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Wordy Wednesday*

*So named because this post was meant to be wordless but as usual, I can't help myself ...

Ww sun in stairwell

 The stairwell as I walk down to get a second cup of coffee - so pretty, I had to snap a pic! (My first cup was brought to me by Bill - he gets up with Earlybird, I stay in bed with Little Bear.) There are a few moments each day when the rising sun hits the east-facing windows just right and the house floods with morning light. I love this time of the day - a moment filled with quiet, light and promise.

Ww temp reading

 The weather app reading on my phone - it's been a scorching few days here in New England!

Ww red squirrels

 Two of our tiny red squirrels, enjoying seed I scattered on the deck in relative peace - usually they don't care to share!

Ww lesson plans file crate

A close-up of my file crate - love all those snappy folders! - with my homemade lesson planner stashed in back. I am trying to tweak the folders a bit to do more for me this year ...

Ww learning room

Getting things organized in the learning room ... for a day-after-Labor-Day start! I relish this time of year ... need to get maps up, bags organized, books arranged and supplies re-stocked!

Ww baby days

And my little fella. :) He found this "old" toy when we were downstairs at the laundry ... he trucked it upstairs, placed it up on the table, and got himself into a chair so he could play (work). I love how hard he's concentrating here ... :)

Enjoy the rest of your Wednesday, my friends! See you here again very soon!

It's ... Babyzilla!

Babyzilla 6

Now, don't get me wrong, our Little Bear is just about the sweetest baby you can imagine (so says his mother, ahem!), but you know how babies get to that certain age where they suddenly love to GRAB things - like, ALL THINGS, whether they be sentient or not - and those babies get a little - ooh, shall we say - miffed when said things get taken away from them? And when they settle down to play - with all those colorful blocks and neat stacking rings - the most fun they seem to have is when they're just crashing them all about?


Well we call this stage of development, the "Babyzilla" stage, lol. And that's right where our Little Bear is now - it's just too funny! So recently, when he was in one of those crash-about moods, I tried to capture some of his antics on camera, so I hope you don't mind me sharing a few ...

(or maybe 10)

Babyzilla 14

Babyzilla 13

Babyzilla 12

Babyzilla 11

Babyzilla 10

Babyzilla 7

Babyzilla 9

Babyzilla 8

Babyzilla 15

Babyzilla 16

(He even sometimes sounds like this ... only much, much cuter.)

Clearly we are all on the mend, and I am so very grateful for that! It's a lovely, MILD first day of February (did you remember to say Rabbit, Rabbit this morning?) and tomorrow promises temps a bit milder! A busy weekend, too (on paper, anyways) - today is St. Brigid's Day and tomorrow is Candlemas - aka Groundhog Day - and this weekend is our local bird count (though we're shamefully out of the loop these days) and oh yeah ... there's some little football game going on somewhere at some point as well. ;)

Well, I hope you're all feeling well and enjoying your day whatever might be up for you and yours. I hope you enjoyed our babyzilla pictures ... and whoops, I just realized LB is indeed wearing two different socks. Par for the course around here I'm afraid!

Happy February, everyone ... see you here again very soon!

Good Monday Morning!

Hello, my friends ~ I hope you all had a nice weekend! I have just a few family photos to share on this odd October morning ...

(Odd in that it's drizzly and gray but strangely mild and muggy!)

First, here are my older boys with Little Bear ...

O with l and j

And here is Earlybird and Mama (me) with Little Bear who is sitting in his brand spankin' new "activity center." :)

O with mama and r

And now for Daddy and EB with Little Bear ...

O exersaucer 1

We had an "exersaucer" for the older boys when they were babies, but it's long gone. Nana and Papa bought this new "play zone" for LB this weekend.

But Little Bear looks so tiny in this! I think he'll get more use out of it as he gets a bit older ... he's pretty intrigued though!

Owen exersaucer 2

Hmmm ... what's this?

Owen exersaucer 3

Oh the places you'll go, little O!


Have a great Monday, everyone ... see you here again very soon!

The Animals' Advent

This morning's Advent tree note read:

"Today we'll read about The Animals' Advent and play with your new Forest Santa Playset."


I found this delightful book at Barnes & Noble a few weeks back. It's a lift-the-flap, board-style book meant for very young children (and very small hands) but it's perfect for EB. He's really into the whole "countdown" aspect of Advent, and of course we love most anything nature-related. The story revealed along with each animal is told in rhyme so, it's even more fun to read along as you lift each flap.

