MFW Adventures: More States and a State of the Union

DSCN0720.JPG

We always start planning the upcoming school year in January. This is partially due to our involvement with Classical Conversations. I have yet to blog much about CC, I’m still trying to get a solid year of MFW and HGP blogging under my belt before I try and add in CC. It is a huge part of our lives and our school year revolves around those 24 week cycles. Next year I will be directing a new Foundations community group in our area, which is exciting and nerve wracking all at once. Its strange to start planning so far in advance when I am still in the midst of this wonderful year I worked so hard to plan last January. But the time has come for the yearly, “State of the Union” and so this is the week when I stepped back and observed all that takes place in our home and in our hearts. For us, education is not simply what we are learning but who we are becoming. The short of it is, we are loving Adventures so far. It has been a perfect fit for our family and I am so grateful for it and for the Charlotte Mason method it employs.

DSCN0747.JPG

I am currently in the midst of reading “Consider This: Charlotte Mason and the Classical Tradition” by Karen Glass.  It is one of the best homeschooling books I have ever read and I am savoring every single chapter. This book echoes all that we do (and hope to do) in our own home. Its wonderful to pick up a well written book that engages the two methods of education closest to my heart.

Today, I sat on a park bench with my book and watched my 5 year old engage in a self-led physics experiment involving a steep slide and fistfuls of sand. He would walk over every once in awhile to discuss his findings. We talked about friction, inertia, motion and he would hypothesize the results of his next trial with barely contained glee. When it was time to leave, he tidied up the slide, pushed sand off the sidewalk and into the play area where it belonged, and went out of his way to pick up a piece of someone else’s trash and threw it in the garbage.  He did this without any prompting. Twenty minutes earlier I had circled the following passage in the Karen Glass book:

“…Charlotte Mason’s conception of synthetic thinking, or “the science of relations” concerned itself with placing the child in the way of forming relationships with every area of knowledge, so that the question we ask is not “how much does the youth know?” but rather “how much does he care?” When the affections are involved–when we care about a place, a person, or an idea–we are more motivated to act if action is required. When we love virtue itself, we are more likely to behave virtuously.”

DSCN0783.JPG

This is what I have loved about Adventures. Not the amount my children are learning, though they have grown by leaps and bounds this year, but the virtue they are cultivating and employing. How much does he care? It seems everything we are studying, all the habit training and scripture study and living books, everything is nourishing these little ones to care, to desire to act rightly.

Here is what the week looked like. We studied several states: Maine, Missouri, Arkansas and Michigan. The boys took great care in opening the tin of special colored pencils used for our States book. They were diligent in coloring each bird and flower to the right specifications. They copied down each state motto in their neatest penmanship. They closed their books and put away their pencils. They brought out the book basket and we went on adventures in four different states while the toddler shrieked in the background and the preschooler called for pretzels and juice. Everyone eventually settled down and we experienced beautiful illustrations and rich prose. The boys played with seashells while we read “Island Boy.” They acted out “Blueberries for Sal” and cooked pretend clam chowder after reading “One Morning in Maine.” We pulled out our Saxon books and halfway through our lesson, I noticed my six year old building cranes and seabirds out of pattern blocks. “Remember that story?” he asked,  “About Obadiah and the seagull?” Off he went to fetch the book. As soon as he completed his math lesson, he picked up Brinton Turkle’s tender and lovely book, “Thy friend, Obadiah” and read it aloud to his siblings, giving special attention and affection to his younger brothers. Thirty minutes later we were on a website looking at the anatomy of birds and constructing their skeletal systems over and over again. This brought us back to our study of Human Anatomy. The boys brought down the Human Organ tray and began reading each three part card and matching them with the corresponding organs from their safari toob, until the toddler stole the large intestine and chaos ensued. We resolved the quarrel and moved on to our Usbourne Encyclopedia and the boys began to question the latin names they kept hearing, so we picked up our latin work and labored over a few declensions. One particular song used to memorize the 3rd declension latin noun endings reminded them of a Rachmaninoff piece they had heard weeks before. We listened to it twice and then one of the boys asked if we could play outside. We dashed out of the house and opened the coop to let the chickens out. Once again we were talking about birds and anatomy while the 5 year old zoomed by on skates humming Rachmaninoff and the 3 year old stomped around saying “Kuplink, Kuplank, Kuplunk,” in his best imitation of little Sal dropping blueberries in a tin pail.

DSCN0780.JPG

I am not teaching my children for the sole purpose of ensuring successful performances on tests that cannot measure love, sense of wonder, compassion, joy, faithfulness, goodness, or creativity. As Karen Glass says, “If we answer the question ‘What is man?’ with ‘man is a living soul created in the image of God,’ our educational task will be much different, as we seek to discover all the potential in each child so that he can become everything that God meant him to be. All that we can give him will not be too much nor go to waste.”

DSCN0793.JPG

Week 23 was a slower week in terms of topics covered but it was a rich week nonetheless. On these slower weeks, I love to get out into nature with the boys. That prescheduled Friday nature walk is something I make sure to enforce. I make every effort to protect that part of their schedule. In many ways, it is the capstone to all we learn in the classroom.

DSCN0761.JPG

Our son’s godfather came to visit with his son and so our nature walk for Unit 23 took place at the beach. It was a nice tie in for all those “salty” books we read about Maine.  The boys tumbled about the tide pools and played in the surf. They collected seashells and felt the sand between their toes. They experienced life and their souls were nourished by the sea air and warm water.  Little scientific observations were sprinkled throughout the day. It happened naturally. “School” is not something they go to and then leave after a few hours. There are no compartmentalized subjects. It is not a chore.

