Early Learning Feed

✨ Welcome to Our Learning Room! ✨

DSC00056

Hello, everyone - and Happy Sunday! How about a tour of our "recently revamped" learning room? I have a nice cold pitcher of apple "tea" in the fridge and some cranberry-oat cookies to share, so please come on in and let me show you around a little! :)

Now, four years ago when I first saw this sunroom, as we toured our potential new home, I immediately thought "Omigosh, this would be THE perfect learning room!" But for a few different reasons (which I won't bore you with now), it's taken us a while to fully commit this space to our homeschooling needs. But here we are at last ... and I'm so happy with how it came out!

As you can see, this room gets a TON of natural light thanks to all those south-facing windows. And that's what I love best about this room - feeling like we're outside even when we're inside! :) So first let me show you some wide-angle shots and then I'll talk about just what-all is in all those baskets and shelves! True to form, I may have gotten a little carried away with the pictures, but I hope that in addition to showing you our new setup, this post will also share a little of our homeschooling style and early learning methods ... 

*And for the record, I am homeschooling three of my children this year - my 18yo Crackerjack is a senior in high school, my 15yo Earlybird (who has autism) really doesn't have an official grade but is developmentally very young and in many ways matches well with my youngest, Little Bear, who is four and just starting preschool! This room is geared towards the younger two boys. :)

As for location, this learning room (née sunroom) sits just off the back of the house, and you enter it from a door in our family room. The only drawback at the moment is that it is actually a three-season room - so it gets awfully cold in the dead of winter! We're working on that dilemma though, and hope to have a permanent solution figured out very soon!

Ok, here we go ...

Sunny learning room

Most of what you see in these pictures are items we own, and some for many years. Case in point the trestle "work" table - a 10 year old, unfinished furniture store purchase that Bill finally got around to finishing!

DSC09859

He sanded the whole thing down (smoothing out cat scratches and stray crayon gouges), treated the top to a plain polyurethane finish and then painted the base with some pretty paint I picked up at, of all places, Target. It was just the warm, soft red I was going for! The "saddle seat stools" we've also had for many years now - these were also purchased at a local mill store.

But the real game-changing element we added to this room would be the new white cubbies we purchased from Target. They were not terribly expensive ($35 for a 6-cube set), but as you will see, we bought quite a few! So it added up a bit, but this was something I really wanted (and needed) for organizing the younger boys' toys and learning materials. And happily Bill not only agreed, but very easily put the cubbies together! (He had help, natch.) Fyi, the cubbies are available online if you can't find them in your local store.

The seagrass baskets, also from Target, were another "splurge" at $11 apiece (on sale), but they are very well made and in my honest opinion one can never have too many well-made baskets - especially a homeschooler! The rest of the baskets in the cubbies and elsewhere throughout the room are ones we had on hand.

Ok, turning to the right, looking out towards the deck and patio ...

DSC09879

Those doors lead to our second classroom - aka, the great outdoors! We're in the process of making the upper deck a little more child-friendly - a "nature lab" if you will, but for now let's turn back towards the house ...

DSC09777

This is the wall that faces the family room ... and that beautiful Union Jack flag was a gift from my dear (and very generous) friend, Shirley Vels. When she found out we were studying England this September she put together a wonderful package of British goodies for us, including that glorious flag!

Here's another angle ...  

DSC09833

I just love this shot of Archie and the dinosaur ... :)

Now, turning towards the east-facing wall (which looks out over the driveway) ...

DSC00028

I'm standing in the doorway of the family room taking this shot, to give you an idea of the size of the room. It really is a great room for entertaining in ... but even better for spreading out with your kids! :)

Now, back to that south-facing wall and the tallest windows of all! (One of my favorite things to do is watch a storm from these windows!)

DSC09814

I made the alphabet banner myself, using a few supplies from the craft store and a glue stick. It wasn't hard, but it took me a bit of time and when I finally got that banner up I stood back and said, "Yep, this is now officially a learning room!"

Ok, now I'll focus in on some smaller shots ... and here's your fair warning: I might get a little wordy because I'm so excited about every corner of this room!IMG_2120

✨ Just as you step in the room we have a little "mud and mail" corner. Here we park our boots/shoes and Little Bear's jackets ... as well as the "errands" bag (for library trips and such). There's not room for all of our footwear here of course, but these are the shoes and boots we wear when we're going outside ... usually to "muck about." In this corner we also keep Little Bear's broom and on the wall hangs a sweet "forest mailbox" ...

IMG_2088

✨ This mailbox is a true family treasure - a gift to Earlybird on his 5th birthday from my Mum. (Here's the post from 2007 with a few more project details. I can hardly believe it's been 10 years!) It's been sitting high up on a nursery shelf, "keeping safe," but I decided it really was time to introduce it to Little Bear!

And just last week, Little Bear found a sprig of something bright gold inside his mailbox, and I had a little verse ready to go along with it ...

IMG_2129

"The goldenrod is yellow, the corn is turning brown ... the trees in apple orchards with fruit are bending down." 

IMG_2187

Later that morning we looked for goldenrod growing in the yard ... and we found some! (Plenty in fact! Next week we'll use some to dye a Michaelmas cape.) 

Next, on the other side of the doorway ...

DSC09767

✨  We have a seasonal calendar on the wall, with a handy-dandy caddy-cart beneath ...

IMG_1643

✨  This is a monthly, at-a-glance calendar purchased at Staples. It has lots of space and nicely lined boxes, but instead of writing down class times and activities, I'm just writing special, seasonal events here and shading them in with soft colored pencils. I like keeping the focus on the rhythm of the season and in truth, this is all the information my younger boys really need to know. Some days are already anticipated in September (The Full Corn Moon, for example), but as a special activity gets planned I add it to the calendar. (Case in point, an apple picking field trip got scheduled after I took this photo.)

I made the decorative monthly cards myself - and it was very easy! I found images online (I adore Edith Holden's vintage nature sketches) and printed them out in the size I wanted. I used a glue stick to adhere the images to pre-cut cardstock. Then I used plain wooden clothespins to secure the cards all around a craft wreath base (found at the craft store for a couple of dollars). I hung the whole thing from an adhesive hook on the wall - situating the current month's card at the top - and that was that!

Now, a closer look at the caddy ...

DSC09773

✨  This is one of those rolling caddy carts I purchased at Michaels last spring. I placed our seasonal book basket in the top tier, and this is filled with the books that go along with our seasonal homeschooling themes and any special days/events that pop up.

DSC00128

✨  Right now the basket holds both August and September books since I haven't had a chance to file last month's titles yet! This week we added apple books and next week I'll add more books about Autumn.

Next tier down ...

DSC09836

Another little basket with some playing cards and flash cards, special prek planning books and our current audiobook case.

And finally, on the bottom ...

DSC00132

✨  Coloring books!

Ok, let's continue on around the room ... :)

DSC00079

✨  The Tree Fort/Elf House comes next with a dinosaur hand puppet clearly having taken over ...

IMG_2483

✨ And a basket of wooden puzzles beneath a pretty red table which once belonged to me - and my mother before me! 

IMG_2485

✨ Here are some old wooden cubbies (meant to be painted, but I rather like the look of natural wood!) holding more baskets of toys - cooking things, favorite vehicles and Duplo legos. (We've had Duplo Legos - and I mean A LOT of Duplo Legos - since 22 year old Bookworm was tiny. None of our boys really ever took to them - they held out for the "real" Legos! - but Little Bear plays with them every single day. He loves them!) On top of the cubbies are a wooden cooktop (it perches on the edge of any table) with pots and pans, an alphabet abacus, and our ages-old, plush, nature puppet tree.

DSC09793

✨  Across the large picture window (that peers into the family room) I had Bill string some twine so I could hang some lovely vintage-look zoology cards. I have a whole bunch of them so I'll swap them out every so often. I used wooden clothespins purchased at Target last month to hold the cards here and if you look closely you can see each pin has a number corresponding to the number of creatures on each card. :)

IMG_2488

✨ Here's another small table meant to be re-painted (butter yellow if I have my way) with our wooden barn situated on top and a basket of wooden figures underneath. Little Bear uses this "starry night" playsilk to put his animals to bed each night. :)

IMG_1891

✨  Goodnight, everyone!🌛

DSC09838

✨  More cute wooden clothespins, another Target dollar bin find! (Those bins have since changed over to Halloween theme, but keep an sharp eye out next back-to-school time! I will too, and post when I spy those great deals!)

DSC09794

✨ This easel was such a find last year! A neighbor had it out for - gasp! - trash pickup one day ... and we nabbed it! On one side there is a chalkboard which of course can be used for all kinds of things, but Earlybird uses it with his therapist every day for counting down to upcoming events. (EB is especially motivated by holidays!) On either side of the chalkboard we have baskets of miscellaneous stuffed animals and puppets. Directly below the chalkboard is a basket of various picture books, not related to any season or holiday - just really good reads. :)

DSC00035 (1)

✨  Now the other side of the chalkboard was a dry-erase board but since dry-erase markers and EB don't mix well, I had Bill cover it with some felt I picked up at the fabric store. This is still a work in progress, but it will eventually be a felt story board!

True story: the lady at the fabric store tried to shame me for picking brown, lol:

"Why not blue or red for goodness sakes - why brown??"

So I told her that most of our story-boarding will revolve around nature ... 🌛🍂🌲🐿🍄🍁🌞

"Aha, I see now ... good pick!"

DSC00036

✨  This is my storytelling apron hung from a hook ... and it's basically a plain canvas artist's apron, but I'm using the pockets for finger puppets!

IMG_1771

✨  We've been collecting finger puppets (as well as hand puppets) for so many years, I've lost count! All my boys have enjoyed them on some level (though Earlybird not as much, having a strong aversion to finger plays and too much conversation) but I'm happy to say Little Bear just ADORES puppetry! I have little nature stories outlined to go along with each of our weekly seasonal themes and these are part of our Wednesday homeschool rhythm. I'm tying them in with our forest mailbox and so far it's a HIT! (Of course, we're only beginning week three, but I have a pretty good feeling about this!)

