Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘birds’ Category

In the spring, we did a nature study about cattails.  It was the first of four studies that we will be doing over a course of the year.  This idea came from the Handbook of Nature Study website, and is the
Outdoor Hour Challenge Summer #7 – Summer Cattail Observations.
.
Throughout this post, three different typefaces are used:
– Bold – are words from the Handbook of Nature Study website.
– Italics – are words from the book titled Handbook of Nature Study by Anna Botsford Comstock.
– Regular – are my own words.

Inside Preparation Work:


Read pages 500-502 in the Handbook of Nature Study if you have not done so before (starting on page 551 if you have the free download version) . It might also be beneficial to read it again this season and highlight the parts that contain information about the leaves of the cattail plant.

The following parts of the book were shared with Sophia and Olivia:

In June and early July…it will be seen to have the upper half of the cat’s tail much narrower and different than the lower half – as if it were covered with a quite different fur.

Cattail balloon and the part above it
(this is where the pollen comes from).

It seems to be clothed with a fine drooping fringe of olive yellow.

The fringe is a mass of crowded anthers, two or three of them being attached to the same stalk by a short filament.

These anthers are packed full of pollen.

All the leaves have the same general shape, but vary in length.

Olivia and Sophia by a group of cattails.
Olivia is swatting off mosquitos and
is ready to do something different.

Each leaf consists of two parts: the free portion, which is long and narrow and flat towards its tapering tip but is bent into a trough as it nears the plant; and the lower portion, which clasps the plant entirely or partially, depending upon whether it is an outer or inner leaf.

The texture of the leaf is soft and smooth. 

The cattail is adopted for living in swamps where the soil is wet but not under water all the time.

The cattail roots are fine and fibrous.

Outdoor Hour Time:


Enjoy your outdoor time this week at your cattail spot. If you have been participating in the year-long cattail study since last autumn, you will know just where to look for cattails. Use the suggestions from the Handbook of Nature Study to talk a little about the habitat where your cattails are growing.

Is your cattail still growing in water or has it dried up?

The cattails are both growing in and out of the pond.

The cattails grow in and out of the pond.

What does the “cattail” parts of the plant look like now?

Sophia said that the cattail part is, “Brown, fluffy, and tough.”

“There’s some kind of stem at the top,” Olivia said.

I asked the girls to remove one of the cattails so that they could observe it closer inside. Olivia tried to snap off the cattail, but the stem was very tough to remove. Sophia tried, struggled a bit, and finally was able to break it off.

The girls were trying to break off the top of a cattail
so they could examine it indoors.

What color and shape are the leaves?

Olivia said, “Long and green.”  Sophia said, “Long, pointy at the end, silky, smooth, and green.”

Do you see the cattails seeds or balloons?

The balloons are the parts that we see now. (We had to look up what a cattail balloon is on the internet and found that it is the term for the long, oval brown part of the cattail.)
Can you pull some of the fuzz from the cattail and observe it more closely?

We took one cattail as well as a small section that was on another stalk.  We brought these two items inside to look at them closer with a magnifying glass. Some of the plant is included in the nature journal page.
How do you think the seeds spread, by wind or water?

The girls both thought they would be spread by the wind.

However, as we discussed it more, we thought the seeds could be spread by both wind and water – the wind could carry the seeds to different nearby areas of the pond and pasture; and the water could carry the seeds (once they landed on the water) to different parts of the pond itself.
How crowded are the cattails growing together?

Some of the cattails grow close together in the pond while other cattails are growing by themselves in different parts of the pond. and pasture.

The pond where the cattails are growing.

Train Your Senses


Sight: Observe the cattail’s habitat. Look for birds, insects, and animals living or resting in or on the cattails. Look for nests. See if you can find the cattail flowers.

The girls saw red-winged blackbirds, two unidentified birds, many dragonflies, and mosquitos. The dragonflies were twelve-spotted skimmers. We were seeing the brown and white winged ones – the males. We didn’t see any females.

Twelve-spotted skimmer dragonfly.

Smell: Sit or squat near your cattails and close your eyes. Breathe deeply and see if you smell anything.

We didn’t sit near the cattails because most of them were near or in the pond. There seemed to be a lot of mosquitos and other insects near the edge of the pond.

Olivia was having a particularly difficult time with all the bugs, so I opted to move on to walking in the wooded area of the pasture and see if we could spot anything else of interest.

Touch: Feel the leaves, edges, and spikes of the cattails.

Both of the girls felt the leaves and thought they were soft and silky. Despite the softness, they are quite tough and provide a bit of challenge when trying to break a small section off.

Hearing: Take a minute to listen as you stand or sit near your cattails. Can you hear any birds or insects? Water running?

The red-winged blackbirds were the predominant sound…that and the buzzing of mosquitos.  The water is in a pond, so there isn’t much movement on a relatively calm day.