DSCN0797.JPG

Learning is life and it brings them joy.

DSCN0733.JPG

MFW Adventures: West by Wagon and the Human Body

DSCN0009.JPG

Its our favorite time of year! “Winter.” The weather is gorgeous, though very rainy this year, and we spend more time than ever out of doors.

The garden has gone absolutely berserk this year. I love walking outside and cutting a head of lettuce before dinner. We planted more veggies this week and I am looking forward to harvesting them in March.

DSCN0662.JPG

West by wagon train! The boys were eager to jump right in. I gave them each a small bag and asked them to pack things they would need for one week of travel through an unsettled, wild area.

We had to pack and repack for over an hour. It was fun watching them try to figure out what really needed to go in the bag and what they could do without.  We read “Daily Life in a Covered Wagon” by Paul Erickson and the boys made their own “travel journals” as an exercise in creative writing. They wrote and illustrated stories about their make believe travels on the Oregon Trail. These entries read like the old Oregon Trail computer game I loved as a kid. Day 1: shot a buffalo. Day 2: dysentery.  The illustrations were hilarious. I love when they ask to do their own projects. Its fun to watch their creativity bloom as they take complete control over their work.

After reading “The Josefina Story Quilt” and our reading selection from American Pioneers and Patriots, the boys asked if they could make their own quilts. After showing them squares from the quilt I’ve been working on for the last nine years (no joke) they opted for glueing fabric scraps onto paper and making “Quilt Art.”

DSCN0624.JPGIMG_9510.JPG

See that little model wagon? Looks nice in the picture doesn’t it? Its garbage. We could have burned three dollar bills in front of our children and they would have learned a greater lesson than the experience of putting this thing together. While we’ve had fun with other wood building kits, this one received poor marks. The quality is terrible and there is no building involved. You glue pieces together and watch the wheels fall off because the accompanying nails don’t fit correctly in the predrilled holes. a big thank you to my patient hubby for seeing that project through to the bitter end.

After that disaster, we opted to use our play stand as a covered wagon. We threw a white sheet overtop and our eldest sang “Old Dan Tucker” as the kids pretended to bump along the trail. They ate lunch in their wagon and pretended to cook a few meals while I read aloud from their book basket. Then our youngest began crying for his play stand. “My birds! My blocks! My sky!” We put things to rights once more and he has not left it since. Territory claimed!

DSCN0632.JPG

We used the booklet, “My Body” last year during Cycle 3 of Classical Conversations.

Unknown.jpeg

The boys each made a life size cut out of their body which they then filled in with various organ systems from the pages of this book. One book can be used for an entire family or classroom.

IMG_2065.jpg

It was a great learning experience. I was tempted to repeat it once more for this unit but instead chose the following add ins:

 

613nIwp-tYL._SX258_BO1,204,203,200_.jpg

This dover coloring book was an excellent choice for the boys. They have loved working in it and describing the various organs and systems to me as they complete each section.

91fNaUwWapS._SX355_.jpg

We picked up a Magic School Bus Human Anatomy science kit. The boys completed the majority of these experiments on their own and learned an incredible amount of information. This kit has inspired me to allow the boys to lead more of their own science projects. They are more than capable of gathering their own materials from around the house, following procedural steps, forming hypothesis and recording their results. I picked this kit up several months ago during a Zulily science sale. The school bus kits show up on Zulily frequently at a hefty discount.

Other hands on activities we introduced and enjoyed included: puzzles, three part letter cards and a safari toob of human organs.

DSCN0828.JPG

This digestive system puzzle shows up in the Target dollar section every August.

DSCN0825.JPG

Our cross section Human Body Model from Learning Resources.

DSCN0817.JPG

I put together a human anatomy tray with three part cards for sorting and classifying. We used the Human Organs Safari Toob. The boys reached for this tray often throughout the week.

Our little guys spent the majority of their time playing with Hape’s Layered Body Puzzle (male version).

DSCN0815.JPG7ffaa551a5f63acbe32165a04dbbdce1.jpg

All our boys, ages 3-8 have used and enjoyed the Hape layer puzzle. It is currently the family favorite.

Lastly, to reinforce right and left, our kids have been working with this Hands Counting puzzle from Melissa and Doug.

DSCN0826.JPG

We’ll be sharing more Anatomy projects in the days to come!

MFW Adventures: Fulton & Stain Glass

IMG_8774.jpg

Greetings & Salutations!

The garden is in, my friends. No sooner had we turned our backs on those lovely beds than the heavens began to pour out rain. All our seedlings seem to have doubled in size the past week thanks to the ceaseless rains.
IMG_8829.jpg

Unit #21 brought our merry group of adventurers to Robert Fulton and his Steamship.

Day 1: I read out of the recommended book basket list and set the boys loose in the yard with 4 kiddie tubs and an assortment of plastic trash. Empty bottles, milk jugs, egg cartons, straws and robber bands. They had a marvelous time constructing their own “steamships.”  This eventually led to us hauling out one of our Usbourne science books and executing another round of “sink or float” with other backyard items. unnamed-3.jpg

Day 2: We hauled out tons of books and encyclopedias that catalogued various ships throughout the ages. The boys looked at “Into the Unknown” by Stewart Ross and copied his diagram of the steam engine along with a few other pictures of steamships detailed within.