(The pretty clothespins? Yep, Target again! They'll hold little notecards for story prompts - simple sketches or sight words for the most part.)

Ok, rounding the bend! 

DSC00061

Here are the first two sets of cubbies (they can be connected, as they are here). Some have baskets and some have little "play arrangements."

DSC00033

✨ Little Bear so enjoys the book, Hug (as well as Tall), and his two monkey puppets allow him to act out the parts of Bobo and Mama. 

IMG_2499

✨  I filled this basket with Water Wow booklets - one of Little Bear's favorite activities! I'll often take one or two with us if we're going somewhere he might need a quiet diversion. 

DSC00032

✨  And here we have some favorite counting and number recognition board books as well as a basket of wooden hand-size numbers. Now, I know you don't want to hear this again - but they are from Target, too! I scooped them up last month! They are stackable and the perfect size for little hands. :)

DSC00114

 I think I love this set of nesting wooden elements - more than any of my kids! They have so many uses, and yes, they are pricey, to be sure - but Santa brought them one Christmas years ago. I feel incredibly blessed to have another chance to enjoy them with one more of our children! 

IMG_2498

✨  Here is the finger puppets basket - I always perch a couple on the edge peeking out! Beneath that sit wooden fractions cups, and a favorite watering can.

DSC09796

✨ Another learning line, strung across windows that look down over our driveway. Here's where I hang worksheets, paintings and other kinds of work to be displayed.

IMG_1769

✨ Right in front of these cubbies we have a wonderful little "Discover America" rug. I bought it at Babies R Us a few years ago and it has held up really well! In this photo, Little Bear is sporting a new pair of slippers for the new homeschool year! (Yes, things like "slippers" go on my back-to-homeschool shopping list!)

DSC00072

✨  At the end of these cubbies is a comfy bean bag chair, just the right size for Little Bear. This was a new purchase last month and I'm quite pleased with it - it's comfortable (or so I'm told) and seems to be holding up well. (We have not always had great luck with bean bags, but this just seemed to fit the room!) Also, I hung some little wooden stars along the side of the bookcase just because they looked kind of magical. :)

IMG_2492

✨ Turning another corner we have a very tall bookcase (some might remember it from our old house and long-ago posts!) which holds a real hodgepodge of items! Bottom shelf holds nature study supplies - a flower press, display cases and stands, cloches, etc. - as well as a wooden house shape I'm crafting into an outdoor shrine. (A project in progress!) Upper shelves hold some of my beloved mothering and seasonal idea books, and not seen on the top shelf are my favorite liturgical resources, as well as a statue of the Blessed Mother which once belonged to my paternal grandparents.

And at the very top of this bookcase ... 

DSC00121

✨ On the very tippy-top of this super tall bookcase is a large basket filled with crafting materials of all kinds. I'll have to do a separate post on what I keep in that basket because I didn't get a picture of the contents. (Let's just say it was precarious enough me getting this shot, lol!) Now, it might seem awfully inconvenient to keep oft-used craft supplies up here way out of reach, but it's the only safe place to keep them! Earlybird would only get into (and has done) all those craft things when I'm not looking and make an unholy mess (of himself and the supplies) and so it's easier just to keep things up and out of sight. The trick of course is remembering to check the basket before making a craft store run!

✨ The timer is also up here for similar reasons - EB is just way too fascinated with this cool gadget to leave it alone! I had been looking for a visual timer for EB to use (with me and his therapists) but was hesitant because of the typical "tick-tick" sound which really grates on his nerves. Thanks to a recommendation from Jennifer Mackintosh, I purchased this pretty little gem of a timer which makes NO NOISE AT ALL. (Thanks again, Jen!!) Using a visual timer is very helpful for EB when he needs to be patient for something ... because patience is not really his strong suit and numbers don't mean as much as does that vivid red wedge!

Turning the corner again ...

DSC09817

✨ The next set of cubbies holds reading materials and more play arrangement! And goodness, do I love the light coming in at this time of day! :) Shown on display in the picture above is a favorite source of nature study inspiration, open to a September page. On the windowsill are a couple of poetry books for young children as well as a heart-shaped wooden caddy holding foldable, laminated field guides. (I painted that for my grandmother back in the 80s!)

Also shown here ...

DSC00110

✨  Favorite children's periodicals on display - and these appeal to Earlybird so much! Thomas, Peppa and Nick Jr. Friends, especially, but he had made off with the Ranger Rick and Ranger Rick Jr. issues when I took this picture! I have collected Babybug for years (off an on) and I still read them with Little Bear ... because they are so sweet and they are such a nice size. Perfect for little hands and for popping in Mama's bag when going out and about! 

DSC00115

✨  Here's a handy basket of early readers, another favorite resource for Earlybird ... :)

DSC00113

✨  And here we have one of Little Bear's FAVORITE board books, beside the little stuffed beluga whale he adores. We've long since lost the Raffi audiocassette we listened to in the car with Bookworm back in the day, but we do sing that song nearly everyday - out of earshot of Earlybird, of course! 

IMG_1611

✨  And there are plenty of crayons here ... and I've never found a better storage space for crayons than a wide, shallow basket. :)

DSC00096

✨ Here's another favorite board book of Little Bear's ... and that beanie baby chameleon belonged to Bookworm back in the day! His name is "Rainbow" for obvious reasons, and he's been well loved over the years. (He's as soft as buttah!)

DSC00100

✨  Stacked neatly in this cubby is a collection of favorite books celebrating morning and the new day ... 🌞

DSC00101

✨ And nestled just beside is a soft and lovely baby doll - crafted in the Waldorf tradition. "Baby Jack" was a gift to our now 18 yo Crackerjack when I was pregnant with Earlybird. My mum crocheted the hat and scarf (as well as booties that have long since gone missing). The cradle basket was part of a gift basket we received from Bill's co-workers after we had EB. It makes a perfect crib for this little laddie!

DSC00105

Propped up here is an older picture book, all about community helpers. I added some corresponding vehicles to this cubby to keep things lively!

IMG_2491

Another set of cubbies - the basket on top holds playsilks (for capes, etc.) and a royal fabric crown. (There is also a wooden camera that sits in here but it was MIA when I took the picture!) The bottom cubby has a sweet book of nursery school lessons and two plushie favorites - Peter and Benjamin Rabbit!

IMG_2490

✨  This set of cubbies holds favorite field guides and a pair of binoculars (top) ... as well as some favorite floor puzzles and games (bottom). Missing is the dinosaur floor puzzle which was being put to good use in the family room. ;)

DSC09819

✨  Tucked behind the table are a few tote bags - one big one for Mama and two for Earlybird's primary homeschooling and ABA therapy resources.

Paper chain learning room

✨  A paper chain is a simple, pretty (and cheap!) learning room decoration! Earlybird LOVES paper chains, and counting down to special days. I used green and orange cardstock as well as some printed vintage print paper to make a paper chain with links for each day in September and October. We move a wooden clothespin along the links each day so EB has a visual reminder of how time is moving forward. (I'll make a new chain for the next season - Late Autumn, aka November & December.)

IMG_2515

✨  A garland of family photos strung above the worktable ... because, that's what it's all about! 

IMG_2505

✨  I found this pine slice lazy susan at HomeGoods this summer and immediately thought it would be great for our homeschooling work table! And I love using mason jars for holding things like colored pencils, rulers, glue sticks, etc. The windowsill just behind the table holds our cute little prek mascot (a small fox Little Bear picked out at the craft store), a couple of new books for the season and a sweet log lantern, as well as our classroom cross ...

IMG_2516

✨ We've had this grapevine cross for a long time now, something bought at the craft store. (We use it at Easter as a living cross.) I haven't looked in a while but a few years back I checked Michael's and they had them. I added the wooden phrase, "Be Still" just recently (using a hot glue gun) because ... well, it's just a nice reminder to myself, and hopefully my children, to take time to breathe, listen, love - be loved - and feel blessed.

Ok, we're nearly done now!

IMG_2571

✨  The final set of cubbies hold even more baskets and books and toys ... but on top we have our science/nature station, currently holding an assortment of late summer weeds, herbs and flowers. (What's still growing in our yard this month?) Science focus books up above ... What is a scientist? Nature focus books below ... In the Forest.🌲🌲🌲🌲

DSC09827

 And here's my Little Bear enjoying his cubbies!

DSC00084

✨ A stack of favorite car/truck/boat/plane/train books ... kept in place by a truck!

DSC00087

✨ And this is Little Bear's snacktime basket, filled with a beloved Elsa Beskow set of dishes, a gift from my dear friend, Emma from Norway! Beneath the dishes are placemats and cloth napkins. Earlybird also has a cup and plate to use when we do snack together. (This is a weekly activity, a special snack that ties in with our seasonal theme.) 

IMG_2514

✨  A fantastically looong dragon lives in this basket! He originally belonged to Bookworm and has survived many years of "knights and dragon" play with my boys! He looks a little tired, doesn't he? But don't let him fool you! 🐉

DSC00147

✨  And there are still more hand puppets! These are all of a certain size and style so I kept them together.

IMG_2510

✨ Here's the last end of the cubbies - with its atlases and social studies books as well as a wonderful wooden US puzzle, all leading to our "global awareness" corner ... 

IMG_2529

✨ Those cute magnets are gifts from Shirley, as well as the lovely post cards and some of the photos tacked to our boards. I had Bill hang two corkboards here and I placed our globe on top of the small fridge. A gift from my folks last Christmas, we use this fridge for parties and of course holding extra food! I bought a pretty white "farmhouse" pitcher in which I have that aforementioned apple "tea" - which is just organic apple juice and a fruity herb tea mixed together, sometimes with apple slices floating in it. And because it makes it feel a little different and special, we've been having "homeschool snack" at our worktable, while watching the wildlife outside our windows. :)

And speaking of wildlife ...

