Kinder Feed

Little Bear's First Autumn Hike πŸ’›


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 80Β°! 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. :)














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!

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 ...

*v* ~A Late Winter Nature Study ~ Owls~ *v*


Before I launch into my owl notes, I first wanted to address a more general nature study question. I was recently asked how I go about choosing our nature study subjects - specifically, if am I following a timetable listed in a book or a type of science curriculum. Although I do have countless nature-related resources in my posession, I don't follow any one text to a "T." What I do, generally speaking, is to follow the seasons, because it's so easy to learn when you're excited about the natural year.

I also plan studies around our Homeschool Nature Club schedule, which is one of our favorite monthly activities. So, for instance, in March our group will be visiting a maple farm and we'll learn all about maple sugaring. (So I can't help but think: trees and their gifts, local farms, evaporation, leaf buds ...) In April we'll be spending a night watching for salamanders (amphibians, night noises, the spring woods, vernal pools). In May we're going to learn about New England geology (rock collecting, dirt samples, erosion, stone walls) and in June we'll visit flower gardens (seeds, flower parts, gardening, pollination). 

As you can see, this schedule gives me a whole bunch of great themes around which to plan our ongoing nature study!

Since our current study focus is owls (see our owl pellet post here), I've made lots of notes on owl-related learning activities. I'd like to share them with you all today. (Activities mentioned in blue font are the ones geared toward my littlest learner, Earlybird.)


*v*First of all, as with anything we do, there are always books - lots and lots of books! Some we own, but many more we borrow from the library. I am already hunting down maple-related resources for next month. I display them in our learning room, and a select few will be featured along the top of the nature shelf. Please see my sidebar book list at left for owl titles.

*v*Earlybird enjoys playing with puppets and it just so happens we have two owl puppets in our basket - a big hand puppet and a small finger puppet. I'll make up a few simple stories for "the owls" to "tell," possibly in conjunction with a few other critters. For example, the mouse puppet could make a narrow escape, and the crow puppet could abandon its nest to the mother owl. I try to take actual facts and weave them into the stories.

*v*Another thing I like to do with Earlybird is act out the animal itself. What does the owl say? Can you hoot like an owl? Can we pretend to be owls, flying silently through the night sky?  

*v*Along the same lines, we might make up "an owl nest" using blankets and pillows. Since owls nest in tree cavities, I will probably clear out the cupboard beneath the china closet and let EB pretend to be an owl in his nest. I might even encourage him to go "hunt" for prey - small puppets hidden around the house (you could use pictures if you don't have puppets) - to bring back to his "nest."

*v*We could listen to and learn an owl poem. A famous one, of course, is "The Owl and The Pussycat." (We have the Jan Brett version somewhere around here ...)

*v*A short simple handmade book about owls can be assembled - with construction paper pages, possibly stored inside a sturdy binder. The pages will hold pictures (colored, drawn or printed out) and owl terms: eyes, ears, feathers, claws, beak, hoot, nest.

*v*We've long subscribed to a wonderful nature magazine, My Big Backyard, and we have serveral years' worth of back issues on our bookshelf. The inside back cover always has a colorful fact page about something "in season." The January 2006 page is all about the Great Horned Owl. I will color-copy the page and hang it as a focal point on our nature board.

*v*The boys can color realistic owl illustrations such as the ones found in the Dover coloring books: A Walk in the Woods and Birds of Prey. I brought home simpler line drawings for EB to color from the owl pellet class last week.

*v*Speaking of owl pellets - you could order a kit online and do an owl pellet dissection at home. We placed the baggies of bones the boys brought home from their class on top of the nature shelf for now.

*v*We will use our Birdsong Identiflyer to listen to various owl calls. The Raptor card features several owls, including the Barred Owl who paid us a visit the other night. If you don't have an Identiflyer, you can find owl calls readily online. Once the weather warms a bit, and we can open our windows in the evenings, we'll start listening for night sounds in the woods - like spring peepers and possibly, owls.

*v*On a mild day we will take a walk in our woods to look for potential owl nests. Clues would be large cavities and owl pellets on the ground near the base of a tree.

*v*I'm going to pick up a package of feathers at the craft store and make an owl mask with EB. This would have been fun to do today as it is Mardi Gras! I've also bookmarked a couple of cute owl crafts at The Crafty Crow:
*v*The boys can read about owls in folklore and mythology. There is also lots of amazing information here. I'll also ask the older boys to write a short report about an owl species of their choice. For reference, they can use the books we have on hand and/or the information we find online.

*v*I've asked Bill to make a log-sided owl house with the boys. The plans can be found in The Curious Naturalist. We'll set it up at the edge of the woods out back.

*v*For a family movie night, we'll watch Hoot, which is about burrowing owls in the Florida everglades. (It was also a great book!) Two other videos I have on request at the library:
*v*Just for fun, one afternoon I'll put together a little Owl Tea with woodland themed treats such as the Owl Pellet cookies I found in Small Wonders:

Mix together 2 cups white flour and 2 cups chopped pecans. Set aside. Cream 1 cup butter. Add 1/2 cup sugar. Mix in 1 teaspoon vanilla and 1 tablespoon water. Gradually add flour/nut mixture to batter. With lightly floured hands, shape dough into small "owl pellet" shapes. Bake at 325 F. for 25-30 minutes. If you like, while still warm, roll cookies in sugar (white or confectioner's). 

*v*On order from Acorn Naturalists, and due to arrive any day is this owl food web poster. I'll put it up in the learning room.

And goodness me, but I think that's all I can think of - for now! Lots of ideas here - not all will get done of course - but we'll have fun in whatever we do. And in a few weeks we'll know a lot more about owls than we do now!
I'm always on the lookout for more ideas, though ~ so if you have any owl study suggestions - you know I'm all ears! :)

Thanks for stopping by today ~ Have a great evening, my friends!

*January Learning & Living*

*Well, Good Friday Morning, everyone!*

How was your New Years? I hope it was nice. Ours was very quiet and simple ~ which is just as we like it. After the boys went to bed New Year's eve, Bill and I stayed up for a while. (I can't remember the last time we made it to midnight, lol!) We sipped a champagne cocktail, watched half a movie, and then called it a night for the year. In the morning (after reminding the boys to say Rabbit, Rabbit!Β before they spoke*) we had French toast for breakfast and then enjoyed a restful day at home. Well, it was restful for those of us who didn't have to shovel. ;)

And so we begin a brand new year! The holiday whirlwind is behind us and it's time to concentrate on the new season before us. I've started putting together a planner for 2009 and I'm writing up new notes for the months of the year. In my head I was going to have the whole year mapped out by today, but I didn't get quite that far. So for now I'll be sharing our January plans with you all. :)

*January Education Notes*

* Book Group: Inkheart (Bookworm), The Tail of Emily Windsnap (Crackerjack)First dogh
* Older boys begin a weekly class at Tufts School of Engineering.
* Earlybird begins a new weekly social skills group.
* Bookworm will attend Activity Night with his tween/teen group.
* We'll be hosting Crackerjack's Boys' Club here later in the month.Β 
* Nature Club: Field trip to Wolf Hollow in Ipswich, MA
* Movie Field Trip: Inkheart
* Science: We begin a unit study on wolves. (Detailed post about that very soon!)

*Kinderthemes: Evergreen Trees, Winter Birds, Baking Bread*

* Take weekly Winter walks - when it's not too bitter!
* Collect pinecones from our woods; differentiate/classify the types.
* Place evergreen branches in a vase for the nature shelf.
* Take bark rubbings of the evergreen trees we find.Sun bread
* Start a very simple nature notebook with EB. (His first!)
* Learn the "Song of the Pine Tree Fairy" (Flower Fairies of the Winter)
* Make a pinecone fairy - possibly a mama-craft, but I will tell a story to go with it.
* Work on the letter "P" (pine, pop, please, popcorn).
* Pop homemade bubbles on National Bubble Bath Day.
* Make popcorn treats on National Popcorn Day.
* Howl at the Full Wolf Moon.Β 
* Make pinecone birdfeeders and little suet feeders made with yogurt cups.
* Fridays will become our bread-baking day ...
* Read books about bread, likeΒ Sun BreadΒ (I've ordered Baking Bread with Children for myself!)

*January Home Notes*

* Pack away Christmas decorations.Baking bread
* Tweak the homeeping routines for the winter.
* Investigate purchasing a new freezer. (Our old one died years ago.)
* Watch the market for citrus in season.
* Try making candied zest - recipe from Cooking Light.
* Try making a homemade pot pie. (Possibly the perfect winter dish.)
* Order seed & plant catalogs.
* Keep our birdfeeders consistently well-stocked.
* Ask Bill to set up the heated birdbath.


Next week we'll get back on track with our studies and regular routine, but for now we'll enjoy the end of our holiday break. Today we are expecting (more) snow (though just a little) and this weekend looks to be very cold and bright. Sounds like January to me! :)

Hope your day is a good one ~ see you all again sometime soon ...

*On the first day of the month we always say "Rabbit, Rabbit" before we say ANYTHING else - it's supposed to bring a person good luck all month long. Half the time we forget, but the last one up (most often Bookworm) usually gets to say it because we all confront him before he has a chance to say anything else, lol.

I'm not sure where this originated - I think I got it from my college roommate, Kathy, who sometimes reads my blog, so Kathy (or Mike), if you're reading and remember how Rabbit, Rabbit started, please drop a note! :)

In the KinderGarden: Seeds & the Autumn Wind

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

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

Books to Read ~

Fun Things to Make and Do ~

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

A Poem (or Three) to Know ~

In their husks, their shells and clusters,

In their pods, the seeds on high,

Wait to hear the Autumn whisper

β€œLittle seeds it’s time to fly.”

Then they lightly leave their branches

Pop and burst and tumble down,

Hasten, hurry, rush and scurry,

Hide in Mother Earth’s warm gown.

              (J. Mehta)

In a milkweed cradle all close and warm,

Little seeds are hiding safe from harm.

Open wide the cradle now, hold it high.

Come along wind, help them fly!

(A fingerplay from Earthways by Carol Petrash)

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

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

(Christina Rossetti)

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

Kinderweek ~ Leaves and the Letter F


This happens to be peak foliage time around here, so I planned some fun "leaf" learning for our Earlybird this week. Here are a few of my ideas:

Books to Read:Leafman

Things to Do:

  • collect leaves
  • make leaf rubbings
  • rake leaves
  • (then jump in the piles, natch)
  • bake leaf-shaped cookies
  • make a leaf mobile

Possible Field Trips:Redleaf

  • go on a family tree walk along the bike path
  • stop by the nursery to buy fall flowers
  • visit the farm to pick fruit

A Poem/Song to Learn:

Come little leaves said the wind one day ...

Letter F Activities:

  • watch the falling leaves
  • fall down in leaf piles
  • talk about fall (aka autumn)
  • play freeze tagFletcher
  • fingerpaint (yellow/red)
  • play follow the leader
  • toss the football in the backyard
  • work on Friends & Famly photo album
  • flip Father Bear's Famous Flying Flapacks (Little Bear, anyone?)
  • fly (and honk) like Canada geese
  • find fairy homes in the woods
  • smell the fall flowers
  • look for frost in the morning
  • fill the (bird)feeders
  • buy fruit at the farmstsand
  • arrange a fruit basket (cornucopia)
  • play "fur or feathers?" re backyard animals

We are blessed with a warm and sunny week up here in New England - these Indian Summer days are always a treat. (Our winters are dark and cold, and ... long.) I hope these Kinder ideas give you some autumn inspiration, but most of all I hope you are enjoying these beautiful October days! :)

*Kinderweek 9/1 ~ Bugs and the Letter B*

{Please bear in mind that when I brainstorm ideas for a given theme, I know I'm not going to do them all. In fact, I'm not even going to try - but it's nice to have so many ideas to choose from. Also, because I have to work with and around Earlybird's attention span and energy levels, I don't really schedule a day's worth of activities; instead, I refer to this list throughout the week and work in things that fit the given mood of the moment (his and mine).}


Themes this Week: the letter B and the b-sound, name recognition (identify and write letters of name), begin a photo-book "Who I Love," talk about how we can be "busy bees" (Labor Day/family chores), and bugs are all around us (late summer is a good time to see bugs) ...

Activity Ideas:

  • Search the backyard for real bugs (net, magnifying glass).
  • Watch plastic bugs "appear" in melting ice.
  • Observe plastic bugs with magnifying glass.
  • Count/sort plastic bugs.
  • Count/sort/string beads.
  • Count/sort buttons. (Set up an egg carton w/numbered sections.)
  • B – words: bugs, book, boom, ball, bees, blue, berries, butterfly, birds, bike.
  • Go on a bike ride with Daddy (to the field to spy butterflies).
  • Make bug sounds; pretend to be a bug.
  • Practice ball tossing and catching, rolling, kicking.
  • Play with boats in the bath.
  • Use playsilk to pretend to be a butterfly (wrapped in cocoon, fluttering about)
  • Move backwards, like a truck: beep, beep, beep!
  • Build with blocks, and knock them down - boom!
  • Bulldoze boulders (rocks in the dirtpile).
  • Count backwards – 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, boom!
  • Eat spaghetti and meatballs for supper.
  • Bake banana bread for breakfast.
  • Help unload shopping bags.
  • Stamp a canvas bag with bug shapes (EB's library book tote).
  • Practice slicing a banana with a plastic knife.
  • Decorate a big blue β€œB” with bug stickers.
  • Listen for bugs outside: crickets, cicada, bees.
  • Watch the bees buzz in the (rasp)berry patch.
  • Pick berries and count into bucket.
  • Make bubble solution; blow bubbles in backyard.
  • Poem: β€œHurt No Living Thing” by Christina Rossetti
  • Music: "Flight of the Bumblebee" (Little Einstens DVD)
  • Finger puppets: beaver builds a dam, brown bear stops by to help.
  • Video: Beavers
  • Art/Crafts:
    • paint rock bugs
    • make a spider web (glue/wax paper/glitter)
    • bug coloring pages -  hang up
    • make and paint clay beads

In the Book Basket:

As soon as I can, I'll start a series of sidebar lists with book suggestions for each week's theme, but for now, it's time for me to be off. (Supper's smelling good and done in the kitchen!) So thanks for stopping by today ~ I hope your day was a good one!