And here's the Playmobile Forest Santa playset (an Advent Calendar actually!) ...


... our gift to EB on his birthday!

As with any Advent calendar, it's meant to be opened a door at a time (revealing one piece of the woodland) but we allowed EB to open them all at once. :)

By the way, another favorite book about animals at Christmas is The Christmas Cat by Efner Tudor Holmes (illustrated by the incomparable Tasha Tudor). It's such a heartwarming story and the pictures are so, so lovely. Next week, on the Winter Solstice (Tuesday, the 21st) we'll read this story and make some gingerbread animal ornaments. (The recipe and directions are given at the back of the book.) And then we'll decorate the little outdoor tree we bought at the tree farm with treats for "our own" woodland animals.

Thank you so much for stopping by today ~ I hope you all had a wonderful Wednesday! 

For St. George's Day ...

"In the circle of the year, the Day of St. George and the Feast of St. Michael and All Angels (September 29th) stand opposite one another. In many ways we can see how George's reputation as a courageous knight and champion of the oppressed, steadfast in truth, holds up an earthly mirror to the warrior Archangel who fought the great dragon in heaven (Revelations 12)." (All Year Round)


To do today ~ make up a pot of (decaffeinated) English Breakfast tea (George is the patron saint of England). Toast up some crumpets, and read our favorite St. George story. 

I'll add a few dragon books to the April book basket, too:


Kenny and the Dragon


Herb the Vegetarian Dragon


Eric Carle's Dragons, Dragons


Dragonology: The Complete Book of Dragons

I plan to pick up some Michaelmas daisy (or purple aster) seeds today to start in potting cups. Hopefully they'll see full bloom in our late September (Michaelmas) garden.

We'll line up our dragon toys (we have a considerable amount, lol) and I'll set up our castles and cave toys in the play areas.


Dinner tonight will be roast chicken, new potatoes and asparagus, buttered popovers and for dessert ~ cupcakes with white frosting and little red candy roses on top. :)


"Fairy tales are more than true; not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten." ~ G.K. Chesterton

However you spend it, I hope your day is a happy one!

Mitten Strings for God: Chapter Eight

~Secret Places~


"Every child needs such a place, a place that invokes the processes of the imagination and the possibility of transformation. A place that is at once a haven from the adult world and a source of mystery and wonder, a place that a child can discover and shape and lay claim to, simply by virtue of his or her own presence there, and deep observation."

I love this short and sweet chapter; it makes me want a quiet little spot all of my own! But it also makes me think about how much my boys would love such a place. And like each of the chapters before it, it really gets my maternal wheels turning ...

Children thrive on imaginative play, and a secret place would welcome them right into that world. Because whether they are imagining themselves to be pirates or just curled up reading a book, there's an element of pretend to it all. Here, they are on their own, and they are in charge (more or less). In these little places they can dream up all kinds of things to do, or to be - or they can just think about what's going on in their life. We grown-ups know the need for "alone time" all too well; I know I do my best thinking - and imagining - when I have a quiet little space for myself. Our children may not ask for it themselves, but that need is still there. The trick is figuring out how to provide it for them.

Because for one thing, we can't really let our kids just meander off into the woods on their own, as our parents and grandparents once allowed. Years ago most kids, like Ms. Kenison, just found these places on their own. I have a hunch most kids today would need a little direction.

And for another thing, most modern homes lack the kind of nook-and-crannies that older homes had in spades - every square inch, it seems, is accounted for. But inside or out (or both) this is a good time to think about how we might provide such a spot - a little haven of peace and mystery - for our children. Now that spring is here, look at your yard with fresh eyes, and see what you might come up with ...

I remember my own secret places quite well. There were a few cozy spots inside our house, but it was outside where I found most of my alone time. When I was little, we had a brook that ran through the backyard. Beside its north bank there stood a large boulder. I would climb that boulder (quite a brave feat in my mind at the time!) and just, well, sit. I think I remember "fishing" with long twigs and watching for rabbits to come out of the woods. Everything was quite overgrown and you could hardly see our house from the spot. My spot. Looking back on it, I recall feeling like I really was off in the wild somewhere. :)

The other outside secret place was at my grandparents' house. To the left of their house, just beside their small side yard, rose a hill. Near the bottom of this hill was (and still is) a small brushy wood. And at the top of this hill was a wild patch of tiny blueberries. Here I would climb, dixie cup in hand, and sit and pick and imagine. Some of the neighbor kids would join me here, too. There were trees for climbing and when you got near the top - you could see the whole neighborhood! Oh my, that feeling!

