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Autumn Tea and Tidbits!

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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) ...

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

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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 ...

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

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I love peppering my planners with seasonal poems and quotes!

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Next page has my October menu calendar ...

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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 ...

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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 ...

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And here is last week's spread!

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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!

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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 ...

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

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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˜‰

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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 ...

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  • 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!

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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 ... 

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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!

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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 ...

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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 ...

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

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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 ...

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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 ...

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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 ...

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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. :)

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

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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 ❀

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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 ...

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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 ...

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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!

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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 ...

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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. :)

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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.

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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.

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✨🍎✨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. 

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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€

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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 ...

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(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!

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(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!


Winter Weekend: Warmth & Wonder

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Happy Weekend, everyone!

Now, you may have heard about the gigantic blizzard that is hitting certain parts of our country - parts that aren't used to this kind of thing! I do hope everyone who is in the storm's path is staying safe and warm. We're only getting a couple of inches overnight here in New England, though the winds will be high. Remember, stay home and "weather the weather" as best you can! It's the safest way ... and enjoy all that snow! :)

So I'm just popping in quickly this morning to share a few photos and say "hi." Above you see my cheerful mug which is holding a gallon or so of hot tea - sitting on top of two things that came in the mail yesterday which made me so very happy: my Isabella catalog and Green Parent magazine. I have a lot on my "to-do" list this weekend, but I will be making time for perusing these two publications at some point! (Over a giant cup of tea, of course.)

And how about a slice of this, too ... ?

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Dark and spicy gingerbread - a result of our Friday baking. A Trader Joes mix, easy-peasy to make with the kids, and it made the house smell amazing! (Even better with a dollop of freshly whipped cream ...)

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And this sweet little book is one of Little Bear's favorites right now. We pulled it from our Winter Book Basket and have been reading it over and over through the week ... as you can see below, we have a lot of animal tracks in our yard at the moment!

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Before the snow hits this afternoon, I plan to take the boys out so we can figure out just WHO ALL has been traipsing through our yard! I have lots of books on my nature shelf for doing just that - filled with great illustrations of the various prints. And while we're out there, we'll refill all the bird feeders so our feathered and furred friends will be well fed through the storm. If they don't have to search so hard for sustenance, they can conserve a little of their precious energy!

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Also on my weekend agenda - if I can eke out a little spare time - is to work in my big seasonal planning binder. I aim to finish up the Deep Winter section (cover page shown above), so I can turn my eager thoughts to Early Spring. Why am I doing this now? Well, it is the second to last weekend of the month and that is when I do a little forward planning: calendar updating (in this case, February) as well as seasonal planning (in this case, early spring). One of those planning "tasks" that really need a spot in the schedule to call their own ... otherwise they never "fit" in!

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And finally, another peek into a favorite vintage book of mine, Round the Year with Enid Blyton ... this one was a gift from my dear friend, Kimberly ... and I just treasure it. Especially as I plan out nature activities for the upcoming seasons. This is a page from the Winter section, all about "Foot-Writing in the Snow." How lovely!

❀

Well my friends, I will be off now, but I hope you are all doing well and that your weekend will be a good one for you - with some rest and refreshment perhaps, and a little "recharge" of the batteries. What's on your plate this weekend? Are you in the path of some "weather"? Are you hunkering down or heading out? If you have a moment, please leave me a comment and let me know how you are doing ... I would love to hear from you!

But for now, I will leave you all with my fondest farewell and a hope to see you here again sometime soon!


Seasonal Planning: Why the Moon?

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During the Planning Chat Workshop this morning, someone asked why I write the moon phases in my planner ... and it's a very good question! Because it got me thinking about why I enjoy seasonal planning so much ... and in the case of the moon's phases, while we may not be amateur astronomers or anything, I still find it useful information to have on hand ... and here's why. :)
 
For one thing, the full moons, as named by the Native Americans, are tied in with the season in which they fall (Sap Moon, Pink Moon, Flower Moon, Thunder Moon, etc.) and sometimes I include them in our nature study plans. So for example, we might schedule a maple sugaring field trip (a popular local tradition), during the week of the Full Sap Moon ... and that week might be assigned the theme, "melting/sap/thaw." Actually, there's a lot of science and history to be tied in with this topic! We could investigate what conditions are needed for the sap to start running (freezing nights, but day temps above 50) and what it signals to the trees (and the rest of us): Spring is truly on its way! Or maybe we'd learn how the early colonists "discovered" maple syrup (thanks to the Native Americans) and I might even plan a maple-based dinner one night. The younger boys have such fun with all of this, but I think the older boys enjoy these family activities as well.
 
It's also helpful to know when a new moon will occur (which means, no moonshine) because it's easier to see the stars on a "moonless" night. And perhaps that's something I would like to do with the boys as part of our home learning that week or as one of our family "adventures." There are also several meteor showers that occur throughout the year and some are easier to view than others - especially when they take place during the darker sky of a new moon! So it's handy to know whether the moon is waxing or waning when scheduling these kinds of seasonal activities in my planner.
 
Beyond all that though, I like the idea of my planner serving as an old-fashioned "almanac" of sorts, so I include weather notes and simple observations of the nature around us. (Two deer in the yard just now ... heard a raven in the woods ... spotted a fisher cat on Main Street this morning!) I even check the Weather Channel app on my iPhone when doing my weekly "look ahead" planning!
 
Another example of seasonal planning, and this one applies to both nature's seasons as well as those of the Church ... this week we'll be celebrating the Feast of St. Agnes, and our weekly theme is "snowflakes." For years now I've tied snowflakes with this saint's day (because of the tradition of St. Agnes's "flowers") and there are certain crafts and comforts I like to weave into our week. Snowflake science, baking and stories, so many options! Not must-dos, but may-dos. And as it appears we may be in for some snow here late next week, I'll make a point to get the boys outside to really experience the season, this depth of winter ... does it smell like snow? Feel like snow? Look like snow? What signs are telling us snow is on the way?
 