DSC09955

✨  Here is the first stage of our outdoor "nature lab," which is just a regular old evergreen stump from our yard, pulled up onto the deck, in view of the sliders, where we can watch birds and chipmunks and squirrels up close!

FullSizeRender-3

✨  And here's my Little Bear adding seed to the stump ... as you can see, he takes his job very seriously! (Even when wearing socks!😜 )

DSC09788

✨  Oh, I forgot to show you these little chalkboards! They are hung above the coat pegs and I bought them at the craft store for a couple of dollars - including the wooden initials (one for each of my younger boys). I debated how to use these boards ... for assignments? Reminders? Vocabulary words? Poems? 

I finally decided to use these as "blessings boards" and each week the boys will read a new message about how they BLESS us with their very special selves. Something that is unique and treasured about each of them, perhaps something they've done recently that deserves notice and gratitude ... just a mention that I hope makes them feel appreciated and loved for exactly who they are! 

(I already have Monday's ready in my head: O will read: "You ask such great questions!" and R will read: "You've shown great patience lately!")

Ok, I think I'd better wrap up at this point or else I might just go on and on ... and I've definitely kept you all here long enough! I hope you enjoyed this tour of our learning room and I thank you for stopping by! I will be devoting tomorrow to ironing out lesson plans for the week ahead because, while a pleasant atmosphere is certainly a good start, many ideas and activities need to be planned out and set up ahead of time. I'd love to do another post about that side of the equation - WHAT we do in addition to WHERE we do it! But I hope I at least gave you a little peek at how we spend our days. Little Bear is out here constantly, enjoying all those toys throughout the day and evening ... but we're still working on the concept of putting things back in place! And Earlybird comes out here often, too. Sometimes just to chill but also he does table work with his therapists here everyday. And I find myself out here lesson planning quite often ...

DSC00005

It's been such fun coming up with ideas for making this a room that works in a lot of different ways!

Well my friends, I hope you all have a great rest of the weekend and once again, thanks so much for reading and let me know if you have any questions or would like me to follow up in any way. I hope to be back again soon with a post about those September event pages - Autumn Equinox and Michaelmas Day. Can you even believe we're already more than halfway through September???

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


A Peek into Our Sunny Schoolroom ... ❤

DSC05562

Hello and Happy Monday, my friends! I hope your new (and Holy!) week is off to a great start. :)

So last August I mentioned that we were finally ready to turn our sunroom into a formal learning room. But I guess "finally ready" wasn't quite accurate ... more like, "we're nearly ready" or "it's time to make a list" or perhaps, "when we can find some spare time let's get a few things set up!" Meanwhile life carried on, learning and play happened, while the room slowly came together - taking time out to host Thanksgiving for 20 and a Christmas Day Open House - then shutting down completely throughout the coldest weeks of the winter, because, as a three-season room, it doesn't have its own heat!

Well, warm and sunny days are here at last and the room has come together rather nicely! So how about a tour? :)

DSC05548

This is looking in from the family room ... through what used to be the back door of the house before the previous owners built this south-facing sunroom. Archie is relishing the fresh breezes and constant critter activity!

And as you can see, there are patio doors leading out to the ... well, patio. And just beyond that are the birdfeeders and herb garden - both important parts of our homeschool! Inside we have a portable greenhouse (aka "classroom garden") and a small fridge. The fridge was a Christmas gift to Bill for his "man cave" downstairs but this is as far as it got! It's actually pretty handy having it on the main floor, especially when entertaining.

On top of the fridge I have one of our favorite seasonal books open to the April spread, along with some spring flowering branches ...

DSC05605 (1)

And a lovely sign I got at Home Goods a couple of years ago. :)

I decided this would be a monthly verse corner ... not really a nature corner because that would mean tiny treasures and hands-on, investigative projects. This is more of a seasonal (top of fridge) shelf with an illustrated poem on display which I'll change up each month. The water-filled vases are set just up and back enough to be out of the way of little hands and paws - so far, anyway. Knock on wood! I'll change this corner up for May with the first dandelions and violets, flowering crab or apple branches and one or two other seasonal flourishes. Later on there will be driftwood, beach roses and a jar of seashells maybe ... then in the fall a small harvest sampling - apples and pumpkins and branches of burnished leaves. ETC. :)

(Clearly this corner is meant more for ME than the boys, but hey - even teachers need their visual inspiration, right?)

Right now the classroom garden has plenty of sprouting seeds!

DSC05556

(Catnip for our kitties ...)

Just inside the doorway is a spot for Little Bear's jackets, backpack and shoes ...

DSC05559 (1)

(Plus Mom's boots!)

On the floor we have a few different area rugs. Some are for comfort and some are for scraping shoes! And some are for learning and play ...

DSC05560

The US map rug gets a lot of use since this year we're studying American history! (Crackerjack takes a local homeschool class but Earlybird and I are studying US geography - with a focus on state birds and flowers - at home. In fact, this coloring book and this picture book - along with a favorite geography book as well as several kinds of maps - have really kept EB curious and on track! (I can go into further detail sometime if anyone would like. This has been a really fun study.)

Ok, here's the back wall of the schoolroom - it faces south and lets in a good deal of light!

DSC05595

I use the window ledges to display the books we are using that week (tying into seasonal themes and study topics). So this week we have ...

DSC05600

Eggs!

DSC05569

Easter, rabbits and (from last week) rain ...

The rooster postcard I've had for years - it's part of a lovely set purchased through Nova Natural. And speaking of roosters, next week Petook will take its place on this shelf. How I love that Easter story! And the bunny is a finger puppet - he appeared in one of the boys' Easter baskets last year. I tie storytelling and puppetry into our homeschooling whenever I can. Fyi, our educational approach has always been a mix of Charlotte Mason and Waldorf philosophies, primarily. As you probably know, if you've read my blog for any length of time! :)

And here are books about our current read-aloud:

DSC05573

The Spiderwick Chronicles were beloved by my older boys (and me!) back in the day - and since Earlybird really enjoyed Harry Potter and The Sorcerer's Stone last fall, I thought I'd try this series. We listen to audiobooks in the car - a great way for EB to experience all kinds of literature! - and I'm happy to say he's really absorbed by the Spiderwick series as well. We are on book four right now, The Ironwood Tree.

And beneath these windows stands the train table ...

DSC05630

We've had this train table forevah and it has really held up quite well! I think we got it for Crackerjack when he was ... um, two? So that's about 15 years! Both Little Bear AND Earlybird play here every single day. EB (15) is developmentally delayed so he still plays with a lot of what one might consider "young" toys. Plus he has loved trains since he was tiny. It's nice (most of the time) that both our younger boys enjoy playing trains because often (though not always) they play with them well together. (Though we do go through phases where the standing rule is one kid at a time. Complete with timers.)

I use baskets to contain the tracks and trains beneath the table. Much like the cars and trucks collection described in my "Tale of Four Carts" post, these are only a fraction of the tracks and trains we own. The bulk is downstairs and we switch things up from time to time. (Legos are handled similarly - or were since nobody plays with Legos at the moment.)

Next comes this great easel ...

DSC05563

This was a roadside find last fall! It's beautifully made - the other side has a dry erase white board, but we pretty much just use the chalkboard right now. I use it to write questions for EB to figure out (usually during his therapy hours). Beneath the chalkboard is a crate full of "extraneous" books ... not currently connected to any topic or theme, but reserved for the future or books we like to return to on a regular basis. (The bulk of our books are stored ... wait for it! ... in the basement.)

Never one to let good storage space go to waste ...

DSC05023

I have the On-the-Go Water Wow activity booklets tucked in a little basket here ... and oh my GOODNESS does Little Bear just love these things! They keep him busy for hours ... or you know, at least 10 minutes. We have a whole bunch of them and they are well-used and still work great!

Now, just behind the chalkboard you can see our faith and nature shelves ...

DSC05571

Top to bottom:

DSC05611

Liturgical resources - these are the ones I like to have close by - many beloved storybooks organized by feast day (more or less) and my most-used Catholic idea books.

Next shelf:

DSC05609

My favorite seasonal resources - including ones I've had for years and re-read often even though I pretty much know them by heart! These are quite crafty and "Waldorf" in flavor. :)

Bottom shelf:

DSC05574

Here is the location of our new nature shelf!

It's just the right height for Little Bear to observe and manage. Admittedly, it's pretty sparse at the moment - we're just coming out of winter so we don't have many "fresh" treasures to display! But I do have some preserved items here as well as a flower press, binoculars, and two of my favorite children's nature guides: Round the Year by Enid Blyton (a gorgeous and generous gift from my dear friend, Kimberly) and Nature Hikes - an OLD but priceless nature walk resource.

In the cabinet at the bottom of this bookcase I keep most of my nature study resources ...

DSC04951

And in a small basket perched on a small table I have all our field guides ...

IMG_5001

Now, tucked in on the other side of the bookcase is our homeschooling cart:

DSC05578

This cart holds ...

Top bin: Earlybird's go-to educational resources, as well as my homemade lesson planning notebook

Middle bin: my favorite early learning teacher guides, and a fun little "basics" book for Little Bear

Bottom bin: favorite flash cards, educational games and a toddler workbook for when LB wants to "do school" like his brothers :)

I love how this cart looks out here - but what I really love though is how easy it is to move around! I can wheel this cart out to my "teacher desk" in the next room when I'm lesson planning!

Next comes the learning line and more books on display ...

DSC05579

The clothespins hold pages EB has used for his studies during the week. Some are photocopies of books we're using and some are coloring pages he's worked on. He is a very visual learner  - doesn't really care to talk too much about things but likes to look back at stuff we've done. I sometimes use post-it notes on these pages to prompt further connections. For example, on a state bird & flower coloring page I might ask EB to look up that particular bird in our field guide, or find the flower in our yard. On a human body coloring page about breathing, I might ask EB to do a simple science experiment involving his own breathing. And so forth ...

The books displayed here, from right to left, celebrate the themes of ...

DSC04676 (1)

Spring!

