Lessons from the Fifth Week

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Not sure how this happened, but today we start week 6 of this school year. It seems this year will go by even faster than last year. As I look back at week 5, the incident that jarred me the most was witnessing the aftermath of a horrific wreck when I drove to pick up my kids from art class.

Cardinal Flower

Cardinal flower we spotted in our neighborhood.

It must have happened a few minutes before I got there. Several police cars, two ambulances, and one fire truck took care of the accident and the victims. Two cars had collided at the intersection of Glades Rd. and Hwy. 321 in Gatlinburg. Continue reading »

Lessons from the Third Week

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Last week was nothing short of revolutionary. Have you heard of The Wild and Free community? We joined a local group. Also, we had our first outing with them – at the Knoxville Botanical Garden. I have been praying and hoping for more time outside.

Outdoor exploration classroom

Botanical Garden, Knoxville

The answer came in the form of this group. Another homeschooling mom introduced me to them. This means that I will only get four days of instruction at home with the children. We spend the fifth day exploring nature in our area, at local gardens, hiking trails, zoos, and parks. Continue reading »

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.

Wonderful Wednesday – Apple Tree Study

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Inspired by the Handbook of Nature Study blog, we observe and study nature by following their weekly challenges. For the apple tree, we went a few streets over in our neighborhood to look more closely at a crab apple tree. I go by it every morning on my walks.

Then, we went to an apple orchard. We spent about 15 minutes observing the tree, its bark, leaves, dried up flowers, baby apples, areas where large branches had been cut, and overall looks. We noticed the bored holes, which could be the work of either a beetle or a wookpecker.

We also observed the surroundings: a bee gathering pollen from the carpet of yellow flowers under the apple tree, a small “area rug” of lavender flowers, the taller trees from across the street (not apple trees), the younger apple trees in another part of the orchard, the sky. We also made note of the weather: it was sunny, hot, and windy.

On the way back home, we ran an errand at the bank. My daughter asked me to get some hot chocolate, which our bank offers to their clients for free. Next to the hot chocolate machine was a large bowl of red apples. I got them an apple instead of hot chocolate. I could not have planned this better.

In the car, we listened to Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 1 – my daughter’s request. It has long been a favorite of mine and I play it often. She calls it “that other music, not Handel.”

When we got home, I glued the apple tree topper from the HNS April newsletter on a blank piece of paper, made some notes and had my daughter draw the apple tree. Such a peaceful homeschooling day. Nature soothes.

Cattail Nature Study And A New Series

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Last week I came across a cattail nature study on the inspiring Handbook of Nature Study blog. It totally rekindled my desire for nature studies with my children. Now that nature seems more friendly, with rising temperatures, I feel ready to take them outside for observations of the natural world.

Boy with winter cattails

My son with a winter cattail

My husband helped me so much on this project. We live in the mountains. This is not Louisiana. I was positive we had no marsh lands and cattails in Gatlinburg. I was thinking I might have to drive one hour, to Knoxville, where they have a few lakes and ponds.

Then, as we drove back from church, my husband spotted cattails – five minutes from our house! We have been driving by that road every week and I never noticed cattails. That’s what nature study does for you. It improves your awareness of natural things.

I read the recommended pages from Handbook of Nature Study. I took a camera and not much else.

As it turned out, both my children slipped into the creek. But we had fun. I laughed it off and learned to bring a change of clothes next time, even if I think they will not follow me down there. Which, by the way, was the plan. Daddy said there might be snakes, so I was going to be the only one to go down to the creek and marsh land to collect a cattail.

Children playing by a creek

My children playing by the creek next to the cattails

We noticed the cattails were dried up and the fluff had completely exploded – winter cattails. Right in front of them, we noticed green stems and leaves – spring cattails. So we got two seasons in one visit. How cool is that?

Cattails in Gatlinburg

Spring and winter cattails along Glades Rd. in Gatlinburg, TN.

At home, I had them fill out a notebooking page by drawing. They are too young to be expected to write about the experience. I wrote a few things for them, but they enjoyed drawing the creek, the sky, and the cattails. Looking forward to our next adventure.

Cattail Notebooking Page

My son’s cattail notebooking page. He drew and I wrote.

We also found a nest of some sort in the ground. It felt pretty hard. It looks like the perfect home for a snake, don’t you think?

Snake hole around cattails

We found this on the ground around the cattails: a snake hole maybe?

This post is the first in a new series on Homeschool Ways, about our nature studies. We will call it Wonderful Wednesday because the natural world, God’s creation, is wonderful.