Follow-Up Activity:

Make sure to allow some time after your outdoor hour to discuss any subjects that your child finds interesting. Encourage the completion of a nature journal entry recording your observation of your cattails. You may wish to pull out your other cattail entries and compare the year-long changes in your cattails.

Once we were inside, we spent time touching and looking at the cattail balloon and leaves. From a sensory aspect, the cattail has such a diversity of textures which makes it an interesting plant to explore.

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

I can’t believe this is already Week 6 of The Summer of Color challenge. This week’s color is red; and I did a couple of things with this color.

First, I made two red window stars. They are made from translucent paper that lets the light shine through so the pattern of the star is revealed. 

Two red origami window stars.

The 8-pointed star with the sharp points is folded 9 times per point. With eight points, it is folded 72 times before it is glued together.

The other star I made is folded 19 times per point. With 8 points, it is folded 152 times before being glued together.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

I also made two quilt squares this week. There are twelve squares now…the quilt is coming along.

Two red quilt squares. Seven different fabrics are used for each square
to represent seven days in the week.

As I mentioned last week, I’m using only fabric that I have on hand for the quilt. I’m not purchasing anything new. It’s definitely one of the most resouceful, “make do” quilts I’ve made. Only four more weeks left – or eight quilt squares – before I’m able to start arranging them and laying out the quilt top. 

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

Although the red isn’t as vivid on this little bird as it is on adult robins, it fits the challenge of incorporating something winged into your work (in this case, a quick photo).

I was walking to the garden on Friday afternoon, and a ball of feathers moved on the ground.  A baby robin had fallen from its nest.

Baby robin on the ground.

It was quiet for a while, but very curious and eager to be fed.

When I moved the camera a bit closer,
it opened its mouth slowly to be fed.
After a call to the wildlife rehabilitation center, they said that it would be fine to pick up the bird and put it back in the nest if it had not already flown back up to the nest. Birds have a very weak sense of smell, so there’s not a problem with the mother rejecting the baby.
By the time I went back outside, the baby bird had flown back into the nest. I felt so lucky to have been able to see the young bird at this stage of its life. Normally, the robin nests are so high and well-protected that the young ones are not visible until they are fully-grown.

Read Full Post »

On 5 Kids and a Dog, there’s a series called the ABCs of Homeschooling.  This week’s letter is “N.” 

Alphabet ATC or ACEO Available - Needlefelted Letter N …is for Nature.

Nature is a major focus of homeschooling. Living on almost ten acres of land, nature surrounds us each day.

One of the girls’ favorite activities during the summer is raising butterflies. In 2008, there were an abundance of monarch caterpillars. Seeing the life cycle – from caterpillar to butterfly was fascinating for the girls.

#1 - Look at Me!
Olivia with a monarch butterfly.
This one was ready to be released.

Perhaps the most memorable release was when a monarch butterfly was brought outside and didn’t want to leave the girls. It stayed on their fingers, flew to a nearby milkweed plant, flew back in front of them, and then…eventually…flew off.

August 23rd - Third Monarch Butterfly Release
The third butterfly to be released in August 2008.
This one was quite content
to stay around the girls for a long time.

Both Sophia and Olivia enjoying feeding the birds and squirrels. One of the first activities I had both of the girls do for homeschooling involved watching the birds that visited the feeders. Each time a bird would visit, the girls would add a check mark next to the type of bird.

After a certain period of time (10-15 minutes…30 minutes if they were interested and lots of birds were visiting the feeder), they would create a chart to show which type of bird came to the feeder the most.

Sophia by Squirrel Buffet and Feeder
Sophia standing by the squirrel feeder that she and Olivia built.
The corn cob pathways with shell corn
sprinkled on the paths was Sophia’s idea.
The birds and squirrels enjoyed eating the corn.

One of the nice things about living in the country in a home that was built in 1890 is that the surrounding land has some very old trees which are great for climbing. The girls started out climbing the apple trees in the backyard, and have moved onto some of the larger pine trees in the front yard now.

Girls in the Tree
The girls in the tallest pine tree on the property.

During the past year, we have begun taking time for weekly nature study using the book Handbook for Nature Study by Anna Botsford Comstock.

Taking the time to learn more about the wildlife, trees, and seasons has been such a highlight of the past year. It has given us a new appreciation for the land here as well as the wildlife that visits and lives on our farm.

Sophia Taking a Break From Nature Journaling
Sophia taking a break from nature journaling.
She is listening to and writing down sounds she hears.

Olivia Drawing in her Nature Journal
Olivia enjoyed nature journaling even when she was much younger.
Here she is at four years old
drawing a picture of what she sees outside.

Since the girls were young, gardening has always been a part of their life. They have learned to raise vegetables, pumpkins, fruit, and flowers. Both have been able to plant seeds; transplant trees; and harvest and preserve what they’ve grown.

Sophia with Pumpkin
Sophia with one of the pumpkins that she grew.

We enjoy going on walks with the dogs and horses. Living in the country, there’s always something interesting to see in the fields, in the sky, along the road, or in the ditches.