DSC05582

Colors!

DSC05610

The World around Us!

I do have a lot of wooden toys and educational items out here - these are treasured items that we've been collecting for many years! And can I just say how much I LOVE Toot & Puddle? Thankfully, so do the boys. :)

In the next corner of the room I'm in the midst of organizing a geography corner ...

DSC05583

It's still in need of a little work - for one thing, that pretty table (a yard sale find!) needs a new coat of paint (something more boyish) and for another, Little Bear's chair is a bit cramped here! But the heating element is on the wall just to the left and I really don't want him sitting here until it's turned off for the spring-summer-fall. (Which should be any day now - thank goodness!)

The other items here are a globe (which is a bit wobbly), a wooden US puzzle (which is missing Missouri), a small planets board book EB and I made for LB last year, and tucked in the far corner against the wall are several large, child-friendly atlases. These are GREAT for spreading out on the floor!

I would very much like to add some book ledges on this wall so I can display picture books about the current state or country we're studying. We've been using the Discover America State by State book series as we move from region to region and they have been a HUGE hit with Earlybird! I might also like to add a small bulletin board here so we can tack up articles about, and prayer needs for, the people and cultures of this great wide world.

Ok, turning the corner now ...

DSC05584

This wall is mostly all Little Bear's toys ... and mostly hand-me-downs from his older brothers!

DSC05585

Our collection of nature puppets - oh, how they have been loved through the years! (And please note the bandaids on several of them. This was Little Bear's doing some time ago when just about everyone had a "boo-boo" of one kind or another.)

More stuffed animals here ...

DSC05048

And here ...

DSC05047

And the wooden barn that I'm pretty sure I love more than anyone ...

DSC05141

The barn sits on a sweet red children's table that belonged to me when I was little - and my mum before me, and my great aunt before that! It was soft yellow when I had it, but my mother painted it this cheerful red after Little Bear was born. The basket beneath the table holds our wooden figures collection. I am so pleased Little Bear has taken a real interest in these. I bought most of these when Earlybird was young (and I was just getting into all things Waldorf-inspired) but EB didn't really take to them. (Imaginative play was and still is a challenge for him.) 

Then we have a couple of wooden stools and an unfinished cubby holding an assortment of toys ...

DSC05149

Favorite wooden puzzles, an alphabet abacus and a farm-themed tin filled with a bunch of favorite board books. All years-old and well-used! (Are you sensing a theme here, lol?) Little Bear got the tool set for Christmas (does this boy ever love to "help" Daddy with his work!) and the red basket underneath holds play-doh stuff. The lower cubbies hold (l-r) Duplos, a wooden tea set (in the woodland box) and story stones (sea animals and wooden puzzles are stacked in bins just behind). The wooden bin on the right holds yet more wooden puzzles!

(We have always been big on puzzles around here! Bookworm used to like doing them upside down. I kid you not.)

And then we have the treehouses ...

DSC05589

Also several years old but Little Bear enjoys both of these toys - hooray! Mostly it's the dinosaurs that live in the wooden tree fort (they were off somewhere else when the picture was taken) and the soft tree stump is usually stuffed full of wooden alphabet blocks. Go figure.

Finally, our work table ...

DSC05612

And it is truly a worktable as you can see from the picture above! A bit of a mess, yes - but beloved, as it once sat in my grandparents' kitchen. It's hardly in the pristine shape in which they kept it, but I like to think they'd be pleased their great-grandsons have all spent a whole lot of time around it ... learning, crafting, playing, snacking. In the middle of the table I have a tray holding a basket of crayons and the day's paperwork.

And now for my favorite part of the whole room ...

DSC05603

A view of the rest of our "schoolroom" ... which lies just outside these big windows! 

Well I guess I'd best wrap up now ... but I hope you enjoyed this not-very-brief tour of our schoolroom! I took all these pictures over the past week or so - waiting for sunny days so the light was good! - but tomorrow I am dismantling a few areas to make room for Easter dinner tables. Thankfully this room is still versatile enough that we can use it for entertaining when needed. :)

So thanks as always for stopping by ... and my best wishes to you and yours as the Easter holiday approaches ... and to those who celebrate, Happy Passover!

And of course, a Joyous Springtide to all! 

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


Little Bear's First Autumn Hike 💛

IMG_6318

Happy Tuesday, my friends - and Happy St. Luke's Day! Are you having a "little summer" where you live? Despite a damp and gray start, it's going to be unseasonably warm here today - near 80°! Like yesterday was, and tomorrow promises to be ... and I'm just loving this opportunity to get out and enjoy the amazing Autumn all around us. :)

So I'd like to share some of my photos from yesterday, when Little Bear went on his very first Homeschool Hike! It's not his first hike of course - he's enjoyed a few family hikes in the past, with a vantage point from the back-carrier, peeking over his Daddy's shoulder! - but this time it was "feet on the ground" as we joined our homeschool group's "under-eight" crowd in the woods. This was LB's first "solo" homeschool adventure - something just for him and Mama!

I hope you enjoy these pics ... more thoughts about little guys and early learning at the end. :)

IMG_6342

IMG_6361

IMG_6385

IMG_6377

IMG_6336

IMG_6418

IMG_6422

IMG_6366

IMG_6371

IMG_6454

IMG_6441

IMG_6471

IMG_6286

What a glorious day this was! A real "autumn adventure" in the crunchy, muddy, light-filled woods!

I had a strong sense of deja vu, watching my Little Bear - who is SUCH a doppleganger for Bookworm at this age - jump right in and explore with "his kids" (as he calls them, lol). Homeschooling is all about working with multi-ages (and kids learning to befriend other kids no matter their differences - age-level or otherwise) but I'm grateful my support group has some activities just for the young ones. Little Bear does plenty with his older siblings - tagging along when he thinks he's leading the way - but I'm looking forward to more times like this that will be just ours to experience together. Mama and her littlest bear. <3

I've been homeschooling for nearly 17 years, but this time around, "preschool" feels new again. As much as he looks like his older brothers, Little Bear's very much his own unique person - an extrovert and quite strong-willed, endlessly curious, always chatty and VERY active! With experience (if not quite wisdom) behind me, this time around I feel much more relaxed. I'm remembering things that worked with my older boys and the many lessons learned - most of all by Mama! Relax, relish and understand that there is NO RUSH. Do not forfeit the freedom of these early years for unnecessary structure and too many expectations. All the things that need to happen will happen ... when they are meant to. In the meantime, I'm going to set up a rhythm of gentle learning experiences along with daily doses of fresh air, weekly outings, quiet times at home, crafty creating, cooking together, gardening and care-taking, singing and humming along to music, opportunities to practice kindness and develop good habits. As I said in an earlier post:

"If I've established an atmosphere that promotes learning, they will learn. If I've encouraged an attitude of curiosity they'll be curious. If I've shared my own joy and wonder at the world, then the world will be a source of joy and wonder for my children. If I can check boxes off in my planner I'll be thrilled, but there is room to see where my children might lead me, too."

 💛

More on our early learning plans (themes, organization, creating a haven of love and learning) in a future post, but for now I'll let you all go. I know I promised last time that my next post would be my "desk tour" but I just had to share this day with you all. I hope you enjoyed our autumn adventure! Desk pics to come soon!

Enjoy this blessed Tuesday, my friends ... see you here again very soon!


A Seasonal Paper Chain for Earlybird!

IMG_2608

Hello and Happy September, my friends!

Now, before I get into the meat of my post - did you all remember to say Rabbit Rabbit this morning? :)

I'm happy to say I did! Well, sort of. Since Little Bear had us up at 2 a.m. (wanting out of his bed and into ours), I may have muttered a little incoherently before I remembered to say the magic words ... ;)

So today I'd like to share a bit about the project I put together yesterday. I'm a little embarrassed to share it actually, since it's really a rather basic craft - one I'm sure many of you have seen and/or done yourself - one I've shared here myself a time or two! - but it just looks so pretty and I know a lot of you love paper as I do, and I think it's sort of a new twist on an old favorite ... so here goes!

A bit of backstory ... Earlybird, as most of you know, is autistic, and one of his challenges is a real preoccupation with "things happening now and/or next." Like, holidays and special events and things he really looks forward to. He will ask to talk all about say, Easter, in the middle of July and act like the Big Bunny himself might be appearing any minute now. Then, on a whim, he'll forget all about Easter and suddenly we're hashing out the Thanksgiving menu or he's wondering why we aren't getting our Christmas tree this weekend ...

Yes, he is his mother's son - a lover of seasons and special days! And his capacity for joy is so wonderful! But I'm always looking for ways to help him get a bit of a handle on his passion - and understand the passage of time and order of yearly events and all that. I have a few things going on this year that I hope will help him, but here's the first thing:

IMG_1764

A paper chain for counting down the days of fall and winter!

For this project, the first thing I did was buy paper for a chain lasting from September 1st  through January 1st. I chose "appropriate" paper for each month - an alphabet design in September (because, back-to-school), an orange print for October (because, pumpkins and Halloween), a beige wood-look for November (because, bare trees), red and white for December (because, Christmas!) and festive stars for the days leading up to New Year's. I also purchased a pack of pretty heart-shaped tags. (You'll see why in a minute.) 

IMG_2592

I cut the paper into strips for each day of each month (this was 12x12 scrapbooking paper so I got 10 strips per sheet) and set aside a number of hearts.

Next I worked late into the night to assemble the chain ...

Paper chain 1

No, just kidding. The lighting is just dark here - it didn't really take all that long. :)

Once it was all linked up, I hung it up in the sunroom-soon-to-be-schoolroom ... 

Paper chain 4

Paper chain 5

And I added a heart tag wherever a special day would be coming up on the calendar ...

IMG_2622

Paper chain 3

💙

So here's the paper-chain plan:

Every morning we'll take down the next link in the chain and then, on the back, we'll write something we remember about yesterday. (Preferably something positive!) Then I'll roll the strip up tight, tape it closed and pop it in a large container. On New Year's Day we'll go back and read through our memories. :)

(So today we remembered that yesterday we took time to check our our neighborhood creek and found it quite empty and dry. Not necessarily positive, lol - but we've determined to begin a little science project by observing the creek weekly for changes. EB has a special fondness for this creek.)

