Don’t Let Poison Ivy Wreck Your Nature Walk!

The summer is a great time to investigate nature, whether you choose to pursue a formal study, simply revel in the wonders of your backyard garden, or take to the local hiking trails!  Plants will have all their leaves  and many will have their flowers in bloom or even fruits, making identification much easier.Don't let poison ivy wreck your nature walk!  Here's how on The Homeschool Post.

But before you head into those deep woods on a nature walk, or even dive into the jungle of your backyard (that’s only a partial exaggeration—you haven’t seen my lilac bushes), teach your kids about poisonous plants to avoid so you don’t come home with any nasty surprises.

New poison ivy and oak plants can crop up overnight!  Birds love the berries, so they gobble them up, but they don’t digest the seeds.  By the time the seeds make it all the way through a bird’s digestive track, it could be miles away from the original plant.  That path that you’ve been down a hundred times before could now have poison ivy vines creeping alongside.


poison ivy cluster rash

I had a sudden rash last week that looked suspiciously like a poison ivy rash.  It turns out that when I did a quick bit of gardening (translation:  trying to annihilate the invasive mint that was growing into the path.  The previous owners apparently liked mint.  Alot.), I apparently grabbed hold of a poison ivy plant that was hiding there.  Since I didn’t know it until a couple of days later, I didn’t take the usual precautions I would normally take to remove the plant’s oils.

single blisters

Over the next several days, I had rashes appearing on various parts of my body caused by my body having an allergic reaction to the urushiol oil found in poison ivy.  The same oil is also found in poison oak and poison sumac.  About 85% to 90% of people in the US are allergic to urushoil to varying degrees.  Some will get a light rash and others can have a severe reaction.


large poison ivy rash

Upon contact, the oil starts absorbing into your skin almost immediately.  If you are able to wash within 10 minutes or so, you stand a chance of avoiding a reaction or at least lessening it.  The first rash might appear in a day or two.  Subsequent rashes can appear over several days. Even though it has been over a week since my first exposure, I am still occasionally finding a tiny cluster rash here and there (that top pic is the most recent), even though I’ve washed any items in my house that may have been contaminated.

The difference in timing and severity of each rash has to do with:

  • the concentration of oil
  • sensitivity of your skin in that area
  • whether or not you’ve had a reaction before (a previous reaction makes you more sensitive)

Poison ivy grows in nearly every state in the United States, except California, Hawaii, and Alaska.  Poison oak is found in the southeast and on west coast (yes, California, you need to watch out, too).  And poison sumac is found in boggy areas  in the south and along the Mississippi. See of map of their distribution here.

Judging from my own experience, I really need to educate my kids on how to avoid plants that could harm them when we are out on our nature walks.

3 ways to avoid poisonous rashes on your nature study:

1.  Leaves of three?  Leave it be!

Learn to identify poison ivy, poison oak, and poison sumac, or at least the plants that are likely to be found in your area.  There are different varieties!   Leaf color, flower color, and berry color can vary a good bit.  Their leaves change color in different seasons.  Both the ivy and oak can be either bushes or even thick hairy vines.

But in the summer, you will be able to see their leaves—both poison ivy and poison oak have clusters of 3 leaflets.  Poison sumac has several leaflets per stem.  The University of Florida Extension office has a helpful 6 page pdf for identifying poison ivy, poison oak, and poison sumac here.

Wiki-How has a step-by-step for identifying poison ivy here.  More photos of plants are here.

Talk to your kids about avoiding plants with clusters of 3 leaves.   Here’s a coloring page so they can become familiar with what poison ivy looks like.

If your children are very young, you may want to have them ask you before touching any plants they encounter, just to be on the safe side.

2. Keep your hands away from your face.

Avoid touching your face or other parts of your body with your hands if you’ve been touching anything outside and ask your kids to do the same.  The rash from poison ivy, oak, or sumac is not contagious, but the urushiol oil that causes it can be transferred from skin to skin, from clothing to skin, from tools to skin, etc.  It’s a good idea to avoid, say…rubbing your eyes…in case you’ve unknowingly come in contact.

