Nature Walks – January 2015

“So come, get ready. Don’t delay! We’re on a nature trail today.”

~Maurice Pledger, from In The Forest

January has been bitter cold, filled with sick kids, as well as other goings on that have kept us inside, so my choice of pictures was limited for this month. I tried to take the kids out if the temperatures were around 30 degrees, plus we went out looking for Snowy Owls one day, which gave me some extra pictures for the month. Enjoy!


Our property is shaped like an L and touches two roads. On the point farthest from the house, it’s possible to see the dairy cows at the farm across the road. Paul now knows this, and every time we are outside, he books it down through the woods and up the hill. One day while wrestling him away from the road, I quickly snapped this image of a break in the clouds, then booked it home carrying the boy with no shoes on because he kicks them off when we have to return to the house.


The morning that we went to the Humane Society was frigid cold, and all the snow on the trees glistened like a computer generated photo. I pulled off to the side of the road and took a few shots because it was so beautiful. By the time we headed home a few hours later, the sun had warmed the snow enough to melt it off.


The day we went birding for Snowy Owls, we also stopped at the lake to check out the geese and ducks that we saw floating on the water. The edge of the late was frozen in an interesting pattern, so I snapped this picture. The sun through the clouds gives it a special glow. If you look closely, you can see lines of geese flying in the sky.

Modifying A Boxed Curriculum With More Community Learning. Reflections, Week 27

Elizabeth has been sick most of this week, and my husband and I have been continuing with our ‘moment’ issue, but luckily that seems to be moving forward in a positive direction. I think it was pre-destined that Elizabeth would fall sick now because in my doubts about my marriage and whether to try to work it out or not, I’ve been forced to also depend upon Chepe for his help and wonder (and fear) how I could do it alone.  Also, after months, literally months, of not having both kids take a nap at the same time, I’ve been gifted four days of solitary afternoons, which I was really needing.

Because she has been sick, we haven’t fit too much school in, but Thursday Elizabeth and I did continue with our owl unit that we started last Wednesday when we went birding and looking for a Snowy Owl (see Quest for A Snowy Owl. Reflections, Week 26) by looking up owl facts at Animals Time: All About Animals For Kids, and checking out some pictures of different owl species at The Owl Pages.  Building upon her own personal experience with three different owl species – not too bad for a 5-year-old – and we mostly looked at the screech, great horned, and snowy owl pictures, but also checked out a few other kinds. In addition, we play-acted baby owls, with Elizabeth building a huge nest out of blankets and then pretending to be a newborn chick with its eyes closed for the first ten days of it’s life. She is very detailed. Check out our Nature Walks – June for some owl pictures our from our own woods.


Shapes to travel to in many ways.

Friday, we played shape travel. I cut some big shapes out of construction paper and labeled them, asked her if they were 2- or 3-D, and then we scattered them around the living room. We came up with different ways to move between them, digging pretty deep with movements like flitting, twisting, hauling, waddling, scurrying, etc. I liked it because she didn’t nessesarily have words for some of her movements, but as she did them, I named them, so her vocabulary was augmented – and she will probably remember them too, as she can often surprise me by learning a new word once and then using it properly later.  Unfortunately this doesn’t seem to extend to Spanish though.

On a different note, I have been feeling introverted lately, which makes me want to just sit and think and daydream. I’ve also been moving ahead with planning modifications for the Moving Beyond The Page curriculum.  My absolute favorite change that I’ve been making is the addition of the element of service learning and active citizenship, which I’m realizing is where I need to start with  my planning in each unit.  What I’ve been doing so far is sitting down with a piece of paper and pen and asking myself how the books of the curriculum “speak to me.”  I jot down my first thoughts.  For example, Millions of Cats by Wanda Gag made me think of numbers, patterns and cats.  I then peruse the parent guide of the MBTP curriculum to see what activities are all ready organized that fit into what speaks to me, and activities that have materials in the consumables box because I want to use them.  Then, I work out a plan for 5-7 days of activities.  For Millions of Cats I planned activities that used the cat cut-outs from the consumables box, drawing kitty-like patterns on them, then organizing them into patterns.  I tried to get Elizabeth to do some simple addition with them too, but she wasn’t interested.  We also counted them a number of times with different groups and relationships.

In the last step of my unit planning, I go through the week’s worth of activities and determine if all the key subjects are hit, such as LA, Math, Art, etc.  When I get to service learning and active citizenship, I have been finding that it almost always takes me into a whole new place that touches on real-life activities that include trips and math that is real.  Let’s continue with the Millions of Cats example.  When I wondered what I could use for service learning and active citizenship, I wondered how could I make real-live cats meaningful to Elizabeth when we don’t have a cat?  Of course – go to the Humane Society.  A trip to the Humane Society would give her a visual of real cat coat patterns, population numbers and why cats are being housed there, learning about pet care, learning about the service the Humane Society provides the cats and community, what a worker or volunteer does there, and show she can help too.  I could tell her all of these things while sitting in the living room, but it would be much more memorable to her if we did it while petting cats in person at the actual Humane Society.  (Of course, we did not actually pet the cats because they had ringworm.  See Doubts About Our Decision to Homeschool. Reflections, Week 25.)

