Swallows

Outdoor Hour Challenge this month features

Birds

This past week we looked at the swallows flying over our farm dam.  They flitted down,  quickly skimming over the surface of the water and scooping up tiny insects, and then flying up to join the flock.  swallow flies over water

I tried to watch just one swallow. He must have made at least 5 catches before I lost him in the flock.  They fly in seeming random circles, up, around and then down to the water.  Such simple freedom!

I suggested that Miss.L and I find the swallow’s nests.  But we were disappointed.

Several nests were old and broken.P1160092

We could see the grass and feather lining inside this broken nest.  There was not one active swallow nest under any eave or in any shed or storeroom.

We wondered why.

They must be nesting somewhere … but where?P1160096

We found evidence of new starts on nests under an eave, but for some reason, the swallows left to try somewhere else.

Our nearest neighbor is over 700m away. Perhaps they are nesting there?

Our bird nature walk has turned us into detectives.

Who knows what we’ll find.

Back home we researched the swallows on Google and we enjoyed Anna Botsford Comstock’s description in The Handbook of Nature Study of the different swallows ~

“The barn swallow has a distinctively tailor-made appearance; its red-brown vest and iridescent blue coat, with deeply forked “coat tails” give it an elegance of style which no other bird, not even the chic cedar waxwing, can emulate.” (page 111)

Lovely!

Blessings,

I will share this post with the Outdoor Hour Challenge Carnival.

Rocks & Stones Experience

We enjoyed our month of Rock Outdoor Hour Challenges and my own Stones and Rocks discipleship week.

Rocks & StonesAlthough we have been outdoors most days, and have quite an impressive new rock and stone collection on our table, we have not approached our time scientifically.  I enjoy my child’s natural delight and detailed observations, but we did not research, compare, investigate, analyze, or even note our findings.

It was more a simple pleasure.  

And Charlotte Mason would approve.  She encourages us to give our children regular opportunities to get in touch with God’s creation and to allow these experiences to form a source of delight that will last throughout their lifetime.

So, with this as my long-term approach, I am confident that a scientific approach may develop in time.

(May I encourage young moms not to do what I did when I started homeschool? In my early days with my eldest child, I over-emphasized our nature study sessions and made it too intense, too heavy.  I was very ‘results’ orientated.  This approach stunted my child’s natural delight and she eventually pulled out of our outdoor hour times.)

Right now, our nature study is planned as a natural nature experience!

How have you enjoyed your nature study times?  What works for your children?  Have you any tips for new moms? Please share in the comments.

Blessings,

This post was submitted to the Outdoor Hour Challenge carnival.

Discipleship with Stones & Rocks

I love combining subjects and themes!7-stones-300x240

Our Nature Study and Outdoor Hour Challenge (OHC) theme for this month is

ROCKS

It works wonderfully with a Bible Study!

Here’s your free week’s discipleship with stones and rocks ~ Discipleship with Rocks and Stone

stones & rocks 1

Each day presents a simple practical outdoor activity, provides prompts for personal reflection, includes some relevant scriptures and suggests an application.

stones & rocks 2Inspired by Leef met hart & siel (A South African Christian Magazine) November 2012.

Enjoy!

Blessings,

Journal Mammals

We live on a farm, so it was easy to study a whole range of mammals for our weekly Outdoor Hour Challenge

horses, sheep, lambs, cats, dogs, mice, and a heavily pregnant cow!

I encouraged the kids to sketch and/or paint the animals of their choice, and took our “What to Draw and How to Draw”  sketch notes by E.G. Lutz along, but when her pictures did not turn out as she wanted, Miss.L10 became discouraged .

I gave her the camera and asked her to take several photos of the animals.

She could simply print out the photos she liked and write her observations, or use the photos to make more realistic sketches.

I enjoyed sketching and painting several of our farm animals ~

subtly read selections from Anna Botsford Comstock’s “Handbook of Nature Study” and we discussed the cow in quite a lot of detail.  We loved the description of “illuminated with gentle eyes”  because we all think our cow’s eyes are mesmerizing!

Despite our genuine hands-on work with our gorgeous Jersey milk cows, Anna’s scientific information about milk production was really interesting and her detailed descriptions of the different cow breeds made us examine our Milly with new eyes.  Her bony hips and slightly concave spine and dainty legs are characteristic of her breed.  We smiled at the description of her “fly brush” tail as we have all had a swipe across the head at some time while milking!

I hope to read a little more about horses and sheep as we spend more time this week completing our mammal studies.

What have you enjoyed in this month’s OHC?

Blessings,

Spring Maple Tree Study for OHC

It was a beautiful spring day and we studied our very young maple tree.

Acer circinatum (Vine Maple) leaves showing th...

Image via Wikipedia

We planted the maple sapling last summer and it had made a lovely show in autumn.  Then it stood, small, bare and forgotten the entire winter.

Now, with the warmth and longer daylight, the leaves just budded and the tree looked tender and vulnerable in its spring awakening.

Before we went outside, we studied leaf shapes and terminology with biological terms, just to offer a richer vocabulary for accurate descriptions ~

leaf blade, leaf tip, veins, petioles,

shapes like palmate, ovate, lancelate,

leaf arrangements such as even, compound,pinnate

leaf edges such as serrated edge, scalloped, entire and so on.

Barb’s OHC Spring Maple Tree Challenge required us to carefully observe the leaves and blossoms.

