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,

Nature Journal ~ Cape Weaver’s Nest

Cape Weaver Birds

Image by tim ellis via Flickr

Hundreds of Cape Weavers have made nests in several of our trees on our farm.

They only come for their spring breeding season. The males flitter and fight over branches and frantically build their exquisite nests. They hang upside down from their nests fluttering their wings and singing to attract the females.  With so many birds in our trees, it is a very noisy, busy time!

When the little dull greyish-beige females are satisfied with the nest, they mate and she lays a little blue egg.  Within a few weeks the baby hatches and both parents fly to and fro to feed the hungry baby.

And then, after several noisy months, the weavers leave.  Only a few stragglers and newbies stay, building nests and singing for attention.

Now, and then nests and egg shells fall.  We’ve even seen little babies on the ground after stormy winds.

All these details make for an excellent nature study.

This week, a particularly lovely nest fell and we could sit and sketch it.

My little 8-year-old painted her sketch:

I took my time and sketched a really detailed nest.

We are enjoying our December school break and I have found that the girls have not taken part in the Sketch Tuesday assignments.  I am glad that we have still enjoyed our time outdoors doing nature study.

Blessings,

Nature Journal ~ baby Robins in a nest

It is spring/ summer here in the Cape.

Cape Weavers noisily build nests and raise their chicks in almost every tree in our garden.

Swallows, Wagtails, Sunbirds and Sparrows feed often at our feeder or fly about in the garden.

Charlotte Mason said,

“As soon as he is able to keep it himself, a nature diary is a source of delight to a child.

Every day’s walk gives him something to enter.”

This week we came across a tiny nest in one of our hay bales in the open shed.  The bale was low enough for my youngest to easily peer into.

Two tiny eggs were in the small nest.

We were thrilled when a day later, the chicks hatched.

With excited shrieks, the girls ran to tell me.

I grabbed my camera and our new nature study bags.

Quietly we approached.

Keeping our distance we peeped at the fluffy, fragile little birds.

Miss. K whispered a few little whistle calls and both heads popped up with beaks open wide.

I took some photos and we withdrew to see if the mother bird would come feed her babies, but she flitted about in a nearby tree, but wouldn’t come while we were still there.

So, we moved even further away and opened our nature journals and described what we saw.

My 8-year-old drew the picture of the chick and painted her sketch.  She and I both studied the photo on the camera to see some details.  (Oh the joys of a digital camera!  It is so good to zoom in on a photo!)

My 11-year-old sketched her nest and chicks in pencil and then wrote some really detailed observations.  She related her experiences with a moving conclusion, “I love those birds!”

What a wonderful time outdoors in summer.  God’s creation is truly marvellous!

(Oh, since then, the birds are bigger and have more feathers.  We will visit with our nature journals each week and keep notes.  It will make a really excellent study.)

What wonderful nature study moments did you all have this summer?

Blessings,

Make a Bag for Nature Study

Just recently, I bought the girls some new quality paintbrushes and blank notebooks for nature journalling.

I only bought some new B and 2 B pencils, and 3 different quality paintbrushes each ~ a medium pointed brush no.7, a thinner no.3 and a fine pointed brush no.0.  The spiral notebook is new too, but the rest of these art supplies are our existing stock.

If you need to know what to buy for your children’s art supplies, check out Barb’s excellent Art Supplies for kids Squidoo lens.

I always recommend moms to buy a few quality things now and then.  Before long, your art supplies will be quite established and it should not cost too much.

What do we  take on our nature journal outings?

    • B or 2 B pencil and soft, good eraser
    • Notebook or journal or a clipboard with blank paper
    • A black fineliner pen
    • Watercolours, brushes and bottle of water
    • OR water-colour pencils
    • Some toilet paper to dab messes or clean brushes
    • Sun hat, sunscreen and smiles!
    • Mom sneaks in some small reference books – a bird book, flower or veld grass, insect reference books

As we carry our art stuff around the garden and farm, we needed dedicated bags for our outdoor studies.

I was inspired by  Suzanne of Just Another Hang Up‘s beautiful lined  Lil’ Girl Springtime Tote and the zipper pouch from Stephanie at The Crimson Owl and I adapted their tutorials to make each of us a nature study bag.

I lined each bag and made several customized pockets to hold water bottles, paint boxes and our nature journals.

I decided to add a fold-over-top so that we can store extra things we find on our nature study.

I even experimented and made pocket dividers, elasticized water bottle pockets.

For a pretty finishing touch I created several gorgeous fabric flowers to decorate the bags..

Click to my project pages or click here for the step-by-step tutorial.

Enjoy!

This post is part of the upcoming South African Carnival of Homeschooling.