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This week, as part of our nature study, we focused on bats. We’re using the Handbook of Nature Study website which features different Outdoor Hour Challenges based on the book with the same name.  I used two different challenges on the website: Outdoor Hour Challenge #49 Bats and Outdoor Hour Challenge Summer Series #4 – Bats and the Sense of Hearing since each has different activities.

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.

1. Read pages 241-245 in the Handbook of Nature Study. Although the lesson for bats states that it should not be given unless you can directly observe bats in person, I think this interesting creature deserves his own Outdoor Hour Challenge.

These are some points that were made in the book that I shared with the girls:

[The] wing [is a] thin membrane…equipped with sensitive nerves which inform the flier of the objects in his path, so that he darts among the branches of trees at terrific speed and never touches a twig.

Bat wings have raised domes which act as touch receptors.

The flight of the bat consists of darting hither and thither with incredible swiftness, and making sharp turns with no apparent effort.

[Bats]…catch insects on the wing for food. He makes a collecting net of the wing membrane stretched between the hind legs and tail, doubling it up like an apron on the unfortunate insects, and then reaching down and gobbling them up; and thus he is always doing good service to us on summer evenings by swallowing a multitude of insects.

The short fur of the bat is as soft as silk, and covers the body but not the wings.

The plan of the wing is something like that of the duck’s foot; it consists of a web stretched between very much elongated fingers.

If a boy’s fingers were as long in proportion as a bat’s, they would measure four feet.

Since fingers make the framework, it is the thumb that projects from the front angle of the wing, in the form of a very serviceable hook.

\
Bat wing bone structure.

These hooks the bat uses in many ways. He drags himself along the floor…or he scratches the back of his head with them.

He is essentially a creature of the air and is not at all fitted for walking; his knees bend backward in an opposite direction from ours. This renders him unable to walk, and when attempting to do so, he has the appearance of “scrabbling” along on his feet and elbows

Bat walking using its wings/elbows to help move it along.

He uses his teeth to aid in climbing.

The little brown bat’s wings often meausre nine inches from tip to tip.

Brown bat flying with wings outstretched.

He does not fold [his wings] like a fan, but rather, like a pocket knife.

The tiny foot…is armed with five wirelike toes, tipped with sharp hooked claws. It is by these claws that he hangs when resting during the day, for he is upside-down in his sleeping habits, slumbering during the daytime.

The bat is very particualr about his personal cleanliness. 

He washes his face with the front part of his wing, and then licks his washcloth clean; he scratches the back of his head with his hind food and then licks the foot.  [To] clean his wings, he seizes the edges in his mouth and stretches and licks the membrane.

The bat has a voice which sounds like squeak of a toy wheelbarrow, and yet it is expressive of emotions.

He squeaks in one tone when holding conversation with other bats, and squeaks quite differently when seized by the enemy.

Little brown bat.

The mother bat…takes [her babies] with her when she goes out for insects in the evenings; they cling to her neck during these exciting rides; but when she wishes to work unencumbered, she hangs her tiny youngsters on some twig and goes back for them later.

The little ones are born in July and usually occur as twins.

During the winter, some bats hibernate like woodchucks or chipmunks. They select for winter quarters some hollow tree or cave. They do not awake until the insects are flying. Others migrate to the south with the advent of cold weather.

Hibernating bats.

2. Supplemental reading in The Burgess Animal Book for Children: Read Story 21. Use the illustration on page 128 to prompt a narration after reading the story about the Little Brown Bat.

The girls both enjoyed the story. There was one section about where bats will rest, and barns were mentioned. This, of course, made them think about how fun it would be to take flashlights and go the hayloft in the barn and see if they could spot any bats.

“Should we go at night? Like around 10 p.m.?” Olivia asked.

“No, they’d be outside eating bugs,” said Sophia. “Let’s go up during the day when they’d be hanging there.”

We went to the barn loft and I gave each of the girls a flashlight. They were so eager to shine their flashlights on the inside of the barn roof and find bats. 