(Now, I was just writing these very notes in my planner for next week and that reminded me I have a half-written post in which I show you how I'm using my printable planning sheets. (In other words, with the spaces filled in!) I am also going to make the monthly calendars I showed you in my planner tour available as PDFs this week in case you'd like to use those as well ... so stay tuned!)
 
So anyhow, this question really made me smile and think for a bit about why I spend so much time finding out about nature and then working it into our family plans. It's something that brings me a lot of personal joy - tying my energy and inspiration to the season - but it's created a lot of fun traditions with my children as well! :)
 
So if your family, like mine, enjoys checking out the night sky from time to time, here's a great calendar for 2016 astronomical events, including full moons and shooting stars, etc. And as of today (or tonight) we are on the way towards the January full moon WHICH -  according to my planner - takes place next Saturday. It's the Full "Wolf" Moon this month and there is some very interesting history tied into that ... but I'll stop there because as usual, I'm getting carried away!
 
But speaking of the Planning Chat Workshop this morning - it was such fun! I hope you could join us, but there is still a way you can listen in - click HERE to sign up for the replay as well as the links Mystie, Jen and I shared from our blogs. I would love to follow up on some of the points and questions that came up during the talk, so please leave me a note or zip me an email (bysunandcandle AT gmail DOT come) if there's something you'd like to see in a future post!
 
For now though, I am going to sign off and enjoy the rest of this slow, snowy Saturday ... I hope you do the same! But thanks so much for stopping by! I will see you all here again very soon ...
 
πŸŒ› πŸŒ 🌜🌚

Thoughtful Thursday ~ Wonder

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"If a child is to keep his inborn sense of wonder, he needs the companionship of at least one adult who can share it, rediscovering with him the joy, excitement, and mystery of the world we live in."

(Rachel Carson)

❀

We released our last Monarch butterfly the other day, and this one, unlike the others, did not shoot off straight into the sky ... but rather lingered for a bit in our yard! Delighting us all - Little Bear most of all - as it flitted around us, stopping at this flower and that. 

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He seemed to enjoy the goldenrod very much!

Good Thursday morning, my friends! I was so excited to share that top photo with you all - isn't it sweet? I think it might be one of my all-time favorite pictures of Little Bear ... he really was quite enthralled with the whole butterfly business. He loves nature and is never happier than when he is trucking around the yard - usually with his little red wheelbarrow, and his yellow bucket hat on his head - and just stopping to look at stuff or add things to his 'barrow. We are so fortunate to live in a world filled with so many wonders ... and blessed are we who can share it with children. They remind us to stop, look ... and wonder. :)

Well, while we are on the subject of butterflies, I wanted to mention something important about Monarchs - brought to my attention recently by Michelle M. As many of you I'm sure realize, Monarchs are a threatened species; their numbers are rapidly dwindling. Climate change, pollution, loss of habitat and rampant (irresponsible) pesticide use all contribute to this calamity, but as Michelle has informed me, using butterfly "kits" to raise Monarchs might also be adding to the issue ...

If I may quote her here, as she stated this so well:

"But the problem is these kit butterflies don't have the genetic diversity that wild populations have and some scientists are very fearful that this may weaken the general population as more and more of these kit-raised monarchs are released. They may be less resistant to disease. Plus it takes many generations to complete the journey from Mexico to New England...who knows where these Monarchs' great grandchildren will think they are really from.

I truly truly don't want to rain on your parade, since raising Monarchs has been one of the top joys of my life. But if at all possible, I urge you to look for caterpillars in your own back yard or close by area and raise those on NATIVE milkweed local to your area, again, not just any milkweed from a nursery or seed packet. Perhaps you would consider amending your blog to not recommend kits?"

Michelle, I thank you, honestly, for bringing up this important information - you are certainly not raining on my parade, but only adding important depth and discernment! Learning about nature is vital as is increasing our respect for it. Admiring nature is a great first step ... but we also must seek to understand it, and foster it as best we can ... goodness knows it can use all the help it can get!

I will now be sure to look for caterpillars locally, hopefully in our own yard. (Our friend who supplied us with these beautiful butterflies lives in the next town over and she has plenty of native milkweed in her yard.) We do have milkweed growing naturally on our road, and I hope to help it spread its seed this fall. (This will work nicely with our "autumn seeds" theme this week!) And next year we will keep our eyes peeled for more milkweed, as well as eggs and caterpillars!

Here is a link to learn more: Rearing Monarchs Responsibly

 My friends, I must wrap up now but I hope you all are enjoying your week! Another quick note before I go - this one about email. I'm still having issues with "freeing space" on my laptop, so I'm "doing email" from my phone for the time being - which is nearly impossible, lol! (I hate typing on that tiny keyboard!) That said, I am also changing my email very soon ... from now on, please send any blog-related email to this address:

bysunandcandle AT gmail DOT com

(Friends and family, my personal email will stay the same - just substitute "gmail" for "comcast.")

Thanks so much for stopping by ... see you here again very soon!


Our First Science Project of the New Year!

Happy Tuesday, my friends!

Popping in to say Good Morning, and let you know I am having some difficulty with my laptop at the moment ... the startup disk is "full," so for the time being I can't upload anything new - most importantly all those photos I took of my homemade lesson planner! So that particular (long-promised) post is still "in progress" ... though I think I may have found a way around the situation. So while I'm slogging through and deleting extraneous files from my laptop's photo storage (for example, the half dozen blurry pics of the woodchuck eating my hollyhocks), I'm also taking pics with my phone and saving them to my FB page ... where I can then grab them (theoretically) for posting! Lol, does any of that make sense?

Tech-savvy, I am not ... we'll see how this turns out!

For today though, I thought I'd show you this lovely surprise science project, a gift to us from my dear friend, Lisa ...

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If you're thinking these little jalapeΓ±o-pepper-looking-things are actually beautiful butterfly chrysalises ... well, you'd be right! 

Lisa has been raising Monarch butterflies for many years now, and this year she shared some with us! (The caterpillars had just made their cocoons the day before she brought them.) So we have five chrysalises in this container, and I am just marveling over how amazing they are! All vibrant and shiny and smooth with little glistening gold dots and seams ... tiny miracles, absolutely!