As much as my boys are outside - and they're outside a lot - I really can't let them off by themselves. We have wonderful woods behind our house, thick with fields and trees and a meandering river; an adventureland to be sure. But you know, we can explore it together all we want - we're just not comfortable letting them out there all on their own ...

So, I'm working on a few ideas. :)

~ For one thing, a tree fort. Every child (especially, I think, a boy) should have a tree fort at some time in his life, don't you think? Our neighbors - whose children are all grown - have a cool tree fort in their backyard. It's dilapidated now, unfortunately.

~ But a tree house is a big project, and we're knee deep in projects around here, so ... my next idea is a stick house. I saw this project in Earthways. (A book about which I cannot say enough!) Basically, you set up several long poles or branches as a base, securing them against a fence or a tree. Secure them together twine and then let the kids start weaving branches, twigs, grasses, vines and leaves all around until its filled in. (Leave a space for an entrance.) I have just the corner in mind for this, too - far from the house, but still within its boundaries. :)

~ Next on the list of possibilities would be a sunflower house or pole bean tepee. This would be a fun gardening project for the summer.

~ Finally, another idea which we've done in the past, is to set up a tent in the backyard for the summer. The kids can use it as a "clubhouse" of sorts and even sleep out in it at night (dad sleeping alongside of course).

And with an eye toward the fall, we're finishing off a portion of our basement as a playroom, a space that will be devoted to the boys. Not that it will be all that secret, but it will have a cozy den-like feeling to it, I hope. :)

So, there you have my thoughts after chapter eight ~ and now I'd love to hear yours! Please leave a comment if you have time, or a link to a post at your blog. Do your children have a quiet spot to call their own? Are you, like me, brainstorming ways to provide them with such a place?

"In choosing these places, and the things that go into them, we learn about who we are and what we love. We learn about the power of place, how to partake of the world's subtleties and secrets, of the human need for sanctuary."

Thanks for stopping by, my friends. Enjoy your weekend, and I'll see you all again sometime soon. :)

Mitten Strings for God: Chapter Seven



"So much of the structure that we impose on our children's lives is really intended to make our own lives easier. We don't want to give up our freedom, and so we fail to grant our children theirs. As every mother knows, it's easier to sign up for sports camp than to carve out a week to allow your children to follow their own inclinations at home. But children need time that is utterly their own - time to take up residence in their own lives, time to dream through an afternoon, time to play with the kids next door, time to wake up to their own pleasures. Above all, they need some time when we adults aren't calling the shots."

When I'm asked why we homeschool, I usually respond that there are too many reasons to list. But more often than not, (depending on the nature of the conversation, and the person asking the question), I usually then go on to list out those reasons. :)

One of the reasons at the top of that list is that homeschooling gives my children so much TIME. Time to be children, time to figure out who they are, time to get to know their brothers and the rest of their family. As a family, homeschooling allows us to draw up our own schedule, fillling it in as we see fit - making sure there's lots of blank space on that chart.

Play needs to be part of that blank space. Children can discover so much - about the world, about themselves - through their play. Some discoveries just cannot be taught or arranged by the adults - they must be stumbled upon by the children themselves.

For example, last week we had our Nature Club's April Meeting. We had a lovely time, searching for signs of spring in the woods. The initial plans were drawn up by parents, and the walk itself was led, more or less, by the parents. At the end of our walk, we gathered together to share our findings - drawings, poems, etc. The children had a great time - you could read the excitement in their faces, pink from the fresh air and exercise.

But the moment we were "done," the kids were off - off to the rocks. And before long we had a group of - oh, easily 30 children, of all ages and sizes - climbing the rocks, taking part in some kind of game. Completely child-driven, child-led and child-imagined. It was like they were speaking their own language - I'd hear snippets as they'd run by in packs - something about tribes and some kind of mission. We parents just stood back and let them do what they had to do. They let us have our time - now this was theirs.

My heart soared on this gorgeous spring day, that my children - all these children - all had so much time to PLAY. To just be children. Given a half hour of freedom, they knew just what to do with it.

Of course, this example shows what children can do with all that time, when they are all together. But what about when they are on their own?

"Perhaps we adults have lost the fine art of lollygagging, but at least most of us mastered it as children. We knew what it was to bored and to find something on our own to do; we knew what loneliness felt like; and we discovered the value in being alone sometimes. Left to our own amusements, we found resources we didn't know we had. We learned, as Worsworth wrote, to see through "that inward eye that is the bliss of solitude." These were valuable lessons - and I fear that our own busy, well-entertained children may not ever have the chance to learn them. Inventiveness and self reliance are being scheduled right out of them."

