We Made Snowflakes!

As a part of our Snowflake Bentley, Winter Wonders DNG, and The Snowy Day units where we learned about crystals, we made Borax crystal snowflakes.  This was a great activity that gave us great results!
We poured boiling water (that had cooled for about 10 minutes) in these glasses and added Borax by the tablespoonful until the water was saturated.  We added 1 drop of blue food coloring just to make them pretty.  Then we took pipe cleaners that we had fashioned into the shape of snowflakes and hung them on pencils so we could easily get them out.  Within hours we had some crystals and within 24 hours ours were complete!

This snowflake is on the snow in our front yard.

The Individual Snowflake.

The kids and I are learning about winter this week using the DNG Winter Wonders (more to come in a couple of days!).  We were planning on reading about this stuff in books, but God delivered a beautiful snowfall for us last night! 
A thick, heavy, wet snow… perfect for photos and snowmen.  🙂
So for the first time in my life I sought to find an individual snowflake among the white blanket.  I knew they were there all clumped together, but it was so neat to find flakes displaying their distinct shapes!  A Moment of Joy for sure!
I was like a kid in a candy store outside in my jammies, slippers and really bad bedhead trying to take some pictures before it all started melting.  Then I carefully scooped some snow up with a spatula and put it in the freezer so we could look at the later for our science lesson.  I was supposed to pull together a physics lesson, but I had this great snowflake book and this lesson was way cooler!  Then because I also had to do an introduction to PowerPoint lesson, we made a PowerPoint together to review what we learned about snowflakes today.
~ ~ ~
I want to slow down and teach my children to appreciate the beauty and delicacy of an individual snowflake
and the grandeur of His entire creation.
And I believe they will, one little nature lesson at a time.

Salamander Room

We finally  rowed Salamander Room!  This is a book I’ve wanted to do for three years, but each time it is planned the week before I go to the beach and has never actually happened.  This year I finally learned the lesson about my poor planning and was determined to get it done.  I knew Jacob would be too old for it next year.   It also fit in perfectly with our camping weekend in the Smokies!
We started the week with our field trip: salamander hunting!  Did you know the the Great Smoky Mountains are the salamander capital of the world?  Thankfully, we had Robert with us to help us catch the little slimy buggars.  I will say, I did catch one and I was quite proud of it.
Of course, Mattie was all over this.  She loves to dig in the dirt, play in the water and carry around live things some of us don’t care to touch.

All of the ones we caught were Dusky Salamanders.

They must have all been at the same part in their life cycle, because they were all about 3 inches long.
It’s always more fun with Daddy!
(Um, how did he get so big?)
Mattie has always tagged along for our reading time, but she’s been joining us with some work lately in school. She loves to copy words, cut, color and of course, glue (things her brother would prefer to avoid at all costs).   
Jacob preferred to record his salamander info this way.  It was a report of sorts, and he did a great job on it! (Thanks www.homeschoolshare.com for both of those printables!)
There is another FIAR blogging mom who has her kids copy the illustrations sometimes.  I’ve never done this before, but I thought I’d give it a shot.

Jacob complained and thought his was horrible, but I think he did a great job!
I was pretty shocked at Mattie’s!  I know she’s no Monet or anything, but I thought she did a good job noticing the details in the illustration and making an attempt.
We finished by creating and painting clay salamanders!

Our Feathered Friends

When I keep up with the bird food, we have some serious birds! (For a couple of months this summer I spent more on bird food than I did on our 70 pound dog!) One of the things I’d like for Christmas is a bird feeder that holds more seed. With the feeders I have now, I have to refill them every 3 days or so and it’s just hard to keep up with. I’m sure our birds think I’m a terrible mother! I really miss them when I slack and they’re not around. The kids really enjoy seeing them as well. And our gift on rainy days is that the birds come like crazy! So we often just sit in the kitchen window and watch them come and go.

That thistle sock is an ugly feeder, but the American Goldfinches love it! I’m going to have to find something else that is the same concept but not such an eyesore.

This red bellied woodpecker was around often this summer!
I know this one’s out of focus, but it was through the kitchen window.
I like that he’s looking right at me.

We have a ton of house finches. These are one of the birds we see the most.

A sweet cardinal couple on a lunch date.

We threw some black oil sunflower seed out this year to attract some blue jays so we could see them up close. They did not disappoint us! We ended up moving them to another tree as they were antagonizing some of the smaller birds and the kids were missing them.

We had the pleasure of feeding many Downy Woodpeckers as well. We rarely saw the females, but there were several males that would come to visit.

We have more tufted titmouses (mice?) than any other bird, I think.

The other birds that frequent our feeders are black-capped chickadees, nuthatches, brown headed cowbirds and dark eyed juncos. Every now and then we get a gift of an indigo bunting. Jacob knows I look forward to them as they are my favorite color, so he always comes to find me when there’s one to see.

Observing birds is one of the simplest, but most fun ways we get to love God’s creation.

