Nature Study

Backyard Birds – Birdwatching with Littles

A beautiful red cardinal has been visiting the fig tree outside our school room since late January. As I teach online in the early hours of the morning, I watch it alight and forage. I often hear its song before I notice its vibrant color.

This simple interaction over the course of a couple weeks combined with the boys finding feathers on a nature walk, sparked an idea.

I’m still waist deep in reading the Charlotte Mason Home Education Series I so diligently work to employ in our daily rhythm. That said, I find we are so naturally bent towards this style of learning, that the ideas I have, the books I like, they all work together to create a Charlotte Mason inspired early education on their very own! Our school room is actually a porch someone turned into an all weather room. It spans 40 feet in length and 14 feet wide, with windows the entire length of the space. The natural light begs for nature study….and bird watching.

I was rather nervous regarding whether or not my boys would dive into my newest adventure willingly, so I began with a poster and a book. We began reading The Burgess Bird Book for Children and they were quickly enthralled. It is a sweet set of simple stories telling the tale of Peter Rabbit and his encounters in the Old Orchard with different birds. It spins an enchanting narrative that describes the migration habits, appearance, and inclination of various birds one might see in their yard. We are seven chapters in and read it daily at lunch or Poetea.

Once my boys were on board with the story book, I dove in. I hunted around for some good bird books. I found several in my own collection, plus invested in a couple. I also freehand cut a bird of brown and tan felt – a body, wing, feet, eyes, and beak. The boys can create the bird while they stand and watch at our window.

We made bird feeders from extra cups and saucers. It just so happened that the March Rooted Childhood includes this as a craft. However, I simply created ours from an online image I found. We used E6000 glue while outside at Free Forest School and tied some strong strands of hemp rope to the mug handle. The boys helped hang each feeder and it has been a great source of ownership and pride for them knowing they made the feeders as well as hung them.

My boys have absolutely delighted in using sticks to apply peanut butter to our feeders and then heap bird seed onto them. We are doing this about every third day. So far, in one week of bird study, we have identified 12 different birds in our yard! We have bough regular, cheap seed as well as purchased black sunflower seeds and mixed it will millet upon learning how much cardinals enjoy black sunflower seeds.

We purchased Dollar Tree hummingbird feeders and mixed up a simple “nectar” of 1 part sugar to 4 parts water. The boys did this activity independently and then helped hang on in the front, breakfast room window and one in the fig tree outside our school room. We haven’t yet seen any hummingbirds, but our feeders keep freezing each night! We hope to observe some soon.

The boys race down and into the school room each morning, squealing with joy and announcing what they see. They have picked up amazing and specific language from The Burgess Bird Book. My heart has leapt with joy as they remark to one another describing their observations.

Our daily rhythm includes a Basket Time typically done in the mornings. As such, we have introduced a bird of the week via this book. It has lovely illustrations and interesting facts about a variety of birds. We only spend 2-3 minutes each day looking it over, but it was enough for them to be able to identify the male and female cardinal at our feeders.

We placed a wooden feeder we made together and a hummingbird feeder outside our breakfast room window. We eat all meals in this room, as well as do our Poeteas and basket time there. It is a great place for these feeders.

The other feeders are in the fig tree just outside our school room window. The boys can easily view the feeders and observe the birds any time from that window.

I suggest starting with a window where your little can view a feeder. Then choose one or two books to pique their interest. I truly hope your littles enjoy bird watching as much as mine have.

Below are some wonderful resources I had on hand or purchased to help with our learning.

Our primary guide this book is where we get our “Bird of the Week”. Each bird gets a two page spread with lovely illustrations and great facts.

Bird Poster

I have both the large and small size this set. It comes with other amazing nature posters. Leaves, fungi, etc. Great set to have.

199 Birds (a board book with feathers and eggs in the back too)

Children’s binoculars – this pair is adjustable and the boys learned how to do it rather quickly.

Robin Montessori card and Robin poster – I cannot more highly recommend Homeedprintables. Her items are budget friendly and easy on the eyes. Great learning resources.

This Trilogy book set is a staple in our home. It is referenced nearly daily. It has great images of feathers, birds, labeled diagrams of birds, eggs, and more. It is a must have for the nature loving family.