Now, do you know, in our 15 years of homeschooling, we've never once raised butterflies?! We've studied them, read about them, visited butterfly sanctuaries and watched butterflies (and caterpillars) in our yard but never have we actually observed their metamorphosis so intimately! Needless to say we're all excited - me, most especially! - and I will of course, keep you all posted ... they're about a week or so away from "hatching."

:)

Well my friends, I must be off - I have files to delete! - but I hope you all are enjoying your day and that your week is off to a nice start. See you here again very soon!


Summery Pics & Nature Notes

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 Happy Monday, my friends! I hope you all had a lovely weekend. Ours was very nice - we spent Saturday at Bill's folks' golden anniversary party, and what a special day it was - perfect August weather and lots of family and friends, celebrating a happy, loving couple. I'm not sure if I've mentioned it here at the blog but Bill's dad had a stroke last fall and has been recuperating ever since. It's been a very hard road for him - for Bill's mom, too - but he's come such a long way and is doing very well. We're all so happy he's home now and that they were able to celebrate this beautiful day together - they even renewed their vows on the front lawn and it was just a lovely ceremony ...

Anyhoo, the flowers above are from a beautiful arrangement my sister-in-law had delivered on behalf of all the "kids." My mother-in-law sent me home with a small portion and I just love looking at the pretty blooms sitting my kitchen window. The sweet pansy was a Sunday morning gift from Little Bear, a treasure found "for Mama" on a walk with Daddy. :)

Speaking of pretty flowers, here are some from my mother-in-law's garden ...

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She has quite the green thumb as you can see!

Also this weekend, I found these neat plastic page finders at Staples. (Ah, the siren's call of Staples at this time of year ...) I usually make my own out of scrapbooking paper, but these are quite sturdy and fit a 3-ring binder perfectly. I have one in my home keeping binder for marking my place in my domestic journal (my daily notes/clippings log) and another marks where I have current project plans. I also stick post-it notes to the page finder for various things ... but more on all this when I do my binder tour!

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And here's a very cool - kinda weird! - plant that grows in our woodland garden. It's called Indian Stovepipe, or Ghost Plant (or Corpse Plant, ew!) and it pops up from beneath the leaf litter in late Summer. It feeds on fungus in the soil below and does not use chlorophyl as most plants due, hence its lack of color ...

Indian stovepipe ghost plant

And this might be a little more "ew," but I find it fascinating, and so do my boys ...

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A beautiful snakeskin found in one of our stone walls ... there's a garter nest in there apparently. I love how complete the skin impression is! Can you see the tiny eye marks?

(Note: I must publicly apologize to my mother who, I know, is shuddering to see that snakeskin, and who, to this day, wonders where this bug-snake-dirt-and-rocks loving girl came from, lol. I've always loved nature, but it was all flowers and fluffy animals when I was young ... but you know, I grew up to be a mom to four boys - I had to get right down there and explore with them, and flowers don't intrigue them nearly as much as an exoskeleton or snakeskin! And I find I do love all of nature, and find it so fascinating - miraculous! - even the less "pretty" parts!)

Speaking of nature, don't forget The Perseids are coming this week! (Actually, they're already here, but peaking around 8/12-13.) This annual meteor shower brings beautiful shooting stars to the dark night sky ... read more about them here.

Well my friends, that's all I have time for right now ... but thanks so much for stopping by, and have yourselves a great day! I will see you here again very soon ... :)


Ever Wonder about Wolves?

Good morning, everyone! Did you know it's National Dog Week?

I myself had no idea, but it very conveniently coincides with our current dogs/foxes/wolves study. :) Another happy happenstance, we were kindly invited on a field trip to Wolf Hollow this week! Long time reader and friend, Melissa R, arranged the visit for her homeschool group and invited the boys and I to attend. I am so glad we were able to make it - it was great to meet Melissa and it was nice to be reacquainted with the wonderful wolves of Wolf Hollow.

This morning, if I may, I'd like to share a few photos from our visit with you ...

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(Bookworm and Crackerjack, standing beside the info board.)

Despite his current interest in wolves, Earlybird declared this field trip, "kinda too scary," lol. So he stayed home with Nana. He's been loving all the pictures, though, and has said he might want to go "next time." Baby steps ... :)

Shown below is the Alpha Male, Weeble.

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Isn't he gorgeous? He is getting on in age, but quite obviously held a position of respect. At the same time he seemed quite gentle, and he was the only one to howl for us.

A few of the wolves were quite feisty ...

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The black male on the right is Grendel, who will most likely be the next Alpha. (All these wolves are "gray wolves" despite the variation in fur color.)

In a confrontation such as this, the wolf with a higher pack position holds his tail higher ...

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Below, on the right, is the Alpha Female, Nina - aka "Mom."

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(You can meet all the Wolf Hollow wolves here.)

In a wolf pack, it is the Alpha Female who bears the puppies. One very interesting (and slightly shocking) thing we learned, was that a female wolf is able to sense the overall pack situation (food availability, etc.) and only birth a managable amount of pups. Apparently her body will reabsorb any extraneous pups. That's kind of incredible! o.O

Another interesting thing we learned was that wolves have evolved to have an inborn fear of humans. As our speaker pointed out, if we happened to be walking in a forest where wolves were living, we would never see them. They would steer clear of us - our smell, our sounds, our very existence.

They really are amazing animals, and they live very much like a family - looking after, and out for, each other ... It's disturbing how misunderstood they've been through the years and continue to be in this day and age. 

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We truly enjoyed our visit to Wolf Hollow, and came away with a renewed sense of respect and responsibility. I look forward to exploring wolves (and their brethren, foxes and dogs) more at home with the boys. If you'd like to learn more about wolves, please check out the Wolf Hollow website.

***

Well my friends, thanks so much for stopping by! I hope you all have a nice Friday ... see you here again very soon!