IMG_8928.jpg
“Into the Unknown” by Stewart Ross

This was intense work for the boys. They took notes and later spent two hours drawing highly weaponized steamships.
IMG_8931.jpg

Day 3:
Origami style steamboats! Thanks to Chaos Meets Creativity for the link!

origami_bat_503ccab6e087c337ff00003c.jpg
Kreativ inredning

While we folded ships my youngest two tackled their own projects. Give the three year old an entire sheet of tissue paper and a glue stick–it will buy you at least 20 minutes!

IMG_8927.JPG

The 5 year old was content to light up his Christmas trees with the correct number of red and white pony beads.

IMG_8922.jpg

Day 4:
After finishing our state sheets, the boys did a little more work on their nature journals. On this day they transferred one of the public speaking presentations from our last week of the semester at our Classical Conversations Community. I love when they work so carefully and meticulously.
IMG_8761.jpg

IMG_8760.JPG

Meanwhile….

IMG_8895.JPG

Day 5:
Thanks to the delightful “A Year of Playing Skillfully,” the boys and I discovered the lovely idea of window painting. My Adventurers join in almost every AYoPS activity and this was not to be missed.

We wiped down our sliding glass door, mixed the paint, layed out our painting blanket to catch any wayward drops of color and set to work!

unnamed-1.jpg

We recently looked through our London Gallery Nativity book which featured several diptychs of the nativity. With two large glass panels at our disposal, we all agreed to make our own “Stain Glass” diptych featuring the nativity. The 5 year old was our creative director. He loves “Starry Night” and it quite obviously influenced his work.

IMG_8907.jpg

unnamed.jpg

We ended the day with a little sensory therapy in the form of homemade peppermint playdoh. It was worth the 20 minute make time. Peace on earth for over an hour!

IMG_8945.JPG

We are on track to finish Adventures by the end of March. We’ll spend the rest of the month enjoying advent, studying The Nutcracker and prepping for our “Adventures in US History” Road Trip!

MFW Adventures: War of 1812, Star Spangled Banner & Lewis and Clark

IMG_8718.JPG

We studied the War of 1812 last year during cycle 3 of Classical Conversations. The minute the boys saw our topic of study they launched into the corresponding song, “The war of 1812, gave confidence to the US to write the Monroe doctrine…”

I made several recordings of their young warmly voices as they sang out “The Star Spangled Banner.” Its difficult to imagine what they will sound like a few years from now.

We recreated the Battle of Ft McHenry in our bathtub. We will not be sharing those pictures. Suffice to say, there was a great deal of water outside the tub when it was all said and done!

After spending the first two days of our unit reading about the War of 1812 and the writing of the Star Spangled Banner, the boys asked if we could take a detour with Lewis & Clark. I love homeschool detours. We always learn so much! Here’s what happened…

IMG_8707.JPG

We jumped in with our Interactive 3D American History maps. 
We looked up the various Indian tribes and geographical features mentioned on the map. The boys were very excited about researching these terms in their child craft encyclopedias.

IMG_8714.JPG
We made a lap book from Tina’s Dynamic Homeschool Plus. All the printouts were free and easy to assemble. We listed defining characteristics of various tribes, studied botany and mapped out Lewis and Clark’s route.

We printed out the corresponding coloring sheets to fill in while I read aloud from our Louisiana Purchase book list (see below).

We played a really fun Lewis & Clark Westward Bound board game. The cards relay information about the trip at each stop along the map.

IMG_8679.JPG

Lastly, I purchased a few pounds of white sculpty clay and the boys fashioned pieces for our Corps of Discovery diorama. I read aloud from a few books written from the experience of Seaman, the massive Newfoundland dog that accompanied Lewis and Clark on their journey.

We baked the pieces in the oven and then painted them a few days later.

IMG_8721.JPG

IMG_8728.JPGIMG_8730.JPGIMG_8729.JPG

This was a great project! I love how hands on it was. I also got a lot of reading in while they worked and afterwards, while they played.

On Friday, we went for our usual nature walk. The boys had spent the week cataloging the plants in our backyard. We dissected a bird of paradise flower and labeled each part. I had seen a great link for making your own grocery bag nature journals, a la Merriweather Lewis. I had planned to let the boys fill their homemade journals with drawings of native plants as though they were the original discoverers.

12239866_10153237773503616_7819363253561514950_n.jpg

11222344_10153237773633616_953807943781542643_n.jpg

12243442_10153237776703616_6933596891181340243_n.jpg

In the end, I opted to just let them enjoy the great outdoors with a project in mind.
IMG_8727.JPG

When we returned home, they worked on their natural journals and sketched a large piece of brood comb from one of our pine trees. They also sketched a honey bee and labeled its parts.

12241709_10153237784328616_7093347670251621084_n.jpg

IMG_8747.JPGIMG_8749.JPG
I’m glad we did this instead of the journal. They were much more excited to sketch bees today. Some days, its better to let them lead their own learning.

We ended the week by playing one of our new favorite board games, Wildcraft,  in honor of those crazy botanist/explorers Lewis & Clark.
IMG_7554.JPG

Louisiana Purchase, Lewis & Clark Expedition Reading List

How We Crossed the West: The Adventures of Lewis and Clark by Rosalyn Sanchez
Lewis and Clark: The Story of Our Nation from Coast to Coast, from 1801-1850 by Sally Isaacs 
Lewis and Clark: A Prairie Dog for the President by Shirley Raye Redmond
The Louisiana Purchase: Would you close the deal? by Elaine Landau
The Lewis and Clark Expedition (Graphic History) by Jessica Gunderson
Seaman’s Journal: On the Trail with Lewis and Clark by Patricia Eubank

We’ll be taking the next week off and I plan to read “Of Courage Undaunted” by James Daughtery.