3.  Wash up thoroughly!

When you get home, have everyone very carefully wash their hands with a de-greasing soap (like dishwashing liquid), including under their nails.  If you’ve been exploring the woods, you’ll want to remove and wash your clothes and possibly your shoes.  Trace amounts of urushoil can get on your skin from your clothes and cause rashes in all kinds of places.

Ohio State University Extension has a pdf aimed at horticulturalists on avoiding these poisonous plants and the proper treatment to use if you should accidentally encounter one here.

Nationwide Children’s Hospital has an article on what to do if you suspect your child has been exposed to one of these plants.  It’s downloadable as a pdf and includes line drawings of poison ivy, poison oak, and poison sumac your kids can color.

Note:  I am not a doctor, nor do I play one on this blog.  The information I’ve included in this post came from various resources on the web, including those linked within.  If you happen to go on a random Google search of poison ivy cures or images, it seems everybody wants to post their scary looking rash—make sure your 5-year-old isn’t looking over your shoulder.

Please take any advice you find on home cures with a grain of salt—everybody is different and some that I’ve seen may actually hinder you healing by causing additional irritation.  If you or your child has a serious rash, please consult your doctor.

Do your kids know how to identify poison ivy?

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Susan Anadale (6 Posts)

Susan is a wife, a mother, a Catholic, a teacher, a writer, a philosopher, a seamstress, a maker of things, an imaginer of worlds...I blog about our lifelong journey through learning at Homeschooling Hearts & Minds (my brain on the web).

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Keyboard Classroom: Time Tested Techniques Taught at Home

Keyboard Classroom Review

Using patent-pending finger guides and traditional typing techniques, Keyboard Classroom creates proficient typists in 6 months.

I took my first typing class in junior high. I remember the electric typewriters being huge brown humming machines. Lined up in rows, these loud, clacking machines were almost as intimidating as my typing instructor. She would slowly walk up and down the rows of students, calling out letters one at a time, faster and faster, watching as we struggled to remember which finger to move.

I loved that class. My teacher scared me, but I loved that class. After more than 20 years, I am still one of the fastest typist I know, and I am certain it is because of proper finger positioning skills learned that year. They were no-fluff lessons that focused on repetitive motions to create muscle memory, and it worked beautifully. I may not remember what I fixed for dinner last night but my fingers still know the home keys and how to use them.

My husband, who skipped typing class and took a basic computer course instead, does the whole hunt-and-peck thing. He can type code pretty quickly, but full paragraphs take him awhile. Our children are hunters-and-peckers. It makes me bonkers, and it affects their spelling. Typing takes so long, that they take shortcuts and skip letters just to be done. They are happy to spend hours telling me every detail of their newest novel idea but writing or typing it out is a struggle. I am lucky to get a three sentence synopsis.

That is all about to change. Keyboard Classroom is turning my children into real typists, in just 15 minutes a day.

What is Keyboard Classroom?

Keyboard Classroom is a digitally downloaded software program that teaches typing, using proven techniques of building muscle memory, allowing students to more effortlessly put thought into print. Patent-pending finger guides easily attach to standard keyboards, helping students to keep their fingers in place. Low on fancy graphics, this program gets to the nuts and bolts of typing: muscle memory. By focusing on building muscle memory, students become more efficient at transferring thoughts into written word.

You can connect with them on their blog or their Facebook Page.

Why are Keyboarding Skills Important?

It seems nothing is handwritten anymore. My neighbor asked for a recipe yesterday, and instead of writing it on a notecard, she typed it into a notepad app on her phone. Kids are proficient at typing with their thumbs; but being able to type up full papers, letters, and presentations will require more than a phone keyboard. The ability to efficiently type on a full keyboard is a vital skill for today’s employees.

Will Keyboard Classroom Work For You?

  • Is your child easily distracted by cartoon-y and childish programs?
  • Would your child rather dictate an answer because writing or typing it out takes too long?
  • Do you have 15 minutes a day you can spend doing basic keystroke practices?
  • Do you prefer to have the games come after the work?

If you answered yes, then Keyboard Classroom will meet your needs! Fifteen minutes of diligent practice daily for 6 months and your child should be a proficient typist at 35 words per minute.

Is it Easy to Use?

Installing Keyboard Classroom required only a couple of moments and a restart of our computer. The finger guides went on easily once I figured out where to put them. My package did not have any diagram showing exactly where to stick the velcro, but a simple peek at the pictures on their site and we had them in place.