Olivia Looking for Rocks

Olivia is looking for rocks and
then putting them in her cone-shaped purse.
If you notice…she picked heavy winter boots
to wear with her light summer dress.
(Summer 2008)

One of my favorite pictures is of Sophia on the far nature trail spreading milkweed. She had lots of milkweed pods in her pocket and she would open them and let the wind carry the seeds to new locations.

She hoped that by doing this, there would be more milkweed available for the monarchs the following year…and in years to come.

Floating Milkweed
Milkweed seeds being carried off by the wind
as Sophia releases them.

Even though there are plenty of opportunities to explore nature right at our home, in the pastures, and on the nature trail, we enjoy exploring other areas as well. One of our favorite places to visit is William O’Brien State Park.

Girls Running on Trail at William O'Brien State Park - Homeschool Phy Ed
The girls running on one of the trails
at William O’Brien State Park.

We also have enjoyed walking on some of the trails at the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge. This is a bit of a drive, but the trails are easy to walk and provide a different view of what we normally see at home.

Olivia Looking at Hawk in Tree
Olivia observing a hawk in a tree at the
Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge.

We enjoy picnics outside (especially when there are no bugs – which is spring and fall in Minnesota).  There are lots of places to have picnics, but parks that have a lake or river by them are ones that are especially nice.

Feeding Ducks and Gulls
The girls feeding ducks and sea gulls
after a picnic we had.

Sometimes we visit places after we read about book. If a topic in a book interests the girls or if seeing an example of what was mentioned in the book would be of benefit, I try to find a place to go that would extend their learning.

For example, a few years ago, we visited Interstate State Park as part of a unit study we did on the ice age (after reading one of the Magic Treehouse books about the ice age).

Since the girls learn best by seeing and touching, I took them to this park to see first-hand what gorges are and the impact the ice age had on the area where we live.

This park has some fascinating and beautiful rock formations, glacial potholes, and gorges. The St. Croix River runs between the Minnesota and Wisconsin sides of the park.

Girls at Minnesota Interstate State Park
The girls on a rock overlooking the St. Croix River.
This was taken at Interstate State Park
on the Minnesota side.

When we travel, we always make sure that nature is part of our trip. One of our favorite places to visit is Grand Marais (Minnesota). The girls enjoy being able to be in Lake Superior (although the water is very cold) and play on the shoreline.

Walking on Water
Olivia and Sophia in Lake Superior
at Grand Marais, Minnesota.

One of their most memorable moments on a trip to Grand Marais that we took in September 2010 was being able to feed a chipmunk. We traveled up the Gunflint Trail and stopped along the way.

At the stop, there was a very friendly chipmunk who the girls fed Pik-Nik sticks (fried potato sticks). The chipmunk came up so close to them. They still – almost a year late – recall that moment as if it happened yesterday.

Close Enough To Pet the Chipmunk
The girls feeding a chipmunk.
Nature is such an integral part of homeschooling. Each day, the girls are outside playing or discovering something new. Having both of them so excited about wildlife and caring for the environment is a direct result of being able to homeschool them and have the opportunity to spend so much time outdoors.

Read Full Post »

Welcome to the fourth week of our Fun in the Summer Sun event!

Each Monday until September 7th
Mama to 4 Blessings along with Harvest Moon By Hand,
Adventures of Mommydom, Sweet Diva, and Sweet Phenomena
will be hosting Fun in the Summer Fun link up events.

Here’s the line up:

1st Monday of each month: link up your “Kid-friendly summer activities”
2nd Monday of each month: link up your “Kid-friendly summer crafts”
3rd Monday of each month: link up your “Kid-friendly summer recipes”
4th Monday of each month: link up your “How to stay cool in the summer heat”

*~*~*~*~*~*~*
During the past week we’ve had temperatures in the upper 50s and 60s – very unusual for this time of year…even for Minnesota.  Trying to stay cool this week wasn’t a problem…it was trying to stay dry with all the rain and thunderstorms. 
So, we ended up doing what we do on some of the hottest days of summer: we stayed inside where it was a comfortable 68-70 degrees.  Thinking of the traditional ways to stay cool on hot days (e.g., playing at the beach, running through the sprinkler) didn’t sound interesting to the girls when it was 59 degrees and overcast outside.
Here are some ways that we stay cool…even when the temperatures aren’t over 100 degrees like they were a few weeks ago:
Visited the zoo, conservatory, and Japanese gardens – alternating between being inside (with air conditioning) and outdoors (in the “heat”)
The day we visited the zoo, there were many volunteers who had hands-on learning stations and stations where there were small animals that you could see close up.  We were very excited to see the new area for the polar bears – 15 year old brothers. 
One of the polar bears enjoying being outside.
The zoo also is holding thee polar bears from the Minot zoo since there is flooding in the area.  They are quarantined for 30 days, and then they will see if the Minot zoo can take them back (if it isn’t damaged) or if the bears will be able to be let outside.  We’re going to check the zoo again in a few weeks and see if there will be more polar bears out. It’d be nice to see them.
Since I homeschool the girls year round (with a modified schedule during the summer), the zoo was a wonderful way to learn about animals and plants.
Olivia listening to a volunteer talk about the
gecko he was holding.
This was inside near the tropical exhibit.
After spending some time inside seeing a quail, tortoise, and other small animals, amphibians, and reptiles, we headed back outside to walk through the Japanese garden.

