Kinder Feed

Woodland Wonders & a Peek at our Week!

Hello my friends and Happy Weekend! In my last post I promised a closer peek at my weekly planner spread so I'm here to share just that! I'm also going to share some pics and collages from "the week that was" in our homeschool ... :)

This weeks spread woodland

First, as I think some or perhaps most of you know, this is a weekly spread in my homemade seasonal planner (the one I talk about A LOT). And as with the rest of this planner I created these pages in what I feel are this month's colors: orange, purple, brown and green. :)

I like a two-page weekly spread so I can really spread out all my writing ... so I placed a general overview on the left, and an agenda with notespace on the right. On the left page I have at the very top the dates of the week: October 9th through October 15th, 2017. I like to begin my weeks with Monday - it's just the way I "see" the week! Beneath that I have two boxes - one for listing the days and events Of Note this week, and one for noting the week's seasonal Theme (woodland).

Moving down the page we have Meal Planning (which I just lifted from October's menu calendar), and beside that are my House & Garden notes for the week. In this box I write any current tasks we're tackling as well as any seasonal chores. Next I have a To-Do This Week box which is obviously pretty self explanatory! I start this list by using last week's list then add to it through the week as things come up ...

On the bottom left hand corner of the page I have a box called, Crafts & Comforts and this is where I plan out my seasonal "living and learning" ideas. Some of these pertain to our homeschooling, some of them are "personal nourishment" activities, and some are home-centered. It was my desire for this kind of planning space - specifically devoted to seasonal activities - that prompted me to make my own planner! I kept looking for a planner design that included such things in its layout and/or had space I could easily convert for this purpose, but I could never find a planner to satisfy me! So ... I just up and designed something for myself! It's certainly not perfect but it works - and it makes me happy. :)

Anyhoo ... this week's "craft and comfort" ideas are "woodland" related and as you can see I check things off as we do them. It is a rare week we do ALL the things - I'm not sure we ever have, lol! - but I love to brainstorm these kinds of activities! (See pictures below for more info on that!)

Moving over to the next page of the spread now ... and here I'm planning out our Weekly Rhythm and Student Goals. I basically use the left-hand column for listing out the agenda, or schedule, for the week - where we are going, what's going on - and the right-hand column for notes re ~ homeschooling my younger boys. (Actually mostly the preschooler because - as I think I've blogged about before, I'll have to check - I have a whole different system for planning out Earlybird's special needs homeschooling and daily therapies. You know, I think I am due for another "special needs homeschooling" post ... it's been a while!)

And as you can perhaps see, I had a little water spill this past week on this planner page - ACK! - and the remaining October sheets got wet ... and wrinkled ... and well, all ugly, lol. You all know how much I love a smooth planner page! In light of all the troubles in the world right now this is very much small potatoes but it does bug me when my planner (any of my planners) gets wrecked in any way. So I added a little woodland washi tape to cover up some of the damage and resisted the rather STRONG urge to make the whole planner over again!

Now you might notice I like to use post-its for my pre-k planning and I really don't have a sufficient explanation for why - I just do. They help me think and move information around and maybe just relieve me from writing something down next to a day permanently that might not fit well. Plus, I just love post-its. I use them ALL the time, all over the place ... really, my post-it note obesssion might warrant its own post!

Ok, getting back to my planner spread - between today and tomorrow I will review these pages to see what can be moved forward and then work on next week's spread (seasonal theme: pumpkins!). I actually gave a little sneak peek of that spread at FB and IG today!

So that's a rather thorough overview of last week's planner spread! Now, how about some pictures of the week itself? :)

IMG_5408

As longtime readers probably know, our seasonal homeschooling in the younger years involves storytelling in a very big way. We mostly make things up, taking our cues from our own seasonal changes and weather events (an owl visit, a hurricane, a snowstorm or a meteor shower, for example), but sometimes favorite storybooks inspire tales and adventures amongst our rather large collection of wooden figures and finger puppets!

So here we have last week's "storytelling" day, when Little Bear found a cast of woodland characters and some leaf-print fabric in his learning room mailbox. I'd been telling LB an evolving story about a silly old bear who - confused by recent summer-like weather - started emptying his cave of all its warm, snuggly leaves, all while his woodland friends tried to persuade him to stop! "Silly old bear, Winter is coming! You'll need all those leaves to stay warm in the months ahead!" Finally, as night (and the temperature) fell, Bear realized his mistake, and sat down to cry beneath the bright crescent moon. But not to worry (and believe me, my Little Bear was worried!), the bear's friends all pitched in to help and filled his cave with plenty of leaves until his den was perfectly cozy once again. :)

(Next week's story takes place in a pumpkin patch, natch!)

AJIY5760

And here we have a little bit of what I like to call, "parkinglotschooling!" Lol, you've heard of carschooling, right? Well, while we were waiting to pick Crackerjack up from class one day last week, we decided to explore the woodsy lot around us. Little Bear found an old rotting stump and we watched all kinds of bugs crawl over and through it (ants, beetle, earwig) ... and investigated a rather yucky looking fungus that seemed to be spilling out of it. (Ew.) Little Bear enjoyed all of this very much - as did I  - and note the Lego contraption clutched firmly in his hand all the while!

MOLB0804

At home later in the week we spent a bit of our morning watching a grasshopper close-up. We have lots of these insects around here - from the teeny tiny springing juveniles of spring to the quick-jumping, wing-whirring adults of summer. But in autumn grasshoppers begin to slow down, especially as the days cool. This fella was on our patio doors, and the sun had not warmed him up yet much ... so we took advantage of the situation and spent a little time observing. One point up for debate - was it a grasshopper or a cricket? We had our suspicions, but needed to do a little research to be sure!

(I wish I had recorded Little Bear and Earlybird having this very debate - it got quite heated!)

IMG_5894

More "woodland" exploring ... our yard is full of trees of course, but the log pile is especially interesting! (Earlybird was doing this with us but wasn't captured in any photos. He actually got a little freaked out by a spiderweb and quickly moved on!)

Wind chimes

And one day we made nature windchimes - a fairly easy and quick craft made with mason jar lid rings, contact paper, twine and things we found around our yard. Truth be told I did most of it myself - the boys liked sticking things on the contact paper and carrying the branch around, but that was about it. (Branches are always a hit.) I found this idea on Pinterest, and this post has great instructions!

IMG_5850 (1)

Here's a quick peek in the learning room where our woodland books are assembled along the windowsills, beneath the weekly learning line ...

IMG_5856 (1)

And here we have Archie exploring the "bear cave" (an Amazon box turned on its side and draped with soft blankets). And that's Archie for you - never one to pass up a new nook or cranny to explore!

(And to answer a question that might have popped into your mind - no, our learning room is not always this neat! I find though, that having lots of designated storage space, has really allowed for relatively quick cleanups! Each basket seen in these pictures has a particular type of toy assigned to it - and you can read more about that in this post!)

UXBK0509

A closer look at the "woodland" books for last week ... tomorrow I will be re-organizing this display with our books about pumpkins! (More pumpkin week details at my Autumn Tea next week!)

IMG_5895

More woodland fun - including a few things for Mama. ;-) Pretty journals and a calendar booklet as well as the sweetest woodland washi tape I ever did see! (I bought the journals at Paper Source but I haven't decided yet how to use them. The cute little "Woodland Tales" planner I bought at Whole Foods - it's a 17-month calendar, a perfect size to tuck in my purse/tote when I don't want to lug around my heavier (more precious) planners. The washi tape was found at Joann Fabrics but unfortunately I can't seem to find it on their website. And finally, the felt animal masks were SUCH a hit with my Little Bear! He has been having so much fun wearing the masks around the house and pretending to be each of these woodland creatures ... he's especially fond of the beaver mask. :)

(The photo of the scenic view was taken down the street. There is something so lovely about stone walls in autumn ...)

O with milkweed

And finally ... this collage was from last night, and you might have seen it if you follow me on Facebook or Instagram. I titled this: "Milkweed Magic on a Cool Autumn Evening." My apologies if you've already read this - it's a bit wordy, but it really captures how I felt last evening and I want to remember it! :)

We just had another one of those "daily" moments that really felt special - so special in fact, I took pics and made a collage to remember it by! πŸ’›

We've had a milkweed pod sitting on our nature table since early last month, and today - it burst! Much to Little Bear's delight we had little white seed fairies flying all over the learning room!

So LB (and his Daddy and I) scooped up that pod - and as many of the seeds we could round up - and walked the whole kit and kaboodle across the street where the milkweed patch grows ...

Well, I wish I could tell you how positively gleeful Little Bear was during this whole adventure (though maybe you can tell from the photos!) ... you would have thought we were going to Disneyland! LB cradled that little seedpod so carefully - HE had to carry it! - and then heartily blew its fluffy innards all over the roadside ...

And it was such a beautiful evening, too - that autumn light is so lovely, and the leaves are all changing and the air is still just warm enough to walk outside without jackets ...

Inside we went again - time to make supper - the house all warm and lit and full of big brothers' sounds ...

Feeling grateful tonight for this little afternoon adventure ... and for a child who has such a soft heart for nature's wonders! 

✨ 🍁 🌞 πŸŒ²πŸŒ› 🍁 ✨ πŸ 🌞 πŸŒ²πŸŒ› 🍁 ✨ πŸ 🌞 πŸŒ²πŸŒ› 🍁 ✨ πŸ 🌞 πŸŒ²πŸŒ› 🍁 ✨ 

 My friends, I have kept you here so very long, and if you are still here, I thank you! (And if you bailed earlier, I still thank you!) I do hope you enjoyed a peek into our week and hearing about my planning process. Please let me know if you have any questions! I will be back again late next week with an Autumn Tea to share with you all ... and our first official Mitten Strings Book Study discussion!

(And of course, lots of pictures. When you come to my blog you KNOW there will be pictures ... and I'll have a lot to say about them!)

Hope you all enjoy the rest of your weekend ... see you here again very soon!


Autumn Tea and Tidbits!

Tea with lesson planning 2

Hello my friends, and Happy Weekend! Welcome to my first Autumn Tea  - of 2017! Something I hope to make a semi-regular recurrence at my blog going forward. Every so often I'll pop in with a cup of tea and a few bits and bobs from our homeschool ... a way to catch up and celebrate the season at hand. :) I'm hesitant to set a schedule however, as tempting as it is because you know I LOVE schedules - but it's been a little bit hectic so far this school year. Time at the computer (nevermind time for tea itself!) has been a little on the low side. But two things that make my heart so very happy are blogging and savoring tea, so I'm determined to make more time for both in my life!

So since it's been a while since we talked tea ... what are you drinking these days? I myself am enjoying Allegro Black Decaf during the afternoon (sweetened with raw sugar and a splash of whole milk) but after supper, now that the nights are cooler and darker, I am turning to a cup of decaf Constant Comment. There's something about that orange-spice flavor just makes me think AUTUMN! I still savor a cup or two of coffee in the mornings but after that I limit my caffeine intake as best I can ...

Well, I started in on my tea-taking early today as the above photo was taken just now (Saturday around 11 a.m.) because I was ready to get down to the lesson planning and for that, I absolutely MUST have tea! But before we talk about autumn homeschooling ...

Grab yourself a cup of your favorite brew and make yourself comfortable, please ... I have lots to share! :)

Let's begin with a peek into my October planning. Below you see the cover page for this month's section in my homemade planner (also seen in the top photo) ...

FullSizeRender-8

And here is my planner stack on my kitchen counter - aka "mama's command center!"

IMG_4431

Sitting below my homemade planner is my Day Designer, and below that is a project clipboard. (I always put something underneath my planners in case there are spills or marks on the counter.)

So after the cover page (which is made from that cute vintage paper I love!) I have the two-page monthly calendar spread ...

IMG_4435

I added the stickers and a few quotations written with black ink and soft colored pencils ...

IMG_4436

I love peppering my planners with seasonal poems and quotes!

IMG_4437

Next page has my October menu calendar ...

IMG_4441

I described how I fill out these menu calendars in this post, but I want to stress that this is an ideal - we don't always keep up with the "new" and "varied" meals I've envisioned. Often - especially when we're busy or I'm tired (the state of affairs more often than not around here!) - I fall back on tried and true, easy meals. (Homemade pizzas, baked pasta, grilled cheese and soup, burgers, meatloaf and roasted veg, etc.) 

And next comes my monthly overview ...

IMG_4442

I added the highlighted notes at the top of the page this month, and of course there are post-its! The green apples reflect our October homeschooling themes and topics. I try to review this page every weekend to see where we're at and what tasks and activities can be scheduled in the week ahead. Note: "October Goals" became a place to write down upcoming movies, tv shows and books.

A closer peek ...

IMG_4443

And here is last week's spread!

IMG_4445

Next week I will do a WHOLE post on how I'm using this weekly spread, but in the interest of time and word count, let me move on and show you  ...

... next week's spread that I'm filling in now!

FullSizeRender-2

You might wonder how long it takes me to fill in all those spaces, but honestly, it's not very long. A lot of the information is already available (Days of Note, Seasonal Theme, Dinners, Weekly Rhythm) so I just write those things in first. The to-do list is also pretty quick to fill in - I look at last week's list as well as our weekend planner to see what tasks still need doing. I take another look at the monthly calendar to see what new things have been written in for the week (a new event to prepare for, for example) and I also look back at that monthly overview to see what To-Dos can be fit into this coming week.

Beside my homemade planner I have parked my Day Designer ...

IMG_4449

Here's how it looked one day last week (when I first started working on this post!) ...

IMG_4450

Ok, moving on from planning (let me know if you have any questions or would like me to follow up on anything!) ... I thought I'd share some random photos from the past week or so ...

First, because it was the week of the Full Harvest Moon, I had planned to make "Harvest Moon Muffins," (a quick bread recipe baked in muffin tins) but due to the aforementioned busy schedule/tired mama syndrome, I stopped short at "Harvest Moon Applesauce." πŸ˜‰

FullSizeRender-10

I love using my grandmother's food press when making applesauce! 

This was actually part of a little "science" experiment this week, making applesauce together! The boys helped me with counting and measuring before I loaded the apples, sugar and spice into the crockpot, and good GOLLY did it smell wonderful in our house all day! The apples were done cooking just before bedtime so I placed them in the fridge for the next day. After milling the apples into sauce we set up a little taste-test - our homemade applesauce vs. Stop 'N Shop brand! Could people tell which was which? (The answer, happily, was yes!)

Then last weekend I combed through the autumn book basket and pulled out titles that matched October's weekly themes ...

IMG_4329

  • Changing Leaves (10/2-10/8)
  • Woodland Flora & Fauna (10/9-10/15)
  • Pumpkins (10/16-10/22)
  • Goodnight Garden/Halloween (10/23-10/29)

I also have two sweet board books for my younger boys for learning the Hail Mary and Our Father prayers, as part of Holy Rosary month. :)

Speaking of books though, look at these lovely new titles that arrived in my mail last week!

IMG_4564

A couple of picture books we usually get out of the library to celebrate the Full Harvest Moon, a new (and adorable) autumn board book for Little Bear (which might be my new favorite autumn book of all time!), a CD of scientific storytelling for Earlybird (which we once owned but now can't find!) and a new Waldorf-inspired crafting book for Mama. I'm positively swooning over that last one in particular - a bit of a splurge, but worth it!

Here's a gorgeous page from Hello, Harvest Moon ... 

IMG_4693

Did you happen to catch it last Thursday night?

Harvest moon rising

We are surrounded by trees here so we have to wait a while before the full moon is visible ... but honestly, I think the way it peeks through the branches and illuminates the tree-line is quite magical! We let Little Bear stay up a bit late so he could watch the full moon rising ...

LB and the full moon

Now, back to books for a moment ... just look and see what arrived in my mailbox early last week!

IMG_3903

A very thoughtful gift from my friend (and longtime reader), Penny! When Penny read that I was positively pining for this particular PW book, she offered me her own copy. (How nice is that?!) Naturally I said I would just LOVE to have it, so she popped in the mail and I received it a day later! Hooray for packages in the mail and hooray for the ever-speedy USPS ... but most of all, HOORAY for kind-hearted and generous friends! ❀

Ok, now we all know the Pioneer Woman loves boots ... well, I'm no cowgirl, and I haven't been on a horse since I was 12, but how do you like my new "riding" boots?

Boots

I have lusted after these "Westport," Maine-made boots for years ... and finally (with Bill's blessing of course), I made the splurge! I ordered them online because I don't get over to LL Bean's that often, but was very happy that not only do they FIT just as well as I'd hoped, they are truly quite comfortable. I thought they paired rather nicely with a knee-length denim skirt. :)

(This was me on my way to Sunday brunch with my college girlfriends!)

Speaking of shoes though ...

Archie and sandals

That's my Archie, flopped all over my favorite pair of summer sandals ... the ones I can't bear to put away for the season just yet. (Though truly, we've had plenty of summer-like days recently.) But as you can see, Archie's looking rather relaxed here, smug you might even say ... because while Oliver had to be at the vet's annual exam last week, Archie got to skip it completely. And all because he's just SO naughty when we bring him! Nothing like the sweetie-pie he is at home - at the vet he's all hissing, spitting and growing ... frankly, it's a bit of a horror show. The next attempt was going to include some serious sedation ... which makes me very nervous ... but fortunately our vet is wonderful and fully understood our apprehension. We decided he can wait till next year when he is due for his rabies shot. (My cats are indoor cats, but are still kept up on all their vaccinations.)

In other wildlife news ...

DSC00463 (3)

Howsabout this guy???

Isn't he magnificent? This is a Barred Owl, and we hear him (her?) very often in the woods behind our house - usually around dusk, but my older boys (night owls themselves) say they hear hooting late at night as well. Well, there I was at the sink starting supper last Friday night when Little Bear, looking out the kitchen nook window, exclaimed: "Mama, look! It's a snowy owl!!"

And this is what he saw ...

Barred owl on feeders

Isn't he GINORMOUS?? And clearly looking for his supper! I took this picture above with my cell phone, then went outside with my big camera to try for a better shot. The first owl picture was taken from beneath the tree just to the right of the feeders. The owl was staring at me - really peering at me with those gorgeous black eyes! - then his attention would be caught by something moving in the underbrush and he'd turn his head downward ...

DSC00480

Finally he'd had enough of me, my snapping camera and restless Little Bear and took off ...

DSC00489 (1)

He landed in the front yard where LB and I were joined by Bill and Earlybird and we watched the owl fly across the road and into the woods to the north. Absolutely amazing ...

(Crackerjack and Bookworm were out on a driving lesson and missed the whole thing!)

Ok, and now for some autumn homeschooling ... these pics are all from the past couple of weeks!

First came APPLES ...

Apple collage

Apple Week included apple snacks, an apple star surprise, drying apples, applesauce and an apple-y harvest wreath on the front door. :)

Also, I finally made use of that peg dolls book I showed you a couple of posts back, and look who Little Bear found in his learning room mailbox one morning!

Autumn star fairy

I made this "autumn star fairy" from a wooden peg base, with a little sheep's wool for hair, an acorn cap for a hat and a silk leaf (plucked from a garland) as wings! I made the verse card with a blank postcard and watercolor paints. I just wrote the verse on the card once the paint had dried. I've been using these cards for little poems, prayers and verses this year and I love the effect of those pretty paints!

Next came SEEDS ...

IMG_4531

Seeds week included seed gathering, sorting and observation, seed crafts, seed treats, seed experiments ... and very happy chipmunks!

And then on Michaelmas Day we had our first Nature Club meeting of the year ...

IMG_5071

My younger boys all came along and we met with other homeschooling families to take a walk along a local trail. We found everything on our Nature Scavenger hunt checklist as well as garter snakes, spiderwebs, several types of leaves and some very cool fungus. Best of all, there were Michaelmas daisies growing all over the woods! :)

The next Monday we celebrated the Feast of the Guardian Angels ...

Angel collage

I made another watercolor card for the Guardian Angel prayer and set up this small scene on our learning room table. I lit the beeswax tealight and read the prayer aloud to Little Bear ... who took great joy in blowing out that candle! :)

We also found time to celebrate the Feast of St. Francis, our family patron saint ...

IMG_4838

Little Bear especially enjoyed assembling "all of creation" as I crafted a simple grotto and read aloud our favorite child-friendly version of Francis's "Canticle of the Sun." I made a verse card for the first stanza and plan to make cards for the rest of this beautiful prayer. :)

Last week we also visited a local agricultural fair - along with Earlybird's therapist and Bill who took the day off so he could join us. :)

IMG_4990

And the day after that we joined our homeschool group on a field trip to a local corn maze!

IMG_4978

It was a beautiful day - as you can see, warm enough for short sleeves! - and what fun we had navigating our way through the rows of corn and listening to the raspy dry ears in the breeze and hearing great vees of geese honking overhead! 

✨ πŸ‚ 🍎 🐿 🌻 🌞 🍁 πŸ„ 🌽 πŸŒ› ✨

Well this was quite a long post I'm afraid, but I hope you enjoyed it! I had meant to create posts around each of these collages - with more details - but time kept slipping by and then we'd be onto the next thing! I can certainly expand on any of these themes and projects (as well as my planners) in a future post and happily, though last week was particularly busy with two field trips, a fair trip, a vet appointment AND the SAT ... the coming week will be much quieter! Knock on wood!

So I will leave you now my friends, with my thanks for your visit and my wish that you all enjoy a lovely autumn weekend. I will be back again here just as soon as I can but in the meantime you can always find me on Facebook or Instagram. :)

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


Books in our Homeschool: September ❀

IMG_3011

Hello my friends, and Happy Sunday!

I've had a couple of requests for a list of the books we're currently using in our homeschool, so I'm here to share just that! Since it's a rather long list, today I'll just focus on the books we're using along with September's plans and seasonal themes. In future posts I'll share more of our general resources and curriculum. (Also, I want to note that all of the links below have an affiliate tag - and what that means is, if you end up buying something from Amazon after following my link, I get a small commission as part of an affiliates program. So thanks in advance if you do happen to make a purchase!)

I'll begin with the books we are using in coordination with activities for our seasonal homeschooling.* (These are usually my favorites!) Typically I display these books on a windowsill in the learning room, but some are also found in the seasonal book basket. Most of these books we own, but we do borrow a few from the library each week ...

 

✨🍎✨SEASONAL THEMES✨🍎✨

CROWS and CORN ...

IMG_1799

Crow CallThe Company of Crows: A Book of Poems, Corn, Raccoons and Ripe Corn

*Note: We didn't end up reading Crow Call, as its story was a little too melancholy for my fellas. The illustrations were beautiful, though. And since most of those books have gone back to the library and/or seasonal bin, I didn't have a "Crows and Corn" shelf to show you. I did however use that crow finger puppet for a little nature storytelling that week! :)

APPLES/AT THE ORCHARD ...