Setting up a new user was a simple as just typing a name. The start screen is shown below: Keyboard Classroom Start Page

On our first visit to the start page, we admittedly stopped and stared blankly at the screen, a bit unsure of what to click on first. I have, sadly, become accustomed to flashy arrows and sparkly .gif images to direct my next move and when presented with a classic interface that required me to decide what to do, I blanked. It really wasn’t complicated at all!

The first lesson is a simple letter practice exercise. They highlight which finger to use and where the key is found on the keyboard. Once I showed my daughter how to hold her hands on the home keys she was all set.

Keyboard Finger Trainer Practice

The next exercise worked typing the letters in order across the keyboard and utilizing the space bar.

Typing Words Practice Keyboard Classroom

Then you worked typing the letters in various combinations. I remember this being the tricky part for me in school, because the letters didn’t make actual words. This practice was no different!

Home Stretch Practice Keyboard Classroom

Our Fun With Keyboard Classroom

Houston, we found a problem; but we fixed it. After a couple of weeks of practicing, our computer crashed and had to be redone. All of the computers/laptops at our house, with the exception of mine, are Frankenstein machines built from parts being scrapped.  We are blessed to have so many, each with their own quirks and problems, so that when one fails, schoolwork can continue on something else. Unfortunately, this time, Sam lost all of her progress with Keyboard Classroom and had to start over. She didn’t seem to mind starting over; but she was upset to give up her finger guides.

The finger guides only fit correctly on standard keyboards. Laptop keyboards are too small. Samantha was so excited to see she could use the computer’s old keyboard (with the guides) via usb on her laptop. If you are like us, and use a laptop instead of a desktop pc, don’t fear. Basic style keyboards can be found as low as $15 new. I have even seen some at yard sales and thrift shops, just make sure they connect via usb.

Keyboard Classroom doesn’t let you skip ahead. I already type with ease,  and went looking for a way for me to practice more difficult exercises. I discovered that all typists, old and new, have to start from the beginning. I pouted for a bit, then realized that making everyone start at the beginning is brilliant! After doing a few of my daughter’s practices, it became apparent that my basic skills, my foundations of typing, needed refreshing. There was quite a bit of giggling every time Momma earned a little “X”.

How Can You Get It?

Keyboard Classroom can be ordered from their website and downloaded for immediate use. Finger guides will be shipped to you FREE. It is compatible with any Windows-based computer, or Macintosh running “Parallels” software. Intended for ages 8 and up.

I am very excited to share with you their NEW PRICING OPTIONS! A single user license plus FREE finger guides is $39.95 and can be reused by other students once the first student is done. You simply erase their data and start a new data file. Carrie Shaw, the creator of Keyboard Classroom, has created a new purchasing option just for families! Now you can get a family license with FREE finger guides for $49.95 that allows you to have up to FIVE users simultaneously! Now you don’t have to draw straws (like we did) to see who would get to learn first.

New Keyboard Classroom Homeschool Pricing for Families

The ability to communicate effectively is a necessity. Because so much communication today, is done digitally, the ability to efficiently put thoughts and ideas into written word is a much-needed skill. Motor skills, such as those honed in general computer and video game play, is not the same as typing proficiency. The ability to type quickly and correctly enhances school performance and eventually work place productivity.

Did you take formal typing lessons as a kid? Do you still remember to use your home-row?


Lisa Baldwin (59 Posts)

Disciple of Christ, Wife, Mother of Four, Homeschooler, Crafter, Designer (Graphics and CSS/HTML), Blogger. I share too much, laugh at the wrong things, and fall on my backside regularly. Thank goodness Jesus ignores all of that and loves me anyway.

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Fall into Field Trips



Fall is my favorite time of year, with October possibly being my favorite month. By now, most of us have been at the school books for a good month or two. The weather is divine in many parts of the country, and I think it’s high time we scheduled some field trips!

Ideas and links for fun fall field trips for homeschoolers

If you look around at your local museums and historical parks, you will often find that they offer Home School Days in late September and early October. Make sure to check all your city’s museums for postings on their web-sites regarding upcoming classes or events for homeschoolers. They will almost always offer a discount, and/or special programming. Also, weekends in October are often set aside for town festivals or historical celebrations, for instance, in New Jersey you can attend The Lord Stirling 1770’s Festival where daily colonial life can be experienced, complete with a Town Crier and Revolutionary War encampment, or in southeast Texas you can attend the Texian Heritage Festival at a local historical park. No matter where you live, chances are there is something fun and educational going on this month.