Then we finished the day by heading back inside to the conservatory and the summer flower display.  It was a spectacular ending to a wonderful day!

Overlooking the summer flowers in the conservatory
under the glass ceiling.  The fragrance from the flowers
could be smelled even before entering the room. 
The flowers were so beautiful – the lilies and roses were very fragrant, and seem to invite visitors in to enjoy the flowers.  Many of the flowers seemed to be so large for their type – particularly the lilies and hibiscus.
This hibiscus was at least 5-6″ wide. 
The plant was covered with beautiful flowers
just like this one.
Ate cool dishes (rather than hot ones)
Even though it hasn’t been particularly hot recently, one of the best ways to stay cool during the summer is by eating “lighter” or “cooler” dishes.  Making salads with fresh, organic vegetables from the garden is one of my favorite ways to cook on hot days. 

Below is a recipe that I made this week that we all enjoyed (except Olivia who doesn’t like spicy food).  It is from Ross Turnbull, Executive Chef at the Princeville Resort (on the island of Kauai in Hawaii).  It isn’t a salad, but it reminded me of a place that gets hot (Hawaii) and the lighter, “cooler” fare they serve during the hot months.

Pineapple Salsa.
Pineapple Salsa

Ingredients

2 Cups diced fresh Maui gold pineapple
1/2 Cup fine diced red bell pepper
1/2 Cup fine diced red onion
1/2 Cup fine sliced scallions
Pinch fine chopped habanero pepper
2 Tbsp fresh chopped cilantro
2 Tbsp fresh lime juice
1 Tsp extra virgin olive oil
1/2 Tsp fresh chopped mint leaves
Hawaiian sea salt and black pepper to taste

Directions

Combine all ingredients in a plastic bowl and allow to marinate one hour before serving.

Drink lots of water and fresh lemonade to stay hydrated
I’ve made quite a few beverages during the past week – all with lemon in them:  honey gingered lemonade; cranberry lemonade; watermelon lemonade; and rhubarb strawberry slush. 

Out of the beverages, the favorite one was rhubarb strawberry slush that used rhubarb from the garden and strawberries that we picked at a local berry patch. 

Below is a picture and recipe for the Rhubarb Strawberry Slush that we enjoyed. What I like about this is that the frozen rhubarb-strawberry juice can be frozen and used anytime throughout the summer – particularly the very hot days when a refreshing beverage would be needed.

Rhubarb Strawberry Slush

(Taste of Home magazine)
Makes 22 Servings/Prep: 40 minutes + freezing

Ingredients

8 cups diced fresh or frozen rhubarb
1 package (16 ounces) frozen unsweetened strawberries
3 cups sugar
8 cups water
1 package (3 ounces) strawberry gelatin
1/2 cup lemon juice
11 cups ginger ale, chilled
Rhubarb curls, optional

Directions

In a Dutch oven, bring the rhubarb, strawberries, sugar,and water to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer, uncovered, for 5-8 minutes or until rhubarb is tender. Press through a sieve; discard pulp. Stir in gelatin and lemon juice until dissolved. Transfer to a freezer container and freeze, stirring occasionally, until firm. May be frozen for up to 3 months.

Note: I froze the liquid in a 9″x13″ pan.  After it froze, I took it out of the freezer and let it thaw a bit.  Then,  I cut it into 24 pieces.  Next, I placed the pieces onto a cookie sheet and re-freeze.  At this point, they were placed into plastic bags and kept in the freezer to use for individual servings.

To use frozen rhubarb mixture: In a punch bowl or several pitchers, combine equal amounts of rhubarb mixture and ginger ale. Or for one serving, combine 1/2 cup rhubarb mixture and 1/2 cup ginger ale in a glass. Garnish with rhubarb curls if desired. Serve immediately. Yield: 22 servings (1 cup each).

Note: If using frozen rhubarb, measure rhubarb while still frozen, then thaw completely. Drain in a colander, but do not press liquid out.

Set up a birdbath

Birds enjoy taking a quick dip on a warm day just as children do.  Either use a birdbath that’s available at a local store or make your own by inverting a garbage can lid in a base of flat stones or bricks.  Fill it with some water and a few small rocks (for a landing place).

The birdbath is near a birdfeeder (with seed) and hummingbird feeder.
There’s a bird drinking water from the birdbath, and
a robin in the background in the flower garden (it has a small pond in it).