Birds, Nests & Eggs (Take Along Guides)

Another great series of books, we have the tracks and scat one as well. Worth having on hand, especially for the nest information.

About Birds: A Guide for Children This is one my middle son pours over. He likes the vivid and realistic illustrations.

One of our favorites, Crinkleroot’s Guide to Knowing the Birds is quite a fabulous and fun read. I find it a little quirky, which is suitable for our family.

Backyard Birds

My youngest has officially kidnapped our cardinal and carries it around saying “Bird. Love you, bird.” This Toob is wonderful for little hands to hold and compare to what they see outside.

This Simple book of lifelike illustrations and basic facts is a great starting place to learn more about hummingbirds.

With vivid illustrations, this book draws a child and parent in with beautiful images of nests!

Happy Learning,

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Blog Post

Luck of the Irish – Fun for St. Patrick’s Day

If you know me, you know holidays are a thing in my house. I’m not Catholic. I’m not Irish. I’m not Orthodox. But hot dang, I love a good celebration. I also enjoy history and food. So of course, as holidays approach, I work hard to create learning experiences that will appeal to my kids. Our boys are 6, 4, and 2 so these activities are best suited for those ages.

These audio stories are favorites around here. Here are two specifically geared towards St. Patrick:

Adventures in Odyssey

https://www.focusonthefamily.com/media/adventures-in-odyssey/episode-394-saint-patrick-a-heart-afire-pt1

https://www.christianbook.com/395-saint-patrick-heart-afire-part/9781604823943/pd/DA22029-5?event=CBCER1

Sensory Bins

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Colored macaroni or rice is easy to do and fun for your kids. I go with a rainbow theme at St. Patrick’s Day.

  1. Divide pasta/rice into freezer bags. Use one bag for each color dye.
  2. Working with one bag at a time, add 1 teaspoon of rubbing alcohol to the bag. Close the top and scrunch it around in your hands to distribute the alcohol.
  3. Then add your food coloring to the bag. Again close the top and scrunch it around in your hands to distribute the color.
  4. Spread the dyed pasta out on a cookie sheet (you may want to line yours first with wax paper or aluminum foil) and let dry overnight.

That’s it. Easy peasy!

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Toss some Dollar Tree St. Patty’s Day items in, or relevant items from around the house, and you have a home made sensory bin for your toddler. For an older child, you could add a Dollar Tree cookie sheet and magnetic letters that spell “green” “rainbow” or other color words. Print simple color words on card stock and give the child the chance to go on a search and spell the words out on the cookie sheet. They could also “hunt” for color treasures around the house to match their spelling.

Kids in the Kitchen

Okay, I am going to get real for a hot minute: I learn A LOT when I bring my children into my kitchen. I learn I am not patient. I learn I have a mouth that I need to control. I learn that my boys LOVE to be with me and make things. I learn that the Holy Spirit is necessary for me to parent well.

That said, we do get in the kitchen. Often. One, because I like to eat. I have boys. They like to eat….and they often eat things best if they make them.

So, here are a couple ideas for getting your kids into the kitchen with you during the St. Patrick’s Day celebration.

Irish Beef Stew

  • 3lbs stew beef
  • 1/4c apple juice
  • 2 onions
  • 1 can organic tomato soup
  • 6 potatoes
  • 6 carrots
  • 1 bag frozen peas
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 1T onion powder
  • 1T pink salt
  • 1/2t black pepper
  • 1c water
  1. Brown the stew meat in oil or butter. This will seal in the flavor and juice.
  2. Have your littles help wash and cut the potatoes and carrots into 1 inch pieces.
  3. Place all ingredients in your crock pot on low for 6-8 hours or on high for 4 hours.

Enjoy with some delicious Irish Soda Bread!

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Fruit Rainbow

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Choose fruit in every color of the rainbow! Let your children help wash the fruit (my middle son thinks this is the best part of being in the kitchen). Older kids can be assigned to create the rainbow itself, or littler ones can help hand you colors as your request them. All three of my boys have kitchen knives and can help slice fruit. This was a big hit with our kids. They gobbled up every bite.