For Earlybird, I'm hoping the paper chain will give him a fun and visual way to increase his awareness of where we are in the year. So when he wants to keep watch for trick-or-treaters I'll point out that we're not even in the orange links yet, and the tag for Halloween is still many links away! And so forth ...

(I have tags for the first day of autumn, Halloween, Thanksgiving, EB's birthday, the winter solstice, Christmas, and New Year's Day.)

If this is successful, I will do the same thing for January through April, but that's getting ahead of myself! :)

The other things I'm doing with EB this year is ...

One - He will have his own month-at-a-glance calendar to manage (I love this style for its large, lined template). Every morning, when he sits down with his therapist at their work table, he will open his calendar, cross of the day before and see what today's date is and what is on the "agenda." I'm also adding notes and stickers to make it even more fun for him!

And, Two - I am making up a three-ring binder with tabs for all the holidays and events he likes to talk about and make lists for ... aside from the ones mentioned above, he also loves to plan out shopping days (to Whole Foods, usually), vacations (Disney, for example), family parties and playdates at my folks' house. We often use these lists for language work and he holds onto them and packs them up and takes them with him until they're practically falling apart. I thought I would have sheet-protectors in this binder where we can file all these things and when EB wants to talk about something we can use the binder for reference. Halloween candy we'll buy ... pages from a catalog with costumes ... recipes we cut out from magazines ... Thanksgiving menu and guest list ... a birthday wish list ... a letter to Santa ... etc. Honestly, he really does LOVE to think about and talk about these topics! I hope these activities nurture his interests, channel his energy and help him learn a little more about how the year turns ...

💙

Well my friends, I hope your September started out on a good note! Thanks so much for stopping by and next time, I will have my yearly seasonal themes to share. 

Take care of yourselves and your loved ones ... see you here again sometime soon!


Earlybird's Lenten Chain

Lenten chain 1

Good Monday morning, my friends!

We have bright sunshine here and bitterly cold temps - but no snow at the moment! At least not in the air ... on the ground is a whole other story! But it's a good day - we have power (which means important things like heat and coffee can happen) and we're safe and cozy at home. These are blessings I try to remind myself not to take for granted ...

I did want to let you know that I'm having some "tech" issues at the moment, so my posting might be a bit "off" this week - but I wanted to share this quick project with you all ahead of this (Ash) Wednesday.

Earlybird, as I've mentioned, gets a bit obsessed with upcoming events, especially holidays. So I'm always looking for ways to help him understand how time passes and perhaps slow him down a bit and build up his patience. And these are good goals for Lent, I think! Well, this is what I set up for him this weekend:

Lenten chain 2

 We began the chain on Saturday, February 14th (Valentine's Day) and it stretches all the way to Sunday, April 5th (Easter). These are just strips of construction paper, and there are:

4 green strips (Ordinary Time)

42 purple strips (Lent)

1 pink strip (Rose Sunday)

3 red strips (Paschal Triduum)

1 white strip (Easter)

**

Very simply, I wrote a brief note on the inside of each strip. What is this day? What might I give of myself for someone else? (So, examples would be: "Clean up Little Bear's blocks. Bring Crackerjack's laundry downstairs. Help CJ with trash. Help Mama make supper. Etc.) Helping with chores is not something EB typically likes to do so it will be a sacrifice for him to make these offerings.

(ETA - I pinned the chores around my weekly routine - so on Mondays the strip suggests laundry help or bedroom pickup, while Wednesdays are for kitchen tasks, etc. Just might make it easier for working with him on this.)

Before hanging the chain, I jotted down each strip's note in my Lenten Planner so I would be aware of what EB would be reading that day (and could prepare for things I suggested). Then I taped the loops together and hung them up in the kitchen, along the learning wall as seen above. I anchored the chain to the maps with small, wooden clothespins.

So now Earlybird has a visual reminder of how close we are getting to Easter - and a simple Lenten path that will help him participate to the best of his ability in this most holy season. It pleases me so much to bring our Faith into his world in ways that register with him, and bring him joy. :)

Well my friends, I hope this day finds you safe and comfortable, wherever you are and whatever your weather. I have a really fun post to share next time! I've been busily nailing down those housekeeping routines - plugging tasks into a schedule - and I will be sharing it with you all very soon. It's a rather large project and I'm still trying to iron it all out, but I think it might be the most comprehensive list of housekeeping I've ever written! So stay tuned!

And see you here again very soon ...


Seeds, Snowflakes and a Cake for St. Agnes

Seed snowflake 9

Well, in the midst of all this journal talk, life at home is marching on to a familiar and happy beat. Yesterday was the Feast of St. Agnes as well as National Squirrel Appreciation Day ... representing two sides of our family's seasonal life - liturgical and natural. For the squirrels we made a seed craft, and for St. Agnes, we contemplated the prayer card handed out at last Sunday's Mass and made a snowflake cake in her honor ...

Naturally, I have pictures to share!

Seed snowflake 12

I had some wooden snowflakes leftover from Advent so, when I was thinking about making  "critter treats" with the kids for Squirrel Appreciation Day, I remembered those snowflakes ... and I thought, hmmm. That could work. And, as it happens (according to one legend anyway), snowflakes are known as "St. Agnes Flowers" ...

So, there you go!

To keep the craft kid- and critter-friendly, I made up some homemade paste. Then we smeared those snowflakes with the paste ...

Seed snowflakes 19

And stuck those sticky snowflakes in a mix of seeds and dried fruits ...

Seed snowflake 11

 (Messy crafts are always a hit with the boys!) 

Seed snowflake 10

A short while later we had a tray full of rather seedy looking snowflakes ...

Seed snowflake 13

Bundled up, we headed outside with the treats and leftover seed mix.

Seed snowflake 8

Little Bear immediately found a leaf to hold onto - lol, he's done this since he was tiny. If we're outside he's got either a leaf or a stick in his hand!

Seed snowflakes 6

Marching over to hang his snowflake in the bush ...

Seed snowflake 15

They kind of blend in, don't they? I suppose we could have tinted the paste with some natural food dye and that would have been pretty. Maybe next time!

Seed snowflake 16

 The birds loved the snowflakes, but the squirrels (including my dear little red shown above) liked the scattered seeds and fruit best!

Back inside it was time to start our Feast Day cake ... my best helper is Earlybird who just LOVES to bake. Someday this boy and I will run a little baking business together!

St. agnes cake 3

I followed a simple online scratch yellow cake mix recipe. We took our time measuring out the ingredients ...

St. agnes cake 7

While my littlest fella clung to my legs, lol. He wanted "Pup!" which is how he asks to be picked up. He wanted to be a baker, too!

St. agnes cake 1

At last we had cakes cooling on the counter ... and just before supper I assembled our cake:

St. agnes cake 5

A glossy layer of apricot jam in the middle, some buttercream on top ...

St. agnes cake 6

And the final touch: a sprinkling of snowflakes - aka St. Agnes's flowers!

Our dinner was yummy and simple - baked ziti ("cheesey-pasta," my boys call it), steamed broccoli with lemon, crescent rolls and then of course, cake. Bill got home a bit late because he was working out of state, but we saved him a plate. :)

These are the quiet, homey days I love best. Not too much "out and about," the bulk of our day spent at home. We got some fresh air, made things, read books, baked stuff, and celebrated our faith ...

And we enjoyed our home, truly. I count that all joy!

Well my friends, I'm off for now, but I will give you an idea of the drafts I have in queue at the moment. Posts I'm working on ...

* binder breakdown

* lesson planning/assignments

* new household chore routine

* magazine love :)

* winter meals

* henkeeping advice

Let me know if there's any topics you'd like to chat about or if you have any more planner/journal issues to discuss. I'm always open to ideas!

Enjoy the rest of your Thursday, my friends ... see you here again very soon!


live * love * learn

Sunny walk

I just wrote about this little moment in my journal and wanted to share …
 
    "As we stepped outside, Earlybird took a deep breath and exclaimed "Oh wow! The air smells so good! Warm and ... fresh!" 
 
First of all - great language skills, EB! Nice pronunciation and descriptive words! But how about that wonderful observation? He absolutely nailed it - it is a perfect June day, sunny, breezy and warm. 
 
Continuing down the drive, we observed: a buzzing, leaping insect of some sort (grasshopper?), a plump green caterpillar, two “stuck-together” butterflies (ahem) and a brilliant blue damsel fly. EB also found a rock that he is absolutely *certain* is a meteorite. He brought it inside to clean up and set upon the nature shelf …"
 
☀ 
As I walked back up to the house, with one child ahead of me, hopping between sunlight and shade, and another child clinging to my hip, I wished I could freeze this moment in time. It felt precious to me. I didn't have my camera on me - not even my phone - so I closed my eyes and made a memory in my heart. Then I wrote in my journal.
 
Sometimes the "lesson plan" doesn’t go as planned … some days are rocky … some weeks work better than others. But moments like these remind me why we do this in the first place, this crazy thing called homeschooling. It's about more than just how we learn - it's about how we live and love, too.
 
Live * Love* Learn
 
R's meteorite
 
And always take time to smell the air.
 
:)

Baby's Early Spring Wonders

Spring morning

Happy 1st Day of Spring, everyone!

 Well, it will be Spring in just a few hours ... 12:57 p.m. to be exact! The Vernal Equinox is upon us, and despite the chilly temperatures and the patches of snow on the ground, we are at very last, done with Spring proper. Of course, when has Spring every acted properly?

Anyhoo ... I've been writing out some notes about nature "moments" to enjoy through the years with my Little Bear (who'll be 10 months next week!) and I thought you might like to see them. Just some brainstorming here ... nothing too formal yet ... things will take shape as we move along through the seasons. :)

(Note: These ideas are for March and April - aka, Early Spring.)

