Children's Poetry Feed

Reds and Greens and Orange and Blue ...🍂

(And yellows and browns and black!)

Happy Friday, my friends! Here's a little bit of Autumn from my home & garden to yours ... 💛


















Autumn is truly settled in around here as you can see - inside and out! The weather has been just glorious, as it tends to be in New England at this time of year: brisk, bright and OH the colors! Although ... we are expecting a brief return of summery weather this week - 80s even! - but since St. Luke's Day is this Tuesday, I'm not one bit surprised. ;)

Why you might wonder? Well, have you ever heard of St. Luke's Little SummerAccording to The Old Farmer's Almanac ...

Lovely, summerlike days that occur around October 18 are called St. Luke’s Little Summer in honor of the saint’s feast day. In olden days, St. Luke’s Day did not receive as much attention in the secular world as St. John’s Day (June 24) and Michaelmas (September 29), so to keep from being forgotten, St. Luke presented us with some golden days to cherish before the coming of winter, or so the story goes. Some folks call this Indian Summer, but that officially occurs between November 11 and November 20.

This brief warmup may be unseasonable, but it will be nice ... because any day we can throw open our windows and spend time outside comfortably is a gift. Dark and gray days are coming, I am ever aware! I can feel my internal clock slowing down, taking its cue from the world around me. The crickets are still chirping but more slowly, and the breeze is a noisy rustle as crisp leaves shake from their branches and head for the ground. I don't mind this slowing down though - in fact, I relish it. It's all part of life's rhythm and, after all, we humans are part of that great cycle, even if we can ignore it with all our modern conveniences! I feel it's a good thing to embrace the season's changes ... I've been turning more of my attention to the inside of our home (and the inside of my head), concentrating on domestic comforts and inner lights - cooking, reading, writing, planning, nesting ... preparing my family for the long winter ahead.

Anyway, speaking of domestic appreciation, here's my dinner menu for the coming week. It's been way too long since I've shared this (and to be honest, it's been too long since I've been consistent with meal planning)!

S - (Full Hunter's Moon) Hunter's Stew (A chicken-sausage/sundried tomato dish served with rice - one of Bill's specialities!)

M - (Practice night) Baked ziti, meatballs, garlic bread, salad

T - (St. Luke's Day) - Burgers on the grill, corn-on-the-cob, farmstand salad, fries

W - (It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown on TV tonight!) - grilled cheese with tomatoes and ham, chicken soup, apple-pumpkin dump cake & steamed almond milk w/spiced pumpkin marshmallows

T - meatloaf, roasted multi-color carrots, stir-fried broccoli & whole grain rice

F - (Practice night & Bookworm home for the weekend!) - crescent dogs, baked beans & brown bread, tater tots

S - (Family Anniversary Lunch) - leftovers since we'll be eating a big lunch!

Well I guess I'd best wrap up now, as this post is getting rather long ... but as always I thank you for stopping by! I hope you enjoy the rest of your weekend and would love to hear how your autumn is unfolding if you have a chance. In an upcoming post (hopefully sometime this week) I will give you a tour of my new desk and chat a little about how I'm keeping organized these days. I am also working every moment I get on the next set of seasonal planning sheets. I'm hoping to have Late Autumn pages available to you well before the end of the month!

Take care of yourselves and your loved ones, my friends ... see you here again very soon!

p.s. Don't forget to watch that moon rise tonight! 🌝

Gray Days

Now, I am not complaining ... I am definitely not. I can't be anything but glad that we are finally having a reprieve from the brutal weather pattern of late. Not only is it dry today (save for some melting), but the temperature hovered right around 40 degrees. FORTY degrees, my friends! I only wore my winter vest over a sweatshirt jacket today - and no gloves!

And yet, it was one of those gray February days ... you know what I mean about the late winter landscape? The snow is no longer pretty, it's just dirty and gray. The skies are gray, the ground is gray - it's all just GRAY! 

This post came to me on our way home from the library this afternoon, when I swung into the grocery store to pick up a few things. I was already musing over the very dull grayness of the day when, as we entered the parking lot, THIS caught our attention ...




That's pretty ugly, isn't it, lol?

February may not be the prettiest of months, but it IS at least the shortest. And it does have all those good things I mentioned in this post ... but a day like today makes me think of this poem:

When Skies are Low and Days are Dark by N.M. Bodecker

When skies are low
and days are dark,
and frost bites 
like a hungry shark,
when mufflers muffle
ear and nose,
and puffy sparrows
huddle close -
how nice to know
that February
is something purely

As I finish up this post, Earlybird just plucked one of his library books off the nature shelf. It's called, ironically enough, Colors. See, there was a method to my madness when I chose "Light and Color" as our nature theme for February! It's always lovely to find a little light, a bit of color, in our day, but especially in the midst of all this gray!

(Quick note - as I searched Amazon for the link for the book above, I stumbled across this little gem:


I promptly cross-checked with my library system and sure enough, my local branch has a copy. What a nice way to spend another gray February day - running to the library to pick up a book all about the COLORs of the year!)

Oh, and one final happy note, our snow thrower finally made it out of New Jersey!

UPS delivered it today ... 


This was taken moments ago ... worked like a charm!

*knock on wood*

The forecast for tomorrow is light snow throughout the day, 2-3 inches or so. That's not so bad, really ... and at least things will be white again for a while! 

Have a great Monday night, everyone! See you all again sometime soon.


Monday Menu & Moon Talk

Bill's off from work today for the MLK holiday, so our homeschool has the day off too. :) It's going to be bitterly cold here (21 for a high!) so we probably won't spend much time outside. I do plan to run to the grocery store for a few items (and maybe The Paper Store too - I have a gift certificate from my birthday to use), but before I head out I'll be starting a beef & vegetable soup in the crockpot. It will cook all day and we'll have it tonight with crusty bread (made in the breadmaker) and a simple tossed salad. For dessert (yes, we do always have dessert, lol!) I'll make use of the leftover raspberry sauce ~ serving it over cups of peach frozen yogurt. The raspberry-peach combination might make me think of the summer ... so, so far away. 

