (A picture book by Marilyn Singer.)

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