Climbing on top of some old hay bales to find bats.

They walked the entire loft and then Olivia suggested they climb on top of some hay bales. Although they wanted to see bats, I couldn’t even begin to imagine what would happen if bats flew out from behind the wood pieces in front of them.

Looking for bats in the barn loft.

Since we didn’t see any bats in the barn, we headed to the pine trees in the front yard since I’ve seen bats flying around the trees at night. Again, we didn’t see any bats from the ground.

The girls even climbed one of the tallest pine trees to see if they could spot any bats.

Sophia enjoys climbing trees.
She said the pine tree had a lot of sap where she was standing.
She even spotted raccoon scat on one of the limbs.

If there are any bats in the front yard pine trees, they must be up near the top of them.

Olivia was determined to find at least one bat.

3. This week during your 10-15 minutes of outdoor time, look for any mammals in your neighborhood or in a near-by park. Many of us will not find any mammals to observe or signs of mammals like scat or tracks. This should not discourage us from taking the time to be outdoors with our children.

When the girls were climbing the front pine tree, Sophia spotted some raccoon scat. Near the base of the tree, there were parts of pine cones that the raccoon (s) didn’t want to eat.

Parts of pinecones that the raccoon didn’t want to eat.

Both of the girls were excited to have spotted evidence that there are other wild animals here that we don’t see during the day.

4. After your walk, discuss any interesting things that you observed. Help your child to find words for their experience. Record their words on paper and have them sketch a simple drawing for their nature journal.

Use some of the ideas that worked in the past like a rubbing of a leaf or feather. Take photos for your nature journals. Research and record what you learned about the bat this week from reading in the Handbook of Nature Study. One idea would be to sketch and record how a bat’s wings are different from a bird’s wings.

You could discuss why a bat is considered a mammal and how it differs from other mammals that we have studied. Keep it simple but make some connections this week.

The girls will be working on their nature journals and doing an entry about bats now that they saw the bats flying at night (see more information below).

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Summer Series #4
Bats and Sense of Hearing – Train Your Senses

Sight: Observe the sky at sundown, look for the silhouettes of birds, bats, or insects in the air.

Hearing: Observe the sounds of the night starting at sundown: bats, crickets, frogs, bark of a dog, hoot of an owl, birds, rustling in the leaves, wind, etc. Can you hear more sounds on a damp night? Can you hear more sounds at night when your sense of sight is not as keen?

Inside Preparation Work – The reading from the Handbook of Nature Study is the same as above. There was another book reference “Discover Nature at Sundown,” but I didn’t have this book.

Outdoor Hour Time:

1. Things That Go Bump in the Night: Spend 15 minutes outdoors at sundown, observing some of the sounds suggested in the book. The book suggests observing sounds on a damp night and a dry night and comparing your results. Something else to listen for is “sudden silence” where the night noises completely stop and then start up again after a period of time.

Since we didn’t spot any bats during the day, we agreed that we would go out again when it was starting to get dark. So, around 8:45 p.m., we walked to the front yard.

The girls both heard frogs in the pond and pasture and birds in the trees. They said they felt a few rain drops and the wind.

We looked at the pine trees and walked up and down the driveway where the bats are often seen, but there wasn’t a single bat out at that time. I suggested that we come out again when it’s a bit darker…in about 15 minutes.

So, around 9:00 p.m. we went out again when it was much darker. It took a moment for our eyes to adjust from being in the light indoors to the dark outdoors. Yet, we could easily see everything outside after a few minutes. 

Again, Sophia and Olivia heard frogs calling to one another, but the birds had now quieted down. A new sound was apparent: mosquitos buzzing around our ears. 

Then…the first sighting!  “Bats!” the yelled enthusiastically and pointed up. 

Sure enough, the bats were flying within 3-4 feet of our heads. It was a great opportunity to see the bats up close and in flight.

Olivia and Sophia looking at the pine trees
where the bats were flying to and from around 9:00 p.m.