**

* On the 1st day of March ... lions roar! have fun with roaring sounds, lion pictures/stuffed animals. Read How Loud is a Lion? together.

* Maple sugaring - visit the woods in all their late winter glory - patches of snow, bare branches, old leaves - and befriend a sugar maple, feel that rough bark!

Maple sugaring 6

* Melting - slushy spots along the driveway, puddles where ice had been, drip-drip-drip sounds

* Mud - push bits of things (twigs, pebbles, leaves) into the newly formed mud out front ... ooh, it's squishy! Squelchy sounds! Read Mud! 

* Make (paper plate) masks for Mardi Gras - play peekaboo!

* Go for a wind walk on a blustery day. Read When the Wind Blows

* Go for a rain walk on a showery day (brief, just to feel it)

* Look for puddles, throw things in to *splash* (might be too cold yet for piggy dips)

* Watch the forsythia bushes for buds and blossoms ... snip some branches to force indoors

* When the nights get milder, open the window and listen for peepers in the vernal pool out front

* Watch the night sky for the full sap (March) and pink (April) moons.

* Make a pinwheel and/or a kite for windy spring days

 * Visit new lambs at our local farm, and back at home, look for soft things like fleece, yarn, cotton balls. Read Mary Had a Little Lamb.

* Find pussy willows to feel and admire - so silky soft! Like kitty cat paws. :) Might find some near the marsh growing wild ...  if not, bring some home from the market. Cut branches to place in a vase at home. Read Pussy Willow.

* Explore sweet, earthy carrots - steamed and mashed/chunked, baked into mini pancakes or muffins, start seeds for the garden, read The Carrot Seed.

* Look at smooth eggs - so many sizes and colors! - and try some homemade egg custard (Nana's recipe). Visit neighbor's chickens and see eggs in the nest.

* Listen to Celtic music while driving in the car, or dancing at home - Celtic Dreamland

* Sweep, sweep, sweep! This is the way we sweep our house (steps/walk) clean, wonderful activity on bright dry days.

* Wipe and polish, do our part! For family spring cleaning leading up to Easter, little cloth rags and natural beeswax polish, This is the way we clean our house ...

* Make fingerpaint rainbows with natural dyes/watercolors ...

* Look for rainbows on showery/sunny days

* Enjoy clay play - homemade play dough, natural dyes (rainbow shades)  

* What do frogs say? Peep, croak! Where can we find frogs? Read The Tale of Jeremy Fisher.

* Notice where robins appear - and how they hop! Can we hop like a robin? Can we make a tidy warm nest like a robin?

* Check branches for new buds and shoots - where is life resurrecting itself?

* Visit the pond to see ducks! Quack, quack, quack! Read Make Way for Ducklings. Perhaps ... visit the ducklings statues in Boston's Public Garden.

***

There's so much to explore in early spring! What "comforts and joys" do you look for at this time of year? If you have any ideas to add to my list, please leave me a note below. I'm currently working on a list for late spring (May and June) and I'll share that in a future post, too.

Well my friends, I hope you enjoy this first - much-longed-for - day of spring. What's it like where you live? Is it springy? It's a bit showery and gray here this morning, but NOT cold and that's nice for a change! Skies are supposed to clear later and I bet there will be lots of melting. Can't wait to see all this white gone for good! (At least until December ...)

See you all here again very soon ...


Maple Sugaring ~ Little Bear's 1st Field Trip!

My friends, what a nice day we had yesterday! It was bright and brisk as only March can be - perfect (if perhaps a bit chilly) for getting out of the house. So in the late morning we packed ourselves up (in multiple layers) and joined our homeschool group at a local state park to see how maple syrup is made. This was Little Bear's very first field trip, and I'm happy to say he enjoyed himself very much. :)

Maple sugaring 2

 All bundled up and ready to go!

Maple sugaring 5

 Very interesting demonstrations, the kids asked great questions and offered thoughtful answers.

Maple sugaring 6

Little Bear was absolutely fascinated by the bark on this tree. I think that's a good sign, don't you? ;) Another little nature nut just like his brothers (and Mama)!

Maple sugaring 7

The woodsman demonstration is always a hit with the kids - learning about how wood was handled through the years (and today). They especially like the part where they get to try out the two-man saw!

Maple sugaring 17

 This picture is actually from 2008, but it shows that two-man saw in action. That's our Crackerjack in green and Bookworm in red - how little they were back then!

Maple sugaring 8

I just liked this view. :)

Maple sugaring 9

 And this one ...

Maple sugaring 13

And this!

Maple sugaring 14

In March, there are maple sugaring tours all over New England, and we've been to a few different operations over the years. This one was run by a state park located just outside of Boston. A really beautiful place that offers a lot of family-oriented programs.

Maple sugaring 15

At the end of the tour, which brought us through the woods and into a working sugar shack (where the sap actually gets boiled down into syrup), visitors are given a pancake and/or popcorn soaked in pure maple syrup. I gave Little Bear a tiny taste ...

Maple sugaring 10

And it may not look like it here, but he really did enjoy that tiny bite!

Maple sugaring 43

It was so amazing to watch his little face take in all the different people and new sights ... the feel of the wind and the sway of the trees. There's nothing quite like experiencing the wonders of the world through the eyes of a child ...

Maple sugaring 16

Crackerjack had a great time, too! He got to catch up with friends he had not seen in some time. :)

Maple sugaring 18 

One last shot at the park - a selfie of Mama and her Little Bear. I'm going to tuck the memory of this lovely day in my heart for safe keeping - and future reference. :)

Back at home ...

Maple sugaring 11

I had our "maple-themed" books displayed in a bright window ...

Maple sugaring 1

And I also opened up a favorite book to these beautiful pages depicting an old fashioned maple sugaring scene ...

Maple sugaring 19

I bet you can tell who drew these charming pictures!

There is so much to see in these pages, so many lovely details in the borders - like red-winged blackbirds, chipmunks and pussy willows - all spring harbingers we ourselves "encountered" last week. :) If you love seasonal stories and illustrations, Springs of Joy is a book you will want to include in your family library!

**

Well my friends, I hope you enjoyed hearing about our maple sugaring trip! I'd like to mention that many of these photos were taken by Crackerjack, since I had my hands full (of baby!) most of the time. I think he did a fine job. :)

Enjoy your Wednesday, everyone ... I'll see you here again very soon! 


Baby Days & an Autumn Giveaway!

Owen 4 months

Today our Little Bear is four months old!

When I think that at this time last year I was newly pregnant (and yet, still unaware) I am reminded how quickly time passes. I would never have thought that the following September we would be so very, very blessed!

So to celebrate today I have a little giveaway to share ... I was setting up our Autumn books display and came across a duplicate of one of my favorites: Fall (part of the Four Seasons Series). It is such a beautiful paperback - published in English (but written by a Spanish author) it has a "European feel" to the description of seasonal enjoyments. The text is simple and sweet and the illustrations are just gorgeous - like watercolor paintings capturing all the best moods of the season.

Fall book

Anyhoo, clearly I love this book! So I'd like to offer my extra copy to one of my readers, and to do so I will ask anyone interested to leave a comment below and I'll draw a name on Monday morning.

My question for the giveaway is this:

What is/was your favorite baby pastime? What game or activity do/did you particularly enjoy sharing with your wee ones?

Currently Little Bear enjoys tummy play (as above), mirrors, music, board books and "itsy bitsy spider." As much as I wish to slow down time, it is fun to see how he changes and matures as the weeks go by. How new things click and familiar things just light him up. These are such special days, my friends!

So leave me a comment if you'd like and I'll add your name to the book drawing. (If you want to comment but are not interested in the book, just let me know.) On Monday I'll announce the lucky reader who'll be sent this sweet book!

Have a great Thursday, everyone ... see you here again sometime soon!

**


A Day for Apples!

According to the Farmer's Almanac, it's Johnny Appleseed Day - the day the American legend died, not to be confused with his birthday which takes place in September. September may seem the more fitting month to celebrate apples - it being harvest time and all - but it's always a great time to enjoy an apple! And though I do enjoy a fresh apple now and then, there's something about cooked apples that really appeals to me ...

Baked apples

They go so well with those homey scents and flavors like cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and clove ... 

I know people can be quite partial to one variety or another, and I have always been fond of McIntosh apples since they were the kind my grandmother cooked with the most. (Her "pink" applesauce was the best!) I think of them as a traditional New England apple, but it is my understanding they originated in eastern Canada. There are several varieties that have been bred from the original Mac - the Macoun, the Spartan, Cortland and Paula Red to name a few ...

So of course, now I'm wondering: Is there an apple you like best of all?

Here's a recipe for the apples seen above, a delicious baked version filled with dried fruit and honey. Wouldn't these make a cozy, nourishing breakfast on a cold March morning? And if you're looking for some more appley ideas, here's a link to a post I did on Johnny Appleseed Day last year.

In the interest of keeping it simple with little ones - why not head to the library to pick up a book or two on apples (there are bound to be lots!) and perhaps stop at the market to buy a few apples? (See how many varieties there are!) Or if the weather is cooperating, visit your local orchard and see how the apple trees are faring. Are they showing signs of life yet?

By the way, this is one of my favorite apple books, a lovely Swedish story:

Our apple tree

Our Apple Tree

Beautiful illustrations, and a sweet imaginative story. It nicely describes the different seasons in an apple tree's life.

**

So there's a few thoughts for this Tuesday, my friends ... but wherever your day takes you, I hope you enjoy it! Thanks so much for stopping by ... I'll see you here again sometime soon!


Magic Flowers and Morning Notes

Magicflowers

Longtime readers may find this photo a little familiar ... and that's because we do this "experiment" every year! ;)

We call them our magic flowers ... we take tiny white carnations (January's flower smells oh-so-good) and turn them into "rainbow carnations" with just a little water and food dye. This annual activity lends itself to a nice conversation on plant structure, while looking very pretty in the window! It's also a fun way to bring a little light and color into our normally cold and gray winter.