In nature news, aside from the bitter cold and a messy storm coming on Tuesday, we have the Full Moon rising midweek ...


Can you guess why there's a wolf puppet on our nature shelf?

The weather chills,

 the night is long,

wolf lifts his head

in lonely song.

His notes float high,

his notes drift low,

mournful in the 

moonlight glow.

~ from When the Moon is Full: A Lunar Year by Penny Pollock


I hope you all have a great Monday ~ see you again very soon! :)

June's Full Strawberry Moon ...

Don't forget to look for it tonight!

We have such a fun day planned tomorrow ... bright and early in the morning Crackerjack has some orthodontic work to get out of the way, but after that, Bill and I are taking the boys to an Audubon Sanctuary for a walk in the late spring woods. (Pictures forthcoming of course!) When we return, I have a strawberry lunch planned in honor of tonight's full moon - The Strawberry Moon. It's cloudy here tonight, so we'll "moonwatch" tomorrow! ;)

So in honor of this month's moon - and one of the first fruits of the season - may I ask for your favorite way to eat strawberries? Do you pick them in the field, pick them up at the store, or grow them at home? When I was little, my grandpa grew wonderful strawberries in his garden - then later, he picked-his-own at the farm every year. Bill and I always helped him pick - though we never lasted as long in the field as Pa did. He'd pick enough to eat, some to freeze and lots and lots to enjoy over ice cream all year long.

Strawberrytea Tomorrow, when we return home from the hike, our lunch at home will consist of much strawberry goodness - peanut butter-strawberry sandwiches (sliced berries with a drizzle of honey) and freshly brewed strawberry tea. Before we leave in the morning I'll brew up a pot of hot tea, let it cool and then place a pitcher of tea in the fridge. Ice cube trays will be filled with strawberry slices and water - a nice touch, I think. For dinner - after broccoli-steak stir fry, spinach-strawberry salad and rice - there will be fresh pound cake and strawberry rhubarb sauce - with dollops of freshly whipped cream. Yummy!

Tomorrow will be one of our "family days" we take through the year. We don't really vacation per se - for a myriad of reasons - but these special days taken here and there through the seasons really keep us in touch with nature and each other. Special meals always round out the day. :)

Now, while I'm here, I'll answer a few questions left for me after the Learning Room post.
  • The grapevine ball lights were purchased at Target.
  • The colored "tree" pencils were purchased at a local agricultural store. I will stop in tomorrow to get the name (and hopefully a website).
  • The boys' summer reading journals - well, I'll post more about those very soon. :)
  • The flower parts poster was part of a bulletin board set I bought at a local teacher's supply store. They are made by Mark Twain Media, but I can't find them online. I would suggest asking at your own local educator supply shop. 
  • The monthly nature prayers we display in our nature corner can be found in this lovely book.
  • The soft puppet tree I found YEARS ago at LL Bean. They have not sold it in a while, but I know there is a similar one sold here.
As always, thank you for all your questions and your very kind comments. Thank you too, for your patience while I struggle to find time to post.

Speaking of posts, would anyone object to yet another file crate post? I know I've posted about it a-plenty, but at this time of year, as I refresh the crate with brand new folders I tweak the system a little. Every year I come up with something that works just a tiny bit better. At the very least, it's fun to revel in all those new office supplies! ;)

Ok, off for now - there's much to do before bed. I hope you've all had a wonderful weekend. I'll be back again just as soon as I can! :)

The Full Pink Moon


Its hard to tell from this picture, but last night's moon rose - truly - in Easter egg pink!

So very lovely.

The boys noticed it around 7 p.m. while watching the BoSox with Bill, and naturally, they called it to my attention.
So I put down the dishcloth and headed for the backyard ...
and spent the next several minutes outside taking pictures.

Listening to peepers.
Watching ducks fly overhead.
Peering into the dark woods.
Shivering in the cold.

The full moon was amazing -
- but ten minutes later it was gone.
Hidden beneath a thick cloud cover.

I'm glad we looked when we did. :)

Check it out this evening, if you have a chance;
the April moon is full, technically, tonight.

The Frog Moon
Frogs sit in the marshes,
throats bellowed tight,
feeling quite romantic,
calling through the night.
Come my love, my love, my love,
Come be mine tonight.

~ An Early Spring Garden Surprise ~

Just look what we found today, growing in the shade of the chimney:


A Snowdrop!
And not just one, but three!



Aren't they lovely?

I cannot tell you how ridiculously excited I am to find snowdrops in our garden! I have always wanted to grow snowdrops - Anglophile that I am - but it was only last autumn that I finally made certain to purchase the bulbs. One blustery day last October Bill planted them for me ... but then he couldn't remember where he planted them! So I've been watching the ground for signs of these tiny spring heralds, and had just about given up hope, when Bill spied the above beauties this morning while raking the yard. Lol, he called me at the supermarket to tell me! The first thing I did when I got home (after putting away the frozen things, of course) was to run outside and take pictures. :)

And now, naturally, it's time for ...

The Song of the Snowdrop Fairy

Deep sleeps the Winter,
Cold, wet and grey;
Surely all the world is dead;
Spring is far away.

Wait! the world shall waken;
It is not dead, for lo,
The Fair Maids of February
Stand in the snow!

(From The Flower Fairies of the Winter by Cicely Mary Barker)

Now see, this poem makes much more sense in the UK where (I believe) snowdrops pop up from the late winter ground. No matter ~ I will happily welcome these little blooms in whichever month they so choose to awaken - but I'll admit I'm glad there's no snow for them to stand in. 