The birdbath is near the hummingbird feeder and birdhouse that the wrens are using, so we can watch and hear the birds.  The baby wrens were born within the past couple of weeks, and both wren parents are flying back and forth non-stop to find tiny insects and worms to feed the babies. 

Now it’s your turn!  What are some ways that your family stays cool during the summer?

Read Full Post »

FOR TODAY

Outside my window…it’s still dark.  However, the first hint of morning is showing to the east where the sky is a lighter shade of indigo.

I am thinking…about the male goldfinch who kept trying to get into the house yesterday.  He kept flying to and grabbing onto the ledges by the living room and kitchen, and visited the family room and dining room windows as well.  The cats were fascinated by this bird who seemed equally as interested in them.  Wonder if he’ll be back today.

I am thankful…that a respite worker is coming today for three hours. I need to have a few hours to get some things done; and I like knowing that Sophia and Olivia are having fun with Mary.  She’s taught them how to play croquet; and they enjoy playing board games and being outside with her.

From the learning rooms…the girls are getting ready for the county fair and showing some projects they’ve been doing for 4-H.  They’re also practicing their demonstrations (this will be the first year for both of them). Went to the zoo the other day and learned a lot about different animals and Japanese gardens/tea ceremonies (the zoo has a conseratory and Japanese garden which are both beautiful).

In the kitchen…we’re going to be making fresh strawberry pie on Saturday which we’re excited about.  Fresh strawberries are finally ready to be picked.  Making a few salads this week using lettuce and herbs from the garden; and trying some more beverages using fresh seasonal fruit (rhubarb and strawberries) combined with homemade lemonade.

I am wearing…a hooded sweatshirt and pajama shorts.  It’s still early morning and no one is awake yet…except some of the cats.  The dogs went back to bed after going outside and having breakfast.

I am creating…a window star for a customer later on today.  Have been helping Sophia and Olivia with embroidery projects.  This year I haven’t done as much embroidery and quilting as I did last year.  I want to start doing that again.

I am going…to the grocery store today to get some ingredients for food I’ll be making for friends and family who will be visiting during the upcoming week.  Have 3 visits scheduled for the next week – two of which are with people I haven’t seen for a long time.  Saw a friend who I’ve known since the late-1980s on Monday.  It’s been nice re-connecting with people again.  Seems like a lot of time has been focused on caregiving and homeschooling recently.

I am wondering…how I’m going to get the yard and gardens looking more presentable before Saturday’s guests and Monday’s 4-H club tour (with one of the stops here).  Between cleaning the house and the rain, I haven’t had as much time as I’d hoped to work on the gardens. 

I am readingAnother Place at the TableA Story of Shattered Childhoods Redeemed by Love by Kathy Harrison which is an incredibly good book about a woman who was a foster parent to more than one hundred children.  Read 14 chapters yesterday morning…couldn’t put the book down.  Will be starting another book this morning – All That Matters by Jan Goldstein.

I am hoping…that my back pain goes away today…or at least diminishes a bit.   

I am looking forward to…looking at pictures I took earlier this week.  I enjoy looking at pictures and remembering what I saw or experienced. 

I am hearing…Gretel (the dog) taking a deep breath. The fan. Quiet. Complete peacefulness. Birds singing outside…the wren already singing away at 5:20 a.m.

Around the house…everything is off the carpeted floors since I spent the majority of yesterday vacuuming all the floors and then deep-cleaning them with the carpet cleaner.  They look so much better this morning.  Almost don’t want to put anything back down.

I am pondering…the impact that Alzheimer’s has had on my dad over the past year.  I looked at some pictures yesterday from last summer and it’s amazing the effect the disease has had on him in just one year.  I am so thankful that he still knew who I was on Father’s Day…but there were some times when he looked at me with blank stares (which I’ve never seen him do until Sunday) that were quite sobering and sad.

One of my favorite things…watching the wildlife here.  Enjoyed watching the goldfinish yesterday; listening to the baby wrens chirp whenever one of the parent wrens brings in food; seeing the woodpecker at the hummingbird feeder; watching a robin take a bath in a big puddle in the driveway; and seeing a huge rabbit jump in the backyard and hop to the hostas under the apple tree.

A few plans for the rest of the week…getting ready for guests on Saturday, Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday (each day are different people/groups of people).  Going to an event that celebrates summer at a local historical museum.

Here is picture for thought I am sharing…of one of the peonies that are blooming.  These are ones that have been here for well over 15 years.  The Chinese peonies (that I planted a few years ago) just started blooming this year.  They’re a beautiful shade of red with yellow centers.

Pink Peony
To see other people who are participating in the Simple Woman’s Daybook during June, please click HERE.

Read Full Post »

On 5 Kids and a Dog, there’s a series called the ABCs of Homeschooling.  This week’s letter is “K.” 