Well, I hope you all have a nice Tuesday ... the Downton comments are still coming in, so be sure to check in for new thoughts and theories. Also, while I'm thinking of it - tomorrow is both Robert Burns Day *and* Irish Coffee Day, so we'll brainstorm a little on that. And in case I haven't mentioned it in the last 24 hours, lol - my new desk is scheduled to arrive sometime this morning!

So I'll be back later today with my Tuesday Tea post - and hopefully a little peek at my new desk!

Have a great one, my friends ...


• Cranberries Week •

Good Monday afternoon, my friends! I hope your week's off to a good start. :)

So, according to my "seasonal themes" outline, this is cranberry week! And "cranberries" tie in nicely with the holiday - they were, after all, served at the very first Thanksgiving! But it will also be a very busy week, as we prepare for dinner on Thursday, so I'm not expecting we'll do all of these things. Hopefully, though, we'll fit in a few of them (#s 1, 2 and 10 seem quite likely).

Here are a few ways to include cranberries in this week's learning and living ...

>--******--<

1. As we make up our weekly marketing list we'll be sure to list cranberries. Now, this list is different from the one I write in my shopping notebook. This list is just for EB and me. When Earlybird and I have our marketing days, we work on a grocery list together. And as we do, we focus on spelling, printing, reading and pronunciation. We'll go to the market and look for cranberries ... we might even practice asking the produce manager for assistance. (A great way for EB to practice social skills.)

2. We'll buy extra bags to freeze because cranberries are only available at this time of year. (Great discussion prompts: What are seasonal foods? What are local foods?)

3. (And with some of those frozen cranberries, we'll make cranberry soap later this winter!)

4. At home, we'll wash our berries and set a few aside to observe. We'll sketch a cranberry for our nature journal - one whole, and one cut in half so we can see the very interesting insides. (Another discussion prompt: How does a cranberry grow? Here's a nice resource.)

5. We'll freeze a tray full of ice cubes with cranberries inside - they'll look lovely in our Thanksiving beverages, including ... A "Pilgrim Punch" just for the kids! We'll mix cranberry juice with ginger ale, scoops of lime sherbet and "berried" ice cubes. (I'll add a splash of apple juice if it's too tart.) It will look lovely in my grandmother's cranberry glass punch bowl.

6. We'll read some good books - like Cranberries: Fruit of the Bogs and Clarence the Cranberry Who Couldn't Bounce. We'll also watch a wonderful episode of Reading Rainbow called "Giving Thanks" in which Lavar visits a Massachusetts cranberry farm.

(Note: That vimeo site is wonderful for watching all those old Reading Rainbow episodes, which sadly are no longer shown. They're like virtual field trips ...)

7. And speaking of field trips, next year I'll plan one to a local bog. The last time we visited one - a gorgeous organic bog on Cape Cod - I was pregnant with Earlybird!

8. We'll make a string of cranberries and popcorn - and put them out on the big spruce tree outside the learning room windows. A small way to say thanks to the animals that visit our yard. They bring us so much entertainment and education! (The stringing is also excellent fine motor practice!)

9. We'll bake wonderful cranberry breads to pass out to community friends on Wednesday. (Our children's librarian, the post office ladies, the farmstand family, and the supermarket-bank ladies who are always so nice to EB when I'm checking out.)

10. On Wednesday afternoon, I'll make my special homemade cranberry relish for Thanksgiving dinner. It's made with berries, orange and spices and the kitchen will smell so good! And while it cooks, we'll try a cranberry fresh, and a cranberry dried - it's National Eat a Cranberry Day, after all. :)

 11. We'll make another graph chart by taking a "cranberry sauce" poll. (The poll will go up tomorrow morning - and we'd love to hear your response!)

>--******--<

So there are some of my cranberry ideas ... I'd love to hear yours if you have some to share! And please check in later for my "cranberry poll." I bet you can guess what we're asking!

Have a wonderful day, everyone ... blessings to you and your loved ones!

:)


For Tree Week: An Arbor Day Centerpiece

Our Tree Week is keeping us very busy these days! Yesterday Earlybird and I made a "tree plant" in honor of Arbor Day. We thought it would make a nice centerpiece for our Learning Room table. :)

We worked out on the deck, since this project was a little messy.

Treepot1

EB filled a terra cotta pot with potting mix. We could have used stones, birdseed, marbles, seashells, etc., but since our branches are still blooming, we decided to use soil.

Treepot2

Next we "planted" our tree branches:

Treepot3

We chose pussy willow branches, since we're particularly fond of a small willow that grows beside the river behind our house. I actually purchased these branches at a the market just before Easter, but any smallish twigs or branches would do. You'll probably find plenty in your backyard at this time of year. A nice activity would be a walk to collect fallen branches to use in your pot. (Very young children might like the concept of "saving" these scattered branches and giving them new life.)

Next we cut out small colorful tags for our tree:

Treepot4

And on each tag we wrote something that trees give us ...

Treepot5

The pot now sits in the middle of our learning room ...

Treepot6

And tomorrow, on Arbor Day, it will be adorned with many tiny tags (tree blessings!), pretty bits of yarn and a few other simple decorations.

Treepot7

Other activities this week include:

A "Trees of our Backyard Meet-and-Greet."

Arranging tree photos in nature journal.

Making bark rubbings.

Reading favorite tree books.

Researching who lives in a tree.

Making a "Trees of America" map.

Writing tree poems.

**

The weather is so very springy this morning ... soft sunshine mixed with clouds, a steady breeze, mild air, the promise of rain later today. At the moment EB and I are on the couch, watching the wind move through the woods. We can't decide if the trees are dancing or waving, but in any case, they're lovely to watch.

:)

Have a great Thursday, my friends!


A (Mostly) Quiet Sunrise with Earlybird

One of our "spring learning" activities this week was to spend a quiet morning outside, watching the woods and waiting for the sun to rise. We did this on Tuesday morning, and it was just magical ...

Ebsunrise2

We crept out to the deck just before six (the sun was set to rise at 6:09).

Earlybird brought his binoculars so he wouldn't miss a thing ...

Ebsunrise4

As we waited, we saw (and heard) ducks flying overhead, a lone crow passing over as well as a flock of squeaky blackbirds.

There was a single chickadee serenading us from the maple tree - we tried to answer him in kind, but he fell silent once we did.

We could hear morning traffic passing by on a neighboring street, and the coffeemaker beeped at 6:07.

The woods crackled in anticipation as a stiff wind (and a few squirrels) moved through ... 

 And then suddenly, there was a faint light ...

Ebsunrise3

EB spotted it first!

Ebsunrise7

A vivid orange glow at 6:09 - like a burst of flame in the trees:

Ebsunrise1

Sunrise. 

We gathered our blankets and headed back inside - a little hungry, a bit chilled, but quite refreshed and invigorated. It was such a nice way to start the day ...

Ebsunrise5

Hope your day unfolds just as nicely. Have a good one, my friends!

:)


Eggs & Nests ~ A Spring Learning Week

Eggweek1

Pictured above is an assembly of things we'll be using in our spring learning this week. All of these activities are meant for Earlybird - but the older boys will most likely pitch in here and there. :)

Also, I should note - I'm certainly not this organized every week! But I love how much smoother things go when I am. To plan out the week, I worked off an "idea" list I had on the subject, and after looking at our calendar (and the forecast) I assigned certain activities to certain days ...

So here are the details:

Our Theme this Week: Eggs & Nests

Monday:

Monday is the day we clean bedrooms. So today we'll make up our own spring "nests" - with cool cotton sheets and blankets. (What makes a nice nest for humans?) We'll talk about animal homes ~ who lives in nests besides birds? And what are other words for animal homes? (Dens, burrows, hives, dams, etc.)

We'll have an "Egg in a Nest" for breakfast.

We'll make a paper egg diorama.

On our way home from the library, we'll stop at the market ~ for eggs (observing all the different kinds), rhubarb, a small carton of cream, beets and purple grape juice (for dyes), and some fresh chicken.

We'll read A Nest Full of Eggs.

Eggsbook3

≈∞≈∞≈∞≈

Tuesday:

As the day is forecast to be warm and clear, we'll watch the sunrise this morning. We'll wait for it outside on the deck - it rises right behind our woods. We'll try to be as quiet as possible - to listen for birdsong and for the sake of our neighbors - and we'll wonder at its glory.

We'll then head inside to make quiche for breakfast.

We'll take a nature walk - to find small leaves and/or ferns for egg craft. We'll look for nests in the trees (pretty soon the leaves will be out and we won't be able to see them!)

We'll dye eggs with natural dyes using beets, red cabbage, yellow onions, spinach, tumeric and purple grape juice.

We'll read An Egg is Quiet.

Eggsbook2

≈∞≈∞≈∞≈

Wednesday:

Today we'll prepare a dozen or so egg shells for seeding.

We'll make scrambled eggs for breakfast.

We'll plant spring seeds in eggs shells; each seedling "nest" will get a little sign, and will be set in a sunny window.

We'll set up a small Easter craft basket for Mama.

We'll play with our egg magnet set.

We'll read Eggs.

Eggsbook1

≈∞≈∞≈∞≈

Thursday:

Today we'll prepare nesting material for the birds: bits of shredded newspaper, hair (from hairbrushes) and easy-to-spot yarn. We'll place the materials out in the yard, near the feeders.

We'll hard-boil eggs - and compare an egg pre- and post- cooking.

We'll make observations of an egg, inside and out (raw and cooked). We'll draw and label diagrams. 

We'll work on sparkly, sequined Easter eggs. (This will mostly be my craft, with EB observing/helping as he can.)

We'll read The Egg.

Eggsbook4

≈∞≈∞≈∞≈

Friday:

This morning we'll visit the chickens (and rooster) at our local farm.

We'll make egg salad for lunch.

We'll make an egg-shell mosaic, oval-shaped frame.

We'll bake date breads for Sunday.

We'll read the lovely Petook.