IMG_3083

Our Apple Tree, The Life and Times of the Apple, Apples for Everyone, The Apple CakeThe Story of Johnny Appleseed, My Little Golden Book about Johnny Appleseed, Cider Apples, How Do Apples Grow?

WELCOME AUTUMN!

Autumn books 2

Goodbye Summer, Hello Autumn, Hocus Pocus - It's Fall!, The Four Seasons: Fall, Fall (The Seasons), Autumn Days, When Autumn Comes, Fall (Bright Baby Touch and Feel), Wild Child, Autumn, Herbst, The Story of the Root Children, Autumn: A Pop-Up Book, We Gather Together

AUTUMN SEEDS & WIND ...

IMG_3131

Woody, Hazel and Little Pip, Miss Maple's Seeds, The Story of the Wind Children, Squirrels, When the Wind Stops ... and (not shown), A Seed is Sleepy, Flip, Float, Fly: Seeds on the Move and Pippa and Pelle in the Autumn Wind

* Originally I was going to share the activities we did/will do with each seasonal theme, but then this post became a little bit of a beast (as my posts tend to do) so I decided to stick to books only. That said, I will try to take pictures as we go through this week (Autumn Seeds and Wind) to share in a post by week's end. Or over the weekend, more likely! I'm very excited for this seasonal theme, it's one of my favorites!

 

✨🍎✨SOCIAL STUDIES✨🍎✨

For social studies this year, I've set up a "global awareness" corner (see learning room post for more details) and outlined a plan for studying one country per month. This month we are learning about England so those are the books I've linked below - plus, I also found a couple of "apple" themed books that were perfect for global awareness. :)

IMG_3029

One Green Apple, Till Year's Good End: A Calendar of Medieval Labors, Enchantment of the World series: England, City Trails: London, St. George and the Dragon, The Tale of Squirrel Nutkin, How to Make an Apple Pie and See the World

 

✨🍎✨ SCIENCE✨🍎✨

For the subject of science this year, we'll be focusing on the following topics: the importance of science, famous scientists through the ages, zoology (animal life and classification) and backyard science (aka nature study). In addition, sometimes (oftentimes), a scientific topic pops up that is of particular interest - such as this month's hurricanes - and then we follow that "rabbit trail" as far as it takes us! The windowsill below reflects an introduction to what it means to be a scientist, hurricanes, a forest habitat and chipmunks.

IMG_3130

National Geographic Kids: In My Backyard Sticker Activity BookS is for ScientistsWhat is a Scientist?Scientists Ask QuestionsNewton's Rainbow: The Revolutionary Discoveries of a Young Scientist (not shown - it's on its way from the library! Newton is our English scientist for September), Hurricane!, Chipmunk at Hollow Tree Lane

Here's a look at a little backyard science for this week - we'll be looking closely at the Eastern Chipmunk so very prevalent around here. I found an interesting fact page in a great book we've had for years, Fun with Nature, and a coordinating coloring page in Dover's A Walk in the Woods. The chipmunks are actually going NUTS (pardon the pun) these days as they scurry about preparing for a long winter's sleep. We've been feeding the chipmunks on our deck and this week we'll do a little "seed" experiment to see what kind of things chipmunks like to eat best. The coloring page will be filed in our family nature binder, alongside observations/photos.

IMG_3092

 

✨🍎✨LANGUAGE ARTS✨🍎✨

For language arts activities this month we are learning the alphabet, working on names, setting up nature journals, making homemade stamp pads, listening to an audiobook on the road, discovering seasonal poems, reading aloud to each other, and writing simple notes to friends. 

IMG_3060

Gyo Fujikawa's A to Z Picture Book, Cyndy Szekeres' ABC, Bobby Bear's ABC, An Alphabet by Molly Brett, Eating the Alphabet, I Spy Little Letters

(Note: I couldn't find the Szekeres book on Amazon but I did see some at Etsy. Ms. Szekeres is one of my longtime favorite children's book author/illustrators. I had her books when I was little!)

Here is Little Bear contemplating the poetry corner ... β€

IMG_3041

Poetry for Young People: Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Autumn: An Alphabet Acrostic, Flower Fairies of the Autumn, A Small Child's Book of Cozy Poems (that's another one by Cyndy Szekeres!), First Poems of Childhood (illustrated by Tasha Tudor), A Child's Calendar: Poems by John Updike

(Poems of the moment: "September," by Updike, "The Children's Hour" by Longfellow, "Hurt No Living Thing," by Christina Rossetti)

Our September audiobook: Swallows and Amazons by Arthur Ransome ...