I like to schedule anywhere from two to four field trips in the month of October. If we can tie them to something we are studying at home — all the better, but it certainly isn’t necessary. Here are some great ideas, along with lesson plans courtesy of CLASSTRIPS.COM, to make your October full of field trip fun!

The Amusement Park

Yes, it’s true, even a trip to the amusement park can be educational! Homeschoolers never miss an opportunity to plug in learning (think: how do the laws of physics affect roller coasters?) Lesson Plan HERE.

Bowling, Anyone?

What is the history of bowling? Did you know that bowling lanes are oiled? And why do some of the pins remain standing even when they are hit with the ball? (Physics, again!) Lesson Plan HERE.

The Museum

This is an easy and obvious one, and as stated above, make sure to check if your museum of choice offers a special day for homeschoolers. In addition to Home School Day, most museums now offer classes for homeschoolers. These classes are generally geared around the theme of the museum — art history and hands-on art for an art museum, science and engineering for a science museum, etc. If your museum doesn’t offer programs for homeschoolers, give them a call and see if they would be willing to put together some classes if you agree to put together a group. Otherwise, you can always just go on a regular admission day and use this Lesson Plan to enhance the trip.

Trip to the Farm

This one is a must-do for the fall. Call your local farm, especially if they have the usual autumnal activities such as corn mazes, pumpkin patches and hay rides, and ask if you can arrange a group tour for homeschoolers during the week. Many farms offer educational programming in addition to access to the farm for one flat price per person. We have attended several programs of this type and it always makes the annual trek to the pumpkin patch far more interesting and meaningful. Lesson Plan HERE.

The Roller Rink

I know of a group of homeschoolers in the northeast that meets every week throughout the school year at an indoor ice skating rink. For a low entry fee, they are able to participate in a day time open-skate session. If the weather permits, they gather at a local park afterwards. This has been a great way for the parents and children to get to know one another through the consistency of a weekly meet-up, and is a little different from your average park day. Plan a trip (or bring your homeschool group) to the ice or roller rink and check out this Lesson Plan for some extra learning fun!

Laser Tag?

Yes, laser tag fans, there’s a Lesson Plan for that, too! You may have to be a little subversive on this one, as whipping out the notebooks in the heat of battle might be a bit cruel — but did you know that the idea for the game was born when the creator was watching a battle scene from Star Wars, and what actually scores the hit on your opponent is an infrared signal? Cool, Mom!

Historical Parks

Also known as Living History, many county parks offer outstanding programming to homeschoolers covering different time periods and subjects. The entrance and/or class fees are typically minimal and the quality, in my experience, often exceptional. For some great activities, discussion, and writing projects see the Lesson Plan HERE.

Lions, and Tigers, and Bears, Oh My!

The zoo is a great place to learn basic animal science, new vocabulary and concepts that relate to animal habitats, and fun animal facts. This Lesson Plan is extremely robust and provides a step-by-step guide to deriving the most from your trip, including extension activities.

Lastly, there is no need to bring a lesson plan to every (or any) field trip. Much can be learned through an unstructured day of exploration, however, if there is an area of study that you would like to dive in more deeply with your children, these lesson plans can be a great jumping-off point for larger discussions, prompt creative writing, spur further research on a topic of interest, or just present the opportunity to learn together as a family!

Do you have a favorite field trip that’s not listed above? Tell us about it in the comment section!

Angela (30 Posts)

Angela is co-founder of Mosaic Freeschool and a homeschooling mom to two never-been-to school kids. Born in Southern California and raised on the East Coast, Angela had a bit of an unconventional education, but did not consider homeschooling seriously until her first child was born. Believing that young children learn best from those that love them most, Angela and her husband John chose homeschooling for their two boys. She is dedicated to the advancement of alternative education choices, creating the web-site Raising Autodidacts in 2011 to further explore the idea of fostering the self-taught individual. In June of 2013, she started an instructional writing service called Gathering Ink .

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