Elizabeth’s Bright Idea: A Nature Scavenger Hunt!

Just about every day, Elizabeth decides what she’s got for school for that day, in addition to what I have for school.  These ideas usually involve mixing colors, something that she is really intrigued with, and often involve food coloring, but sometimes paint.  Unfortunately for her, I’d say that we end up fulfilling her idea about 1/3 of the time; this is partly due to the fact that we run out of time before Brother gets up from his nap, partly due to my low supply of food coloring now (though it is 5 years old at this point!), and partly due to the fact that my attention span wanes by the time we finish up with the curriculum work and then we end up going off to do some other things.  It could also partly be due to the fact that her ideas are more or less the same every day and I’m not terribly interested in them – which is horrible, I know, but I am being completely honest here – writing this with all honesty, being brutally honest, honest when it would be best to be nice honest!  (Maybe my being brutally honest will make me acknowledge that her ideas are valid enough that I should, well, validate them and give her the little bottles and let her rip!)

At any rate, I can’t gage whether she notices if we don’t end up doing her ideas and takes it personally, she doesn’t usually say anything, and if she does, she just says that I forgot/we forgot (which I do A LOT being so busy with two kids, and trying to teach delayed gratification.)

Today though, she was telling me what her idea for school was, and as it came out, it stretched on longer and longer but made more and more sense and became an idea for something real, and something that could be really awesome: a nature scavenger hunt!  I have no idea where this thought of her’s came from, but it was awesome!  It made me totally stop everything that I was doing and just say, “Yeah, that sounds like an absolutely wonderful and fun idea!”

So, as she was finishing up coloring the cut-outs that came with our unit, I wrote down her list of items that she wanted to search for on our hunt:

1. A toad

2.  Tadpoles

3.  Frog/toad eggs

4.  A salamander

5.  A spider

6.  A bug

7.  Beech leaves

8.  Maple leaves

9.  A rock

10.  A bird

11.  A chipmunk

12.  A squirrel

13.  A flower

14.  A snake

So, I turned on the computer and searched for images of each item, asking for her input for most.  For a bird she chose a macaw, and for the spider a huge mouse spider.  And for the squirrel she chose this silly picture of a gray squirrel sitting up on it’s back legs, with a zipper down it’s tummy and it pulling the fur back to reveal a Superman symbol inside.  But, it didn’t really matter that they didn’t match exactly what we were going to find, it’s more validating that she choose what she likes and that I value her choice.

I pasted the pictures into a regular document and printed out two copies of each page: one for her and one for Paul.  After dinner, we went out on our nature scavenger hunt!

It was awesome!  I took a bunch of pictures of them just carrying around their papers, because that was so cute!  I love little kids with a task, and Paul is definitely one who needs a task!

We saw a squirrel right out the door.  Then we saw a bunch of stuff that we forgot to put on the list: worms, and mushrooms, and the stream, and even a rabbit (who I had a hard time deterring Paul from chasing).  I always discourage tromping through the woods, as funny as that sounds, we have a clean trail which is easy to follow so I like to keep the kids on that.  Our area is known for high levels of ticks which carry Lyme disease, and in the two years that we have lived here, this year was the first time I’ve seen one actually.  They are out there, but I think that because I keep us on the trail and in the short grass that that helps us to avoid them.  I also like to keep us on the trail so that we don’t damage the sensitive trilliums and other plants that grow along the edge.

But today, I bent the rules.  Elizabeth was sure that she had seen frog eggs in a puddle while we were at a restaurant with my dad earlier, and she wanted to search our stream for eggs too.  Under the bridge the water is not slow moving, so we tromped along the bank a little to check.  We did not find any frog’s eggs, but we did find a garter snake that let us get pretty close.  Elizabeth asked if we could hold it, but though they are generally not aggressive and I have a little experience in catching and holding snakes, I thought it best to just let it be, especially in front of Paul.  He was very interested, and well behaved and did not try to touch it – good boy!


It wasn’t until I was looking at the pictures to decide which to put into the post that I saw that the eye was blue, which means that this snake is about to molt!

After our walk, I stripped the kids on the porch and left the clothes outside in case they carried ticks, then we came inside and I plopped them into the tub, after which I also changed my clothes and took what I had worn outside to lose the ticks as well.  (I haven’t yet showered, and I admit I do feel buggy!)

In all, we saw nine of the fourteen items on our list:  the beech leaves, the maple leaves, the rock, the bird, the squirrel, the flower, the snake, the spider, and the bug.  To me, this is what homeschooling is about, unschooling in particular.  I mean, the idea was my five-year-old’s, and something that could include my two-year-old as well.  It let them learn about the world around them by using all of their five senses, as well as teaches the power of observation, patience, independence, and creativity.  How could that not be a winning idea?  (If we end up with Lyme disease, I guess.)

Share your thoughts:  What was an absolutely, astoundingly fun idea that your child had?


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