Friday, February 27, 2009

Signing Off

... until Monday ...

OFFLINE DAYS: We are making a lot of “little” changes to our Daily Routines … seeking the Old Paths as the Bible instructs ... to be more productive … to grasp a bit of "quiet" ... to be a bit more “green” … to spend a bit more precious family time …. and to spend a bit more time enjoying God’s Creation. We pledge that each weekend (which means from sundown on Friday through sunrise Monday), the Cherubs and I will be offline. We won't go near a computer. We will not turn the power switch "on". No blogging, no reading, no games, no researching, no emailing. Nothing. Zip. Zilch. Nada.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

REVIEW: Enjoying "Outdoor Hour Challenges" Too Much ...

We have been so busy enjoying this lovely book written by Harmony Art Mom that we had difficulty finding time to write a proper review. But according to my promise, the Cherubs and I have now written a full review.

First, we want to say that you and your students will thoroughly enjoy this well written, easy-to-use book whether you are seasoned nature-journalers, novices just getting started, or simply curious about Nature Study.


We have been doing Nature Walks and have been keeping Nature Journals for several years now. We are very well acquainted with The Handbook Of Nature Study (Comstock), and also have gathered a good collection of other resources including Nature Guides. However, the Comstock handbook (for which there is a link in the book to read free online) is used with the OUTDOOR HOUR CHALLENGES, and is more than suitable for a family who does not have additional resources on hand, and also for a family just "testing the waters" of Nature Study. There are also some great websites listed at the back of the book (free resources) for help with identifications and additional information. The lists of resources included at the back of the book is quite extensive, which will make beginning this Nature Study Adventure easier for all involved.


Because we are a family with 7 (and possibly 8 when dad joins us) , we printed this book (46 black/white and color pages). We read through the GENERAL INSTRUCTIONS and HOW TO GET STARTED pages first, which would be particularly helpful to those new to Nature Study. For each Challenge, we began by reading aloud each challenge and it's components. Then we proceeded with our walks and challenges. We would work on our Journal entries at various times - sometimes "on site" and sometimes when we returned home after walking. We agreed that this book would be simple to use on the computer only, but we have a "preference" for printed resources.


The included Notebook pages are great. There is a wonderful variety of page styles, and many pages even include suggested information to include. The Journal pages included (26 black/white pages) are lovely and are simple to use. (I would recommend printing them on heavy paper or cardstock for durability.) I spent a lot of time, long ago, making and collecting these types of pages, at the beginning of our Nature Study adventure. Harmony Art Mom has removed that "work" by including them with this book, which is fantastic. These days we prefer to use sketch paper (heavy). On these pages we include written information as well as sketches. Then we insert our journal pages into page protectors, and keep them in a loose-leaf notebook. We decided on this sketch paper method because we have several left-handed children, for whom "bound" books prove cumbersome and difficult. These included Nature Journal Pages could be put into page protectors and into notebook, could be hole punched nad put into notebooks, or could be used "loose". The choice is up to the user, which makes this a great resource. Harmony Art Mom shares some of the optional journal ideas in the book as well.


We particularly loved the Focus Area information which is woven throughout the entire book. Harmony Art Mom suggests repeated visits to a specific area to watch for "new" and "changed" things. When we have talked about our Nature Studies with families who are not familiar with this form of "study" (and who are curious), they often express frustration due to being "overwhelmed" by all that they see (and remember) on a walk -- "how do you even notice that ?", what should be noticed, what to study in particular, how to narrow it down, what to "journal", how to "journal", where to find such a wide variety of information, and other such concerns. So, we felt that the suggestion of the Focus Area would be particularly helpful to those new to Nature Study who might experience these same feelings.


The included photos of Nature Walks and also copies of Nature Journal pages are lovely -- these are both inspiring and encouraging to those new to Nature Study and veterans alike. The book is not-too-plain and not-too-cluttered - a perfect balance.


We HIGHLY RECOMMEND this inexpensive resource for those interested in Nature Study. No one will be disappointed, as there is something for everyone in this wonderful economical resource.


Outdoor Hour Challenges: Nature Study Close To Home: Getting Started Challenges 1 - 10 can be purchased from the Handbook Of Nature Study Blog (right column) and from Lulu .

