Nature Day

Our second Summer Theme Day this month was Nature Day, originally scheduled for last week, but moved to earlier this week. We started the special activities with a picnic lunch in the yard. While we ate, I read a couple of chapters from “The Story Book of Science” by Jean Henri Fabre, a wonderful storytelling book that celebrates the wonders of God’s creation.

When we finished lunch, it was time for a nature scavenger hunt. The kids took their lists and paper sacks all over the yard looking for rocks, leaves, seeds, insects and flowers, to name a few of the items. We were able to find everything on our lists except for a feather, and clover (which seems to have only been around in the spring).

It was a very hot day, but there was a strong breeze and nice shady trees overhead that made it bearable to be outside. Eventually, though, we were ready to head back into the air conditioning to cool off.

My next plan didn’t turn out so well. We piled into the van and drove about a half an hour to visit a natural science museum. We were looking forward to exploring the indoor exhibits and to walking on the nature trails. Unfortunately, when we arrived, the only discovery we made was that the museum was closed for the day. Oh well, next time I’ll remember to check the schedule before I burn up my gas! We got back in the car and started for home again – with a stop by Sonic for slushes to make the trip not a total waste!

The extra time when we got home turned out to be a good thing, because we had more time to work on our nature craft. Everyone sketched something on a small sheet of paper that they had seen in the yard that day. Then we painted wooden picture frames to put our sketches in.

We enjoyed a trail mix snack while we worked on our craft –

A few of their sketches, which they decided needed paint as well –

No, we did not see a volcano in the yard! That last one isn’t a volcano, but rather a picture of an Autumn tree – and no, we did not see an Autumn tree in the yard on this Summer day! We did see the tree, however, and this particular child decided that she preferred to paint it in Fall colors. 🙂

A few more colorful frames –

Jeff grilled out some Teriyaki chicken tenders for dinner, which we ate with brown rice and grilled zucchini and onions from the garden. For dessert, I made these yummy “Dirt Cups” to go with our nature theme. They were a huge success!

Nature day turned out to be a great day, although I was dissappointed that we had to miss the nature museum. We will make plans to go another day – when we know it will be open! – sometime soon. I’ll post the recipe for the dirt cups as soon as I can – super simple and fun!

Have a wonderful day!

Blessings,
Nancy

Of Hives and Honey

Yesterday we visited a beekeeper’s honey extracting facility. A young man from our church has his own honey business, and he explained the entire process to us. He has been beekeeping for a number of years and transports his bees all over Texas to extend the “honey” season. He explained a little bit about how the hive operates and showed us some live bees in the process of making honey and tending the hive .

There were stacks of trays like these filled with honeycomb and honey waiting to be extracted –

The trays were placed in a machine which opened up the comb so that the honey was exposed. Then the trays were moved to large cylinder which spun them around releasing the honey to drain into a pipe which took it to another machine where the comb was separated from the honey. The pure honey was then moved to another vat from which it was poured into a bottle ready to be sold. We were all allowed to dip our fingers into the raw honeycomb and taste the delicious natural honey –

It was a fascinating field trip, and I’m sure I will be remembering it for awhile – every time I mix some honey into my bread dough and every morning when I squeeze some of that sweet honey onto my toast.

And yes, dear sister, you will be receiving a bottle – complete with comb – the next time I see you 🙂

Have a nice day!

Blessings,
Nancy

An Apple a Day

Last week our study in My Father’s World with Anna and Michael (and David, of course) was on apples. We read some good books, and made some simple, fun crafts. Here is a sampling of the things that we did ~

We read this book about apple trees and how they grow apples ~

We discussed the fruit that God can produce in us when we follow Him and abide in Him. We made construction paper apples with our Bible lesson on it ~

We read a story out of this book about a grasshopper who takes a bite out of an apple that turns out to be the home of a worm ~

We then drew new apple homes for the worm, complete with stairs and furniture ~

We made apple trees by tracing the children’s hands on brown paper to make the trunk and branches. We then cut out a green top for the leaves and painted red apples on the trees with fingers dipped in tempera paint. David couldn’t stop with just a few apples and ended up painting his entire tree red! ~

Finally, we read this book ~

We really enjoyed this story, and it will be one that we read over and over again. It follows Arnold and his apple tree through all of the seasons of the year. We drew pictures of the tree in each season ~

We are all looking forward to our own apple trees getting big enough to produce apples! ~

Blessings,
Nancy

Snowy Day Lapbooks

We finished our Snowy Day lapbooks this week. I did these with Michael, Anna, and David. The lapbooks were centered around two snowy books – “The Snowy Day” by Ezra Jack Keats and “White Snow Bright Snow” by Alvin Tresselt, as shown in the picture above.