Milkweed & Monarchs

It's that time of year again! There are Monarchs in the air, and milkweed blooms by the roadside ...

Here's a neat little article from the Mass. Audubon Society, reminding us to plant and protect this V.I.P. (very important PLANT), and here's a page on the milkweed's greatest fan, the Monarch Butterfly. And finally, here's a link to a post I wrote last fall on our own Monarch experience, sad though it was ...

Monarch 1

Mid-to-late summer is a great time of year to study butterflies, since they're so readily available to observe. If you don't often see them in your yard, a trip to any nature center or state park would provide you with plenty of specimens to admire ...

For nature study, a small journal could be filled with sketches, photographs, a design for a butterfly garden, a record of "butterfly sightings" and even poems collected or created. And there are so many crafts you could do!

But now that the milkweed is blooming, perhaps a focus on Monarchs would be fun? Their fall migration begins next month, so the time is ripe for monarch observation. I spotted several of them yesterday at the state park (though I only got one fuzzy picture). They're so large and striking - a bright blip in the blue sky, like the fiery summer sun itself.

You probably have your own favorite butterfly books, but here are a few of our favorites:

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Monarch and Milkweed by Helen Frost

Monarch books 2

Monarch Butterfly by Gail Gibbons

Monarch books 3

An Extraordinary Life by Laurence Pringle

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Hurry and the Monarch by Antoine O Flatharta

(That last title we've actually not read - but I just made a request at the library!)

Well, my friends, I hope your week's going well. Is it Tuesday already? Goodness, time flies - especially summer-time it seems. We'll be busy at home today, preparing a few gifts for Bill - whose birthday it is, tomorrow. Something to cook, something to craft ... I'm sure you'll be hearing about that before long. :)

But before I go, may I ask you a quick question?

What was the last butterfly you saw? And where did you see it? If you have time, please leave a comment below!

Until next time, I leave you with my sincere thanks for reading, and a promise to see you again soon!

*❀*


A Summer's Day by the Sea

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Not at the shore, exactly, but rather, above it - in the woods that run alongside it. Today we spent some time exploring the rugged beauty of our coastline and learning about quarries and the New England granite industry. I'd like to share some pictures from our day, if I may - we had such a nice time and the weather was so beautiful.

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Crackerjack was signed up for a geology class run by the state DCR (department of conservation and recreation), which is the oldest regional park system in the country. They always offer amazing programs and their rangers are just wonderful. This class, organized by my friend Kristen, was a follow-up to a geology class we took last month with our homeschool group, at yet another state park in the area. The earlier class was set deep in the woods (unraveling the history of the rocks found in our area) while this one took place alongside the sea and above the remains of an old quarry.

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So while CJ and I took the class, Bill (who took the day off from work) and Earlybird explored the park, while Bookworm visited with friends.

More pics ...

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In that last picture, our ranger, Megan, was demonstrating how to split granite. The kids were just enthralled ... you could hear a pin drop as she worked, because everyone was listening for the "crackle" that granite makes when it's stressed. But wouldn't you know it, just before she cracked that block open, my camera battery exhausted itself. (Quite literally - the message on the screen said, "battery exhausted." So unfortunately I didn't get a final picture of the split block!

(But I promise she did spit the block, and the block did crackle just before it gave way ... very exciting stuff, I must say!)

***

It was a real treat to have Bill with us today - he drove us in the RV, so we really arrived in style. ;) It made the longish drive (made even longer by that darn summer traffic) a little more comfortable ... and having Dad with us made today's experience all the more fun and memorable - because all five us got to enjoy the beautiful weather and breathtaking views.

So I hope you all had a nice day, too. Thanks so much for stopping by and allowing me to share our Monday with you ... have a good night, and take care ... I will see you again sometime soon!

❀


A Day at The (Science) Fair!

This post is about our homeschool group's Science Fair - and all the neat exhibits and nice kids - but most of all, it's a post about Earlybird and how he participated in his first science fair ever!

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(The Fair was held in the community room of a local library. Unfortunately, there's not much natural light in this room, so my pictures are all rather dark.)

So to back up a bit, when I first got wind of the Fair, we - or rather, I - decided to do a tree project with Earlybird. I thought this would be easy since trees are readily available to observe. They are also something familar to EB and of which he is quite fond. There are other "scientific" things he likes - such as planets and steam engines - but he's a bit obsessive about those subjects. I thought we'd "branch out" a bit and choose something a little more low-key.

Ideally, when it comes to science fairs and the like, a child chooses his own subject. But EB can be funny about these things. Knowing that he'd balk at the idea of "doing a fair" or making all these activities "more important" than they seemed to be ... I kind of kept the Fair itself under wraps.

So we just started talking about and looking at trees everyday, and on Arbor Day, we conducted the "Tree Poll" at my blog. Then over this past week, leading up to the Fair on Friday, I kind of kicked things up a notch and we started creating a presentation from all our work. (At this point EB knew we were going to the library on Friday *with* Daddy because he had the day off, and that we'd see our homeschool friends there ... he still didn't know his tree project would be on display!)

And speaking of displays, here it is!

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I chose an end corner next to the doorway for EB's display, because I wanted it to be easy for him to duck in and out of the room.

Our exhibit consisted of this:

A binder entitled "Trees by Earlybird" (only, we used his real name, natch) which contained many pages of tree-related information and activities (quotes from books we read, bark rubbings, worksheets, maps, pictures of "our" trees, a bibliography listing books we read, a favorite tree quote, etc.).

A bin holding "Tree Things" we collected: acorns and helicoper seeds, spruce cones (with fresh sap), bark, leaves, etc.

A maple tree sapling, complete with roots. (Pulled up from our front lawn.)

Also on display, our Tree Poll results!

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Bill helped EB and me take our raw data and turn it into this great graph! (He used the Numbers program on my Mac to do this.) And as it turned out, maple trees are the most popular tree! (My own pick is the sugar maple - for its gorgeous, orange fall foliage - though I also love oak, apple and hawthorne trees, too.)

Just for fun, I had EB decorate a small tub with leaf stickers and we set up a small voting station as part of the exhibit. (Maples won, once again!)