And now I am sorely tempted to dig out our copy of The Story of the Snow Children - though a decidedly winter tale (and therefore stored away with the wintertime books) - it does feature snowdrops on each beautifully illustrated page. But I'm still working on digging out the Easter books, so instead, I'll just enjoy this little tale I found online: The Snowdrop by Hans Christian Anderson. How did I ever miss this? What a sweet story!

I have to represent the snowdrops, our Merry Maids of March, at our nature table in some way. I'd love to make a Snowdrop Fairy - maybe something like the simple one described in All Year Round - because I could never hope to make one as pretty as this. A reasonable facsimile could be attempted, however, and now a quick trip to the craft store might be in order for tomorrow ... ;)

What have you found in your early spring garden? 
Any surprises to share?
I hope you're all enjoying the weekend. I will see you all again sometime soon!

Poetry Friday ~ The March Sap Moon


Cold nights,
warm days,
sap is sure to run.
Moon looms in
the branches,
waiting for the sun.

Did you see the full moon last night? It was breathtaking!
Technically, the moon was "full" on Wednesday, but it was raining here then. Last night was clear and beautiful, though, so I stood out on our deck, taking pictures through the darkness. I could almost hear the peepers in the woods ~ they won't start stirring for another couple of weeks, but it was fun to imagine.

This past week was a busy one - it really flew by! - and next week brings lots of fun. St. Patrick's Day, St. Joseph's Day, our Maple Sugaring trip and the First Day of Spring! I will post our plans for next week over the weekend. I'm still nailing down all the details. :)

Dont' forget, tomorrow is National Pi Day! (3.14) Are you going to have a little fun with it? Today I'll pull out the Sir Cumference book, and on Sunday we'll make individual pizza pies for lunch and enjoy a delicious grasshopper pie for dessert. I'm going to try to make a chocolate "pi" symbol on the top of the pie. Fun, right? :)

Well, I hope you all have a great weekend ~ I'll check back in again sometime soon!
Happy Friday (the 13th)!

p.s. I just looked out the window and noticed this in the western sky:


Sorry about those pesky telephone wires, but I had to show you the morning moon, too. :)

Squirrel Nutkin ~ A Wintertime Nature Study


But Nutkin was excessively impertinent in his manners. He bobbed up and down like a little red cherry, singing ~ "Riddle me, riddle me, rot-tot-tote!"

It was an exciting day in the Riverwood yesterday ~ we were visited by not one, not two - but THREE little red squirrels! I took lots of pictures of the cute and crazy little things -though I couldn't get them all in one shot. While one was eating happily at the top of the cage-feeder, the other two were fighting like crazy, chasing each other all around the rhododendron bushes, lol!

Grasping a seed in his tiny paws.

Diving back down for more ...

The perfect perch for a squirrel of this size.

And the tray feeder fits even better!

The red squirrels now visit our feeders at least twice a day (not always three at one time, but often, two) and they are such a delight to observe! They are fast and furious little creatures! The boys and I keep our eyes on the windows as we work through the day and if one of us spies a "Red Tail" (as we've named them) we sound the "alarm." Pencils are put down and books are dropped - we dash to the windows to observe. 

Squirrels, red or gray, are a perfect winter-nature study subject; they're active and highly visible at this time of year. Red squirrels are not as common in America as they are in England, but if you are at all familiar with the Tale of Squirrel Nutkin, then you know a little about them. They are much smaller than a gray squirrel, with coppery-brown fur and a fiery personality. They move fast and make a lot of noise when agitated (chuck-chuck-chuck-chuuuuck!). Really, they're a riot to watch. If you live near a conifer woodland you most likely have red squirrels living nearby; they are just harder to spot than the plentiful grays.

The following suggestions are geared towards younger children, but more advanced activities could be added for including older kids in the study. Most homeschoolers I know are teaching multi-ages at once - for me, I am tailoring this study to my kindergartener (Earlybird) and 4th grader (Crackerjack). My 8th grader (Bookworm) will tag along just for fun. :)

~Notes for a Squirrel Nutkin Nature Study~

 Read The Tale of Squirrel Nutkin, first and foremost.

Look for squirrel tracks in the snow. This book shows the difference between a gray squirrel's tracks and a red's. (It's mostly the size.)

Learn about red squirrels online.
Find lots of information at Wikipedia.
Here's a neat kids' page by the Kluane Red Squirrel Project.

Make up an observation chart to keep track of squirrel visits and behaviors. (If I can figure out how to do it, I will link you the chart I made up for the boys - tracking red or gray, time of day, and behavior.)

On a blank map of the world, color in the areas that are inhabited by red squirrels. If you are reading The Tale of Squirrel Nutkin, locate The Lake District in England.

Older children could research the plight of the red squirrel in the UK.

Read about how Squirrel Nutkin came to be in the pages of The Ultimate Peter Rabbit: A Visual Guide to the World of Beatrix Potter.

Write a little nature story in a letter to a friend. (You could have the children draw pictures and then write in the storylines they dictate.)

See how many squirrel names (like Nutkin, Twinkleberry, etc.) you can come up with.

Make little twig or bark boats to sail across a lake. (Or pond, stream or a good size puddle, even.)

It would be fun to make little sacks with which the children could go "gathering nuts." (These could be simple drawstring bags made of cotton or felt.) Use acorns (real or wooden) to count and sort. Hide them around the house and have the children go on a nut hunt.

Red Squirrels are very fond of spruce cones. See if you can identify - and differentiate - pine trees from spruce trees in your yard, neighborhood or nearby park. Use a good tree field guide to do this, or ask a ranger to help you.

Host a "Squirrel Nutkin" tea for your friends (or family members). Serve treats reminiscent of those mentioned throughout the Potter stories. Ask each guest to name which Potter story is their favorite, and why.