And of course the other question I often get asked re homeschooling is: "Don't your kids get bored?"

And to be perfectly honest, not really. Or if they do get itchy, it's usually not long before they find something to start up (or, ahem, something is suggested for them). I am a huge fan of boredom. I think in today's culture, boredom is quite underrated.

And to be further honest, though we're as busy as the next homeschooler (classes, clubs, field trips, etc.) the reality is we are home a lot. And no matter how much you are home - whether you homeschool or not - you do need to plan ahead for these times.

I'm still working on this myself - I don't mean to sound like I have it all figured out! But here are a few ideas I've been knocking around regarding making home time fulfilling for everyone ~

Explore and cultivate hobbies, give them room to grow. Involve the kids in the everyday running of the household - washing the car, walking the dog, etc. Set up comfortable places to read, convenient spaces to play. Rotate the books on display week by week. Make art supplies accessible, and keep a workspace available nearby. Keep music on inthe background, something different or something familiar - whatever you think will strike the right mood that day. A basket of CD's on a shelf, next to the player invites children to consider the music themselves. Make your child's bedroom a sanctuary - a place to dream, and relax. Set up shelves for things like aquariums, terrariums, rock collections or lego creations.

Well, I've run out of time for today, but I would love to hear your thoughts on this chapter! How do you encourage your children to entertain themselves? What kinds of space (both physical and emotional) do you provide for them?

And ~ I hope you are all enjoying your weekend! See you all again sometime soon. :)

(Next week's chapter: Secret Places)

Bubbles, Swords, Cupcakes and Dirt ...

... on a fine spring day, what more could a little boy wish for? :)

Here are a few pictures from our visit yesterday with my mum and her cousin, her cousin's daughter (my cousin) and her son (my boys' cousin). Actually that makes us all cousins, doesn't it? :) First, second or third, it doesn't matter ~ we had a lovely time!


The boys and their trucks in the dirt, happy as clams.


Earth Day Celebration Cupcakes!


Bubble wands instantly became lightsabers. ;)


And then the bubbles were slain, of course.


By sword or 'saber, either one did the trick!

Well, thanks so much for stopping by ~ hope your day's going well. :)

Poetry Friday: Christina Rossetti

*Christmas Daybreak*


Before the paling of the stars,

Before the winter morn,

Before the earliest cock crow,

Jesus Christ was born:

Born in a stable,

Cradled in a manger,

In the world His hands had made,

Born a stranger …


Jesus on his mother’s breast

In the stable cold,

Spotless Lamb of God was He,

Shepherd of the fold.

Let us kneel with Mary Maid,

With Joseph bent and hoary,

With saint and angel, ox and ass,

To hail the King of Glory.

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


On the tabletop are favorite nativity books:

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

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


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


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


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

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

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

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

Happy Friday!

Toys of Wood and Wonder


I've posted before about my little love affair with wooden toys. I think (no, I am sure) I love them more than the boys do! They are so lovely and warm; they inspire such wonder and creativity. Now, don't get me wrong - we have our fair share of plastic toys - and then some! (Just last night the Toys 'R Us flyer was dissected and discussed at great length.) But I so treasure our earthy, open-ended toys. They seem to go hand-in-hand with our nature study and stories, and best of all, they have yet to appear on any recall lists. :)

Well, this post is for Katherine and Laura, who asked about our wooden nesting elements (shown above). ... at long last I found them! They can be found right here at the beautiful Three Sisters Toys.

And for Lori who asked about our tree fort (shown below), it's there too! And at a good price, if my memory serves. (And by the way, Lori, most of our soft nature toys are Audubon birds (this site has a GREAT selection) and Folkmanis finger puppets. (Many can be found here. Do request their catalog - it's amazing!)


Admittedly these toys can be expensive - but they are very well made, and they really last. In our family, they have mostly been delivered over the years by Santa ... and his generous assistants, the grandparents. :)

Of course the trick with any toys (plastic, wooden or otherwise) is finding a balance: keeping track of how many we own, and limiting how many are kept out at one time. It's hard to take care of "too many toys," and yet all too easy to take them for granted ...

Ah, but that's a post for another time! The coffee just beeped and it's time to start my day. :)

Hope yours is a good one!

Homeschooling Has Many Perks ...

Like going to a birthday party during your lunch break!


Here are the older two boys who were invited to a "Pump it Up" birthday party this morning from 11:30 till 1. (Nana stayed home with EB.)