Wildflowers and Winter Weeds

I picked up this treasure (book) last weekend from the used bookstore while looking for more Nature Guides for our collection, uh, I mean Science Resources.
We have had a grand time lately walking 'round the farm with this book in hand. The simple sketches make the identification of various wildflowers and weeds in their "winter state" so easy. There are some plants down by our pond which we have admired all winter, and we hve finally been able to figure out what they are with the use of this book.
This book is available from Acorn Naturalists, Barnes & Noble, and Amazon .

Reading Progress

Cherub 5 has been working diligently, reading with Cherub 1 at least once every single day. They work together for a minimum of 30 minutes per day, usually split into two sessions (morning and evening). These sessions are in addition to her school work -- they are "leisure" reading.
Cherub 5 has been making steady progress for some weeks ... and finally, just this weekend, began to read her very first "chapter" book (she is reading it aloud to Cherub 1 just in case she needs help) .
This first chapter book is (this edition is copyright 1941 ) THE ADVENTURES OF REDDY FOX by Thornton Burgess (number 14 in the series). REDDY FOX happens to have been Cherub 1's first experience with Chapter books. He gradually read the entire series, and loved each of the books ... and still loves them even today. So, he selected this series, and this particular title, just for Cherub 5 in hopes that she will love these books as much as he did (and in turn, will grow to love books and reading !). What a smart young man, and what a wonderful "Dad" he will be someday !
So, the Headstrongs (HA !) are still making good progress .... great progress .... actually, it is ABSOLUTELY FANTASTIC progress. And I just wanted to share my joy ....

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

A Bird Highway ?

One Robin from the flock who ventured near the house during snow flurries.
The Starlings descended on our front lawn on a snowy day.
More Starlings. It appeared that there were several flocks, coming in "swarms".
The sound of them all was sooooo loud !
(Above & Below)
This morning we had many many Redwing Blackbirds.
We were watching them in the yard, trying to identify them.
And finally, something spooked them, and it was when they took flight
that we could finally see the tell-tale red and yellow markings on their wings.
A few weeks ago, we had huge flocks of Robins stop by for a visit and some snacking from our freshly mowed yard. We watched them for several hours as they moved from yard to yard, and occassionally tree top to tree top.
Then two weeks ago, we had many many many flocks of Starlings come by (on a snowy day). They were amazing to watch, and were extremely LOUD !
And just this morning, our yard was covered with many many RedWing Blackbirds. We have been watching them from our schoolroom windows all morning.
The Cheurbs and I watch this flocks as they come by ... and now we are wondering if we are a "Rest Area" alongside a Bird Highway ?!?!

Monday, February 23, 2009

Who's That Trip-Troppin' ....

.... down near the barn ?
(borrowed from The Three Billy Goats Gruff)
Skunks maybe ?
Or perhaps raccoons ?
We obviously need to get a good "Tracking" book
to add to our Nature Guide collection.

Our Nature Walk

A turtle's hole with scattered egg shells
trailing to the pond's edge.
Some pretty white flowers.
Very tiny blooms with "grassblade" type leaves.
(yet to be identified)

This lightly wooded area at the east end of the pond
has "greened" considerably in the last 2 weeks.

Some purple flowers blooming.
Prunella vulgaris

Some blue flowers blooming on
the north-east hillside of the pond.
Wild Flax
Linum perenne

Monday, February 16, 2009

Charlotte Mason Blog Carnival

Welcome to the February 17th Charlotte Mason Blog Carnival.


What a blessing to have such a wonderful variety of articles !

Thank you to everyone who contributed to this "feast".


So ....

please get a cup of warm coffee

or tea and a comfotable chair ...

and enjoy !






Renae shared Building Childhood Memories .







Dawn shared Buddy Reading .

Dawne shared Charlotte Mason On Phonics And Learning To Read .




All the way from Australia, Jeanne shared The Enigmatic Poet .




Molly shared Whatever Is Lovely: Music Appreciation .



Melissa shared about their Hymn Study in What We Do .




Jimmie shared Living Math With Playing Cards .