 

 

MFW Adventures: Ohio Pioneers

IMG_8557

This past week, I opened American Pioneers & Patriots and began reading the story of the O’Neill family heading down the Ohio River.

The boys were decidedly not interested.

IMG_8552

I knew attention and participation would be an all day, uphill battle.

I was not in the mood for that.

IMG_8553

So I took some cardboard and the hot glue gun and built a flatboat. Then, I asked the boys to bring out the aluminum foil. We walked to the driveway with a bucket of chalk. I sketched out the states surrounding the Ohio River.

We set the foil out along the line of the river and curved the side up high. The eldest grabbed plastic teepees, warriors and canoes. The six year old held the raft and began gathering “supplies.” Little leaves, tiny berries, small stick to use as rifles.

IMG_8559

We poured water into the Ohio river and the cardboard raft achieved lift off.

The boys were thrilled. As I read aloud from our book, they acted out each page. They asked thoughtful questions that sent me running to the computer for more information. They played with this set up for hours. Long after I had finished our assigned reading and the extra books in our basket, they played on.

I sat in a green lawn chair and hummed through Over the Rhine’s Ohio album.

By the end of the day, the water had leaked out and washed away the chalk. The next day, the boys ran out of the house with a laminated map in hand. Together they determined where the boundaries of each states should be. They carefully reshaped the Ohio river and even thought to elevate one end with flat rocks to help the stream flow in the right direction.

IMG_8542

Its good to change the scenery sometimes. Its good to give their small hands something to do while they absorb information.

Before starting “On the Banks of Plum Creek,” I handed each boy a bowl, tweezers and an ear of Indian corn. They pried kernels loose while I read. We are collecting all these colorful kernels for our upcoming Thanksgiving unit.  I love the concentration they exhibit during this exercise. The silence is also pretty fantastic.
IMG_8633
We read five or six books on Johnny Appleseed this week. Our whole week was infused with apples! I made apple dumplings for the boys to eat while I read aloud from Margaret Hodges book. We sliced apples in half and used them to stamp butcher paper. We carefully folded up our project and stored it away  for next month, we’ll be using the long rolls of apple stamped paper to wrap up presents for family. My five year old collected dozens of apple seeds and we used them as counters for our math lessons. The boys learned a great deal about John Chapman’s character this week.  I believe it is the first time they have ever truly considered the idea of legacy. They are starting to wonder if they could change the world around them, even in a small, yet still significant, way. I pulled out Miss Rumphius by Barbara Cooney. After reading about the transformation Miss Rumphius ignites in her neighborhood, I charged the boys to begin thinking of ways they could impact our neighborhood for Christ. I am looking forward to hearing what they come up with!

We have been studying kingdoms and classifications in Classical Conversations this year. We used a few of our science worksheets and lab sheets to reinforce our MFW Science. The boys really enjoyed this exercise in particular.  

Animal Kingdom Notebook Printables helped flesh out our Animal Kingdom Classification Books. Divider pages for each different kingdom are provided. The boys filled in facts about each one and went through a pile of magazines and cut out animals for each category as an “end divider” for each kingdom. Now as we study various animals we encounter in stories, on nature walks, or in our curriculum, we can draw their picture, record facts and file them behind the appropriate kingdom.

IMG_8567

Team B enjoyed many fun projects and games throughout the week with their Year of Playing Skillfully curriculum. Team A joined in the fun! They still need heavy doses of play throughout their day. Pumpkin volcanoes and a Van Gogh study kept hands and minds engaged during breaks this week.

We also had the opportunity to watch a free performance of “Peter and the Wolf” at our local library. I was amazed at how much the boys remembered from their study last year during My Father’s World 1st grade. They called out the names of different instruments and characters and remembered the majority of the plot line.

IMG_8584

We are getting ready to study “The Nutcracker” in a few weeks. I have finished compiling all the assignments and we will complete the entire unit before attending the show! We can’t wait!

IMG_8579

MFW Adventures: Eli Whitney & Failure

We have taken full advantage of all the FREEDOM homeschooling has to offer these past few weeks.  During our study of Eli Whitney, we managed to travel south to visit my family for a celebration, we returned home to host my in-laws for a few days and we visited Legoland. We managed to stay on schedule, despite a birthday celebration and the stomach flu tossed into the already crazy mix.
IMG_8213

Legoland offers wonderful deals for Homeschool families. We enjoyed an almost empty park and the boys returned, brimming with ideas for new builds. Perfect place to be for studying the great Eli Whitney.

IMG_8226We always love heading back to my hometown. The boys have four great grandparents living there and they soak up all the time they can with them.  After spending time discussing the process of harvesting and deseeding cotton, the boys had a chance to visit my grandparents and harvest coffee beans off their coffee plants.