Pump it Up is a ... well, how exactly do I describe it? It is a party place at which kids play on all manner of inflatable moon-bounce apparatus for an hour or so. There's some music involved as well as much running, jumping, sliding, laughing and sweating. There was also pizza and cake before all was said and done.


Above you see Crackerjack sliding ...


Bookworm "boxing" ...


And this is CJ casting one last look at his mother before beginning his match ...


Here is the group taking a breather just before lunch was served.


And joining the birthday boy on his throne are my two guys. Happy Birthday Kurt!


The light saber favors were a huge hit with the kids. Before we all headed out, a group duel was a must. By 2:00 we were back home and back to work! :)

Lunch and gym were never this fun! Hope you had a fun day, too!

Our Afternoon with Abe

We had fun this afternoon celebrating Abraham Lincoln's birthday! First of all, it was just a great February day - cold and windy, with brilliant sunshine. We wrote out some Valentine cards this morning and mailed them on the way home from speech. Then, after lunchtime, just after EB went down for a nap (he's still recovering from that cold), we broke out the Swiss Rolls - I mean, Lincoln Logs - and poured cups of creamy hot cocoa. While the wind whipped around outside our learning room windows we listened to the tales of Abe Lincoln's childhood ...


As we read, this particular quote caught our attention:

"That winter was long, but at last spring was there. Then the distant neighbors came to help them build a real cabin. It had four walls, but no windows or door. They had to climb through a hole in the wall to get in and out."

Bookworm exclaimed, "Hey, just look at the hole in the wall of our birdhouse!"

Why, we mused, this could be the very replica of that cabin from so long ago! I don't think we will ever consider this birdhouse without remembering the good laugh we had envisioning the Lincoln family crawling in and out of that hole! The boys were amazed at the hardships the Lincolns faced, and how at one time they lived in a three-sided house!

"What about the wild animals," Crackerjack asked?

Yes, the dangers were many back then. We felt all the more fortunate for our secure and toasty warm home where the wildest animal we encountered today was the neighbor's cat we chased out of the sandbox!

After our snack, we began work on our log cabin bird house. This craft would be fun for any family studying pioneer days. I bought the unfinished wooden bird house at Michael's Arts & Crafts for $4.99. I would assume similar varieties are available in other craft supply stores nationwide.

Here are some pictures from our project:


The boys each chose a side and got to work painting the roof.


The sides were painted in log cabin red.


Bookworm gave the door a coat of green paint.


After a bit of blue for the porch, we were done!

While I applied a few finishing touches (i.e. smoothed out a few globs here and there), the boys spent a while building with their Lincoln logs by the fire.


Bookworm took his time with the engineering aspects ...


... and Crackerjack just had a good time!

So, we will continue reading our book through the week, and Bookworm is also reading this biography. We never did get around to the pretzel log cabin I so wanted to try, but we may save that for Wednesday as a Nor'easter is moving in. A perfect day to work on such a project, while the world turns white all around us.

A Very Co-op Christmas Party

Plus, Earlybird got to celebrate his birthday with his closest friends, our co-op buddies! We were celebrating three things, actually - Christmas, EB's 5th birthday, and our friend Curran's 11th!

Here are some photos from our day, which was so very fun. We hadn't all been together since - can it be? - Halloween. That doesn't seem possible, but yes, the holidays kicked in and co-op got put on hold. It felt so good to be all back together. The day was even warm enough that the kids got to spend a good deal of time running around outside. (You should have seen all those pink cheeks!)

Our game plan was a pizza lunch, then crafts, followed by a holiday video and popcorn. We would be celebrating happy birthdays, too - sans the actual singing of course as it makes EB cry. (Always has, and it seems, always will.)

The mini star cakes reflected EB's ongoing astronomy theme. Below you see the ingredients that made up his birthday treat: chocolate cupcake, all natural marshmallows (in lieu of frosting) and organic chocolate sprinkles. I melted a marshmallow on top of the cupcake for a glossy, gooey effect - though it turned out EB liked the marshmallow straight up!


Here's the elder birthday boy, Curran and his sister Abby. You remember Abby, my crafting buddy? She's holding up a craft from today - a very pretty spiral that will look lovely hanging from the ceiling or in front of a window.


And here we have Crackerjack and his buddy Neal, enjoying the play-fort and the unseasonably warm weather.


And this might just be the cutest little Christmas elf I ever did see. This is Hayley, our littlest co-op member. Inspired by the boys' star hats the other day, Hayley came dressed in her own starry ensemble (Don't you just love the hat - and that face?!)