A few great books featuring red squirrels:

(This is a chapter book, a great family read-aloud. I did a Book Group lesson on this last year.)

Read the wonderful tale of "Furry," Anna Comstock's pet red squirrel. You can find it, along with a very informative chapter on red squirrels, in her Handbook of Nature.

If your children are into puppet play, Audubon makes wonderful nature puppets including a red squirrel and owl. They're not technically puppets, but can be used in dramatic play or storytelling. When you squeeze their bellies they "chuck" and "screech" accordingly.

We happen to have the tip of of red squirrel tail on our nature table! (It's not as gruesome as it sounds - read the full story here.)

Nutkin antagonized Old Brown owl with riddles. Check books of riddles out of the library to enjoy together.

The current issue of National Geographic Kids (February) has a wonderful article about Heinz, a baby red squirrel who was rescued after a storm.

I happen to love this dear little poem by Marchette Chute called "Politeness." It would be easy for a young child to memorize.

I met a squirrel the other day
And spoke to him in a friendly way.
I couldn't pat him on the head
But I gave him several nuts instead.
He took them from me one by one
And waved his tail when he was done.
And he was happy, I could tell.
We both behaved extremely well.


If you have a neat squirrel story, picture or activity to share, please let me know. I'd love to compile them and share them here at my blog! And of course, I'll be sharing our own Nutkin adventures as this little study unfolds. :)

In the meantime, have a wonderful day. It's just starting to snow here - we're in for several inches by day's end.
A good day to keep our eyes on the feeders!
See you all again soon!

~*~The January Nature Shelf~*~

Now that the holidays are over and the learning room is, for the most part, back on track, I was able to spend some time refreshing the nature corner:


There's not a lot going on in nature right now ~ it's as if the world has stilled itself, like it's holding its own frosty breath. We're not outside nearly as much as usual so there aren't a lot of "treasures" to display; January is a bare month, and so its corner reflects that.

But, as you can see in the picture below, we've added a new facet to our nature display:


Note the picture frames on the wall! 

Do you know how long I've wanted to get these up here? I think I told you about these maybe a year or so ago, but we haven't had a chance to get them up till just now. I bought plain unfinished wooden frames at the craft store and we printed out current nature photos to hang above the shelves. Each month we'll change them up. These will always be pictures we took ourselves, relfecting our own "habitat" and the changes that take place through the seasons ...


So as you can see here (barely I know - the light is so bright) we have pictures of a snowy treetop, a titmouse, a chickadee and a red squirrel. Ideally these pictures will also feature our nature study focus of the moment (winter birds and wolves right now). Obviously, it's easier for me to get bird pictures than wolf pictures in these parts - thank goodness!

In the far left corner I always prop open a book featuring a seasonal inspiration:


Often I choose a book of nature poems, but this month I really wanted to show the January spread in Tasha Tudor's A Time to Keep. The words and illustrations evoke a simpler time of soft, frosty nights and old-fashioned delights. Just the right mood for this month.

"Oh, there were lots of joyful times. On the last day of the old year the children built a bonfire. We all danced around it and shouted Happy New Year. Then we had a party supper with roast beef and Yorkshire pudding and apple pie and ice cream and cheese."

Now from left to right, let's take a look at the top shelf ...


First, we have a few birch logs from our woods. (Taken from felled trees we found along the bike path.) I once read about a Celtic Calendar of Trees, one for each month, kind of like Native American moons. Birch, I believe, is assigned to early January. I like their wintry beauty and symbolism - birches are the first trees to grow back after a forest has been razed. Also, the Gaelic word for birch means beginning. Rather fitting, don't you think, for the first month of the year? But we mustn't forget our conifers! Standing nearby is a giant pinecone from out west (purchased last winter at Whole Foods) as well as a collection of ceramic and stone birds, and a geode with glittering crystals inside ...


Centered in the shelf is a new book I bought to share with Earlybird as we explore trees this winter: The Happiness Tree: Celebrating the Gifts of Trees we Treasure. (I'm going to do a review of it in the near future - but suffice it to say, I cannot recommend it heartily enough.) Also shown, The Big Snow, Animals in Winter and Tracks in the Snow.

 In the lower left corner is a photocopy I made of a page in the Winter Flower Fairies book ~ the Song of The Pine Tree Fairy; it's perched right next to a woodland tealight (battery-op!):


A tall, tall tree is the Pine tree,
With its trunk of bright red brown ~
The red of the merry squirrels
Who go scampering up and down.
There are cones on the tall, tall Pine tree,
With its needles sharp and green;
Small seeds in the cones are hidden,
And they ripen there unseen.
The elves play games with the squirrels
At the top of the tall, tall tree,
Throwing cones for the squirrels to nibble ~
I wish I were there to see!


Next we have a pretty ivy wreath I bought at Trader Joe's last week, with a tiny chickadee perched on top. (You can buy silk-feathered birds at craft stores for a few dollars a piece. The bird in the nest there is also from the craft store collection.) By the way, here are directions for making your own ivy topiary at home - a lovely Valentine's gift!

And finally, a glimpse of yet another book display, this one reflecting our current nature studies ...


Lots of wolf-related books as you can see. Our field trip to the wolf sanctuary has been postponed, actually. It was supposed to take place today, but the weather here is so very bitter (18 for a high) we've put it off until next week when hopefully we might enjoy slightly warmer temperatures. (Maybe even a January thaw? Wouldn't that be nice?)

Well, I'm going to leave it there for now because I've talked your ears off for too long! I have to get going anyway ... the day is unfolding and I've got many things to do. First off, I have to run to the registry to renew my license (groan) - keep your fingers crossed for me the lines aren't too long!