Alphabet ATC or ACEO Available - Needlefelted Letter K…is for Kitchen.
When I think of homeschooling, one of the places that we spend a considerable amount of time in is the kitchen.  The girls and I enjoy cooking and baking, so incorporating a culinary aspect into homeschooling is a natural fit.
The girls have been helping in the kitchen since they were about 18 months old.  As they have gotten older, the new skills they learn match their developmental and physical abilities. 
Both Sophia and Olivia will look at recipes as I’m planning meals for the upcoming few weeks.  When I’m doing this, they often will look at the pictures that accompany the recipe (the majority of my recipes come from cooking and women’s magazines).  They’ll see a picture of something that looks good and will ask if they can make it. 
Trying a new recipe, having it be a part of the meal, and seeing what it tastes like is something that makes the girls happy and proud.
Olivia with Pumpkin Pie
Olivia holding a pumpkin pie she made.

During the past few years, I created an ABC Journey Around the World in which the girls learned about a different country in alphabetical order (e.g., Australia, Brazil, China, Denmark, Egypt, France, and so forth until ending with Yemen and Zambia). 

One of their favorite parts of learning about other countries was seeing what people would eat in different parts of the world.  I found recipes on the internet as well as through recipe books from the library. We tried anywhere from one to six recipes per country (some were easier to find recipes for than others).

Making Mexican Hot Chocolate
The girls made Mexican hot chocolate
using a recipe found in a children’s cookbook.
They also made Mexican scrambled eggs
that morning for a complete breakfast.

French Green Bean Recipe
Sophia is holding a green bean sidedish
using a French recipe. 

Olivia Making Swedish Rolls
Olivia is making Swedish cinnamon rolls.
The recipe came from a local church cookbook
that had a whole section on Swedish cooking
(we live in a community that was founded
by Swedish immigrants).

The kitchen is more than a place to cook and bake food.  With homeschooling, the kitchen also becomes an area to do science experiments and hands-on activities.

One of the science lessons that the girls did focused on marine life and pelicans. Apparently a pelican can hold 13 1/2 quarts of water in its pouch. The water drains out, leaving only the fish which the pelican then can swallow and eat.

Sophia Being a Pelican
Sophia trying to catch a marshmallow
as part of a science lesson about pelicans.

In the photograph above, there are 2 marshmallows in the sink representing fish. Sophia’s job is to catch the marshmallows. It’s harder than it looks.

The girls learn best when they can make a hands-on, tangible connection with the subject about which they are learning.  This is so important when the concept might be more difficult for them (e.g., electricity) or would benefit from a visual example (e.g., lung capacity).

Lung Capacity Experiment
Olivia learning about lung capacity.
She took a deep breath and then blew air through the tube
that led into the water-filled 2-liter pop bottle.
The air would push out the water from the bottle
and show how much air was in her lungs.

Sometimes when we’re cooking, the girls learn new words or make a connection between what they’re cooking with something else they’ve heard or learned.  For example, when we were making cheese, the curds separated from the whey.  They immediately made the connection with the nursery rhyme they had heard many times:

Little Miss Muffet sat on a tuffet
Eating her curds and whey,
Along came a spider,
Who sat down beside her
And frightened Miss Muffet away.

Cheesemaking - Curds Separating from Whey
Learning to make cheese.  In the process,
the girls saw the curds and whey separate; and
made the connection of a nursery rhyme they heard.
(The curds are the white part; the whey is the liquid.)

For one nature study, we focused on learning about dandelions.  In addition to the science part of the study, we added a culinary component where we made dandelion cookies, dandelion vinegar, and dandelion oil/salve.

Making Dandelion Oil for Salve
Olivia making dandelion oil.
The oil can be used as a base to make salve.

The kitchen also is a place where the girls create things for the holidays and different seasons. 

Borax Snowflake - Step 3 - Sophia
Sophia making borax snowflakes.
Homemade Marshallows for Valentine's Day
Olivia holding homemade marshmallows
she made for Valentine’s Day.

Gretel Waiting for Pumpkin Guts
Sophina carving a pumpkin while Gretel looks on.

An important part of our time in the kitchen is when we make food to help others.  We have made many meals and desserts for people experiencing medical/health challenges; and have chosen to donate some of our food to those in need. 

Cereal to Donate
The girls packaging up some of food to donate
to an organization that serves people who are homeless.

We also make food for animals – treats for the dogs, cats, and horses; and for wildlife.  Making food for the hummingbirds to drink during the summer and suet for the birds during the winter are regular activities. 

Sophia Helping Make Bird Suet on a 25 Degree Below Zero Day
Sophia making suet for the birds on a
very cold 25 degree BELOW zero day.
Needless to say, the birds needed the energy
and were constantly eating the homemade suet.

Seeing how excited the animals are to get a treat…and to see the variety of birds that now visit the feeders is a lot of fun.  Being able to observe animals up close (especially birds) is such a highlight of homeschooling.
So many subjects are covered in the kitchen beyond home economics – reading, math, science, community service, and geography. The kitchen truly is one of the centers of learning for homeschooling…and one of our favorite places to learn! 