Here's a bit of the "craft aftermath" ...


We cleared space for the cakes when the time came for candles and wishes!


I love this picture of EB surrounded by his brother (on the right) and friends, Pat and Curran. He loves being in the thick of it all.


While playing outside EB took some time to "work" in the birch wood crafting area. I am sure he thinks Daddy set this up just for him. ;) I'm thinking come spring this would make a great wood-working spot for the boys.


Before I go, here is a picture of EB's present, a huge set of wooden street signs! (Thank you Wendy & crew!)



Talk about an ideal gift for a busy little boy!

Friends, this was such a perfect day. Thanks for helping us celebrate EB's birthday and always making him feel such a big part of the group. I can't wait till we get together again soon!   

Nature Study & Play: Autumn Leaves

"Come little leaves, said the wind one day,Leaf5_1
Come, over the meadows with me and play:
Put on your dresses of red and gold,
For summer is gone and the days grow cold ...

Is the fall foliage at its peak where you live? Here in New England we only have a week or two left to enjoy the autumn leaves in all their brilliance. Peak or past, who can possibly miss the vibrance of these last days of the season? Who would want to?

Leaf4_1Mid-autumn is a perfect time to add to the nature notebooks before the landscape is barren once more. Our own nature study has been on the back burner of late, but all it took was one great (wonderful, fantastic) book to put us back on track ~ and put us in the mood to explore and celebrate one of the wonders of autumn - the gorgeous falling leaves.

First, a few words about the book that started it all ... Fletcher and the Falling Leaves. Do you know it? It was just published this fall, and already it is an absolute favorite! If ever there was a perfect fall picture book, this just might be it!

I first saw Fletcher in the Chinaberry catalog and, though I wanted it immediately (I Fletcher_1could just tell by the cover and description this book would be a treasure), I held myself in check and requested a copy from the library. But I found the book was already so popular all the copies were checked out! So we requested, we waited, and finally we brought it home last week.

This book is a wonderful fall read - breathtaking illustrations combine with a simple and endearing story. Fletcher is a small fox kit who, as autumn moves in, is worried about his very favorite tree - and specifically all the leaves it is losing:

"The world was changing. Each morning, when Fletcher bounded out of the den, everything seemed just a little bit different. The rich green of the forest was turning to a dusty gold, and the soft, swishing sound of summer was fading to a crinkly whisper. Fletcher's favorite tree looked dull, dry and brown.

Fletcher was beginning to get worried."

Fletcher's mother tells him not to worry. "It's only autumn," she says. But worry Fletcher does. He even tries valiantly to save all the leaves from the wind and the frost - but as it always happens with nature, he simply cannot. He learns in the end however - spoiler alert! - that his tree has its own winter magic to share. Oh, I could just read this book over and over. And I do, even when no little ears are listening. :)

Leaf2_1So, inspired by this book, and Fletcher's abiding love for his special tree, as well as the beautiful leaves all around us ... I brainstormed some autumn leaf nature activities to have fun with over the next few weeks, before our trees must also enter their own winter sleep. Naturally, I first turned to the Handbook of Nature Study to see what Ms. Comstock had to say on the subject. And, naturally, she had a lot to say ... here's a sample:

"During autumn the attention of the children should be attracted to the leaves by their gorgeous colors. It is well to use this interest to cultivate their knowledge of the forms of the leaves of the trees; but the teaching of the tree species should be done quite incidentally and guardedly. If the teacher says to the child bringing a leaf, "This is a white-oak leaf," the child will soon quite unconsciously learn that leaf by name. Thus, tree study may be begun in the kindergarten or primary grades."

And since I know many of you enjoy nature study and play, I'm going to share my thoughts with you here!


  • Collect and press various leaf types for your nature notebooks.
  • Make leaf crowns.
  • Make leaf prints: With vibrant shades, paint the underside of a leaf and press it onto paper for a image. Or lay down a leaf and, using an old toothbrush, spatter paint around its edges.Leaf3
  • Preserve your autumn leaves (different methods described here).
  • Make beautiful stained glass leaves as found at Bountiful Blessings (hat tip Lissa).
  • Make a leaf mobile: Seal leaves between two sheets of clear contact paper. Trim the edges, punch a hole in one end and thread on a length of autumn-hued yarn. Attach yarn ends to a long branch and then hang from your ceiling, perhaps over your dining table or nature corner.
  • Make a nature print t-shirt using differently shaped leaves. (We made these for Bookworm's birthday; directions can be found here.)

