S is for Sharks

Lots of movies have been made about sharks at the beach. We’ve even witnessed them ourselves. One day, just a few yards from the wrackline at a Gulf Coast FL beach, a baby shark swam passed my husband. The water was calm, clear and he was just floating in the shallow water.  Moments later and farther down the beach, a kid and his dad pulled in a baby shark on their fishing line. After showing it to whoever wanted to see it, they let it go.

On the east side of FL, we’ve sat on my in-laws balcony overlooking the Atlantic and watched several large sharks swimming north.  Glad we were on the balcony.

Sharks happen, Sharnadoes don’t, except in the movie theatre.

Just be careful out there in the ocean so you aren’t lunch.

Shark teeth are fun to search for on the beach. Venice Beach, FL is known for its shark-teeth-covered beaches.  You can literally sit in your beach chair and move around the sand with your toes to find them. The shark teeth are all different sizes and colors (white to black) and if surf worn, they can be different shapes. Sometimes you might mistake a black shell-shard for a shark tooth. The way to decide if you have a shark tooth or a shell is to try breaking it. If you can break it then it is a shell. Beach renourishment along the Casey Key FL area and further south in recent years may have altered the abundance of shark teeth at the beach surface so if you don’t see any immediately, keep searching and dig deep. They are there. I have always had great luck and love my shark tooth collection which I started when living in Surfside Beach, SC. Searching from N. Myrtle Beach to Pawley’s Island, I started my collecting. A neighbor of mine had a display of several jars filled with them. That was my goal, but raising kids took priority and I still don’t have quite as many as my former neighbor did. I’ll keep searching.

S is for Sharks and Shark teeth

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Homeschooling Along the Gulf Coast

So far, we’ve homeschooled our children in Texas, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida.  I hope we don’t have to move again…sorry Louisiana.

My boys have had some incredible experiences.

We started homeschooling when we moved to Mississippi.  We hooked up with two fantastic support groups: Olive Branch Christian Homeschool Educators and the Hernando-Nesbit Homeschool group.  Outside of group activities I took the boys on lots of field trips in Memphis TN.   We learned how to be birders and kept journals and a lift list.  We loved going to the Lichterman Nature Center.   I bought us each a copy of a nature journal in their gift shop.  The idea of the book is to return to the trails during each season of the year and answer questions about particular stops along the trails.  By the end of the year you have a completed book with nature notes, observations and drawings.  I remember on one day we had a lot of fun because we picked off the ground (in Autumn) as many different kinds of leaves we could find.  We stopped at the pole barn with the picnic tables and did rubbings or drawings of the leaves in another book we kept, searched through a field guide to identify them and label them in the book.  The boys loved it.  Other things we enjoyed were: the Memphis Zoo (we’d concentrate on a different section each visit), the Pink Palace Science Museum and IMAX theatre, the ducks at the Peabody Hotel, trips to Little Rock and their museums, and Shiloh battle field.

We moved to TX in June of one year and left that October.  During that time, the boys learned to identify more birds, since we were in a different fly way.  We went to NASA and the science museum in Houston; took trips to Austin and saw the bats, the black swan and swam in Barton Springs; went to San Antonio to visit and learn about Missions including the Alamo.  We traveled down the coast to Corpus Christi and Aransas National Wildlife Refuge to see the Whooping Cranes (we saw one on the way but none along the coast).  Did you know the artist that made the Presidents Park in Williamsburg (www.presidentspark.org) has his studio in Houston?  We visited the studio/warehouse and saw some of the president busts.  It was so cool.  Also on the grounds were sculptures of the Beatles http://farm2.static.flickr.com/1407/549618589_7fa0b47543.jpg  and some other famous people. We lived only an hour from the Blue Bell ice cream factory so we made an effort to get there for a tour and a free taste.  Yum.  When we started school that August we joined the West Houston Homeschool Educators.  The group offered a lot to its members in terms of support, activities and enrichment/co-op classes.  Too bad we had to leave them.  The moms I had met were super.