IMG_8265It began to rain as we pulled the red beans off the plant. The large green leaves overhead kept us mostly dry. It was a moment to etch upon my soul, working alongside my little guys in my Abuelo’s backyard, the rain falling all around us and pitter pattering on the leaves. We chatted as we gathered, then we tried to come up with ideas to make the coffee harvest a bit easier.
IMG_8268I spent a few days cleaning up all sorts of coffee gin prototypes off the floor.  My favorite lego creation featured a giant claw hand that was manipulated with a long hollow stick. A button on the side opened and closed the hand. The beans fell through the stick into a sorting compartment that hulls the seeds with “tiny razors.” Later, the compartment detaches, the seeds then dry out in the sun within the confines of the compartment. Once the seeds dry, the compartment can be placed over a stove top for roasting. They spent a long time thinking through the design of their coffee gin. The five year old wants to market it. IMG_8539Sometimes I am tempted to make projects for the boys, especially models of things we are learning about. I have to remind myself that they learn nothing from sitting by while I fashion something. It is always, always better to let them build and discover for themselves. The boys made the cotton gin pictured above. They failed repeatedly before they got it just right.
IMG_8008Every week, they are getting better and better at failing. Its wonderful! They are learning how to make mistakes and how to recover from them. They are learning that success takes patience and hard work. Sheltering my kids from mistakes and failures is probably one of the cruelest things I could do to them. I want them to experience failure while they are in my home, while I am nearby to support them as they sort out what went wrong.

We are looking forward to learning more about other great American inventors. So many learning possibilities await! I am currently gathering all sorts of odds and ends, from broken appliances to random spare parts. We are making room in our home for an Invention Station. I can’t wait to see what they come up with!

IMG_8527

We are more than halfway through Adventures. The boys have completed over half of their Saxon Math work for Grade 2. They completed the Wolf level of Wild Explorers Club and have moved on to the Bobcat level.  It all feels an awful lot like growing up…..
IMG_8504We celebrated all these good things with a day at the theater. I am thankful to live near a theater program that includes homeschool families in their arrangement with the local public school system. Its costs our family much less money to attend the live theater than to attend the movie theater.IMG_8202

Ohio Pioneers are on the horizon. Looking forward to building rafts and making maps with my boys!

MFW Adventures: Wilderness Road & Wild Boys

Wilderness Road! Wilderness Road!
IMG_7643
This curriculum is just too much fun.

We started unit 17 with a long walk through our local grassland preserve to celebrate our “Wilderness Road Day” Celebration. Thanks to the damp sand, the boys managed to track a rabbit for some distance. They also managed to track each other for a good long while, which was very funny. They’d ask, “What on earth made these funny tracks?” I would respond, “Hmmm, looks like a North American Pre Pubescent Homo Sapien to me.” Their father played this trick on them weeks ago but they still fell for it when I did it. Yessssssss!

We spent the rest of our walk imitating bird calls. One boy would pretend to be Daniel Boone and the rest of us were Native Americans. We’d hide and call out like wild turkeys to try and draw him out. We went through our yard and ate lunch based off of what we could find outside. We ended up eating eggs and cocoplums, and drinking pine needle tea, just like our friend Daniel Boone.  It was terrible tea and we laughed over the tops of our cups and there were plenty of gagging noises and melodramatic “death by poison” scenes acted out at the table.

Then the Lincoln Logs were brought out and the boys built ever so many forts while bedecked in coonskin caps and fringed pioneer pants. We ended our Wilderness Road Day Celebration with “wagon wheel “cookies and milk. Don’t go looking on pinterest for an adorable recipe for wagon wheel cookies. You won’t find it what we made. Our wagon wheel cookies were made by my son. They are regular old sugar cookies with wagon wheel tracks on them. 😉

The boys happily settled in for their Saxon math lesson after all that exploration, building, gagging and feasting.
IMG_8050
We’ve been able to build some really cool models and replicas this year. For this unit, we built a Frontier fort with the help of a very patient homeschool principle.  I found this fort at the Rainbow Resource booth at the FPEA conference for $3. A quick search of the Rainbow Resource page did not yield an available link for purchasing this kit. Here is the more expensive Amazon link for the fort.  This fort kit if for ages 8+. The boys definitely needed help with using wood glue and clamps to get the pieces to hold together.

unnamed-3
This winter we will be harvesting from our first big garden here on the farm. We spent this month preparing the beds and starting our seeds. The boys are excited to eat like frontiersmen. I keep reminding them they will be working hard too.  This garden will be a full time job!

IMG_8185We spent that Saturday morning sorting through our seed archive. We talked about what plants would yield the most crop at this time of year. What would be most beneficial for our table to plant? How would we store these vegetables once they came in?  The boys had so many interesting answers based off of our readings in Farmer Boy by Laura Ingalls Wilder.  They are quite eager to harvest the crop and find ways to preserve our food! It is their dearest wish to pack something in sawdust and then walk in to the kitchen to find that I have cooked a mountain of food the way Almanzo’s mother does every five minutes. (Seriously, that woman cooks SO MUCH FOOD!!!)

Pioneer-Boy-Paper-Doll-PrintbalesLittle House on the Prairie blog has these great pioneer paper doll printables, (along with a dozen other cute things) that we used this week. The boys loved putting these together while I read from Pioneers & Patriots.  They ended up coloring and cutting out a bunch of accessories for their paper dolls to take on the long journey.

IMG_8033

All this Wilderness Road/Pioneer reading made for a pack of mighty wild boys. They spent the week running, playing in the house, jumping in leaf piles, chasing the dog and bouncing on the adventure rope.
IMG_7581IMG_8065I am so thankful that they get to run wild.

On days when our parenting is terrible, our boys walk in through the back door and I look at them and take comfort in knowing that in this we are doing what is right for them.  Sweaty hair, red faces streaked with dirt, grass stains on their clothes, windblown, smelling like sunshine and laughter and joy and childhood.