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Fyi, the orginal results were as follows:

Maple ... 13 votes

Oak & Cherry ... 9 votes each

Birch & Willow ... 5 votes each

Dogwood, Apple & Eastern Redbud ... 4 votes each

Magnolia, Redwood & Japanese maple ... 3 votes each

The rest of the trees got 1 or 2 votes apiece: Poplar, Crepe Myrtle, Plum, Christmas, Banyan, Pine, Palm, Aspen, Ginko, Lemon, Lime, Mango, Carambola, Jacaranda, Pecan, Cedar, Balsam, Hemlock.

*

So the older boys and I had arrived ahead of time to help with set up. Bill brought Earlybird over a bit closer to the start time ... and as predicted, he completely changed his mind as they approached the library.

"No, I don't want to go to the Library! I just want to stay home!"

Fortunately, as EB gets older, it's easier to snap him out of these bouts of indecision and obstinance (they usually concern transitions of some kind). In this case I just took his hand and suggested a quiet turn about the library - no pressure, just walking around - and this seemed to re-set his batteries. Once he let go of that tension he was ready to try again ... in fact, look how excited he was to check the Fair out!

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Unfortunately (but not surprisingly) he would go nowhere near his own exhibit (or that of his brothers - seen below, to the left of EB's tree display) so I could not get a picture of him *with* his own project!

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I think he was quite over trees by now, lol. But he found the other exhibits very interesting!

Naturally, the solar system presentation was a huge draw.

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As was the shark exhibit ...

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 (He really wanted to get his hand in that blue water!)

As the room filled up with presenters and observers, EB got itchy, so Bill took him over to the children's room to decompress.

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Nothing beats a little train-table time for finding his "quiet" again.

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Meanwhile the kids finished setting up. I think there were 20 presenters in all! If I may, I'd like to give you all a little tour ...

Here we have a display about Bridges.

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And another on Migrating Birds.

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This one was all about The Human Heart.

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And this was an experiment on Current Electricity.

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This presentation was all about Aerodynamics ... that is a flight simulator program being demonstrated on the laptop. How clever!

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Here's a presentation on Robots ...

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... and another on Alchemy, an early form of chemistry, practiced in the Middle Ages.

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This was a very cool River Delta demonstration.

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And this was a super cool Magic Milk experiment!

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Some of the kids prepared talks to go along with their displays. This first talk was on Solar Energy - it was very enlightening! (And wonderfully dramatized!)

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This was perhaps the most adorable presentation I've ever seen. This little boy (I'm not sure of his age, but as you can see, he's quite young) prepared an exhibit all about the Saber-Tooth Tiger. His talk was very informative and focused. As he talked, he showed us his saber tooth fossil which looked just like the real thing - a tooth that could grow to be about 19 inches long! Unfortunately, however, as this young lad pointed out, his fossil tooth was only 10 inches long ... because they ran out of clay. :)

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And here are my older boys in the midst of their talk on Steampunk Science, aka "Victorian Era Science in Fact and Fiction, and How It Compares with Modern Day Reality." They talked about the Industrial Revolution, steam power and machines like submarines and airships as they were first imagined and then later invented. They brought books by Jules Verne and Scott Westerfield so they could give examples of science-influenced literature. And of course, they built Legos - a "steam-powered" airship and a scene from a famous "steampunk" movie, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.

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Not shown, but also present, were exhibits on the largest flower on earth, first aid, tsunamis, as well as a great ball contraption.

Everyone worked so hard on their projects and everyone was so good about paying attention and showing respect to others. They really are a great group of kids - and familes! - and we're blessed to be learning and living alongside them.

As for Earlybird, well wouldn't you know it, he ended up having a GRAND time at The Fair! He would dart out of the room if it got too crowded (or too quiet if a talk was being given) but he really enjoyed looking over all the exhibits and asking the kids to tell him all about what they had done. We were very proud of how well he handled himself, and the day, from start to finish!

The Fair wrapped up around 2 p.m. At this time we broke down the displays and tables, gathered our stuff, said our goodbyes and headed home.

And that was our Day at the (Science) Fair!

Now, before I go (and I know I've kept you here long enough!), I'd like to show you what EB and I set up in his room today ... see the third shelf down?

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This is the kit that was used by the boy who did the Solar System exhibit - the one EB loved so much! It's called Smart Lab: Stars and Planets. My friend Patricia told me where to find the kit and today I picked one up!

And when I got home, EB and I set up a little "science fair space" in his room ...

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He's quite pleased, as you can see ...

Space shelf 1

I think the wheels are already turning for next year!

*

Well my friends, I hope you enjoyed this (not-so-little) tour of our Homeschool Science Fair! Thank you so much for reading and letting me share the joy we found in our day. It really was such fun - a great experience to remember and build on.

Hope you're all having a good weekend ... I'll see you here again very soon!

❀


Help with a Poll? Enter a Giveaway!

Happy Friday, my friends ... and Happy Arbor Day, too!

The Happiness Tree

So I was gathering up our "tree" books for this week, when I came across The Happiness Tree. It's such a sweet, colorful book - a unique celebration of trees and the feelings they inspire - but, alas, my boys have outgrown it. So in the spirit of Arbor Day, I'd like to recycle our love for this book, and pass it on to another family who will enjoy it as we have. :)

From the back cover:

"So begins the magical journey from seed of hope to forest of happiness. This ode to trees invites readers to discover life's true gifts ~ peace, courage, love, generosity, tolerance ~ as revealed by our precious forest friends. The story and paintings, accompanied by lyrical tree biographies and an index of state trees, sing with reverence of the natural world and everything good in life." 

So here's what I'd like to do!

First, whether you're interested in the book or not, we need your help with a poll!

Earlybird will be participating in his very first science fair next month and the theme we're working with is "The Fantastic Forest." The results of this Arbor Day poll will not only help us with our poster, but they will also appear in my "Spring into Summer" newsletter!

