Monday, December 27, 2010

Snow!

This morning we woke up to a few inches of snow from the storm that came up the coast.We caught the tail end of the storm, which only accumulated to about four inches.  This is really not much snow for us, but for the boys it is a big deal.   I wasn't sure that we were going to do our nature study today, but once I saw the snow I realized that we could do some informal "study."

We bundled up with all our gear and headed out into the winter wonderland.

As the boys walked through the yard they discussed the texture and weight of the snow.  This snowfall was very light and fine.  Each of them tried to make a snowball and realized that it wasn't the right kind of packing snow.  Of course this also meant no snowman this time around.  After some further exploration "I" decided to lay down in the snow.  


The snow actually seemed to pack when laid on, so this meant that it would be good for sledding.  It was really fast.  The boys took a few turns up and down the hill before they were absolutely frozen.  We headed back inside for some warm milk and a few snow crafts.  
Each boy painted a snowy picture with a combination of white paint and sugar to make it textured and sparkly.  They colored and glued a sled into their "snow."  
As we were working, I found myself humming the old song "Snow!" from the movie White Christmas.  As a little treat we watched the skit on YouTube.  If you haven't seen this movie, it is a holiday season must... Here is the clip.  





Then we settled down with some scissors and white paper and cut out some snowflakes.  We came up with many different designs.  


This was a pretty informal study for us today, but for a holiday week it kept us focused on learning about God's creation.  

Monday, December 20, 2010

Homemade Gifts

This week we are taking a break from our nature study in order to get ready for Christmas.  I thought it might be nice to share a few of the handmade gifts that we have been working on for the children in the family.

The first gift was inspired by some blocks that I found on http://www.etsy.com/.  These are vintage paper doll blocks for my boys.  Each side featured a different outfit for the boy from the 1920s.  Here are some sample outfits.  Most of the sides line up to make crazy outfits too.


I downloaded the doll for a dollar, decoupaged them to maple blocks that I had painted with acrylics.  For about $8.00, they have a one of a kind gift that I hope they will love.




The second gift is one for my sweet little niece who will receive a play kitchen this Christmas.  They are felt strawberries.




Simply made from wool felt scraps, bamboo stuffing, and embroidery floss, these will surely prove to be a favorite.  Ours have been played with so much that they are starting to show some holes.


The gift that has taken the most time this season has been what is usually termed a Waldorf inspired doll.  This one was made for my daughter.




Let me just say it has been a labor of love.  The hours that have gone into this makes me realize why they are so expensive to buy.  I made my own pattern for the head and body, used fine quality knit for the skin, wool and mohair for the hand hooked hair, and made the clothes.  It really has been fun.  The boys have made some gifts as well, but we will share what we did after Christmas so we don't spoil any surprises.  Have a wonderful Christmas.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Seed Hunt - December Challenge

Outdoor Hour button
It was one of those mornings today....you know what I mean if you have young children.   It was one of those that I am tempted to complain about.  I have a huge list of what went wrong.  I had many good reasons to drop our nature study today,  however I have committed to be faithful to homeschool my children.  I find that the Lord meets me every time I get over  each little barrier and into His marvelous grace.  There was plenty that went right this morning, it just didn't go as planned.


We began by reading A Seed is Sleepy by Dianna Hutts Aston and Sylvia Long.   This is a gorgeous book wonderfully written and illustrated.  It reminds me of Lynn Cherry in that it pulls in many "field guide"  drawings as you read.  Even the end papers are littered with drawings of seeds.  My boys wanted to know the names of every single one.  We were off to a great start.  The plan was to go to our normal walking path at Moreau Park and collect seeds and anything else that we found of interest.  Also we wanted to check in on our beaver tree.

We piled into the car and drove over to the park.  When we arrived the inside gates that lead to our favorite path, they were bolted shut.  When I stopped by the ranger station to inquire about the gates, I was informed that they would be closed until spring.  I explained that my boys had been studying the tree that the beavers have been taking down.  I asked her if it was down yet.  I think she thought I was a bit off my rocker.  She then said that she didn't think that they had it down yet.  The road is quite  long for a walk with three little children in the rain, so I needed another location for our study.  The boys were disappointed and eager to get fresh dirt in their boots.  Suddenly I remembered that my father-in-law had a piece of property that the boys had not been to, so we headed in that direction.