Thanks for stopping by - hope you're all keeping warm and well. See you all again sometime soon. :)

The Full Wolf Moon ...

... is tonight! 

So don't forget to take a peek out your window and admire the midwinter moon in all its celestial glory. In fact, the January full moon will be the biggest of 2009 - 14% bigger and 30% brighter than normal!

You might even invite your children to "howl" at tonight's moon, so named because Native Americans believed the wolves became restless at this harsh time of year. Here's a little poem from When the Moon is Full: A Lunar Year:  

The weather chills,
the night is long,
wolf lifts his head 
in lonely song.
His notes float high,
his notes drift low,
mournful in the
moonlight glow.

This will provide the perfect copywork for the cover page of our Winter Wolf Study - which we kick off this week! 

As you can see from the sidebar on the left, we have lots of books on loan from the library for our study. (A few we do own, but most are borrowed. How I love inter-library loans ...)

Here are a few more notes on our upcoming study:

Field Trip ~
  • With our Nature Study Club we'll visit a local wolf sanctuary. (Bill and I actually took our boys there years ago, but they hardly remember it - I believe Earlybird was in a sling!) 
Map-work ~ 
  • Where do wolves live in our world?
  • Where does tundra exist? 
Art ~
Science ~
  • We'll discuss the concept of a food chain; Wolf Island illustrates this nicely.

Social Studies ~
  • We'll research the history of wolf-related environmental legislation. (The Wolves are Back gives a lot of good information.)

Music/creative writing exercise ~
  • We'll listen to Peter and the Wolf, and the boys will create their own versions of the story - in which the wolf is just seriously misunderstood. :)   

Nature Study ~
  • We'll look for animal tracks in the new snow - some might look canine. We'll check them against a field guide that shows the tracks of wolves, coyotes and dogs. 
  • We'll look at (possibly howl at) the Full Wolf Moon.

Literature ~

Puppet Play ~
  • We have a cute set of arctic-theme puppets for Earlybird (it includes a wolf, a bear, a musk ox, a puffin and an Eskimo). We'll read Mama, Do You Love Me to go along with our puppets.
Etc. ~
Those are a lot of plans for the next few weeks, but for tonight, we'll just watch the sky. We might not get a glimpse of the moon though  - the sky is thick with cloud cover. Instead, we'll keep our eyes peeled for the first flakes of snow, due to arrive any minute now ...

Well, I hope you are all enjoying your weekend. See you all again very soon!

Kinder Themes: Stars, Light and the Letter G


Autumn's winding down ~ the days are fading and the nights are growing long. As nature's light dwindles, we must kindle our own inner lights. Well, this week we're exploring the themes of stars and light in our homeschool, and I thought I'd share a few of my ideas with you all. (Remember, I'm not going to try to do all of them! I'll see what strikes Earlybird's fancy as the week goes on.)

Fun Things to Do:

  • Watch for the Taurids (meteor showers, fireballs or aka shooting stars).
  • Gaze at the November night sky; look for autumn constellations.
  • Make window stars - like this (seen above) or this.
  • Look for star shapes in nature (inside of an orange or apple, starfish, star anise).
  • Make felt star sachets to give as holiday gifts.
  • Paint wooden stars for Christmas.
  • Hang glow-in-the-dark stars on the bedroom wall.
  • Practice drawing stars.
  • Bake star-shaped ginger cookies:


Good Books to Read:

A Pretty Poem to Learn:

I’m glad the stars are over me

And not beneath my feet,

Where we could trample on hem

Like cobbles in the street.

I think it is a happy thing

That they are set so far;

It’s best to have to look up hight

When you would see a star.

        ~ Anonymous

A Letter to Know (G):

*Cut out a green construction paper "G" and decorate with iridescent star stickers.

Science to Learn:

Thanks for stopping by today ~ I hope your day is a good one! :)

In the KinderGarden: Seeds & the Autumn Wind

Right now we're exploring the seasonal themes of wind and seeds, so I thought I'd share a few of my ideas with you on this fine autumn morning. I hope something here might be useful to you, whether you're teaching your own children, or just looking for ways to tap into the rhythm of the natural year ...

And remember: I'm not planning on doing all these things with Earlybird! I just can't contain my enthusiasm for the seasons ~ I always brainstorm more than I could possibly do. ;)

Books to Read ~

Fun Things to Make and Do ~

  • Make and float bark boats on a stream.
  • Find milkweed pods growing along the roadside or in a field.
  • Pick and make wishes on "fairy clocks" (dandelions).
  • Go on a seed scavenger hunt.
  • Organize a seed collection in an empty egg carton.
  • Look for and collect acorns:
    • Set out a pile for squirrels.
    • Plant one acorn in a little pot. (Tall oaks from little acorns grow.)
  • Hang sunflower heads for birds to eat.
  • Open various fruits and vegetables and look at the seeds inside.
  • Roast pumpkin seeds (lightly tossed with butter and cinnamon-sugar - yum).
  • Find the magic star inside the apple.
  • Lie on your backs and find shapes in the clouds
  • Make seed-folk out of natural materials; add them to the nature shelf.
  • Make seed ornaments for the Christmas tree.
  • Go kite-flying on a windy day.
  • Make simple pinwheels.
  • Make potpourri (to give as holiday gifts).

A Poem (or Three) to Know ~

In their husks, their shells and clusters,

In their pods, the seeds on high,

Wait to hear the Autumn whisper

“Little seeds it’s time to fly.”

Then they lightly leave their branches

Pop and burst and tumble down,

Hasten, hurry, rush and scurry,

Hide in Mother Earth’s warm gown.

              (J. Mehta)

In a milkweed cradle all close and warm,

Little seeds are hiding safe from harm.

Open wide the cradle now, hold it high.

Come along wind, help them fly!