So to partake in this poll, I would ask you to answer the following question for us ... and Monday morning I will pull a name from the comments to win our copy of The Happiness Tree. (If you don't want to be included in the giveaway, just let me know in your comment ... we'd still love your help with our poll!)

So ... Earlybird's Arbor Day question for you is:

~* What is your favorite tree (and why)? *~

And if you'd care to share a happy tree memory, please do! We're very excited to hear your response! We are big fans of trees, for so many reasons. They are beautiful and strong ... they provide for, and even protect us in many different ways. There is a lot to love about trees!

I hope you can help out with our poll, but most of all I hope you all have a nice day. As always, I thank you sincerely for stopping by ... I will see you again very soon!

Arbor day tree

❀

It is not so much for its beauty that the forest makes a claim upon men's hearts, as for that subtle something, that quality of air that emanation from old trees, that so wonderfully changes and renews a weary spirit. ~ Robert Louis Stevenson


Sunday Evening Chit-Chat

(A little bit of this and that.)

Just popping on quickly to remind you that I'll be hosting "Masterpiece Monday" here tomorrow, so if you'd like to join us, be sure to tune in to "The Old Curiosity Shop" tonight and then come on back in the morning to chat.

:)

Also, while I'm here (and before supper comes out of the oven), I wanted to talk briefly about next week. There's lots coming up!

KGdaffodilFirst off, we have Leap Year on Wednesday, which is always kind of neat. (For the record, this is a very cute movie - and the scenery is gorgeous!)

Then March comes in (perhaps like a lion?) on Thursday.

Thursday also brings the Feast of St. David of Wales. We always mark this day with special food and dragon stories. (A red dragon is the symbol of Wales.)

Friday is Dr. Seuss Day (also known as Read Across America Day), and if we could, we'd go see The Lorax, but instead (and in true spirit of the day) we'll read the book. What is your favorite Dr. Seuss book? I'd have to choose Green Eggs and Ham - it happens to be the first book I ever read!

And speaking of green eggs and ham, I'd like to make a spinach and ham quiche for Friday (aka green eggs and ham!) but as it's Friday (and Fridays are meatless for us during Lent) I'll probably serve that dish on Thursday instead. Then I'll switch the leek-and-potato soup (for St. David's Day) to Friday. That will taste nice with grilled cheese. :)

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Other baking plans this week include making refrigerator bran muffins and homemade pretzels. Crafting plans include working on those Lenten banners I mentioned in this post, and we'll make the first panel of our "stained glass" doorway cross. (One panel for each Sunday through Easter.)

Learning plans include reading this book for Book Group on Friday (my turn to lead!) and kicking off a four-month, four-elements study ...

March = air

April = water

May = earth

June = fire

We'll explore the way the elements affect our everyday life, the world around us and even how they are part of our Faith. I'm really looking forward to it. :)

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Oh, and one more quick thing! One of our Lenten goals this year is to spend more of our family time doing things together other than just watching TV. So last night we sat around the table and played a really wonderful game, Around the World: The Ultimate Global Board Game. It was so fun and quite educational! Some of the questions were ridiculously easy but they only illustrated the point that information we take for granted other people might not know as readily. Certainly we were stumped on many questions that focused on lands and cultures unfamiliar to us ... it was a great eye-opening exercise!

*

Well, now I will wrap up and bid you all a good night. I hope you've had a nice weekend and feel ready to start a new week! I'll see you all again soon ... and remember, if you watch Masterpiece Theater tonight, do stop by sometime tomorrow - I'll do my best to have the chat post up as early as possible.

Thanks for stopping by, my friends ... Good Night, and God Bless!

❀


Magic Flowers and Morning Notes

Magicflowers

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

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

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

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

Have a great one, my friends ...

❀❀❀❀


Fossil Day Fun!

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In honor of National Fossil Day (which was yesterday, October 12th), Earlybird and I made some homemade, backyard "fossils!" 

I found directions for making leaf fossils online here ... and since the day was nice (and this craft was a bit messy) I decided to set up our work area outside.

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We began by measuring and mixing the flour and salt ...

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Then we dug up the next ingredient ~ dirt!

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Earlybird (who is in dire need of a haircut!) added the dirt ...

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... and then the water.

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He mixed it all up ...

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... and then kneaded the "dough" on some wax paper.

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Once our "mud" was thoroughly mixed, we shaped it into egg-sized balls ...

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... and lined them up on the wax paper.

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(I won't tell you what we thought they looked like, but I bet you can guess!)

Next, we flattened our mud balls into 1/2-inch thick patties.

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Now, Crackerjack was going to participate in this project too, but he's currently fighting a wicked cold and felt too "yucky" to pitch in. He did join us for a short walk around the yard, looking for leaves and seeds, etc. to "fossilize," but then hurried back inside "to get warm."

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Here are our fossils in progress ...

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We carefully and firmly pressed the leaves, seeds and feathers into the mud. (Full disclosure ~ I did this part; EB was too impatient, lol!)

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We then carefully peeled the natural items away, leaving behind subtle imprints...

Fossils!

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We moved them to a cookie sheet and brought them inside to dry overnight. And in the morning they looked like this:

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Now, Fossil Day may have come and gone, but this is a great craft/science project to do with the kids at any time of year! 

In fact, I think fossilized autumn leaves would make lovely place markers and/or favors for Thanksgiving dinner! You could always make a plain, tinted dough (instead of one using dirt), using shades of green, gold, orange and brown. Poke a hole at the top while the dough is still soft and then thread a pretty ribbon through to serve as a loop. Just a thought!

Well, I hope you all had a nice day - it's very rainy and raw here, but the house feels quite cozy as I finish up this post. The lights are on, the boys are busy, the kitchen smells great and Bill just walked in the door. So that's my cue ~ I'm off till next time!

Have a great night, everyone ...

:)


Monarch Monday

Now, before I launch into our monarch butterfly story, I wanted to tell you all (in case you didn't know), that this is National Earth Science Week. Also, this Wednesday is National Fossil Day. These special events offer lots of opportunities for good learning and fun!

Our younger two are focusing on earth science this year, so we've got that part sewn up. This week they're working on maps and globes, and they've started a sky log (Crackerjack) and a moon journal (Earlybird). (Bookworm, our 11th grader, is studying chemistry this year, but he's pretty involved in the sky observation, too.)

Our project for Wedneday will be to make leaf fossils ~ combining science with nature study, history and crafts. :)

Leaves are a big part of our autumn learning, as is fall migration. We've been reading about monarch butterflies (and tracking where their favorite food, milkweed, is blooming), so it was quite a nice surprise to find a real, live monarch on our deck late yesterday afternoon!

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What was odd, was that the monarch was staying very still - and as you can see, we got very close to it. It was moving, so we knew it was alive, and as far as we could see it was not injured. Throughout the rest of the afternoon it just slowly made its way across the deck towards the steps. Before nightfall we got it to climb onto a pine needle branch and moved it up onto the table. I'm not sure why this seemed like a good idea, but it seemed somehow less vulnerable this way.

Unfortunately, this morning we found the monarch in the same exact place - and now it was most definitely dead.

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But still so very beautiful, especially sparkling with dew.

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We took the butterfly inside and gently laid it to rest on our nature shelf. 

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While this story had a sad ending, it was a neat experience for the boys to see a monarch so up close. We talked about what might have happened to it ... we wondered if it was on its way south when it fell ill (or prey to a bird or beastie of some kind). 

We'll keep this lovely butterfly in a place of honor at our nature shelf (I might look into mounting it somehow) and we already made plans to plant a dedicated butterfly garden next spring. :)

On a happier note, we spied flying squirrels at the feeders again last night - three at least!

Here's the best picture I got:

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(Click to zoom in.)

They're pretty cute and fun to watch - but they sure do spook easily! It was very hard to get a picture ... we couldn't be sure if it was our movement that startled them, or the owl we could hear hooting off in the woods. They have nothing to fear from us, certainly - but that owl would be very bad news for these tiny creatures!

Well, that's all for me today ... I've got to get my "4:00 tidy" on and see about supper. (Grilled turkey burgers, corn on the cob and steak fries - yum!) 

I thank you all for stopping by today and taking time to read about our little adventures. I hope your day was nice, too ... and I wish you all a peaceful evening.

See you again very soon!

:)


Nature Study Club ~ September 2010

Our Nature Study Club met for the first time this (academic) year, yesterday here at our home. We started the meeting in our backyard, but then walked the kids down to a trail behind our home. Our September mission ~ to say goodbye to Summer and look for signs of Fall ...

As usual, we had a wide range of ages attend Nature Club - a few teens, several middle schoolers and plenty of little ones. Twenty-eight children in all, which was a fantastic turn-out! I made up a trail checklist* for the kids to work off of, listing things they might be able to observe on our walk. I also prepared a bunch of clean baby food containers (small plastic tubs with fitted lids) to serve as miniature collection boxes. 

Here's one of the tables I had set up in the yard:

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In the left corner are the collection boxes and checklists.

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And in the right corner is an assortment of autumn books and nature magazines.

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*Here's the list of items I had on my handout:

 Ferns and/or moss?

Wildflowers ~ how many different kinds/colors?

A nest or sign of nesting activity?

Scat?

Fungii ~ where is it growing? What kind?

Trees ~ how many kinds can you identify?

Any sign of fall foliage?

Insects ~ see, hear, or other evidence?

Seeds ~ in travel, on the ground, on a plant?

Spider webs ~ what kind? Is the spider visible?

A fruiting plant and/or a vine?

An animal ~ see, hear or other evidence?

Migration in action? (Look up!)

Sounds ~ birds, squirrels, human, elemental?

Can you find the temperature by cricket song?

(Count the number of chirps in 15 seconds + 38 = temperature)

Is there a breeze? In what direction is it blowing ?

Any nice or nasty smells?

 Other observations?

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Above is the "moms resource" table. I put out a variety of nature-related books, field guides, audubon guides etc. 

And here are some photos from our walk, as you can see it was an absolutely beautiful day:

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Goldenrod, a plant that grows all over New England in September.

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Milkweed - the pods have not opened yet, but soon ...

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I believe this is pokeweed.

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And wild asters (or Michaelmas daisies), another September favorite.

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One of the very observant children spotted this incredible caterpillar, munching on some goldenrod (and completely unaware of the tiny spider stalking nearby!).

No idea what kind of butterfly he'll be, but he sure is colorful!

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We went off-trail for a bit, meandering into a field to listen and look for insects. There were many, many dragonflies darting overhead, grasshoppers and locusts hopping about and just look what the children found here:

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A praying mantis! 

I haven't seen one since I was a child! I remembered them as being green so I was surprised this one was pale brown. We wondered if he was camouflaged to blend in with the faded grass?

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I couldn't get a close picture of this shy bird, but I think it is a flycatcher of some sort. Only rarely do we see them in our backyard.

The following picture shows the most startling discovery of all ...

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Bill had spotted this animal jawbone earlier in the day. I told the kids to look out for it and sure enough, on the walk back home, they were able to find it. Out came the cameras and sketchbooks! 

We wondered what it might be - and what might have happened - trying to determine if the teeth were sharp or dull. Guesses included coyote, fox, dog and deer. Bill looked online last night and actually this most closely resembles a deer jaw. 

Do any of my readers have any thoughts? (Other than, ew, lol!)

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Last photo - this a collection box that got left behind ... just look at all the little treasures that fit in here!

We made lots of neat discoveries, but the nicest part of the day was the friendship and good fun. When we returned home, the children played, the mums chatted and we all enjoyed some cold cider and cornbread. I'm just so thrilled to see another year of Nature Club off and running!

Thanks for stopping by today, and I hope wherever you live, you're enjoying the blessings of this lovely time of year. :)


Adventure in the Early Spring Woods

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On the lookout for Spring ...