Laura shared
A Charlotte Mason Minute: Shakespeare .




Jessica shared Winter Outdoor Time .

Barb shared Winter Art - Three Different Ideas .
Barb also shared
Nature Study With Very Young Children .

I decided to share The Somethings and Nature Study Group .

Keri shared Experts In Their Field .

Art Credits

(1) Feeding The Ducks (Mary Cassatt)

(2) Three Musicians (Pablo Picasso)

(3) Young Girl Reading (Mary Cassatt)

(4) Pen To Paper (online search)

(5) A Christmas Carol At Bracken Dene (Arthur Hughes)

(6) Living Math Tree (U. Penn website)

(7) Works Of Shakespeare book (online search)

(8) Girl In Winter (Tasha Tudor)

Thursday, February 12, 2009

THIS WEEKEND: The Great Backyard Bird Count

What Is the Great Backyard Bird Count ?
How To Participate:
Printable Tally Sheet:
(2/13 - weather was clear and pleasant.)
6 Eastern Bluebird
6 American Goldfinch
4 Robin
4 Cardinal
4+ Starling
1 Titmouse
5 Black-capped Chickadee
8 Canada Goose
1 Great Heron
(2/14 weather is cool and partly sunny.)
8 Black-capped Chickadee
6 Starling
4 Robin
8 American Goldfinch
6 Eastern Bluebird
2 Purple Martin
4 Tufted Titmouse
8 Canada Goose
1 Pied-billed Grebe
4 Cardinal
2 Northern Mockingbird
1 Red-headed Woodpecker
(2/15 weather cool, cloudy, slight breeze)
20 American Goldfinch
8 Eastern Bluebird
8 Tufted Titmouse
8 Canada Goose
2 Nothern Mockingbird
12 Robin
10 Mourning Dove
8 Starling
(2/16 chilly, slight breeze, sunny)
8 Robin
1 Redheaded Woodpecker
8 Tufted Titmouse
1 Pied-billed Grebe
1 Great Blue Heron
12 Mourning Dove
10 Starling
8 Robin
6 Eastern Bluebird
2 Cowbird
2 Black-capped Chickadee
20 American Goldfinch

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Trip To Georgia

Last weekend we visited Stone Mountain Park .

Tthe Snow Tube Runs as seen from on top of Stone Mountain.
We rode these after dark because our tickets for tubing were for 9-11pm.
It was so much fun !!

Cherub 2 coming from her first Snow Tube ride.

Cherub 5 building a snowman in the Snow Play Area.

Cherub 6 tried everything available -- snow shoveling, using buckets of snow to build multiple snow men, making snow angels, helping build an ingloo, and wearing snow shoes.

Cherub 1 after a snowball fight.

Cherub 1 (far left) helping construct an igloo.

Cherub 3 and Cherub 4 were Snow Tube Buddies.

Cherub 4 loved playing in the snow.

Cherub 6 eating a GRACELAND sandwich at the Bistro. This sandwich was toasted bread with peanut butter, banana slices, and chocolate chips. Yummy !! It is named the GRACELAND because supposedly it was Elvis's favorite sandwich ?!?!
The Atlanta Skyline as seen from the top of Stone Mountain.

DadToCherubs and the 6 Cherubs from the fence on Stone Mountain ... which was very high ... and a very steep walk down to the fence. Yikes !

Information about the Sky Tram that we rode to the top of Stone Mountain.

Six very excited Cherubs upon their arrival at Stone Mountain Park.

Six Cherubs waiting for Dad to get the park entrance tickets at Stone Mountain.
(Patience is not a family trait - ha !)

The actual Stone Mountain carving - of Stonewall Jackson, Robert E. Lee, and Jefferson Davis.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009


Our weather is beautiful considering it is only the beginning of February. Our days are in the mid to upper 60's. It is precisely this weather which makes me so impatient. I want to get outside in the garden and start planting; to feel the sun on my shoulders and the dirt on my hands again; to admire all of God's incredible creation.

But it is simply too early, so I am trying to to focus on perusing the garden seed catalogs and on planning. The "research" phase is not nearly as fun as the actual gardening, but it does seem to help bide the time. (HA !)