Eggsbook5

≈∞≈∞≈∞≈

So those are the plans for Earlybird's spring learning this week! We may or may not get everything done, but I find it's always helpful to go forth with a list.

Well, I hope you all have a nice Monday ... it's supposed to get to 80 degrees here in our part of New England! I can hardly believe it. We will have all our windows open, letting that fresh spring air inside - and we might even get a fan going before the day is at its end!

Thanks so much for stopping by ... I will see you all again very soon.

:)


Happy (Quiet, Lazy) Sunday

What a gorgeous day! Pretty darn cold, but bright and blustery too. Bill just took the boys off to run errands - a brave man he is, I hear Toys R Us is on the docket - so here I am just tinkering around the house. Just uploaded (downloaded?) some photos from the camera and thought they'd be fun to share ...

Marchsunday1

Our front door all gussied up for the upcoming season ...

Marchsunday2

Some new spring books for Earlybird (purchased with "pin" money from Nana), the new edition of my favorite nature study catalog (tucked under Crackerjack's Book Group selection for April) ... and in the foreground, you see the wooden letters I picked up for the learning room windows next month. (Can you unscramble them and guess the "theme?" :))

Marchsunday3

From Friday's nature/faith lesson ~ EB hard at work planting seeds. Two days later, there's already a small sprout!

Marchsunday4

And this last photo was taken by Bookworm. He has developed quite an eye for nature photography lately. Since spring has sprung, he's been outside in the yard, down the bike path, all around - looking for things to photograph. This picture here shows the clusters of red leaf buds on the top of our maple tree. Set against the dark bark and vivid sky you can almost feel that March wind!

Ok, one more from Bookworm before I go ...

Marchsunday5

The Downy Woodpecker - a frequent guest at our feeders. These birds are quiet friendly once they get used to you. This guy (and he is a guy - note the red patch on the back of his head) really enjoys our window suet feeder. And lately he's been making such a racket - an incessant, high-pitched chirping we can hear even when he's deep in the woods. I'm assuming at this time of year it's his mating call. So ... best of luck, little fella!

Well, I'm off for now ... I think I might take advantage of the quiet house and catch a little shut eye while I can. I'm not usually a napper, but we were up much later than usual last night, having attended a lovely dinner with a group of our college friends. (I think I've mentioned it a time or two before, but Bill and I met in college. That in itself was a blessing of course, but we truly made the most wonderful friends all those years ago.) And it may have been years since we'd been together - but as happens with very dear friends, time and distance are no matter once we all get chatting - catching up with life now and reminiscing over life then ...

Great friends ~ good times!

So have a nice Sunday evening, everyone ... I'll see you again here very soon.

:)


Just another ordinary week ...

Well, Good Monday Morning, my friends. :)

I thought I'd share some notes from my weekly planning page with you today. We've got a busy week ahead: appointments to keep, activities to attend, and a brand new liturgical season to kick off. At home, EB and I will be focusing on a few simple themes - and without even really meaning to, I've made this an "M" week:

Mail

Earlybird will be in charge of getting the mail this week.

We'll observe the many different kinds of things that come in the mail.

We'll say hello to our mail carrier.

We'll read about a mail carrier's job.

We'll prepare things to mail.

(Practice printing. What's our address?)

What do we need in order to mail things?

We'll pay a visit the post office.

(Mail stuff. Buy stamps)

We'll start making St. Patrick's Day cards.

Maple

We'll be "Catching Sweetness" on our Maple Tree board. 

We'll look up the "sugar maple" in field guides.

I'll buy varying grades of syrup for the boys to sample/compare.

I'll bake a Simple Maple Cream Cake.

We'll read books about maple sugaring.

EB and I will make a colorful "maple leaf" sand craft.

We'll visit trees being tapped at a local park.

And we'll all have LOTS of maple syrup on our Fat Tuesday pancakes!

Masks

On Tuesday (aka Fat or Shrove Tuesday or Mardi Gras) the boys will make masks. Yes, even the older ones - they're good about joining in with EB when I ask. :)

A Mass, A Matinee and Making Sacrifices

We'll receive ashes Wednesday morning and catch a movie in the afternoon. We'll start our Lenten journey and talk about ways to make a sacrifice - giving something up and/or giving of ourselves.

Melting, Measuring & Mud

We're expecting milder temperatures this week, as well as a little rain and a lot of sun, so I predict we'll see lots of melting and maybe even some mud. 

We'll stick a plastic ruler into the snow in our yard and watch more numbers appear.

We'll look for mud on our nature walks - a sure sign of spring!

Mario's Meatballs

Thursday (March 10th) is MARIO day. My boys are big Mario fans, so they'll play Mario Kart (after school work is done of course) and I'll make "Mario's Meatball Subs" for supper. :)

*~*~*~*~*

Just another ordinary week, with much to do - much to accomplish and appreciate. Aren't we blessed to have this time together?

Dear friends, we had some very sad news recently. Back in December I mentioned a friend of Bookworm's who'd been stricken suddenly with a brain tumor. Tragically - unbelievably - this wonderful boy passed away last week. Please, if you would, remember Anthony in your prayers?

*♱*

So it may be just another week, but it's extraordinary in every way that matters.

Every new week is a gift, every day we have with our children a blessing. We must remember to cherish it all, every moment ...

*~*~*~*~*

Thank you as always, for stopping by. I wish you all a lovely day ~ and I hope to see you again very soon.


Body Parts, Bird Names and Sun Sparklies

Just a few things going on in the learning room today!

So, Earlybird's physical is coming up next week and I've been preparing him with brief conversations about "what happens when we go see the doctor." This has sparked lots of "body talk" ... and revealed some misunderstandings about what parts of the body were what! (Oh, those tricky joints! Elbows and shoulders, and ankles and knees ... they're so easy to mix up!)

So we moved the nature puppets to the lower cubby in this corner table, and pulled out some of our human body resources:

Bodycorner1

And I made up a whole bunch of sight cards listing body parts:

Bodycards1

It was the funniest thing going through the cards, from top to bottom with Earlybird. We ran through them a couple of times and each time we got to "stomach" he just fell into hysterics. (Of course I hammed it up a bit, to keep his attention.)

Earlier in the morning I had put up some bird name cards ...

Birdcorner1

These are the species EB can identify so far (the ones that most routinely visit our feeders).

I mostly wanted to share this particular picture because EB was very excited to spot a rainbow on the window frame (just to the left of the blue jay card). We found the source to be the prism hung in the front window, and so I jiggled it a bit to see what it would do. Suddenly the whole room was filled with sparkling bits of color and light!

"Just like magic!" he said. 

I thought it looked a bit like a disco ball, lol - but I knew what he meant. Sometimes science seems just like that. So mysterious and magical ... but it's so very interesting when we find out why things happen as they do. Why does light filtering through some kinds of glass make a rainbow? And what is a prism anyway?

I also happened to find our "long lost" basket of flash cards today. Somebody (and I'm not naming any names) stashed it downstairs in the basement, behind a whole bunch of holiday decorations. I gave it a quick glance through - finding Crackerjack's missing math facts cards as well as the Countries of the World cards AND the President's Rummy card game which will be fun to play on Monday. (Monday being President's Day and all.)

Another bit of "excitement" in our day ... just after lunch we heard (and felt) an enormous, house-shaking CRASH. Honestly, I thought something huge (like a tree limb or a bear) had come through the roof - but looking out back we spied the gutter - all along the back of the house - hanging off the roof's edge! The ice dam had finally come loose, but it tore the gutter clear off its hinges as it went!

It's the temperatures today causing all the melting - it's 54 as I write up this post! It will be interesting (and maybe a little scary) to see what these mild days do to all the snowcover we have ...

So stay tuned!

Well, thanks as always for stopping by today ... I hope your day's been a good one!

Have a good night, my friends ~ I'll see you all again sometime soon. 

:)


Happy Epiphany!

Epiphanysun7

"We saw his star at its rising and have come to do him homage." (Matthew 2:2)

It's such a dark and damp day here  ... we had hoped to squeeze in some sledding this morning, but not only is the weather - for lack of a better word - yucky, but the boys seem to be coming down with a cold ...

On a brighter note, we're celebrating Epiphany today, the day when the Magi arrived at the manger, bearing gifts for the Baby Jesus. In our little reenactment, the Christmas star appeared over our nativity scene (a cut-out made from sparkling scrapbook paper, tied to a ceiling beam) ...

Epiphanysun10 

... and it led the three wise men all the way across the learning room to the creche. I had meant to have the wise men show up with golden (chocolate) coins but I forgot to pick some up when I ran my weekly errands. Oh well, maybe next year!

We also kicked off our January Bulletin Board today ...

Epiphanysun1

It was so hard to take down the Advent Tree Board because it was so festive looking and we just had such a good time with it. I knew I had to do something fun to make the transition from holiday to everyday a little easier.

So working around our January learning theme (winter stars), I wrapped a few lengths of foil-star garland along the perimeter of the board. Then I tacked up a sheet of white wrapping paper and brightly colored foam star shapes, spelling out our January message.

Finally, I tacked five tiny white sacks onto the board, one for each Sunday of the month:

Epiphanysun4

Inside each sack is a note with something nice to do or think about on that Sunday, or for the week ahead. (The snowflake shape is a leftover from the banner project we worked on last week.)

So here's what we found in this Sunday's bag:

Epiphanysun11

My note, some frankincense (incense), and a piece of blessed chalk brought home from church this morning.

After lunch we burned the incense (near an open window so it wasn't too overpowering) and I got up on a chair to write the Epiphany blessing above our front doorway. I'm still making notes and plans for our winter star study this month, but I will be sharing the ideas here with you all just as soon as I can ...

In the meantime, I can't believe we're "back to business" next week! It will be hard to get back into the work-a-day frame of mind after so much time on "vacation." Ah well, all good things must come to an end ... and if we're lucky, there's something else to look forward to just around the corner!

I hope you all had a lovely weekend ~ see you again very soon. :)