(A fingerplay from Earthways by Carol Petrash)

Who has seen the wind?
Neither I nor you:
But when the leaves hang trembling
The wind is passing thro'.

Who has seen the wind?
Neither you nor I:
But when the trees bow down their heads
The wind is passing by

(Christina Rossetti)

And now I'm off to tend to my boys who are in the midst of preparing themselves breakfast while their mum sneaks in a few more minutes on the computer ... :) Thanks for stopping by this morning ~ I hope you all have a wonderful day!

Fun Days Ahead!


January 18th is the birthday of A.A. Milne, the beloved author of the Winnie-the-Pooh tales. (Another neat tidbit from this book.) I thought over breakfast on Friday, we might read aloud a chapter or two of the above book, and then, just for fun, light those balloon candles in our corn muffins! (Remember the story with the bees?) For the muffins, I'm going to follow a recipe from Earthways, one that uses honey as a sweetener. After blowing the candles out, we'll slather the muffins with honey butter, and to wash it all down - English Breakfast Tea! (Decaf, of course, with lots and lots of milk.)

And then Saturday brings us National Popcorn Day! What, you didn't know? ;) We'll read The Popcorn Book by Tomie de Paola, revisit this poem from last year, and I really want to try this adorable cake I saw at Cherry Hill Cottage last month. I had forgotten all about it, but I found the print-out of her post in this week's folder. (You know, sometimes I really love my file crate, lol.) Do take a peek at the cake - it looks so yummy, sounds quite easy and what a fun Saturday project for the kids! I think we're going to see the new Veggie Tales movie that day (haven't told the boys yet, but it looks like a go) so it will be a popcorn day all around!

Well, I've got to run ... the day's getting away from me! I've barely got the school stuff put away, and don't even ask about the kitchen! (Wednesday is, technically, kitchen day.) And the doorbell just rang and a friend's here to play with the boys, so that's my cue to get going ...

Have a good night, everyone!

Poetry Friday: The Owl and the Brownies


An owl sat alone on the branch of a tree,
And he was as quiet as quiet could be.
It was night and his eyes were round like this
He looked all around; not a thing he did miss.
Some brownies crept up on the branch of the tree,
And they were as quiet as quiet could be
Said the wise old owl, "To-whoooooo, to-whooooo."
Up jumped the brownies and away they flew.
An owl sat alone on the branch of a tree.
And he was as quiet as quiet could be.

(I found this sweet poem by Maude Burnam here.)

And by the way, brownies are tiny magical creatures, sprung from Scottish legend and folklore. As I'm part Scottish - and a former Brownie myself - I've always had a soft spot for these helpful little sprites. ;)

And speaking of brownies ... have you ordered your cookies yet? It's time, it's time! Contact your local Girl Scout and get your order in before it's too late!

(P.S. Thin Mints are my favorites - how about you?)

Happy Friday! :)

Poetry Friday: Christina Rossetti

*Christmas Daybreak*


Before the paling of the stars,

Before the winter morn,

Before the earliest cock crow,

Jesus Christ was born:

Born in a stable,

Cradled in a manger,

In the world His hands had made,

Born a stranger …


Jesus on his mother’s breast

In the stable cold,

Spotless Lamb of God was He,

Shepherd of the fold.

Let us kneel with Mary Maid,

With Joseph bent and hoary,

With saint and angel, ox and ass,

To hail the King of Glory.

A few days ago we set up our Nativity Corner. Here's a quick tour:


On the tabletop are favorite nativity books:

*Not shown are the three books I picked up at the library yesterday: The Friendly Beasts by Tomie de Paola, A Christmas Story by Brian Wildsmith, and The Cobweb Curtain by Jenny Koralek (a Christmas Mosaic book).

Underneath the book display is where we keep the boys' nativity set:


A small basket holds all the soft dolls - shepherds, wise men and angel:


And inside the sturdy wooden manger we find the Holy Family:


We are looking forward to seeing the beautiful creche set up at church, but what has the boys really excited is Parish Breakfast this Sunday! Me too, but oh, sometimes it's hard to concentrate on Mass when the fragrance of maple syrup and sausages is thick in the air! ;)

On a side note, last night Bill and I caught the very last scene of The Nativity Story on HBO. The cinematography (not sure that's the right term) looks gorgeous, and I see the movie's rated PG. But I'm not sure it's suitable for children, so we'll try to catch it sometime this weekend and preview it ourselves. (If you saw it, what did you think?)

Well, I'm off now to start my day (in the up-off-the-couch sense of the word). So far it's just me and Earlybird, and the sky is still dark in the east. (He's not called Earlybird for nothing, lol.) We're breakfasting on cold pizza (him) and coffee (me) and while I do my morning blog-thing, he's watching a show all about Mars - whoops, make that Jupiter. I stand corrected. ;) (Oh, the boys loves his planets!) He's all talk about "moon rocks" and the "snow" glitter I mentioned casually between sips. Fridays at home usually mean crafts, but I'll need a good deal more coffee in me before I break out the glitter and glue!

I haven't yet tracked down who's hosting the Poetry Round-Up this week, but I'll update this post when I do. In the meantime ...

Happy Friday!

Poetry Friday: The Robin in December

When the leaves have fallenBirdstophat

And the days begin to shorten;

When the dark night draws its curtains

At tea-time on the sun;

When the summer flowers have gone

And we put our warm coats on ~

The Robin comes back to the garden …

Is he waiting to be drawn

To go on a Christmas card?

Is he bringing a touch of red

Now most of the roses are dead?

No: we guess why he comes

And put out seed for him and crumbs.

~ Stanley Cook

December begins tomorrow, and it's time for winter birdwatching! Are your feeders well-stocked? Are your field guides handy? :)


This winter we are planning to collect favorite bird poems and focus our picture study on birds in art. I have ordered a copy of this book, pictured at left, and requested this one from the library. I also thought our winter biography subject would be John James Audubon, The Boy Who Drew Birds.