Read Full Post »

This week we focused on the Outdoor Hour Challenge Spring Series #3: Spring Bird Study that is at the Handbook of Nature Study website.

Throughout this post, three different typefaces are used:
– Bold – are words from the Handbook of Nature Study website.
– Italics – are words from the book titled Handbook of Nature Study by Anna Botsford Comstock.
– Regular – are my own words.

Inside Preparation Work:


As part of our spring nature study this week, we will prepare by learning about some familiar bird songs. Read about the “Songs of Birds” in the Handbook of Nature Study on pages 42 and 43.


The following exerpts are from the Handbook of Nature Study (the book) that I found interesting and shared with the girls:

In most cases only the male bird sings, but a few exceptions are recorded…the female rose-breasted grosbeak and cardinal grosbeak, which sing under some conditions.

Birds do most of their singing in the early morning and during the spring and early summer months.

Some ornithologists have developed complicated systems of recording bird songs as musical scores.  Wilson Flagg and F.S. Mathews are well-known names in this field.  Such a method has its limitations because many variations of bird songs cannot be indicated by the characters used in writing music.

The song of the warbling flycatcher.
A Year with the Birds by Wilson Flagg
The song of the green warbler.
A Year with the Birds by Wilson Flagg

The song of a bird written as music is not usually recognizable when played on a musical instrument.

Here is a link to a page that will help you learn about to listen to and then identify birds by their calls:  Songs and Calls.  This link has wonderful examples of bird songs divided by rhythm, pitch, tone, and repetition.

It also has a spectrogram which visually illustrates bird songs.  There were a few birds of particular interest because we have quite a few that visit our yard regularly: American goldfinch, house wren, rose-breasted grosbeak, black-capped chickadee, and cardinal.  As we listened to the spectrogram for each of these birds, we read the description about the songs:

“The American goldfinch’s long, varied song lets you see how lots of different sounds look when they’re translated into a spectrogram.”

Bird banding at Warner Nature Center
American goldfinch that was being banded
at a local nature center.
Sophia, Olivia, and I were able to watch how this was done.

“The cardinal’s song is a series of sweet, slurred whistles. Watch the curving lines on the graph as you listen to the pitch changing.”

Olivia thought it was “neat” and Sophia thought it was “interesting.”

Brainstorm a list of birds you know that live in your area. Pick two or three to research on the All About Birds website. Look up each bird and listen to their bird songs. Challenge your children to imitate the bird song and to listen for it when they go outside.

The girls came up with the following list of birds that they know live in our area:

– Goldfinish
– Cardinal
– Catbird
– Brown-headed cowbird
– Red-Winged Blackbird
– Pheasant
– Nuthatch
– Blue Jay
– House Finch
– Mourning Doves
– Sparrow
– Wren

Olivia picked these birds that she was interested in hearing their songs: brown-headed cowbird and red-winged blackbird.  Initially, she thought the cowbird sounded a lot like the red-winged blackbird.  Then we she heard the blackbird she was able to distinguish it from the cowbird since it sounded more “squeaky” and “high-pitched.”

Sophia picked the following birds that she wanted to listen to their songs: pheasant and house wren. We hear both of these birds regularly in the yard and pasture; and hear them on our nature walk for the Spring Bird Study.

Rose-breasted Grosbeak - Male
Male Rose-Breasted Grosbeak that was at
one of our feeders.  The grosbeaks have a beautiful song.

Outdoor Hour Time:


Spend your 10-15 minutes of outdoor time this week looking and listening for birds. You might try going out several times during the week at different times of day to listen and observe.


This will be a week you can work on a few minutes of quiet time while you are in your backyard or local park. Remind your children that if they are quiet even for one minute they might hear a bird or other animal. One minute can see like a lifetime for young ones so use your good judgment on this activity.

Sophia and Olivia making marks in their nature journals
every time they hear a bird song.

We spent time outside in our backyard since there is a variety of birds that regularly visit us each day.  We walked to and then stood in different locations (e.g., deck, by the apple tree, by the pine trees in the backyard, and several places on the nature trail). 

Olivia walking out on the nature trail
to listen to birds.

One of the things Olivia mentioned was that she heard so many birds singing all at the same time.  One would start and then another and another.  “I couldn’t tell the old birds from the new birds.”  It did sound like – a constant symphony of birds singing and calling to one another. 

This bird kept singing while
we were on the nature trail

As we listened to the birds, there were some that were easily recognizable and we knew their songs and calls:  red-winged blackbird, mourning dove, house wren, American goldfinch, and pheasant.  However, for the majority of the bird songs and calls we were hearing, we couldn’t identify which bird was making the sound.

It would be nice to have someone skilled in identifying bird songs to come here and listen to the birds with us and say, “Oh…that song is from the purple finch.  That one is from the blue jay.”

Follow-Up Activity:


Take a few minutes to follow-up on any interest that came from your outdoor time even if your children were interested in something other than birds.