When we got there the rain had let up and we headed down the path in search of seeds.  First we saw this.
The brush had prickers on it, but we took a sample for our drawings later.

As we continued down the path toward the pond we came across a tree that had shelled nuts of some sort.

We were not sure what kind of tree it was.  "I" collected some samples into his pockets and we continued.

We found a huge patch of Queen Anne's Lace.  I was thrilled that the boys recognized it immediately.  Even amongst all the other overgrown weeds, they still spotted it.


By the bank of the pond we found a second type of red berry, and some Sumac.  The boys knew that as well and said that it could give a rash, so they left that alone.  They spotted ice on the pond and were very excited.
We also found a white birch with some seed cones.


As the boys were running back to the car, I noticed my favorite find of the day....







I have no idea what the tiny red flowers are, but they were growing amid some moss.   I was very surprised to see something flowering in December.  What a blessing.  It completely lifted my spirits.  In this dreary, cold, wet weather there are sweet little flowers poking their heads up to the light.  The Lord was surely teaching me that no matter what our circumstances are, that we can lift our faces to Him.  In addition I know that we will continue to press and get out this winter to discover whatever He has in store for us to find.  We all are learning!


When we returned home the boys completed their drawings on the December World notebook pages.  Most of their drawings focused on the seeds we collected.  We completed the drawings together and then the boys dictated to me what they saw on our "Outdoor Hour."


Monday, December 6, 2010

Nature Study - Bees and Honeycomb

Last week we checked out the Winnie the Pooh anthology from the library for the second time.   Like many generations of children, the boys are quite taken by Pooh.  As a result of our reading material, the dramatic play in the house has shifted to honey and bees, along with the usual doctor and chef play.  Last week my mother informed me that they had found a large wasp nest in one of their trees.   She was able to dismantle it and save it for investigation.  This led us into a a brief study of bees.

We began by reading several books on the topic.  

This was not our first discussion of bees.  Over the summer we had several stings, which prompted informal study.  We also observed bees at Hick's Orchard during our apple study this past fall in an observational hive.  Reading these books brought back prior background on the subject, and expanded our knowledge base quite a bit.  Here are five things we learned. 

Bees drink nectar from flowers to make honey for their young. 
There is only one queen in a hive. 
The other bees are the drones and workers. 
They build their hive out of wax from their bodies.  
The young are raised in cells that are hexagon shaped. 

After reading my mother arrived with the find from her property.  

We investigated the wasp nest and discussed the similarities and differences between the two insects.  On our science table we had a piece of comb from another nest that we explored.  We also used a flashlight to look inside the entrance.  The boys were able to observe the comb inside as well.  

If you look closely, the camera was able to capture the comb inside the nest.  

I took out our pattern blocks so that the boys could build their own comb on the table top.  We discussed how strong a shape the hexagon is to build with.  We settled into the kitchen to have some honey and bread with warm milk, before we ventured out into the cold for a quick field trip to Betterbee.  


Betterbee is an excellent source of beekeeping supplies for our area and the entire northeast.  If you are in need of supplies or have an interest in keeping bees, here is the link to their website http://www.betterbee.com/   We traveled there to take a look at beekeeping tools, buy honeycomb, and to pick up some crafting supplies for making Christmas gifts.  



Inside we were able to check out the tools of the beekeeper, as well as get some honey sticks.  

The Handbook of Nature Study suggests looking at a honeycomb, so I was hoping they would have some for sale.  Unfortunately they didn't have any.  I am sure we will be able to find some for an investigation in the future.   Overall it was a quick little study of bees.  It is surprising how we ended up doing it in December!  I am sure we will expand our study this spring when we can investigate some hives with a beekeeper and finally get to the honeycomb.