Right now, we're reading a fun book called The Company of Crows: A Book of Poems. We happen to have a highly entertaining band of crows making daily visits to our front lawn, and their antics are thoroughly distracting and enjoyable! When we hear them coming, we abandon whatever it is we are doing just to watch for a while. They are wonderful to observe - have you ever really watched crows together? They are quite caring and social with each other. This all is very timely for us as we are reading Bunnicula Meets Edgar Allen Crowe for Book Group next week. (And in January we'll be reading The Trumpet of the Swan, another fitting title for our bird study! A magnificent pair lives in a nearby pond.)


Now, we haven't seen a robin just yet, though we most likely will just after Christmas, unless it's very snowy. Robins will figure into our February plans ~ when we begin The Secret Garden. (Have you seen the beautiful new annotated version? It's at the top of my Christmas list!) But if we do happen to spy that robin of December from the poem above, we'll throw out some raisins and apples along with a handful of crumbs, and hope he finds shelter somewhere closeby.


Thanks for visiting today, and, oh yes - the Round up is here! Happy Friday!

A Special Book ~ Lost and Found Again!


My mum and I were shopping in Barnes & Noble this weekend, and naturally I spent most of my time in the children's section. With Christmas just around the corner, it's a perfect excuse time to lavish myself my children (and other children I love) with new books. ;)

Well, as I walked about making mental notes for future holiday shopping (this was mainly a reconnaissance mission) I spied the above book sitting front and center on the bargain book shelf. I froze in my tracks and almost - no I think I did - squeal audibly: Oh my goodness, I remember that book!

It was indeed a larger version of a little, and much beloved, lift-the-flap book we bought for Bookworm when he was just a wee babe - about 12 years ago! (It might not surprise you that I had baskets of books for my first child long before he was born.)

Well that tiny tome has long since been lost and, if I recall, most of the flaps had been ... well, there's just no other way to say it ... ripped off. But oh how I loved it. We loved it together; it was such a special part of our winter reading. (You have to see the pages - exquisitely illustrated - to know what I mean). Even though our son was barely six months old, I remember that year I set up a small winter reading nook, and this book was right there, surrounded by lighted evergreens, peppermint candles and tiny woodland toys. Caught up in new parenthood I didn't realize how special that book was (nor how quickly time would fly), but years later I long to cherish that story (and those memories) again.

So finding this book yesterday - and in a larger, ahem, sturdier size - was such a happy surprise. And it cost all of $7.98! Bookworm will remember it and Crackerjack too - but Earlybird is just the right age for it to be his special book now. (Did I mention the little bunny finger puppet in the back?) This will be one of EB's birthday surprises next month. :)

Peekaboo's author, Mary Melcher, is one of my favorite illustrators. (Just fyi, since we're talking children's books here, the others would be Tasha Tudor, Susan Branch, Jan Brett, Marjolein Bastein, Sharon Lovejoy, Kay Chorao, Mary Engelbreit, Barbara Cooney and Elisa Kleven. I know there are more, but that's all I can think of right now.)

Ms. Melcher only made a few books that I'm aware of: The Best Thing about Valentines and the original Peekaboo Bunny (a garden themed story) as well as a book with which I'm unfamiliar, Mommy Who Does God Love? But you might recognize her artwork from her lovely greeting cards, which were my first foray into her adorable world of tiny animals and pretty landscapes.

Yes, her characters are cute (mostly bunnies and bears), but what I love most about those cards are the landscapes and how real they look - soft, shaded and natural. Februrary's sky is cloudy and gray with a touch of pink at the horizon. The trees are bare and a bit of snow is in the air. Her Halloween cards are all golden sunshine and peachy sunsets. These touches make such a difference - they capture the season.

When I was in high school, my best friend Sabina and I would collect MM cards and exchange them for every possible occasion you could imagine. At the time (late 80s) her cards were very easy to find, but then sadly, they went missing for a while. Well, I'm happy to say a few years ago I found them at of all places, Target! Do look for them if you have a chance. They are just so sweet and seasonal. Usually I buy one of each card first (for collecting) and then pick various cards to send out. ;)

And while I'm on the subject of children's books, and Barnes & Noble, if you happen to be there, you might spy a set of three large hardcover books of poetry, recently reissued by B&N:

We own all three, each one illustrated by the late Gyo Fujikawa. Oh the post I could write about her books! They are wonderful. Sweet, simple, innocent and adorable. I believe they were originally published in the 70s (a time I am most nostalgic for, as it was my childhood era). Do you remember these books? I'm not sure I actually owned them, but her illustrations were so familiar to me when I first found these books years ago. I treasure them, and am so happy they have decided to keep publishing them and at an afforable price ($8.95 apiece).

(For the record, I like the middle book listed the best. Lots of great poems to choose from, all of them spread out over Oh_what_a_busy_daypages brought to life with charming sketches. Perfect for perusing with your little ones - or medium ones or big ones, too!)

And if you can ever find Ms. Fujikawa's long out-of-print, Oh, What a Busy Day - ooh, grab it! This mght be my most favorite children's book ever. It captures the joys of an everyday homey kind of day when you're little.

OK, I've kept you here long enough! Now I must be off to get started on what promises to be a very busy week! There will be much cleaning and cooking (20 guests coming on Thursday!) and I hope many grateful moments - for so many things - but today for special books and the memories they plant in our hearts.

Poetry (and Flowers) Friday



As we watch the summer days depart

And the painted leaves in silence fall,

And the vines are dead upon the wall;

A dreamy sadness fills each heart,

Our garden seems a dreary place,

No brilliant flowers its borders grace,

Save in a sheltered nook apart,

Where gay beneath the autumn sun

Blooms our own Chrysanthemum.