For the Birds– Birding & Resource List

Bird watching with tiny ornithologists is no easy feat.
IMG_7641There is a constant flood of noise trumpeting our arrival minutes before we reach the glades that hold our most sought after birds. They often take flight before we even get there. Chances are, if we venture out of the house in search of a specific bird and preschoolers are in tow, we won’t have much luck.

So we learned to look for signs of birds around us. Discovering their nests, learning about their feeding habits, watching for patterns in their departures and returns to the neighborhood. We set up bird feeders in our trees and left colorful yarn in the back hollow for the birds to use when building their nests.

We stopped to listen.

Because we slowed down we heard the tiny chirps of baby cardinals tucked high in the limbs of our jasmine tree. We were there the day the nest tumbled down after a particularly bad storm. We scooped up the nest and quickly tucked it back in place.
IMG_4807 We started collecting abandoned nests in the late summer once the squirrels started knocking them down from the trees.

We know where the owl lives in the back hollow. Its small and brown and we love to look for its pellets. His head can rotate in the most alarming ways.

When the baby mockingbirds flew away from their nest, we peaked inside and found one egg that never hatched. Frail and small; blue and perfectly speckled. Dwarfed when held next to one of our chicken’s eggs.  We marveled at it.

The gaggle of ibis that frequent our yard, their long hooked beaks and funny legs probing the grass. They’ll hunt for bugs alongside our chickens.

The flash of bashful pink under the pines when the roseate spoonbill comes to visit.

Sandhill cranes, poking around the fence, stretching to their full height of 3-4 feet, look like nosy neighbors. The Gladys Kravitz of the bird world.

Our proximity to the Everglades provides us with a wide variety of birds to watch in our own yard if we simply sit down and look up. Peregrine falcons, hawks, and other raptors abound out here. We are even visited with some frequency by a beautiful bald eagle. We hear the loud screeches of these raptors as they close in on their prey. We find remnants of their meals on the ground beneath the towering pines near the orchard. The back end of a rabbit. The head of a small bird. A gutted fish.

unnamed
Tell me about the robin’s nest? Where is it located? What is the nest made of? What does the robin eat? We discovered these answers over days of rambling about the farm, remembering to keep our eyes and ears open. Pirate raids and jousting tournaments put on pause when we heard the familiar call of the blue jay that lives in the oak tree. We watched the epic battles between the jays and mockingbirds unfold before our very eyes. Quick turns out to the yard after breakfast to stop and listen under a nest teeming with young. We watched them grow up and fly away.

We spent time writing down the things we saw and when we saw them. Recording our findings helped us to see the patterns. The exquisite formula of nature.

18829_10152835070403616_3731618734268663438_n
Two weeks ago we drove to a bird trail and found the gates locked. The boys were terribly disappointed. As we slowly drove home along the canal, we encountered a large stork, lit up by the early morning rays, a long snake dangling from his beak. I stopped the car and we stared at him in silence as he slowly slurped the snake down his throat like spaghetti. Nature always finds us, even on days when we are turned away at the gate.
11426185_843858959598_3746677832569009679_n
Yet the boys were determined to begin their own birding expeditions away from our yard. So I set about slowly teaching the boys how to birdwatch on the trail.

We started out by reading “Take a Backyard Bird Walk” by Jane Kirkland.  This is a fantastic introduction to the world of birding. How to find nests, learning about habits and migration, even learning how to determine what a bird eats based on the shape of its bill. There are blank pages for observation notes. This is not a book for bird identification but rather a birding “how to.” Truly, a great find that cements birding in the backyard and helped transition us to birding on the trails.

A few other books have sat on our school table, providing information and vocabulary tools for any curious passersby.

IMG_7931Along with the house favorite Fandex….

IMG_7933

We started with our native birds. Two at a time. We loaded our ark with knowledge in this way. We drew pictures and watched quick youtube videos about each bird. We squinted up into the sky in search of them.

We learned how to pack for our nature hikes. I learned to always bring a snack for the loudest preschooler. It keeps him quiet and out of trouble. I recommend our recipe for Audobonbons.
We record our findings and remember to check in with our local Audubon Society for help identifying unknown birds we encounter. Birding with littles can be challenging. Teaching children to be purposeful in their nature walks is challenging too. Both are incredibly fun and rewarding.
What started out as a brief unit study for My Father’s World Adventures in US History has become a lifestyle habit. We observe and record birds. They are familiar to us. They are part of our life rhythm here on the farm.  Birding teaches us to classify, record, relate, recall, and dialogue. It is now an integral part of nature study for us.

1503255_793698741078_1558814935352485454_n
Here are a few other tools and resources we use in our ongoing bird study.