I’m starting to think that when I sit down with my notebook and think about how a book speaks to me, I ought to make my initial list, then consider service learning and active citizenship to see where that takes me before I make out my weekly plan.  It’s exciting because for the dinosaur unit it is taking us to a museum and exploring questions like, “What does a paleontologist do?  Who can be a paleontologist?  Why is paleontology important?  Are there any negative impacts made from dino digs?”  These questions, though I’m not looking for in depth answers, or even that she will have the answers, will allow her to begin to look deeper than just the facts and start to pursue her own questions and answers, especially as many times the answers are open-ended.  I hope as well that these kinds of questions will lead us to volunteer work for our homeschool when both of the children are older, I really enjoy volunteering!

Share your thoughts: How do you incorporate service learning and active citizenship into your homeschool?  Do you do any kind of fun and interesting volunteer work with your children?

Quest for a Snowy Owl. Reflections, Week 26

This has been another very tough week for me.  2015 seems to have started off pretty peace-less rather than peaceful.

Chepe and I were having a serious ‘moment,’ what I call our times of arguments and problems.  Our moment was so distressful that I was seriously considering the Big D.  A willingness to communicate and lay out our thoughts and needs has helped us come back from the edge, though we still have lots to work on.  Every marriage has issues to work through, ours is no different; luckily peace is something that you search for within yourself and does not necessarily sprout from an outside source.  I have looked inside of myself to my own strength, as well as to my kids and my love for them, and my family who is my rock.

Worrying about the prospect of divorce and the idea that I would suddenly go from being a 100% stay-at-home-mom to a single parent needing to be the sole provider (there were some assumptions in there), and thus most probably unable to homeschool next year, really drove me into it this week – to not take for granted the time I have to watch Elizabeth learn, nor to enjoy Paul while he is still so little.  This week, we started a calendar book, wrote our own poems and made them into glitter posters, started playing word construction, and dressed up as ‘fine ladies.’

One highlight of school this week was playing ‘Find the Glow-in-the-Dark Firefly’ in the dark for an hour one night with the kids.  We had all the lights off in the house, except for the outside lights since Chepe wasn’t home from work yet.  The kids thought it was super fun, and even Paul got into looking for the firefly.  How often do you shut off all the lights and play in the darkness? 🙂

The other highlight for the week was going birding Wednesday.  Before our ‘moment,’ Chepe and I had all ready been planning to go looking for snowy owls, as they are this far south this time of the year, and our next unit for school follows two books about owls.  Birding is an activity that Chepe and I did a lot while we were dating and newly married, and was probably one of the best things to do together to try to get back on the right track.


Bald eagle at Sodus Point



Snow and ice pieces on Lake Ontario

Wednesday morning, I searched the internet for snowy owls in our area and found two accounts of the birds being seen the previous day.  So, we headed out to do some drive-by-birding.  At the first location, we didn’t see anything, so then went to get some lunch and make a stop at the DMV.  Then, we drove up to Sodus Point, NY, on Lake Ontario, where an owl sighting had occurred at the Coast Guard Station.  I wasn’t sure where that was, so we went to the lighthouse museum first.  There, we saw a bald eagle in a nearby tree when we stopped.  Unfortunately, Elizabeth didn’t see it even though it sat in the tree for quite a while because she took soooo long getting her snow clothes on that it had flown off by the time she got out of the car.  Then, we wandered around the lighthouse and looked out at the lake.  There were some floating pieces of ice and snow which were pretty interesting, but no owls.  I had put Paul in his stroller because I was afraid that he would walk off the cliff, but after riding in the car all day, he couldn’t handle that, plus it was also so cold that we were just going to leave, when Chepe looked up and saw a large, silent, white bird flying past – it was the snowy owl!!!!  Even Elizabeth saw that one!  After our elation, we packed up and drove over to the Coast Guard Station for a moment, where we saw some tundra swans and other waterfowl in the channel.


Lighthouse at Coast Guard Station in Sodus Point

It was a hard week, yet one that pulled me back from taking our homeschool and being able to be home with the kids for granted.  It also inspired me to continue to try to squeeze school and creative activities in even when Paul won’t take a nap, and to encourage learning all of the time.

Share your thoughts:  What was a time in your life that rekindled your appreciation for your own homeschool?