We walked to the pine trees again and saw that they were heading in and out of one of the trees more so than the others. Olivia began counting the number of bats she saw and got to 14.

As we walked back to the house, I saw a firefly near the pasture gate. We walked over to where I saw it, and then the golden glow happened again, but closer to the girls this time.  Needless to say, they were thrilled!  They had never seen a firefly up close.

Firefly.

The more we looked, the more fireflies we saw around us. It was a wonderful time outside – seeing both bats and fireflies!

2. World of Bats:


“Although an occasional bat can be found flying about during the day, most bats take to the sky during the twilight hours. On a summer evening you can observe them in a dance of twists, spirals, and loops that is choreographed by the insects they pursue.” Discover Nature at Sundown, page 148

If you have the opportunity to observe some bats up close, make sure to use some of the suggestions from the Handbook of Nature Study and/or the Discover Nature at Sundown.

The girls were able to see quite a few bats fly and the variety within the flight pattern. Both were amazed at how quickly they flew.

Although some bats did fly relatively low (about 8-9 feet from the ground), the majority flew much higher (about 20-40 feet high).
Follow-Up Activity:

Make sure to give time and the opportunity for a nature journal entry.

Sophia and Olivia will work on their nature journal entry in the morning and recall their experience of seeing the bats flying around them.

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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.

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I was looking at the Handbook of Nature Study website, and came across One Small Square – Outdoor Hour Challenge #9.

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.

“Children should be encouraged to quietly and
patiently watch the bee, spider, ant, caterpillar or
other wildlife that crosses their path.
If this seems dull to them,
they just need to watch more closely,
because their alert eyes can catch the smallest ways of insects
in ways that grown-ups can’t without magnifiers.”
~ Charlotte Mason, volume 1, Outdoor Life, page 57 ~

1. Let’s give ourselves a challenge. Gather yarn, scissors, ruler, and four rocks. (Optional: small garden trowel and magnifying lens.)


Measure off one square somewhere out in your yard or near-by park. (I prefer to do this somewhere I can dig up a few inches of soil and not get into trouble.) Use your ruler to place rocks in a one foot square plot. Use the yarn to mark off the edges of your square.

Now the challenge comes in. See how many different things you can find in your square. If there are leaves, lift them up and see what is underneath. If there are rocks or gravel, scrape them aside and see what is underneath.

If there is grass or weeds and you have permission, use your trowel to dig up a few inches under the grass, moving it carefully to the side to replace when you are done observing. Use your hand lens if you have one along with you on your challenge.

I remember reading about this activity when I did a summer camp program for children and thought it was such a wonderful way to closely explore a small section of the world.

By having such a tiny section in which to explore, one is essentially “forced” to take her time to look carefully and go section-by-section and find new things.

Olivia discovering a world within the square of yarn. 

Olivia found some things right away within her square: a small stick, odd-shaped leaves, grass, and moss.

Sophia identifying what she sees first
without a magnifying glass.
After a little while, Olivia felt she had identified everything in the square. I joined her and we were able to find some more items that she had missed on her first time around the square.
Looking a bit closer,
Olivia found even more items.

Olivia used her magnifying glass to find a few more items: part of a pinecone, ferns, creeping Charlie, some kind of clover, dandelion leaf, dew, and a pine needle.
Sophia seemed to have found an interesting section of the front yard. Right away she said she saw: grass, pinecone shaving, wood, creeping Charlie, old pine needles, a bit of dirt, moss, dew, and a few little ferns.
Sophia exploring another section of the square.
By alternating with her magnifying glass and getting closer to the ground, Sophia found even more items in the 1 square foot of space: seed pod, few pieces of bark, a weird-shaped leaf that looks like a heart, a few roots, old grass that’s turning brown, a dandelion leaf, wet ground, and tiny little bugs.
That’s quite a diversity of natural items within such a small amount of space. Imagine what is in twice that amount of land…or the entire farm. 
It’s so easy to rush through each day without taking the time to slow down and appreciate the small things in life. If we hadn’t done this Outdoor Hour Challenge, we would not have enjoyed seeing two miniature worlds right in the front yard. 
Although each one was similiar to the other in some respects (e.g., both had grass, moss, and dew), there were unique elements in each square which made it all the more fascinating to further explore and take one’s time in finding as many different things as possible.
2. Add any new items to your focus list that you are keeping in your nature journal. Add any items to your collection that you found during this week’s challenge time. Give an opportunity for a nature journal entry. If you used your hand lens during this week’s challenge, encourage your child to draw something they saw that you would not normally see like a small insect, worm, or seed.