Yesterday during our lunchtime, the children were chattering about shorts and sandals; about working and playing in the garden; about swimming again. I just did not have the heart to tell them that this is a brief respite in our "winter", and that there are probably several cold snaps coming before it is truly spring again.

It seems our feelings for our gardens are not uncommon.

Nathaniel Hawthorne said, "I used to visit and revisit it a dozen times a day, and stand in deep contemplation over my vegetable progeny with a love that nobody could share or conceive of who had never taken part in the process of creation. It was one of the most bewitching sights in the world to observe a hill of beans thrusting aside the soil, or a rose of early peas just peeping forth sufficiently to trace a line of delicate green."

Monday, February 09, 2009

The Old Home

"Because of their importance, we must not neglect our homes in the rapid changes of the present day. For when tests of character come in later years, strength to the good will not come from the modern improvements or amusements few may have enjoyed but from the quiet moments and the 'still small voices' of the old home."

-- Laura Ingalls Wilder, 1923

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Congress's War On Toys

Check Out This Article !
I cannot begin to imagine what the real impact
of this law is going to look like .... YIKES !

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Charlotte Mason Blog Carnival

Today's Charlotte Mason Blog Carnival is up, and Jeanne at Peaceful Day has done a lovely job of putting it together, and even took the time to introduce herself to those who don't yet know her! Please stop by to say hi and to read all the great submissions HERE .
Don't forget to submit your own article next time, which will be hosted at Beck's Bounty! Use this Submission Form .

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

They Say The Funniest Things

We awoke this morning to find that all of the snow was still on the ground. We checked the weather and learned that the predicted high temperature today is a bit of 32. Burrrr !! And so ......
BACKGROUND: DadToCherubs said that he expected as much when we discussed the "situation" last night, while watching the children sled for "one more hour" between 9-10pm in the shining headlights. Quietly, we hatched our "Tuesday Plan" in whispers covered well by hoots, hollars, shrieks, and the swooooosh of toboggans sailing down the hill. (insert evil laugh here) The neighbors must think we are completely crazy ! HA !! Afterwards, everyone headed to bed quickly and quietly because "tomorrow is a school day".
Early this morning, just as the children were getting out their school books this morning, I declared a SCHOOL DELAY (DadToCherubs secret "Tuesday Plan").
The agreement is that when we have lunch today (around 12noon), we will begin our school work after we are finished eating.
So, six Cherubs raced to get bundled up in the coats, snowpants, hats, and gloves, all the while singing my praises at the top of their lungs .... MOM IS WONDERFUL .... THE BEST MOM IN THE WHOLE WORLD .... WORLD'S GREATEST MOM .... FANTASTIC MOM ... but my favorite of all "praises" was from Cherub 6, who said THE BEST MOM I HAVE EVER HAD.
Perhaps that whole 6th labor and delivery
was just a dream ?!?!?
The Cherubs have been outside in the snow ever since ! Who would have thought just 1 1/2 " of snow could bring so much joy to a few Cherubs ?!?!

Monday, February 02, 2009


Isn't it beautiful ?
I'll bet DadToCherub's Aunt (GranAnnie)
would say she is sick of looking at it.
She lives in Connecticut and has had lots of snow.
But when it is so rare, as it is here,
a snow-covered landscape
The Diva (Daisy), resting after romping in the snow.
When watching her romp,
it was hard to believe she is at least 16yo.

" Mom & Dad" created with love by 6 Cherubs.

Note the BIG smile and the closed eyes.
The snowflakes kept landing in Cherub 6's eyes
so he had to keep them closed tightly (so he explained).

Bella, our Great Pyrenees, had a GRAND time.
She romped and played, ran, dove into snow piles,
lapped up flakes, chomped down snowballs,
and had a grand time.
What a hoot she was to watch !

Another snowDAD.

With every conflict the question is asked ....
Who fired the first shot ??
Well, HERE is the official "starter" of the Snow War.

I have it on good authority from 6 "unbiased" Cherubs
that today was THE BEST SNOW DAY EVER.
While just over an inch of snow fell today,
our Cherubs (and dogs) certainly made the best of it !!