So, with our indoor work done in just a few minutes, we took our notebook page, clipboards, pens and pencils and went outside.  We sat on the grass very close to the tree, looking, listening, quietening … and then journalled.

I love these sketches!

My middle-schooler journalled first.  Then she outlined the one little leaf I allowed the girls to pull off the tree and so she captured the exact size.  She drew in the veins in detail. Then she did a leaf rubbing.

When her younger sister saw the leaf juice made a mark on the paper, she also took the leaf to make a rubbing …

She drew around the edges of the leaf.

Then she made a rubbing, but her rubbing was different.   She placed the leaf on top of her page and rolled her pen firmly across the leaf blade.

Then she traced the marks the veins had left on the page.

Clever.I journalled and sketched in my nature journal.

I focused on the leaf edges, veins and leaf arrangements in detail.

Then I sketched the small tree as viewed from a distance.

I really love our time outdoors.

It is so important for me to appreciate nature with the kids.  If I don’t take part in this discovery, I become the teacher/ observer, taking photos and reading the study guides, which is partly why I think we stopped doing regular nature walks when we first started our homeschooling.  I have to admit that my best efforts in “making it educational” and “teaching the facts and details”  have caused more harm than good.  My over-zealous approach has often caused my older children to withdraw.

Now, trying it again with my younger children, I tell myself,

“Keep it simple, take it slow, enjoy and savour this time with them.”

Blessings,

Organizing our Nature Study Notebooks

We’ve  just started regular Nature Study with Outdoor Hour Challenge with Barb at her blog  Handbook of Nature Study.

Typically, I spent about 3 days organizing the sudden wealth of pages I downloaded from her site …

  • How to get started
  • Outdoor Hour Challenges
  • Notebook pages (from my NotebookingPages.com purchased cd as well as Barb’s free pages)

and then I made some of my own new Nature Study pages

  • Dividers for the 4 seasons:
  • Spring
  • Summer
  • Autumn (Fall)
  • Winter
  • Tree Study
  • Leaves
  • Nature Study Cover pages for the children’s files

These pages are for my use, but I wanted to share them here for your Nature Study file ~

apologies for uploading these files after publishing :)

Blessings,

Starting nature study with The Handbook of Nature Study

I have found that having a plan and a steadfast routine puts important activities into practice …

Like …

Art

SketchTuesdayButton2Sketch Tuesday has blessed us all with simple yet unique topics posted weekly at Barb’s Harmony Art Mom which stimulated confident and spontaneous art in our lives.  We do art because we love it.  We do art even when it is ‘closed’ for summer.  And it has had such a positive impact in our lives.  (PS. It has started again! :) Yay!)

Memorizing Scriptures

Memorizing Scriptures the Simply Charlotte Mason way.  A simple, practical plan I found at the Simply Charlotte Mason site with free download and suggested scripture verses has given us a structure we share with the whole family at the table daily.  Surely this has eternal value!

And  nature study …

… well, it was a hit & miss affair, despite it being something I really believe in and a practice Charlotte Mason advocated.  I knew we did not have a plan and so it easily fell to the wayside.

So I took the plunge and bought the Handbook of Nature by Anna Botsford Comstock.  (It is available free online, but seemed so detailed that I wanted my own copy.)  It arrived.  It is thick!  888 pages thick.  I realized that I needed help a plan.

I went to Barb’s Handbook of Nature blog.  (I had seen it before, but just didn’t see how it would fit into our homeschooling.)   Barb (yes, the same Barb of Sketch Tuesday – isn’t she an amazing inspiration!) has a rich and valuable resource for us at her blog.

She has taken this massively thick handbook  and broken it in to seasonal and thematic challenges.  Her site is filled with friendly and easy nature study ideas, free downloads and wonderful, comprehensive ebooks to purchase.  Barb has also written several Squidoo nature study lenses filled with tips, links and ideas.  She wrote about how to get started.

She also created The Outdoor Hour where she provides challenges (they are really more like suggested topics or ideas) on specific themes and then hosts a monthly carnival for all those families who want to contribute what they have done in their nature studies during their outdoor hour.  She says,

“The Handbook of Nature Study (blog) is written for the parent, to train them to better study the world right outside your door. I always say to take it one tree, bird, or plant at a time. Pick one focus area and go from there. You can use the Outdoor Hour Challenges to help you by following my best advice which is to complete at least the first five challenges (listed on the sidebar of my blog) and then pick an area of interest. The first five challenges will guide you through the introductory reading in the HNS and give you an idea of how to start with nature study.”

I spent some of the weekend downloading, printing and arranging the first few challenges to suit our South African seasons and printed out some nature notebooking pages (some free from HNS and others from my cd I bought ages ago from Notebooking Pages.com) .  Armed with our nature study bags, and notebook pages and clipboards we started our Nature Study.

It is officially spring here! Yay!

It was a perfect day to start our Nature Study challenges.

We did a Spring Sense Scavenger Hunt.  What fun!

I had a second lesson planned for later in the week, but the kids wanted more.

We all sketched what we saw on our walk in our nature journals and on notebooking pages..

It was so simple, relaxing, and utterly enjoyable.

(Of course the kids loved being outdoors with our cute new Border Collie pups! :) )

Best of all, my kids asked how often we can do this!

“Could we do this every day?”

Although Charlotte Mason recommends a daily walk, we could do this at least once or twice a week and still be so much better off than missing it because I didn’t have a plan.

Will you also join in?  How have you planned your nature study times?

Blessings,