The girls each chose a few small items that can be pressed and placed into their nature journals. Once the items are pressed, they will write and illustrate the entry for the day. 

Because I wrote the list of items they found as they were saying them, they can simply copy their lists at a later date.

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For Week 26 of the 52 Weeks of Giving challenge, the girls cleaned along the road and in the ditch right by our home.  They found a coffee cup, pop cans, small pieces of paper and garbage, firecracker debris, and a small piece of plastic tubing.

Sophia found perhaps the largest and most unexpected piece of garbage along the road: a piece of metal siding slightly buried under the tall grass and tiger lilies.

Sophia found and uncovered this piece of siding
along the side of the road.

With the exception of the huge piece of siding, the ditch and side of the road were not as littered as anticipated which was good. We were happy that the wildlife that lives here has a clean environment in which to make their home.

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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.

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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. 

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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.

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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.

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Welcome to the fifth 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”

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This week the focus is on kid-friendly summer activities.  Some of the things we’ve enjoyed doing during the past week include:

Visiting a Buffalo Farm

Sophia sitting on the Eichten’s mouse.

On Wednesday, we visited Eichtens farm which is an all-natural artisan cheese company and buffalo farm. They produce a Dutch Gouda and a variety of other European-style cheeses.

Olivia sitting on the dairy cow statue.

The bison at Eichtens are totally free from any growth hormones, antibiotics, or other medications. Their animals are raised on native pasture grasses (grass fed), and hay/oats. They raise the feed the bison consume.

Some of the buffalo herd at Eichten’s.
There were quite a few young ones in the herd.

According to Eichtens’ website, “A strong relationship between the human and buffalo has existed for thousands of years. Bison sustained the lives of the explorers and settlers going west as well as the Native American.

The older and younger animals sat right next to one another.

“They were believed to be the most important of the wild animals in the development of North America. Once an integral part of the Native Americans’ way of life, the American Bison is again a central part of the lives of many Americans today.

The girls wanted to sit on the buffalo statue.
They weren’t the first one with the idea – there was a
well-worn path from the dirt road to the buffalo.

“The Bison stand as a symbol of the American West, an animal of survival and our American Heritage.”

Picking Strawberries

Olivia holding some strawberries she picked.

Also on Wednesday, we picked two flats of strawberries. 

Sophia looking for strawberries at the berry patch.

We’re going to make a variety of food from the strawberries as well as eat them plain.  This year, we’re going to try canning a strawberry-lemonade drink so the fresh strawberry taste can be enjoyed during the winter.

Providing an Abode for the Toads

We’ve been seeing hundreds of baby toads here, and came across an idea for helping the toads survive the hot, summer heat.

Olivia holding a baby toad.

In the May 2007 issue of Family Fun, one idea for children to enjoy their backyard is to make a home for toads.  As the article noted, “These hungry amphibians can be a big help in keeping garden pests, such as slugs, grubs, and potato beetles under control.  Entice them to hang out around your plot by creating a shady retreat.” 

American Toad Found While Gardening
American Toad that we found in the garden
when we were planting flowers.

The article continued, “Pick a spot that’s protected from the wind and where the soil is moist, and dig a few shallow depressions.  In each one, lay a terracotta flowerpot on its side and then fill it partway with sandy soil.”

Now it’s your turn!  What kid-friendly summer activities does your family enjoy doing?

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