We were noticing that a lot of milkweed is starting to grow now throughout the nature trail area and backyard.  I flipped over a milkweed leaf and saw a tiny yellow ball.  The girls and I are hoping that it is an egg.  So, we brought the leaf in and it is in the butterfly observation holder. 

We’re hoping that this is a monarch egg
that’s on the underside of a milkweed plant.
We also were happy with the gentle rain that fell the night/early morning before our nature walk.  Temperatures had reached over 100 degrees during the week, and there had been no rain recently.  Having rain – without the thunder/lightening and hail – was a welcome sight and sound.
Rain drops on one of the irises
in the morning.

Review the bird songs you learned and practiced during your preparation work. If you saw an unfamiliar bird, try to identify it using a field guide. Learn more about identifying birds here on this page: Bird Identification SkillsIf you do not have a field guide, you can try this online bird site to help identify birds: WhatBird? And this website for additional information as well: AllAboutBirds.

We tried to identify the bird above since it was pretty far away from us and we didn’t have binoculars with us.  It had a small crest on its head which seemed more pronounced when it sang.  When we came back indoors, Sophia looked at the Minnesota bird book and found one that looked similar to what we saw:  Tufted Titmouse.  The name means “Small Bird,” and comes from Scandinavian and Old English words.

However, looking at more pictures of this bird on the internet, led us to believe it may be another bird (perhaps the feathers on the bird’s head just moved so they looked like a crest when it sang).  Looking at the picture of the bird we saw, we noticed it had a spotted chest and was more brown in color.  Looking athe Minnesota bird book again, we found the female rose-breasted grosbeak which looks just like the one we saw.


Don’t forget to look up any birds you identify in the Handbook of Nature Study and see how Anna Botsford Comstock suggests you learn more about that particular bird by reading the narrative and the accompanying lesson.


Allow time for a nature journal entry.  You can print the pages from a coloring book, complete them, and then adhere them into your nature journal or you can use the black line drawings as a guide to sketching your bird directly onto your journal page.

After the walk, the girls worked a bit on their nature journals.  They wrote the names of some of the birds they heard and recognized and counted the number of songs they heard.  Sophia wrote a brief description of the walk and what the day was like (e.g., cool, cloudy).

Looking to the southwest from the nature trail.

Other Activities

I ordered a book from the library that should arrive soon.  It’s called The Music of Wild Birds: An Illustrated, Annotated, and Opinionated Guide to Fifty Birds and Their Songs by: F. Schuyler Mathews and illustrated by Judy Pelikan.  Mr. Mathews was referenced in the Handbook of Nature Study.

What intrigued me about this book is that the description said, “As Mathews points out, the music of wild birds is everywhere – in poems, children’s nursery songs, as well as in the works of the great composers: the Black-billed Cuckoo’s call appears near the close of Beethoven’s Pastoral Symphony; the Nashville Warbler’s song is found in the opening bars of Rossini’s Carovale, and the Meadowlark’s song is remarkably like the first two bars of Alfredo’s song in La Traviata.

“He reveals how a bird’s character is reflected in its song: the Baltimore Oriole is a sharp-billed, sharp-witted character, and his remarks are as incisive and crisp as the toots of a steam whistle. And he reminds us of the words of our great poets – Wordsworth, Emerson, Sir Walter Scott – and their descriptions of the very same birds and their music.”

Black Capped Chickadee
A black-capped chickadee at the feeder.
We hear the chickadee singing almost every day.

Found this poem about a bird that’s commonly seen around here throughout the year: the black-capped chickadee.  It’s called The Snow-Bird’s Song Poem and it’s by F.C. Woodworth.  The girls both liked the poem…especially the part about the stockings, shoes, and little frock:

The ground was all covered with snow one day,
And two little sisters were busy at play,
When a snow-bird was sitting close by on a tree,
And merrily singing his chick-a-dee-dee,
Chick-a-dee-dee, chick-a-dee-dee,
And merrily singing his chick-a-dee-dee.
He had not been singing that tune very long,
Ere Emily heard him, so loud was his song;
“Oh, sister, look out of the window,” said she,
“Here’s a dear little bird singing chick-a-dee-dee.
Chick-a-dee-dee, chick-a-dee-dee,
Here’s a dear little bird singing chick-a-dee-dee.
“Oh, mother, do get him some stockings and shoes,
And a nice little frock, and a hat if you choose;
I wish he’d come into the parlor, and see
How warm we would make him, poor chick-a-dee-dee!
Chick-a-dee-dee, chick-a-dee-dee,
How warm we would make him, poor chick-a-dee-dee!”
“There is One, my dear child, though I cannot tell who,
Has clothed me already, and warm enough too.
Good morning! Oh, who are so happy as we?”
And away he went singing his chick-a-dee-dee.
Chick-a-dee-dee, chick-a-dee-dee,
And away he went singing his chick-a-dee-dee.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »