Wonderful Wednesday – Summer Cattail Study

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A few weeks ago, we headed back to our cattail patch for a summer nature study. By “our” I mean a cattail patch about five minutes from our house, where we did our spring cattail nature study.

I printed out the toppers from Handbook of Nature Study – a blog we follow loosely for our nature observations.

Summer Cattail Notebooking Pages

I glued the toppers to white paper and divided it into four parts, so they could draw four objects.

 

While there, I asked the kids to walk around and get as close to the cattails as possible.  Continue reading »

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Wonderful Wednesday – Ad-Hoc Science

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My plan was to spend at least two hours outside today. We are playing catch-up with time outside.

It has been raining lately and I have been busy with different projects, so I did not make outdoorsy time a priority. My children play so well indoors, away from screens, and I did not want to deal with bugs and/or DEET and sunscreen (there, I said it!) – it was easy to forget how important it is for them to be outside.

Well, we ended up spending five hours. We left after two hours because I had a planning meeting with other Sevier County Homeschooling Group moms, then they had swims lessons. On the way back from swim lessons, we stopped at the park again, for almost three hours.  Continue reading »

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Wonderful Wednesday – Mosquitoes

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The Handbook of Nature Study blog challenged us to study mosquitoes. I hesitated because I really dislike mosquitoes. But how long can I keep avoiding Ms. Barbara’s challenges?

We live in a heavily wooded neighborhood and, as such, mosquitoes abound. One morning I got bitten 10 times on my legs while watering my small garden. Not fun.

Another day I wore long pants and long sleeves for protection, in 88F weather, and I still got bitten, through clothing.

Meanwhile, I am trying to rise to the challenge of spending at least two hours outside with the kids, every day. I have been spraying our clothes with repellents of the “deep woods” variety and mosquitoes still bite us.  Continue reading »

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Wonderful Wednesday – 4 Facts on Rhododendrons

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Back in April, our rhododendrons were putting on a show. Their explosion of color soothed our eyes, tired after a long winter.

We have several rhododendron bushes around the yard, mostly purple, my favorite color.

Our neighborhood has many of these flowers, too. My eyes feast on them as I take my morning walks.

They finished showing off for the year though. The leathery leaves will stay with us through the winter, but the flowers are gone for now.

Rhododendron flowers

Some of the showy rhododendron flowers in our yard, plus a bee

Here are four facts on rhododendrons:  Continue reading »

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Wonderful Wednesday – Funny Trees

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Yesterday was a turning point for me in my homeschooling career. A medium size one.

I have been simplifying our routines and tweaking our daily schedule and transitions ever since we started. Yesterday, I continued in the same direction by deciding we will not be doing the Junior Ranger Program this year at the Great Smoky Mountain National Park.

Also, I decided to cut out the Summer Reading Program at the Sevierville Library. We will still do the SRP at the Gatlinburg Library, but only two seminars out of four. (For the life of me, I can’t remember why I thought doing two Summer Reading Programs would be good.)

After we spent the morning at home, I took the kids to the Gatlinburg Trail in the National Park. We experienced 90 blissful minutes wading in the river, chasing butterflies, listening to the river, and enjoying the fresh air and sunshine. That’s what summer should feel like.

In that particular spot, I even have cell coverage. So if I needed help or wanted to quickly check emails, I could. We will definitely play there again.

I took pictures of some funny trees. I have passed by these trees so, so many times.

Tree with a double trunk in the Great Smoky Mountain National Park

This tree makes me think of siblings separated after an argument

But it was only yesterday that I actually saw their funny shape. It’s only after we open our eyes wide, i.e. to the things that matter, that we notice certain details around us.

Elephant-looking tree in the Great Smoky Mountain National Park

Doesn’t this tree look like an elephant?

My kids chased this one butterfly that kept coming back to play with them. They called it Mashi (think Japanese spelling if you don’t know how to pronounce it) and thought it was a girl because of its color – lavender. When a second identical butterfly flew by and allowed them to chase it, they decided it was Mashi’s twin sister and called it Mangsten.

This morning, as we came out of the house, a lavender butterfly fluttered in the yard. They started yelling, “Mashi came home to be with us.” That’s the kind of stuff I want my summers to be made of. Not rushing from activity to activity.

Here’s to a beautiful, relaxed, intentional parenting kind of summer!

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Wonderful Wednesday – Planting a Veggie Garden

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Every spring, I buy some vegetable plants and start another garden in my 4’x8′ enclosed patch in the backyard. The whole thing started when my son was one. I felt inspired to teach him where foods come from. He is six years old now.

I have learned a thing or two every year from working in the garden. About gardening and, also, about my own character. Lately, about homeschooling, too.

This year, I have already gleaned two lessons:

1. Don’t (trans)plant too early. We planted our veggie garden in mid-April. A week later, hail and snow killed it, even though we covered it with a sheet. When it’s cold, it’s cold.  Continue reading »

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Wonderful Wednesday – Roses

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The Outdoor Hour Challenge last Friday was about earth worms. Hmmm… I don’t want to go there. I chose roses instead because, well, they have inundated my life in the last seven days.

Our rose bushes have exploded. Then, my husband came home with yellow roses, too.

My husband and I are celebrating our ninth anniversary tomorrow. He brought me a dozen yellow roses and a card.

Yellow roses, baby breath

Bouquet of yellow roses and baby’s breath my husband brought me for our ninth anniversary

He said we already have a garden full of pink roses. And, we do.  Continue reading »

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Wonderful Wednesday – Irises

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The Outdoor Hour Challenge last Friday was about snakes. We will keep it in mind, should we ever run into a snake. I am not necessarily scared of or grossed out by snakes, but I would not want to seek them out either.

So, instead, I chose a subject that is closer to my heart and my house – the iris. Another name for it is, of course, fleur-de-lys (also spelled fleur-de-lis), which translates to flower of lily. The word iris means rainbow in Greek – because the flower comes in so many colors.

White and purple iris flower

Iris in my garden

We live in a home built by my husband’s grandparents. We remodeled it and its garden during our first year of marriage, before moving in.

We kept some of the plants and trees, which had been planted by my husband’s grandmother. Among them, a patch of iris plants – white and purple and perfect in every way. This is the time of the year they are in full bloom.

We enjoy these flowers for their sheer beauty, as well as for the memory of our children’s great-grandmother, although neither I nor the children ever got to meet her. To bring it all full-circle, my mom re-planted some of the irises along our driveway last year, when she came to visit.

A symbol of French royalty since Clovis, the iris can be found on coats of arms throughout France and England. Apparently, English kings wanted to show their claim to France by putting an iris onto their coat of arms.

The fleur-de-lys survives as a symbol on some coats of arms today, like those of the King of Spain, the Duke of Luxembourg and the House of Bourbon. Incidentally, Queen Anne of Romania belongs to the House of Bourbon.

White and purple irises

Irises in our garden

They say French kings received an iris instead of a scepter during their coronation ceremony. As such, it is a symbol of perfection, light and life.

Anna Comstock says the iris contains a great lesson for all of us “because nothing in it is what it seems.” The pistil looks like leaves, the leaves look like stems and the petals hide under the sepals. Somehow this arrangement creates perfect tunnels for bees to do their work.

The fleur-de-lis is the national flower of France. It is also the state flower of Tennessee, where I live. Two hours away from my home, in Greeneville, TN, they have an annual Iris Festival. In fact, it is this weekend, should you want to go.

For other Wonderful Wednesday nature study posts, click here.

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Wonderful Wednesday – Cat Nature Study

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We have a cat and we study it almost every day by virtue of sharing our lives with him. The kids have learned how to feed him. They are not coordinated enough to pour water in his bowl. Or, at least, my fear of spills will not allow me to allow them that chore yet. The kids also open the door for the cat to go in and out of the house.

Large male tabby cat

Our 18-lb, 10-year-old male cat, Izzy

Our cat lost its mommy in a storm and stumbled upon somebody’s porch. That somebody knew somebody who knew my husband was a cat lover. My husband took the kitten in and called him Izzy.

One year later, I came along. I am not particularly fond of cats. In fact, I am allergic to cat dander.

My first thought when I saw Izzy was, “I need to tolerate this one.” But I did more than tolerate him. One afternoon, as I was sitting on the couch in the living room, Izzy walked over to me and got into my lap. He started purring and suckling on my pant leg. He thought I was his mommy. He left a wet spot on my pant leg and won me over.

I have written two books about him, but never edited them properly. I had children instead.

We took some magnifying glasses to Izzy’s fur for this particular cat nature study. My son noticed a dried leaf shaped as letter “P” caught in Izzy’s fur. He did not need a magnifying glass for that. With all the catkins outside, our cat is bound to pick up some.

Children observing cat with magnifying glasses

My children observing our cat, Izzy

We made two notebooking pages about Izzy. I gave my daughter a simple blank piece of paper and we glued the cat study topper from the Outdoor Hour Challenge May newsletter. For my son, I printed out the mammal notebooking page from the same blog. I filled both of them out as we talked about cats. My children are still too young to write themselves.

As I read the Handbook of Nature Study to prepare for this lesson, I was surprised to read the recommendation that we train cats not to hunt for birds. I would have thought that a naturalist would want a cat to follow its natural instincts no matter what those may be.

We have seen our cat hunt for mice. We have observed his fear the day after a black bear visited our yard. We have had to deal with putting away dead mice, moles and birds – always daddy’s job. We have had to brush his fur or put up with cat hair on our sofas. Sometimes, both.

I have sneezed many times not realizing I had just sat in our cat’s latest favorite spot.

When the vet diagnosed our cat as a diabetic last year, we could not put him to sleep. Instead, we chose to give him shots.

I do not know how I got the courage to give him his shots, but I did. The kids watched me and daddy as we administered the cat’s shots and were amazed by how passive the cat was. We were, too.

We also fed him less and let him go outside more. Exercise, a leaner diet, plus the insulin shots did the trick.

His blood sugar levels went back down and he did not act as sluggishly as before. He actually got better. The vet declared him healed.

All this to say, we love our cat and study him daily in our homeschool.

For other Wonderful Wednesday nature studies, please click here.

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Animals in Our Backyard

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Less telling, more showing.

Three animals we have spotted in our yard: a groundhog, a rabbit, and a black bear. Enjoy!

 

Kids watching a hare in our backyard

Watching Peter Rabbit

 

Rabbit in backyard

He heard me

 

Groundhog standing in front yard

Groundhog standing

 

Groundhog running

Look at it go!

 

Man challenges black bear

My husband challenged the bear with our children’s sled before he got out the firecrackers

 

This bear has been coming by every evening. He is cute but he is not really scared of loud noises unless he is at eye level with you. When he was looking at my husband from the hill, he just watched and did not make a move. The firecrackers finally got him moving, but very, very slowly. That’s why I cannot leave the kids outside by themselves. Ever.

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