We read the stories and then completed the activities for our lapbooks. We took our time with this one, completing one or two activities per day.

If you are wondering – What exactly is a lapbook? – it is a way to record the information that you learn as you study just about any topic. It is recorded in little booklets with writings and drawings that are then glued into the lapbook. When finished, a lapbook is a great keepsake for the kids, that they love to look back at throughout the years. I purchased and downloaded this lapbook from one of my favorite Lapbooking sites – A Journey Through Learning – I love their graphics! You can find out more about lapbooking by visiting their site.

“A Snowy Day” is one of my all time favorite winter stories to read with the children, and our lapbooks documented the many fun activities that Peter had on his snowy day.

I had not read “White Snow Bright Snow” before, even though it was sitting on our bookshelf. It was a very sweet story about how the snow affects all of the people in the town – the postman, the farmer, the policeman and his wife, the children, the animals, and even the houses and buildings of the town. It ends up showing how things change as spring approaches – a delightful book!

Both lapbooks were glued together to make one large lapbook which looks like this folded out –

I loved some of the special touches that the children gave their pictures, like the eyelashes on Anna’s snowman snowgirl? –

And the snow on David’s tree –

We had fun putting these together. David was sad to see the end of it – he loves cutting and pasting. I am all set with a new one for next month for all of the kids this time. It is a lapbook on the Winter 2010 Olympics, which promises to be lots of fun as we study different events and record the medal winners in our lapbooks.

Blessings,
Nancy

One of the things I love about homeschooling . . .

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is this ~

I assigned Laura the book “Calico Captive” by Elizabeth Speare for History reading on Thursday. She was to read one chapter each school day until it was finished. I expected this to be sometime after Thanksgiving.

Thursday afternoon she reported that she was in the middle of chapter 10. The book had caught her and she was a captive herself. Friday morning she announced that she had finished the book before she went to bed the night before.

Did I mention that there are 23 chapters in the book?

I love that homeschooling offers my children the opportunity to fall in love with a book that they never would have picked up on their own and the flexibility to read it all the way through without having to wait for the rest of the class.

Blessings,
Nancy

Autumn Haiku

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One of our final assignments in our Fall lapbooks yesterday was to write a Fall haiku poem. A haiku poem consists of three lines and each line has a designated number of syllables. I only required the older children to write their own, while I had the younger ones copy the ones that were written. It turned out to be a very fun experience for all. In no time, Tommy and Sarah had turned out two wonderful poems which they added into their lapbooks. I thought I’d share them with you here ~

First Tommy’s poem ~

Leaves changing colors,
Scarecrows in the fields of wheat,
Harvest time is here.

The syllable requirement for this assignment was 5 syllables in the first line – 7 in the second – 5 in the last. A haiku poem does not have to rhyme, although Sarah chose to make her’s rhyme. Here is Sarah’s poem ~

The pumpkins are here,
And everywhere there is cheer,
Harvest time is near.

I wrote one myself to put in my lapbook (I always make one along with the kids – it’s too much fun to miss out on!). My poem centers around a kitchen theme ~

Pumpkins, apples, spice,
Cinnamon, ginger and cloves,
Autumn baking day.

This activity was so much fun and fairly simple that I think that we will try writing some more about different subjects – nature, history, Thanksgiving, etc.

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Blessings,
Nancy

Our Homeschool ~ Charlotte Mason Style

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Over my 14 years of homeschooling, I’ve tried a lot of different approaches and curriculums, but even from the start, I always had an idea in mind of what I wanted our schooling experience to be like. It would be Christ-centered, simple, nurturing, and would encourage a love for learning. My love for books – especially storybooks – fit in beautifully. As I read more over the years about different methods of homeschooling, I saw that I agreed with many of the ideas that Charlotte Mason wrote about in the late 1800’s. Some of these ideas included copywork for writing, reading of great ideas in living books, narration, short lessons, and nature study. I have been incorporating several of these into our homeschool for the past 5 years or so.

This year, the Lord has taken us a step further in our journey. I have added in some new studies on a regular basis that always seemed to fall through the cracks before. Some of these include artist and composer studies, Shakespeare, nature stories, and character studies. Another difference is that we are reading living books for science, history and geography that take us on wonderful journeys every week.

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Here is our weekly schedule as it stands right now – I’ve been tweaking it since September 1st, but for now, this is working for us. Every day we do:

Bible & Scripture Memory
Read-aloud classic novel
History (M-Th)/Geography (F)
Copywork
Spelling
Reading (independent assigned)
Phonics (Anna)
Math

Some of these we do together, and others are done independently. Tommy and Sarah also add in a short daily grammar exercise.

In addition to the subjects we study daily, we have others that are only studied from 1-3 times a week –

Monday – Poetry
              Science (older kids)
Tuesday – Character studies
              Composer study
              Shakespeare
Wednesday – 
Missionary story
                  Nature Stories
                  Science (older kids)
 Thursday – Artist study
                 Drawing
Friday – Book of Centuries (Timeline)
            Map Drill
           Science (older kids)
           Nature Study (outdoors)

Along with these, I am doing the Bible/Science (fun) portion of My Father’s World Kindergarten curriculum with Anna and Michael – this includes many classic children’s stories and fun, easy crafts set up around the alphabet (A-Apple, B-Butterfly, C-Cow, etc.) four or five days a week.

Does that look like a lot? Well, it is, but remember – we do all of these in short lessons, many about 15 minutes each – some less, some more. We average around 3-4 hours for our school day, although that may not be all at once, depending on life – it may be spread throughout the day, and if we don’t get to something, I either make it up later in the week, or start there the next time we are scheduled to do that subject. Also, not all of the children do all of these studies – Anna does the least amount, being Kindergarten age this year. Michael joins us for most subjects, but isn’t doing formal grammar yet or Shakespeare. Laura (10th grade) does most of her work independently, except for a few of the family subjects. In fact, the 3-4 hour day usually refers to my time, as I work with each of the children individually and as a group.

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I have really enjoyed this year so far, and feel like we are having the richest learning experience we’ve ever had. We have laughed over Shakespeare, enjoyed classical music, travelled down the river with “Paddle to the Sea”, gone into outer space as we study the planets, had fun with drawing exercises, marveled at Monet paintings, and spent a little time each day in the Big Woods with Laura Ingalls Wilder.

I hope to share more about each of our studies, and how we do them, in future posts.

Blessings,
Nancy

We saw them!

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Image courtesy of Corbis

Well, we didn’t see as many as these people are seeing, but we did see some great ones! Tuesday night the clouds were too much, and we weren’t able to see anything (although Tommy thought he might have seen something once), but last night the skies were perfectly clear, so we went outside around 11 pm and watched and waited.

We were soon rewarded with some spectacular meteors shooting across the sky! It was very exciting every time we saw one, and I was glad that each of the kids was able to see one – most of them for the first time ever. David was asleep, but Anna, who was afraid of missing out on the big kid fun was allowed to stay up and watch with us, although her patience with waiting for them wore out pretty quickly.

We stayed out for about an hour, but then it was time to get them all to bed ~ plus, our necks were getting sore from looking up for so long. It would have been much better if we had been laying flat on the ground on a blanket to watch, but we were all sitting around the edge of the hot tub by the pool, due to the presence of several large spiders who had built their nightly spiral webs in very inconvenient spots ~ literally taking over the area, except for the spot where we were.

The stars were spectacular in themselves, a beautiful sight and enjoyed by all. The meteors were like bonuses on top of it all. I think that maybe next year I will try planning an overnight campout in the yard (weather permitting) and we can spend the night (more comfortably) watching the sky. That is if I can work up enough courage to face the spiders, snakes, and other nocturnal creatures that inhabit our yard at night ~ ah, life in the country ~ but the stars are amazing and worth the effort.