IMG_1308

(We mostly listen to audiobooks in the car but I'm working on having a set time during the week during which the boys will listen to the story while working on simple crafts, using play dough, coloring or painting, etc.)

Another favorite resource of mine for simple seasonal verse and songs, is a lovely set of Waldorf Kindergarten books. I've used all these books for years and they are just lovely. Here is Autumn: A Collection of Poems, Songs and Stories for Young Children, alongside my tea and a beeswax pumpkin candle!

IMG_3067

(This week's selections will feature little gnomes leading Autumn seeds to bed, Mary walking in the Autumn wind, and St. Michael's bright shining sword. These I use during Little Bear's circle time and whenever possible while venturing outside.)

 

✨🍎✨✨🍎✨✨🍎✨✨🍎✨✨🍎✨✨🍎✨✨🍎✨

So there you have it my friends, a peek at our September book list! I hope you enjoyed it and please let me know if you have any questions. I will be back again soon(ish) with a closer look at how we do our seasonal homeschooling. It's going to be a busy week for us but I'm excited to share what we get up to! 

And I hope you are all doing well and that your Autumn is off to a great start! Take care of yourselves and your loved ones, my friends ...

See you here again very soon!


✨ 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 ... β€

*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 (nΓ©e 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." β€

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.) βœ¨

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! β€

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!πŸŒ›

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 ... πŸŒ›πŸ‚πŸŒ²πŸΏπŸ„πŸπŸŒž

"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. β€

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! β€

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! β€ (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! β€

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 ... πŸŒž

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! β€

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! πŸ‰

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! β€

(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 Close-Up Look at My September Planning ... πŸ‚

September planner page

Hello my friends, and Happy Thursday! I hope your week is going well. :)

Today I thought I'd share my September planner pages with you all. These are part of the seasonal planner I made up for myself some time ago, and if you'd like to read more about these sheets (and access the free & printable PDFs), here are links to a few very detailed posts:

My 2017 (Printable) Planner

I Made My Own Planner (and Here's How)!

My Seasonal Planning Sheets for 2018 

For most of this past year I kept these sheets in my three-ring "homekeeping" binder, but last month I decided to have them made into a spiral-bound planner ... and boy, am I so glad I did! I find using my planning sheets consistently and thoroughly is much easier in this format! Mostly because they're just so much more portable this way. I like to take my planner upstairs with me at night (as well as my Day Designer) and leave it by my bedroom chair to review when I wake up. (I usually have a good 2-3 hours to nurse coffee and plan before my youngest is up for the day.) Throughout the day I keep my planners parked on my kitchen counter so I can quickly check in and see "what's what" as we move through the rhythm of our day ... sometimes I scoop them up and bring them with me to the kitchen table or my family room desk ... or lately, the learning room table. :)

So to begin with, here is the lovely paper that serves as my September divider page ...

IMG_1966

This kind of paper just makes me SO happy. Every day when I thumb to my September calendar to start my day's planning I pause at this page and just soak it all in. :) 

Next comes my own monthly title page ...

IMG_1967

And then the next turn brings me to my two-page monthly calendar spread ...

DSC09887 (1)

As you can see on the left side of the page, I'm using a very simple tool for marking this oft-viewed calendar - the humble paper clip! You can also see that I've added some stickers, washi tape and seasonal quotes to make the spread "sparkle" a bit. :)

DSC09889 (1)

Bold alphabet stickers along the edge announce the month ...

DSC09884 (1)

And here's the opposite corner with a little more seasonal goodness sprinkled here and there!

(Truth be told, I took the above pictures before I had the calendar completely filled out - in fact, our whole ABA schedule has changed! - but you probably get the gist of how I'm using it.)

Now, moving on to the next spread ...

IMG_1969 (1)

On the left is the one-page monthly calendar I made for my original planning sheets ... before I decided I REALLY needed a two-page spread! I tried recording nature notes here in August, which was fun, but then I decided my planner needed a little more flexibility when it came to meal planning. So from now on this is where I'll work out a little seasonally-inspired meal planning!

I started by brainstorming seasonal key words on little sticky notes. These are foods I yearn for in September, but I'm sure everyone has their own idea of what foods say "early autumn" to them! Then I began planning special suppers (Michaelmas, Autumn Equinox, Full Corn Moon), then all the Sunday dinners ... and the busy nights that need to be super easy ... and then I checked a collection of recipes I've been wanting to try, and finally a list of old standbys ... before I knew it I had the whole month filled out!

IMG_1975

Best of all - it's all written in erasable ink because you know - the best laid plans and all that. Have I stuck with it so far? Well, for the most part, yes. (So said on the SIXTH day of the month, lol.) Tonight though, instead of American Chop Suey (which for some reason is true Patriots game day food), I decided to go with crescent dogs, crockpot mac-and-cheese, tossed salad and tater tots. (All boy-friendly, comfort food and "football foodstuffs" as well! Tonight is the NFL Kickoff in case you didn't know ... hosted by our beloved Pats, aka Superbowl Champs!)

I didn't make the molasses bar cookies though ... I brought the boys shopping with me over the weekend so we had enough "desserts" on hand as it was. I hope to do some baking this weekend, though - with local fruit, hopefully!

(Also shown in that photo - see two above - on the right-hand side of the spread is the monthly Overview page, and it's pretty self-explanatory I think. I try to check in with these ideas each weekend to see what still needs addressing, or fitting in! Then I tweak the upcoming week's plan accordingly.)

Ok, next up are the weekly spreads and here is the first week of the month before I had written anything down ...

Planner before

In my September section there are five weekly planning spreads, ending on Sunday, October 1st. My weeks run Monday through Sunday because that's just how I see things! 

Here is this week's planning spread "in action" ...

DSC00126 (1)

To be completely honest I am still figuring out how best to "work" this planning spread ... but so far I am loving it! The left side is for more general weekly planning: days of note, our seasonal theme, nightly suppers, house & garden notes, weekly to-dos and a special spot for listing out what I like to call ... "crafts and comforts."

So what are "crafts and comforts" you might be wondering? Well, that's a whole 'nother post but - briefly - in this space I jot down things I'd like to do with the boys in keeping with our weekly theme (in this case, "crows and corn,") as well as a few ideas for enjoying the season myself. I find tuning into the season in simple ways really nourishes my spirit and fills my heart with gratitude. I've been doing this kind of "planning" since I was a young girl, but as a busy mom of four boys, it can be easy to let "seasonal awareness" slide. Since I feel this is an important habit to cultivate, I try to make room for it in my everyday life - via my planner! This was the primary reason I decided to make my own planner ... I couldn't find one that made room for these kinds of plans! (At least not with the colors, quotes and vintage images!)

So yes, there is also a quote for the week on this page, and each one mirrors the season itself. This week's (an old children's song) works perfectly - the goldenrod is, in fact, vivid yellow ... and just about everywhere you look, the cornstalks are drying out and turning brown ... and the apple orchards are busily bearing fruit!

The right side is for a week-at-a-glance agenda and homeschooling notes ... 

DSC09937

I added a pretty Susan Branch note sheet here for general notes for each of my boys this month as well as a seasonal study (based on an old Celtic tree calendar I came across on Pinterest). The note sheet was not adhesive so I used a bit of washi-tape to hold it down and it is easily moved from week to week.

DSC00015 (2)

Beneath the note sheet I have sticky notes that let me write down pre-k activities each day that tie in with the rhythm of the day and the theme of the week. So, for example, Wednesdays are "storytelling" days and this week is all about "crows and corn." So I used our black crow finger puppet to weave a little tale involving crows, ravens and cornfields. And on Monday, nature study day, we took a crow walk to listen for crows cawing. These kinds of activities are the foundation for Little Bear's early learning and I have such a lovely time brainstorming these ideas. But even when I have LOTS of ideas, I try to keep things as simple as possible ... you can't fit too much on a post-it! :)

Beneath the sticky notes are more lesson plan notes with little checkboxes and all. This is another area I'm still figuring out how to use (hence the pre-k post-its!) so I'll do a follow-up post with a closer look at this column. :)

DSC00023

(I will also do a follow-up post on how we do preschool ... which hasn't changed much since my older boys were little! What a gift it is to get to do this one more time ... β€)

Last picture, and a preview of yet another post-to-come ... 

September planning

How do I use my Day Designer WITH my homemade seasonal planner? What do I write where? Which planner goes where? Where is there overlap - and does it matter? Ah ... so much to say on that subject! So it will have to be a post for another time. For now I will wrap up and let you all go. But I thank you for stopping by and I hope you enjoyed my post! In a few days I will be back with a FULL tour of our learning room, all revamped and ready to go for the  new year! (You may have seen peeks on Facebook and Instagram ... I've had such fun getting this room ready!)

So goodnight my friends, and take care ... I will 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! β€

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! β€

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


Little Bear's First Autumn Hike πŸ’›

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 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. :)

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."

 πŸ’›

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*


Owl2

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**v**v**v**v**v**v**v**v**v**v**v**v**v**v**v**v**v**v*

*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.

*v**v**v**v**v**v**v**v**v**v**v**v**v**v**v**v**v**v**v*
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!
*v**v**v**v**v**v**v**v**v**v**v**v*

*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

Leavesweek

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).}

Leopardbutterfly_4   

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!