Lucky Scavenger Hunt

Cut out a rainbow for each child from colored construction paper. One strip of each color (ROY G BIV). Then place them around the house with a coin under each. Have your children collect one of each color (instruct that they must not have more than one of any color) and the coins. Hide a pot of coins somewhere too, for fun. Once they have 7 colors and 7 coins, they can glue their rainbow together and count their money. I love the idea of a 3D rainbow they can play with afterwards. You can check out some ideas here.

Book Basket

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These are some of our favorites!

Copywork

I like to pull together some tracing copy work for  the boys and also include hymn study or a well known poem, etc.

Get your own copy.

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I hope some of these ideas and resources were helpful to you and your family. I enjoy idea sharing, so I welcome links and comments about what your family does.

On Arrow Hill,

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Blog Post

Lent & Passover – Resources for your family

I grew up with Passover Seder being customary and influenced most by my paternal Grandmother, Isabelle. She would roast lamb and set out the Seder plate and explain the items. She also would serve a delicious mint jelly for the roasted lamb dinner. Before the lamb and vegetables was a first course of homemade matzoh ball soup and latkes aplenty, paired with both applesauce and sour cream.Yum!

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As a teen, my parents took me to a really great church that hosted a Passover Seder every year complete with worship, traditional music, and dancing! It was the highlight of my church memories even before I chose Jesus.

Last year, the boys helped create Afikomen bags for our hidden matzoh. They practiced saying “Yeshua” and we even wrote His Hebrew name on the bags. We plan on doing this again this year.

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I preface our family’s Passover Seder traditions with these glimpses into the past because it is paramount to setting up why I still celebrate.

Deuteronomy 6:5-9

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. Take to heart these words that I give you today. Repeat them to your children. Talk about them when you’re at home or away, when you lie down or get up. Write them down, and tie them around your wrist, and wear them as headbands as a reminder. Write them on the door frames of your houses and on your gates.”

This scripture is the premise for our Passover. I am continually brought back to it both as I prepare my heart and busy my hands with the preparations.

I believe Messiah has come. Yeshua. Jesus. He fulfilled the Promise and the law. Yet, I obey His command to teach my children about His ways. One of the primary ways to do that is through this feast.

This all symbolizes Jesus for our family and how he is the hidden pearl of great price. He is the bread broken for us. He took the stripes just like the stripes matzoh. When we seek Him, He is found. When we find Him and hold fast to Him, we are gifted a great Prize. 

So, what are some great resources and ideas for celebrating with your family?

As I shared above, an Afikomen bag is a staple at a Passover Seder. The Seder leader hides the bag with a matzoh inside during the meal, then the children hunt for it. Once found, it is traded for a small prize (typically money), which represents finding the Bread of Life, is our great reward!

You can buy a beautiful afikomen bag or you can let your children have fun making their own. Our craft was simple. It required paper bags, markers, twine/string/yarn, tape (to seal the end of the twine or yarn for threading), and a hole punch.

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Cut your paper bag to a size that fits just around a piece off matzoh. It should make a pocket when folded over the matzoh. Older kids can hole punch each side themselves, or mom can do it for the little ones. We played traditional Passover music in Hebrew during our craft time. Tape the ends of the string you chose so it is easy for the child to thread in and out of the holes on each side.

Finally, you can discuss Yeshua and share the Hebrew letters for His name. The children may copy it onto their bags. We also copied a relevant scripture.

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Another wonderful resource we are using for the entire season of Lent, is Jennifer Naraki’s Rich + Rooted Passover.

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This curriculum is beautiful. It provides simple activities paired with scripture verses and token items to help symbolize the stories and theology surrounding this season. I suggest buying it about a month prior to Ash Wednesday in order to give yourself time to gather the suggested materials (many of which you may have in your home already). This curriculum starts on Ash Wednesday and can be the core of your traditions during this season.