Did any of you get to see them this year?

Blessings,
Nancy

“Exploring” the Yard

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Last week we read the book “Henry the Castaway” by Mark Taylor. In this story, Henry and his dog, Laird Angus McAngus (Angus for short), went off on an exploration to find the uncharted seas. They had quite an adventure along the way, using their imagination and survival skills to complete their journey.

As a fitting conclusion to our week, we went exploring around the yard, in areas that we don’t frequent very often. Our mission – to seek out signs of Spring (and anything else interesting). Our main destination was the penisula out at the back of our property that is surrounded on three sides by a creek, followed by the “meadow” area of the yard, and finally the pond area. Here are some pictures of what we found –

A beautiful Redbud tree in full bloom –
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This interesting cocoon was hanging from one of the branches –
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Sarah climbed this very old tree to get a better view –
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This lovely tree was at the back of the penisula overlooking the creek. I haven’t been able to identify it yet –
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The flowers were beautiful and quite fragrant –
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We looked down into the creek, which is not very full at the moment, discussing currents and sources –
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We made note of the different layers of soil packed together along the opposite bank of the creek –
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We peeked into this animal hole – we think that it is probably the home of racoons that have been previously spotted around the creek –
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On to the “meadow” – really just a large grassy area in our side yard – wildflowers are beginning to pop up there. We blew a few of these –
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We found this green mossy grass growing in one section of the yard – close to a broken sprinkler head that is leaking, causing the damp environment –
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We also discovered patches of clover coming out, just in time for St. Patrick’s day –
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At the pond, we were intrigued by this dead vine on the side of a tree (you can also see the grass greening up in the background) –
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Sarah waded down into the pond to look for frog’s eggs or tadpoles, but didn’t see anything. I didn’t go down due to the presence of mud, which I didn’t want all over my shoes 🙂 , but we’ll check again in a few weeks.

Up by the house, I found flower buds on the Iris plants, so we should be enjoying their purple beauty before too long –
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The last thing that I explored was my rocking chair on the front porch, while the kids played and hunted for rocks to add to their collection (Anna is the driving force behind the rock collecting) –
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I took some close-ups of that old kitchen hutch on the front porch that I’ll post soon, since this one is getting way too long!

Have a wonderful day!

Blessings,
Nancy

From the Learning Room ~ Homemade Dye and “A New Coat for Anna”

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One of our activities last week to go along with our study of “A New Coat for Anna” by Alfred A. Knopf was to make a homemade dye, as they did in the story. In the story, Anna and her mother picked lingonberries to “make a beautiful red dye”. This was the first time I had ever heard of lingonberries, so I didn’t expect to find any, but I did have some fresh blueberries in the freezer that would make a nice substitute.

First I boiled a pan of water –

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Next I added the blueberries (thawed) and let them boil for about 1/2 hour – until it looked like the water had turned a nice deep color –

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I took them off of the heat and let them set for awhile to steep as much color out of the berries as possible. I then strained them through cheesecloth into another pan. I gave each child a swatch of white fabric and they each placed their swatch into the pan of dye. We pressed the fabric down into the dye with a wooden spoon and left it for awhile, while we watched our nightly “Little House” episode. –

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When we came back to it, the white fabric swatches had turned a lovely shade of purple! We squeezed them out and laid them on waxed paper to dry.

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Tommy’s finger here is pointing to the white swatch (hard to see) we started with, which shows the transformation –

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I will be ironing these and then cutting them into the shape of a coat(s). We will then mount them on a piece of cardstock with the title of the book and they will be placed into the children’s notebooks.

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Another short project that I did with the littles last week was to make these cotton ball sheep –

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The olders and I read about sheep in the encyclopedia and we all took a short drive down the road to take a look at a neighboring farmer’s flock of sheep.

I shared these pictures earlier of the children weaving placemats to complement our study –

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We haven’t played that game of “Made for Trade” yet, as I did end up taking Anna in to the doctor for an infected ear, but we did spend some time discussing bartering and, hopefully, we’ll be able to get that game in today.

If you’d like to see what other topics we discussed in relation to this story, click here.

Have a wonderful day!

Blessings,
Nancy