Out and About:

  • Visit a local sanctuary and take a walk around the wooded property. Sign up for a class or a naturalist-guided walk. (Even if there is nothing scheduled, you could call ahead and ask the sanctuary if this is something you could organize for a small group of families or homeschooled children.)
  • Plan a trip to the park and take along a field guide for a leaf-type scavenger hunt. Work together to check off a "leaf list" prepared ahead of time.
  • How about scaled down leaf-peeping? For this trip, you don't have to make reservations or travel a distance. Plan a fun mini-jaunt on a Saturday afternoon. Pack up the kids and take along sippy cups or travel cups filled with apple cider and a bag full of snacks. (I'm thinking gingersnaps, homemade trail mix or granola bars, perhaps.) Tour the back roads and enjoy all the autumn beauty right in your own neighborhood! Be sure to pick some lovely background music for your ride. :)

Leaf1 Learn:

  • Why do the leaves change color in fall? I'm still surprised by the answer!
  • How do leaves help us (air), the earth (compost) and its critters (nests, shelter)? Take an afternoon and peak under the leaf litter - who's under there anyway? Late fall is a perfect time to look for squirrel dreys or start a compost pile.
  • Learn all your local leaf types. Consult a reliable and regional field guide - or alternatively, (or even in addition), a really fun project would be to work on a field guide of your very own. The children could sketch leaves they find or paste pressed leaves onto the pages. Add notes about the parent tree, where and when the leaves were found, etc.
  • Learn that a leaf's death is not what causes it to fall from its stem: I found this experiment in Janice VanCleave's Science around the Year (where there is an even more detailed explanation for this phenomenon).: "Procedure: Break a sprig with 4 or more green leaves attached off a bush or a tree. Stand the sprig in a vase. Set the vase where the sprig can be observed but not disturbed for 4 weeks or more. Observe the leaves as often as possible, but do not touch them. Results: The leaves die and turn brown but do not fall off the stem. Why? Chemicals have not digested the walls of the cells in the abscission layer. So the cells in the abscission layer, as well as the tubes in the petiole, remain attached to the stem after the leaf dies." Hmmm ... I'd better get out the science encyclopedia for that one!
  • Autumn is the perfect time to begin a year-long tree study as suggested and detailed in (where else?) the Handbook of Nature Study. Please let me share another of Ms. Comstock's inspiring quotes: "In the fourth grade, begin with the study of a tree which grows near the schoolhouse. In selecting this tree, and in speaking of it, impress upon the children that it is a living being, with a life and with needs of its own." Autumn would be a great time to look at leaves and tree wildlife. Winter would be perfect for examining tree shape and the wood itself. Spring of course warrants a look at the very lifeblood of trees, sap, as well as a study of what trees give to us (healthy air and products such as lumber, paper, maple syrup, fruit, nuts, etc.).
  • Learn leaf-themed poems like the fond and familiar "Come little leaves" with which I framed this post. (Full text here.) More poems may be found in Leaf by Leaf: Autumn Poems. A poem page with pressed or sketched leaves all around would be a lovely addition to your nature notebooks. :)


  • Let children crumble dried leaves into a pot to make "autumn soup" (complete withLeaf4_2 acorns, seeds, dried grasses and spent blossoms, of course).
  • Turn on Vivaldi's Four Seasons and let the kids dance to the music, waving leaves or bright autumn play silks. Maybe wearing their leaf crowns! (Idea from Little Saints: A Catholic Preschool Program.)
  • Rake up the leaves and jump right in! Or, offer to rake an elderly neighbor or relative's leaves. A child-size rake is an inexpensive and helpful investment - find them at For Small Hands.
  • Tell a woodland puppet story, with falling leaves as your central theme. Use the knowledge you gleaned about who in the animal kingdom uses leaves to weave a fun tale for your children. Or let them do the imagining! I've shown you our nature puppet collection before, but I haven't yet described the puppet curtains we use! A few years ago, my mother made Crackerjack several pairs of simple puppet curtains, using patterned fabric and iron-on fabric tape. She made several themes to inspire all kinds of stories - snowflake, sunshine, glittering silver, starry night sky, etc. We hang them in a doorway using a simple tension rod. A leafy pattern would be a perfect backdrop for an autumnal story about squirrels, beetles and snakes. Or how about a story about a small seed and a little leaf, both afraid of the cold and the changes, till at last they meet up and keep each other company all winter long ... Just thinking! I'll try to post pictures of our curtains sometime soon. :)
  • Finally, just simply lay back in the leaves and stare up the trees - and thank God for all of our world's natural beauty!