Ah! She is not a “Summer Friend,”

She stays when all the rest have flown,

And left us flowerless and alone;

No singing birds, or blooms to lend

Their brightness to the autumn haze,

‘Tis she who cheers the dreary days;

‘Tis joy to know so sweet a friend;

No fairer flower blooms ‘neath the sun

Then autumn’s queen Chrysanthemum.

(Chrysanthemum by Hattie Knapp can be found in its entirety here.)

For any number of reasons, nature study can be harder to fit into the November schedule ~ we're too busy or it's too wet, cold and dark. All these challenges can stretch right on through the winter season as well. So, how about some indoor nature study for such times? One idea is to look at the birth month flowers of the year. Such a study would make a nice nature notebook all on its own, a project to work on when the inside is better than the out.

As you might have guessed then, November's flower is the chrysanthemum. Here's a look at the rest ...

  • December - paperwhite narcissus
    • a whole study on Christmas plants could be done as well
  • January - carnation or snowdrop
  • February - violet
  • March - daffodil
    • Easter plants, too
  • April - sweet pea
  • May - lilly of the valley
  • June - rose
  • July - larkspur or water lily
  • August - poppy
  • September  - aster
  • October - marigold

Can't you just see all the possibilities in that list? What a fun nature study this could be!

Now, chrysanthemums might still be blooming in sheltered parts of your garden, but old Jack Frost has seen to the last of the flora up here. I was pleasantly surprised to find beautiful dinnerplate mums at my supermarket this weekend, however. I eagerly grabbed a few because I thought they would make nice centerpieces for the Thanksgiving table. They look very pretty in tea cups or small jugs, just one gorgeous blossom to a vessel ...


(Important note ~ Chrysanthemums are toxic to felines, so if you have cats in your home, use caution. Ours - the flowers, not the cats - are kept on top of the refrigerator well out of reach. And on Thanksgiving, they - the cats, not the flowers - will be locked in my bedroom for the day.)

Now for my boys I'm going to keep this pretty simple. I'll just place the flowers in a vase on the table and let them draw what they see. Then we might label the parts of the flower. We'll also visit the withered remains of our garden mums and sketch what they look like, too.

I'll explain why these mums are called football mums (quite larger and showier than the garden variety) and we might learn about fight songs, which are traditional at this "homecoming" time of year. There are even varieties of mums named along these lines - homecoming, cheerleader, and quarterback (which I think looks a bit like the blossom in my banner above!). And it goes without saying we'll catch a football game or two over the weekend. ;)

With my youngest I'll read Chrysanthemum by Kevin Henke, and we'll work on this coloring page. With my older boys I will read this beautiful German legend, which would make a perfect start to a Christmas Plants unit.

That's probably as far as we'll get, but here are some other ideas for studying chrysanthemums ...

  • look up the meaning and origin of the word (Greek for "golden flower")
  • for picture study: Monet's "Chrysanthemums"
  • research the many varieties of mums
  • copy the poem above
  • write a letter requesting a garden catalog for the spring
  • sip a cup of chrysanthemum tea, a popular herbal drink
  • make these cupcakes just for fun
  • prepare a small pot of mums for your Thanksgiving hostess
  • make clever paper mum corsages for your guests 
  • stop in at the local nursery and ask for mum-growing tips

For more flower notebook ideas, stop by again sometime soon. I'll be dreaming up some December ideas before long. :) Also, for the whole Poetry Friday Roundup, stop by Big A Little A later today.

And oh yes - Happy Weekend!

Poetry Friday: October's Bright Blue Weather


O SUNS and skies and clouds of June,
        And flowers of June together,
    Ye cannot rival for one hour
        October's bright blue weather …

  O suns and skies and flowers of June,
        Count all your boasts together,
    Love loveth best of all the year
        October's bright blue weather.

The stanzas above represent the opening and closing of October's Bright Blue Weather, a lovely poem by Helen Hunt Jackson, one you can read in full here. It's perfect for this mid-autumn Friday, despite the rain lashing the windows ...

As I considered this verse bright dark and early this morning, I remembered a craft I had in mind to do with the boys sometime this fall: an autumn leaf suncatcher. It was the first thing we did this morning, even before math!

I set out just a few materials:


A few shades of blue tissue paper, double-sided tape and several clean Pringles can lids.

You might be wondering why I have a homekeeping book here. Well, it came in very handy ...


... it's been pressing tiny fall leaves for over a week! I collected these way back on our woodland adventure day, specifically with this craft in mind.

By the way, I got the idea for this craft from a charming little book called The Harvest Craft Book by Thomas Berger. Here it is open to the Transparencies page where a more complex (yet very beautiful) craft was described:


Our craft may be considerably more humble, but it required just the right amount of effort from the boys. Actually, I ended up doing most of the finish work as the bits of double-sided tape did prove a tad fussy. (Remember we did this craft early - I'd already had my coffee, but the boys were still waking up, lol!)

Quick directions: Cut a piece of tissue paper to fit inside the lid. Lay tiny leaves against the paper in a pattern you like; adhere them with a bit of double-sided tape. Stick slivers of d.s. tape along the inner edge of the lid and press down the paper with leaves facing down. Hole punch the top and tie a string through; hang where the sunlight will catch it:




Next time we do this craft we will choose brighter leaves - say vivid orange and fiery red - which will stand out more, I think.

There was a promise of blue skies 'round middmorning, but by lunchtime it was pouring again (thunder and all!).


It was time for a warm and hearty afternoon snack:


Grilled cheese sandwiches cut into oak leaf shapes, maple creme cookies, and mugs of mulled cider. It all hit the spot.


Let it rain all it wants today ... October's bright blue weather will return in all its glory tomorrow. :)