Booklist:
Mama built a Nest by Jennifer Ward
Birds, Nests and Eggs by Mel Boring
Feathers, Not Just for Flying by Melissa Stewart
What Makes a Bird a Bird? by Mary Garelick
A Nest Full of Eggs by Priscilla Belz Jenkins
About Birds: A Guide for Children by Cathryn Sills
The Bird Alphabet Book by Jerry Pallotta
Feathers for Lunch by Lois Elhert (great for the littles!)
The Burgess Bird Book for Children by Thornton W Burgess
Beaks! by Sneed B. Colard III
An Egg is Quiet by Dianna Hutts Aston
Birdsong by Audrey Wood
Our Yard is Full of Birds by Anne Rockwell
Two Blue Jays by Anne Rockwell

img_7142Activities:
Bird Bingo: A family favorite! There is also this version which features lovely hand drawn illustrations instead of pictures.
Lego Birds Model Kit: Bluejay, Hummingbird and Robin. They come with stands and a little sign inscribed with their latin names.
Bird Printables: I discovered these gorgeous printables  off the delightful homeschool blog Chaos Meets Creativity. We used our printables around the house on a rainy day. I perched them on picture frames or high on shelves. The boys took their toilet paper roll binoculars and practiced spotting them an identifying them.
State Birds & Flowers 1000 piece puzzle
Birds of the Backyard 1000 piece puzzle
Backyard Birds toob: We always use our 40% off coupons at Hobby Lobby for these. They work in sensory bins, working with ordinal numbers or color sorting, and we love to make homes for them out of playdoh.

IMG_7934

Online Resources:
Xeno Canto: The largest online collection of bird sounds 
550 North American Bird Calls
: specific to N.A.
All About Birds: Learn how to listen to and identify, bird calls. Browse the rest of the site for great information on birds!
10000 Birds:Loaded with info on birding and conservation
Nature Songs: More North American bird calls
Where do you want to go Birding today?: Database of the best place to go birding worldwide
There are some websites with bird calls specific to each state.
Florida
Wisconsin
Lots more if you do a google search of your state + birds!

MFW Adventures: Daniel Boone & Weather

Its time for Daniel Boone! Its time for Daniel Boone!!

IMG_7645We ended up doing a much more in-depth study of Daniel Boone than I had anticipated. My eldest spent the majority of the week sporting a coonskin cap and hauling around his trusty rifle, “tick-licker.” So named after Boone’s own gun which earned its moniker through Boone’s storied ability to shoot a tick off a bear from one hundred yards away.

IMG_7920We read through dozens of books on Daniel Boone. My boys were wide eyed and filled with great questions. Learning about Boone and the Wilderness Road compelled us to study the art of tracking and identification!  Check out our MFW Adventures board on our pinterest page for links to various studies and printables. Can I also add that this is one of my favorite things about homeschooling? Find something interesting? Go ahead and deviate from the lesson plan and take time to explore. Fantastic!

IMG_7562

We read books. We tracked the chickens in our backyard. We discovered the nests of the feuding squirrel families that live on the farm. We even made tracks in cookie dough for a fun snack! However, once baking started the cookies ended up rising a bit too much and filled in the tracks. But we still had fun making track cookies and eating them. Later in the day, the Littles made tracks in their playdoh using their Schleich animals while the eldest sorted track cards and read through books on tracking animals and identifying various plants.

Speaking of plant identification, we had the best time playing Wildcraft, a lovely cooperative board game that helps children learn about various herbs and their uses.

IMG_7554

The kids and I recently signed up for Wild Explorers Club which has been a great fit for us! We ventured out to complete our second assignment for the highly anticipated Wolf Badge and to put our Boone study into practice.

IMG_7657

As you can see, not many autumnal colors for us, but plenty of beauty nonetheless.

IMG_7636Our explorers were eager to find tracks and scat. They were not disappointed.
IMG_7652Poop, ahoy!

We found deer tracks and scat, rabbit tracks, grey fox tracks, horse tracks, and snake tracks. Best of all, we got to play nature detectives when we discovered the exoskeleton of a crayfish discarded on a muddy patch of trail covered in raccoon tracks, which led us to raccoon scat 50 yards away. We had read Millicent Selsam’s excellent book “Big Tracks, Little Tracks: Following Animal Prints,” the day before, which had detailed this exact scenario. What a blessing to have it unfold before our very eyes. We were pumped! Its good to spend the morning slowly uncovering nature’s stories.

IMG_7659

We’ll spend the next week focusing more on our native plants and animals, along with celebrating our own “Wilderness Road Day” which we’ll be sure to share with you!

IMG_7641The first portion of our weather study was a big hit! The boys loved all their Science with Air experiments. We added in plenty of fun weather related reads to our Literary Lunch hour.

IMG_7919I made sure to include a few books related to the weather in our area. Hurricanes are a part of life down here.

It never ever snows here. So we threw in a few snow related books as well.

One of my favorite science resources is this gorgeous book:
IMG_7922My boys love looking through this book and I often find them copying pictures from its pages. This week we took a closer at Julia Rothman’s snowflake renderings.

IMG_7923The boys were fascinated by these pages. It eventually led us to this snowflake generator. Small clicks leave small ice prisms, long drags and clicks make larger shafts of ice. The 2D and 3D views of our snowflake creations were quite the thrilling experience for these southern kiddos!

Unit 17 is up next. We are eager to continue our journey deeper into the frontier.

IMG_7655

MFW Adventures: More States & Birds + Evaluations

IMG_7004
It’s Fall inside ya’ll!!!

Confession: I love autumn when its actually autumn, but I’ve never been a big fan of decorating for fall when it looks like the the height of summer outside. Yet my boys love decorating, so this is the week when I show them love by hauling out the box of fall decorations from the boiling hot garage and then spend hours of my life tossing fabric leaves on every available surface of my home. Sigh.

IMG_7178

Now autumn themed food? I can get on board with that at any time of year. My pumpkin bread will never ever be as good as my Mom’s bread, but that doesn’t stop me from tossing a sub-par loaf in the oven now and then. It smells good enough to draw in one or two kids. Beggars can’t be choosers. Oh the joy of reading “Farmer Boy” around a plate of warm mediocre pumpkin bread! Tea time is 30% better these days.