In Florida we spent our time either with our noses in our books or on the beach learning about beach and marine life.  I do think we spent more time outdoors.  We joined Learning and Families homeschool group.  I’m still a member, only with website access.  What a fantastic group of families and the support they provide was outstanding: co-ops (which we didn’t do), field trips (which we did a lot of) and support meetings and gatherings for the kids.  The boys also joined a 4-H club and entered projects in the county fair.  In Florida we studied more birds, learned to fish, kayak, siened in the bay, kept a marine fish tank (which we still have).  We attended wonderful exhibits at GWIZ (the science museum), Ringling Museum, and Selby Gardens.  We were chased by flamingoes, collected shark teeth and sand dollars (I have over 300).  We experienced tropical storms and hurricanes off the coast (most notable Gustav and Ivan);  found octopus and man-0′- wars on the beach; kept watch over the nesting snowy plovers.  We made it to Sanibel, Captiva, San Marcos Islands; traveled through sugar cane farms to West Palm Beach.  And, attended spring training baseball games. 

We’re members of the Lake Forest Homeschool Club in Alabama: a great group of families.  I suggest anyone homeschooling in Baldwin County join this club.  They have a ton of activities so you’re sure to find something for your children to do with the club.  School just started so we haven’t done any field trips yet…oh there was a get together at the lagoon in Gulf Shores and Fresh Air Family hosted a group outing to learn about turtles.  We’ve done a lot on our own since moving here including visiting New Orleans (there’s our homeschooling connection to Louisiana). The way we live (moving here and there often) we never know how long we’re staying so we have to look at each opportunity and take it.  Just read past blog posts and you’ll see what kind of educational stuff there is to do here in Alabama and Baldwin County specifically…we haven’t even scratched the surface.  Hope we’re here long enough to. 

Homeschooling has given us the lifestyle to search out adventures and learn about things outside 4 cinderblock walls.  It’s a lot of fun to homeschool along the Gulf Coast.   So far we’ve enjoyed our adventure.  I do hope God protects our freedom to homeschool in America.  We pray every day about it.  Hope you do to.

Turtle Beach shark teeth

I checked it out about the shark teeth.  Apparently they are found on Turtle Beach, on the south end of Siesta Key.  But not on the fine, white beaches.  I’ve been there several times and never found a tooth.  Now, across the pass and a little further down on Casey Key I’ve found tons, just by setting down in my beach chair and looking around.  I suppose that man I met today on Siesta with the shark teeth was just lucky.  But I’ll keep hunting for them.

Shark teeth on Siesta Key?

Well, I went to take my usual pre-dinner walk on the beach from access 5 south and back.  As I’m scanning the shoreline, which was so huge today at low tide, a man stopped me to show me his shark teeth.  He said the surf has been rough the past two days and they’re coming on shore.  Just then he picked up another.  I think he had about 6 in his hand and those teeth were large.

If you, the reader, are from the area or visit this Key regularly please let me know if you’ve found or hear of shark teeth on Siesta Key.  When we moved here last fall I had inquired of all the quirky things about each beach.  Shark teeth, I was told by a lifeguard, are only on Venice Beach and some smaller ones around Nokomis Beach (Casey Key).  Well, I looked and looked.  I only went to access 10 (near the sailboats) and back north and didn’t see one.  So I’m anxious to hear some tales, honest ones.

As I said the beach was so incredibly wide, the tide was incredibly low and there was another sandbar out past the markers now.  The waves were crashing out there and I saw someone walking on it, water about mid-thigh deep.

The only shells I found were Atlantic Giant Cockles.  Most still had the critter inside.  The book I have notes the maximum size being 5.2 inches (13.2 cm).  Most of what I spotted were around 4 inches.  The largest one we have in our collection is 4.5 inches. 

I love our beach.  Everyday brings something new…sandbars, shells, birds, waves, no waves, starfish and gorgeous sunsets.