Fall Studies – Leaves and Squirrels

For our fall studies this year we did a couple of weeks learning about leaves and squirrels. (Jacob had asked for the squirrels a few weeks ago.) We just read a few of our favorite fall books and did some of this unit from HomeSchoolShare.

We started off the week doing a nature walk around our property. Of course we picked the two hours where a cold front blew in and the temperature dropped twenty degrees!

Mattie got totally in to collecting everything but leaves!

Our beautiful treasures!

We came in and sorted all of our leaves after we checked out all that we found.

And it was so cold, it was a perfect time for some hot apple cider in our special mugs that Uncle Peter made!

Then Jacob made his leaf picture using some of what he found.

We had to have some maple candy to go with the week! (This is a major treat for Jacob as it’s one of the few kinds of candy he can have. I was very excited to run across it this week!)

And we made some yummy cookies from pie crust and filled with chocolate chips.

Another day we went to a local park and searched for leaves and acorns.

And these are the enormous acorns that fall from our chestnut oak next to our house. They are 1 1/2″ long! You can see the difference between those and the oak tree at the park!

And a walk in the trees isn’t a walk in the trees without a little shooting mommy with a gun shaped branch.

A little leaf partying!

We also went back took Robert up to Natural Tunnel for another walk up there. (I have pics of that day for another post.)

Mattie begs to do school like Jacob. So this week I printed out for her a sheet that has leaves to match from one side of the page to the other. Not surprisingly considering her powers of observation, she did a great job!

And these leaf rubbings are one of my favorite things to do. Last year we picked up leaves from our street. This year we stuck with leaves just from our property and these are some of what we found. It was fun to know just what we had on our land. That’s something we’ve never really looked at before. We discovered have Sassafras trees galore around our house!

Happy Fall to You!!

Cocoon Report

Remember our caterpillars? Well, in our craziness of June, I realized I forgot to post pictures of our cocoon success. We ended up with 4 Eastern Tent Moth Caterpillars and all of them made cocoons. Jacob got new leaves each day from the trees where we found the caterpillars.

We put them in our Butterfly Pavilion we had from last year. Jacob fed them for three to four weeks before they all made their cocoons. We got to catch two of them in action!

They all chose this spot up in the high crease of the Butterfly Pavilion (as opposed to the stick Jacob got for them). They all even took a trip to Maryland with us, because I couldn’t bear the thought of them coming out of their cocoons while we were gone!

In this picture below you can see that two of them made much thicker cocoons than the others. No idea why, but I assumed that they died while they were making them. I was shocked when they came out!

Then one morning we walked by and there was a moth there!

Here you can see the moth’s symmetrical wings. Actually, they are beautiful up close! I just don’t appreciate their beauty when I’m trying to squeeze in my front door in the dark before I let 10 of them in with me!

Isn’t that the most beautiful little boy hand ever?

Jacob was very sad to let them go. I hadn’t thought to cover that at the beginning… Once he realized that we had to set them free to let them live, he was kind of okay, but his sensitive little heart was quite sad as he took each one out to their new home in the tree. He wanted to keep them forever. (I decided to save their short life span for another year.)

Nature Journal Success!

We have tried multiple times to make an entry in our nature journal. It never seems successful to me. I may have the wrong idea about it, who knows? Jacob and I are both very black and white realistic people. And neither of us likes to do something without knowing all the parameters and being sure we can meet the expectations. And we both like a plan. So to head outside, fly by the seat of our pants and hope we encounter something to draw is not a very successful endeavor for us! I did read a post the other day about Nature Study vs. Nature Journaling and that you don’t have the latter in order to have good nature study. The bottom line was that Nature Study is the building block, Nature Journaling is a fun component for many people. Not all people. That was very freeing for me, because Nature Study is something I was to do, but we haven’t been able to find a groove. (And when I really think about it, we probably do a lot more than I give myself credit for.)

So, we normally go outside and I plan on us noticing something and drawing it, noticing the details of it. It never happens that way! We notice something, and talk about the details, but he just says “I don’t know how to draw a bird/flower/tree/[insert anything I might possibly suggest here].” So I back off, since the goal is enjoyment, and he draws some random picture (from his imagination, not nature).

The other day I had a thought. I decided to combine our nature study/journaling with an informal “How to Draw” lesson. I took out sketchbooks and crayons for both of us. We sat down to talk about all the stages of a dandelion (we have enough in one area that Jacob calls it the “dandelion garden”). I didn’t tell him what he should do, but as I was drawing my dandelions, I talked through my observations. We decided together if the stem was purple or pink (combined with a bit of green), what the little curly Qs are at the bottom of the head, how the pappas (fluffy part) was really made, etc. Then I made my picture available so he could copy it if he wanted to. It was so much better! His anxiety was relieved, I think, and he had great pictures! He attended to it much longer than ever before and actually made many observations he would not otherwise have made. I really enjoyed it as well! (And I learned a lot about dandelions that I never knew!)

Here are our journal entries:



This was definitely a success for us and something we’ll do again!