Week 15 arrived and I realized that we were almost halfway done with Adventures. We are having fun and time is flying fast! Not as fast as the birds outside when they hear us coming, but close enough.  I wanted to spend some time evaluating our homeschool life now that we are nearing the halfway mark. Here’s what happened this week…
IMG_6808
On Monday morning my son quipped, “Guess we are in for another round of birds and states!” and so we were. You can read all about how we study the states and birds here.

We added a few great elements this week that my boys enjoyed. Beginning with inspiration from this lovely graphic….
bird-tracks-animals-infographics-600x600-1The boys and I started to look around for bird tracks and scat along with feathers and nests. We have found some pretty great stuff so far along with some not so legitimate made up stuff too. (My four year is the King of “Look at this oviraptor egg that I found!”)  We are gearing up for a deeper study of animal tracking next week with Daniel Boone, so this was a great introduction. Premeditated Leftovers has a handy dandy article on Bird Unit Study Resources and we used several of those ideas this week.

We are anxiously awaiting our new Birdscapes clear view bird feeder from Amazon. Hopefully feeding the birds straight from our window will provide us with plenty of bird watching opportunities. We decided to wait one more week before decorating our tree for the birds. A low key schedule next week will provide ample time for bird viewing so we can reap the rewards of our hard work! The boys are eagerly planning out bird treats, designing shelters and building additional feeders.  We’ve picked a tree close to the house but far from walkways. (No sunflower seed enhanced poo poo on my sidewalk, thank you!) The tree is situated near a large thicket of thorny flowering plants which already house many birds. We’ll be posting updates of our Bird Tree along with our upcoming Bird Watching post!

IMG_7123

I’ve been training Team A to take more initiative and responsibility with their school work. Teaching time management is a taxing but worthy effort. Some days the boys decide to forgo our block schedule rhythm and finish all their work quickly in order to spend the remainder of the day outside. My boys are starting to recognize how and when they work best. I don’t think I really learned that about myself until halfway through college!  I’m thankful they have the opportunity to evaluate those things now.

unnamed

This week they flew through their work in the early morning hours and then rushed outside to play the day away. They played with mud, sticks, puddles, grass, stringy moss, leaves and pine needles. I assumed they were just making an enormous mess and having fun.  After a few hours my son invited me over and explained what they were working on.

“We are watching the water flow from the top of the crest down into this lower area and figuring out all the ways to break up the stream and make it flow the way we want to. We built the things to stop the water from flowing and doing that created all these little lakes. Then we tested out what things would sink and what things would float. Then we played with the water hose to figure out how much water had to come out at which speed in order to knock down the dams we built. Like a flash flood? And we tried making little mud houses to see if they could stand even against certain levels of water flow. Water always flows downhill, don’t forget. If you stand down there you might think its flowing up towards you, but its not. Its flowing down. Think of the Nile river flowing North. You are North but your elevation is lower so that means our river flows down towards the North. Which reminds me, that puddle is the Sea of Galilee and that little rivulet is the Jordan river and guess where it flows, Mom? The DEAD Sea! We filled it with dead leaves so it wouldn’t get confused with the Sea of Galilee.”

This blew me away. As he spoke I could connect the dots between the years of My Fathers World. Bible stories, science projects, history work, books, and games. Its strange watching MFW K, MFW 1st and MFW Adventures come together in a single moment and then join hands and merrily skip away.  I tuck these moments away and reflect on them in the moments when the world tries to bring doubt into our classroom. When the devil whispers that what we are doing is not enough, that the kids don’t know enough, that I am not enough; I silence those whispers with the moments of affirmation God gives me. Those precious moments I can look back on, reach out to cup in my hands and then spill out like little pearls before God as I thank Him for His faithfulness. He called me to homeschool. He is equipping me daily. He is even encouraging me while I stand in the heat, swatting mosquitoes and listening to my eldest bubble up knowledge that feels outrageously beautiful to him.

IMG_7221

Here is the plain truth of my homeschool life at the close of week 15: My rough and tumble boys are thriving with their gentle education. Its not perfect. It doesn’t have to be perfect in order for them to thrive. In fact, I think they are thriving because our homeschool is not perfect.

Because the preschooler threw tantrums in the classroom this morning, we ran away to the park and had a beautiful morning.

IMG_7242

Because I forgot to print out our language arts cards, we stayed even longer since we didn’t have a reason to rush home.

IMG_7222

Because I lost my temper in a flood of sinful anger, I had the opportunity to apologize to my boys under the shade of this beautiful tree. We got to talk about grace again and it reminded us of this week’s Bible verse and before I knew it, we were talking about the Tabernacle and the Temple and the mighty curtain torn asunder and we were all breathing in gratitude together.

Because MFW is gentle with my children, it reminds me to be gentle with myself. Gentle with my expectations and the demands I put upon myself as a wife, mother and teacher. I recite Isaiah 40:11 to myself quite often, “He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young.”

He is gentle with us!

I never expected that one of the defining words of their childhood would be “gentle.” And yet there it is, coexisting with other defining words/phrases like: “muddy, messy, adventure, accident-prone, projectile vomit, projectile everything else, stories, farming,therapy, insects, confidence, legos, bravery.”

“Gentle” is the umbrella that covers all the other words.

I am so thankful for that.

IMG_7267