You just knew I was going to find a way to fit a "tea and a craft" day in here, didn't you? ;) Well, any time's perfect for afternoon tea, but especially after a morning outside enjoying God's loving handiwork - the beautiful autumn canopy. How nice would a cup of cinnamon decaf tea be with a plate of autumn linzer cookies? A little talk about tea leaves would be a perfect touch too!

Leaf2_2 Any of the leaf crafts mentioned earlier would be a perfect project for your leafy tea day, but so would making up a small autumn leaf tea set, especially if you happen to know anyone with a birthday this fall ... I haven't made any of these things yet, but I'm thinking of that leafy fabric I mentioned above, cut and hemmed into a set of cute cloth napkins. Wooden napkin rings can be found at any craft store and painted in an array of autumnal colors. A small terracotta pot may be decorated with paints, stickers or even tiny decoupaged leaves, and a thin colorful ribbon could be tied just under the rim. Tuck a votive sized candle inside ~ wouldn't Yankee Candle Autumn Leaves be perfect here? Add a box of favorite tea and homebaked cookies and this would be a truly memorable autumn birthday gift!


Of course, there are many wonderful leaf-themed books to read. Here are a few to get you started:

Wherever you live, I hope you are enjoying the changes fall brings to your corner of the world. I had planned to add some photos of the colorful leaves in our own yard, but today is damp and overcast, so we'll have to wait a day or two for things to dry out!

In the meantime, please share what you like to do with, or how you celebrate, the changing autumn leaves. Any good books to recommend? Any pictures you've snapped? Crafts, science lessons or playtime ideas? I'd love to hear about them and add them to my list! Drop me a comment below or share your ideas at your blog ...Leaf5_4

As with so much in nature, the autumn leaves are fleeting ~ let's enjoy them while we can!

Dancing and whirling, the little leaves went;
Winter had called them and they were content;
Soon, fast asleep in their earthy beds,
The snow laid a coverlid over their heads."

~ George Cooper

Memories ...

My cousin, Amy, sent me a copy of this picture taken in 1975 - do you recognize any of those faces? ;)

Shown here are my cousin, my brother and me. (I'm the one holding the "reins.") I love this picture of the three of us, playing together as we often did at my grandparents' house. To me this is a perfect snapshot of childhood - pigtails, overalls and buster browns - playing outside on a sunny day. What happy days they were - happier still when Amy came to play!


Below is a picture of Amy's son Matthew and my own Earlybird playing in our yard just a few months ago. We had not been together since they were babies! It was such a joy to catch up and watch our two little boys playing happily together, just as we did so many years ago. (Though I don't think we ever played with monster trucks!)


Thank you, Amy, for sending me such a fond memory today!! It really brought a smile to my face. :)

History at Our House

It was a particularly good day for history at our house yesterday. The following is a quick recap ...

The boys spent the morning sprawled out on the living room floor, soaking up the sunshine while reading great books about - of all things, barbarians - all the brothers together, along with the cat.


Next we worked on maps for the history notebook. These showed the five barbarian kingdoms circa 500 A.D. (Franks, Anglo-Saxons, Visigoths, Vandals and Ostrigoths).


This activity benefits our European geography study as well.


The boys read together some more on the couch. A lot of what we're learning about barbarians recalls our recent co-op ancient Rome study. The Barbarians wiped out the Roman empire before settling their own kingdoms throughout western Europe. You Wouldn't Want to be a Roman Soldier: Barbarians You'd Rather Not Meet was an informative but funny read. Right up the boys' alley.


A little spontaneous math: Bookworm requested a calculator to figure out how many soldiers made up a Roman legion.


Then we looked up a few neat internet sites showing Anglo-Saxon artifacts.


The boys took all that they learned and followed up by playing barbarians outside ...



Of course, battle or no, savvy barbarians know not to overlook an acorn feast when they stumble across it. (Ours will be saved for the squirrel buffet). I love the swords tucked behind their shirts.


This looks to be one of those studies that will deserve more than just one week of our attention. Crackerjack discovered barbarian toys in his Papo catalog (possibly his favorite reading material these days). AC moore carries Papo figures so I'll check there first, but I also found them available here.


I also have a few books on request through the library system - they should be in by the weekend. Looks like we won't be getting to monks and monasteries until sometime next week! But see, that's the wiggle room I mentioned some time back. :)