First off, we have pretty much recovered from the flooding. We have a dumpster in our driveway filled to the brim with assorted things - various items ruined by the water, random stuff that should go out anyways as well as the old kitchen floor (a project long in the making). So things are pretty much back to normal ... :)

Last week we attended our March Nature Club meeting - this month's theme was two-fold, a discussion of nature photography and a search for the very earliest signs of spring. The kids were quite eager to talk about taking pictures - several children owned their own cameras in fact. I was thinking I might organize a photography club for our group in the fall - I'm thinking, a monthly meeting, possibly a shared blog, and a photo show at the end of the year? Well, I'll be starting a project plan for that idea sometime this week, but back to our meeting for now ... 

So, after a quick chat we spread out over the park (a local wildlife reservation) to look for signs of the season. I handed out a scavenger list for the kids to work off of - it was pretty early in the season to find everything but they did really well. 

Here are some pictures from our walk - and by the way, the weather could not have been lovelier - 70 degrees and sunny, with a cool eastern breeze.

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Lots of buds on the treetops ... 

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One of the many brooks running through the woods. There was a lot of excess water (and tree damage) from the recent severe weather.

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I wish I could share with you how soft the air felt and how fresh it smelled. Early spring in the woods is just magic.

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Most of the green we saw was moss - there was lots of moss! The boys thought this gnarled stump looked like a river troll rising out of the mucky water!

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Another bit of green - fungus growing up an evergreen tree. Not sure of the variety, though we've seen this kind before. 

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A mallard pair by the shore. 

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A pretty view ...

Now, I've never done this before, so I hope it works - but I'd like to share a little video to give you an idea of what the woods sounded like ... see if you can guess what this sound is:

Spring Woods Movie Clip

 Wondering what's making all that ruckus? Well, the answer is in the picture below:

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Look a little closer ...

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Tis the season for peepers! Actually I'm not sure what kind of frogs these are but they were awfully loud as you can hear from the clip. The woods, chock full of vernal pools, were absolutely ringing with frog song

And by the way, did you catch Bookworm's exclamation at the end of the video there? Look what we found practically underfoot:

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Zoom in ...

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I think this garter snake was listening to the frogs as intently as we were! ;)  

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This was a new bit of growth - not sure what it is - another thing to research! And look at all those acorns - they were everywhere!

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Lots of running water, impromptu waterfalls here and there ... 

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The mini-figs had quite an adventurous day - as did we!

 Well, thanks for stopping by and checking in! I hope you all had a nice weekend. I'll be back again just as soon as I can. :)

Oh, but before I go ... here is the scavenger list in case you'd like to try it with your children:

signs of nest building

buds

a spring flower

three shades of green

a fresh smell

mud

a new bird sound

an early spring insect

a fiddlehead (young fern)

Good Luck!


Our Winter Nature Station

It can be hard to get out in nature when the bitter weather and nagging flu season conspire to keep you inside. We rely on our birdfeeder windows quite a bit at this time of year, but this week we decided to set up a "nature station" on our deck. The station will feature different items as seasons and interests change, but for now we've set up a birdbath and some ice crafts.

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 Below is the heated birdbath:

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And here we have the "ice mobiles" we made (pre-freezing):

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I got this idea from an activity described in Nature's Playground (a fabulous book btw!) ...

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We took random bits of nature easily found in our yard (and a few things from our fridge) and set them in aluminum cake pans. We used sliced clementines, cranberries, evergreen branches and cones, dried leaves and cracked corn. Then we filled the pans with water and left them out on our table to freeze.

(Note - By the time we got to the last pan I realized that taping the materials to the bottom of the pan would keep things from floating around too much in the water. I did this with the leaves but it would have worked well for the pinecones, branches and citrus slices too).

The end result was to be a collection of pretty ice mobiles to hang in the trees (I could just see them glinting in the winter sun). They'd be lovely to look at *and* provide tasty for the birds and squirrels who frequent our yard.

But we had a few setbacks. First we had a snowstorm ...

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And then we had a week of near-40 degree weather! The mobiles have not yet frozen solidly enough to hang in the trees! Ah well ... such is the fickle nature of Nature. :) This activity has really drawn the boys' attention to the rising and falling temperatures this week though ...  

Not that I'm complaining of course, but it looks like we are in for more "mild" weather over the next several days and then possibly some storminess next week. If and when we do get these mobiles ready to hang, you all will be the first to know!

Hope you all had a good week - ours was nice and pretty quiet. Earlybird is still fighting that cough but I think he is at last getting past it. (Last night was the first in over a week he didn't wake from coughing.) Here's to a happy and healthy weekend ... see you all again sometime soon! :)


A note on the carnation experiment:

I've had several people mention that they've had little luck with the carnation experiment in the past. I was just replying to a friend of mine when I realized maybe the trick is in cutting the stems short ...

Before placing the stems in their glasses of water, I cut them to approximately 6 inches in length. I only did this because the flowers would fit better inside the small glasses, but now I am thinking it also enabled the food dye to reach the flower more quickly and perhaps more efficiently. 

My mum had a good suggestion too - the next day I tried snipping the ends once again - this time just a trim - and the sure enough, the flowers deepened their shades. They are still sitting alive and well on our window sill (up high out of the way of the cat)! 

I hope you all have a nice Sunday ... today I'll be turning the dining room back into a learning room (now that the tree is finally down and put away). And I'll continue tinkering with my new blog template and sidebars this afternoon ... you've probably noticed I've changed a few things. :) The banner is a scanned sheet of "vintage" scrapbooking paper ~ I liked the colors, the flowers, and the little hint of nature (a favorite theme of mine here). Many thanks to my dear husband for spending several hours yesterday working on that banner - positioning it just right, adding the text, figuring out the CSS codes. He saved me a lot of time and frustration! 

And yes ... I took down my photo. I figured it was time - I think everyone knows what I look like by now, lol! And I think (or I hope) I look pretty much the same as I did four years ago when Crackerjack took that picture of me. It's still on my "profile" page, I believe.

And I have not forgotten the minutes from my Blog meeting ~ I will get those written up just as soon as I can. :)

Have a wonderful Sunday, my friends!