Finally, here are some children’s book recommendations for this season:

Sammy Spider’s First Haggadah

Sammy Spider’s Passover Shapes

Jesus Is Alive: The Amazing Story (Bible Wise)

The Big Sister’s Secret : The Story of Miriam (Bible Wise)

The Biggest Story: How the Snake Crusher Brings Us Back to the Garden 

The Jesus Storybook Bible: Every Story Whispers His Name

 

I hope that you find Lent and Passover traditions that bring your family closer to Him.

On Arrow Hill,

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Blog Post, Mother Culture

Loving them Well

We named him Blaze Josiah. Both of his names refer to fire. Our hope was he would be a spark, a flame of joy, hope, love, Christ. I believe he will be. In the meantime, sometimes he covers his ears when we pray. He doesn’t care to be told what to do (who does?). Transitioning into and out of any activities can be delicate and provoke him. We have spent the last month being screamed at – I am talking about red faced, contorted expression screaming directly at us anytime he is unhappy. I have prayed. I have cried. I work really hard to offer him a beautiful life. A real childhood. I read him scripture, he memorizes it. We sing hymns, read classic chapter books. His days are filled with the outdoors, family, poetry, hands on activities, and short lessons. Yet he still shoves his brothers any time they upset him while playing. I cannot tell you the amount of times I have ran to one of my younger boys in horror after observing my eldest toss them to the floor in a squabble over a preferred toy.

I do everything I have been promised will give him a great foundation and beginning in life and education.

I have watched my son who was attached to me and nursed for nearly three years, put space between us and disrespect me in ways that have really hurt my heart. I have asked myself what I am doing wrong. I have asked friends. I have sought counsel and read books.

So this week I made myself a promise. I promised to watch my thoughts and my words towards my son. As we embarked on this new week I determined to give him specific and genuine compliments several times a day. As I passed him while he played, I tousled his hair or gave his shoulder a quick squeeze. I have watched him while I cooked a meal and found things he was doing well. I openly commented on it where his brothers could hear. I have given him tasks to do and then praised him when he followed through. I have let him get upset and told him I would wait for him to calm down enough to hear me. Without raising my voice or becoming emotionally heated, I have explained to him thoughtfully what his behaviors were and what the consequences would be.

My aim was 5 authentic, specific compliments each day. I wanted to touch him, hug him, or kiss him at least 10 times a day (that is tough with a wild and free 6 year old).

I have done this for four days.

Today we crossed some sort of threshold.

He has been smiling. He has been proud when he accomplishes a task. He has been able to calm himself and listen to an instruction. I have been floored. He completed his math in 12 minutes this morning. Beaming he came to me and said, “When I give it all of my attention, I am done sooner and get to go and play.” My heart soared! At lunch, he reviewed his skip counting, he recited his memory verse, and he hugged me on his own, without any provocation.

“The child brings with him into the world, not character, but disposition. He has tendencies which may need only to be strengthened, or, again, to be diverted or even repressed. His character — the efflorescence of the man wherein the fruit of his life is a-preparing — is original disposition, modified, directed, expanded by education; by circumstances; later, by self-control and self-culture; above all, by the supreme agency of the Holy Ghost, even where that agency is little suspected, and as little solicited.”  –Charlotte Mason

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He raced downstairs to proclaim, “You can trust me, mom. I put all of my clothing away.”

To say I am excited is an understatement. My children are my treasures on this Earth. Most of my day is spent brainstorming how to teach them, help them, give them whatever I can. Many nights are spent praying for them. I am so grateful that I get the opportunity to change my own habits and in doing so, help my son start fresh.

So here is to my eldest doing hard things. Here is to him learning to love prayer. Here is to him learning to love God and life and others. I am willing to do my part.

Mother Culture

Be Brave, Mama Bear

I found two beautiful little bar necklaces a couple weeks ago. It is a style I have kept my eye on and never could really afford. They turned up on sale and a stellar price. As I put one on, I noticed how beautifully they paired together. A little mantra for my heart, “Be brave, Mama Bear.”

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Why brave? Brave because the weight of bringing little ones with you everywhere can be crushing. Brave because motherhood comes with expectations, responsibilities, and emotions that can easily swallow you whole. Brave because taking care of them means taking care of you. I was listening to a Sally Clarkson podcast last week and one statement really resonated with me (paraphrased), When you go to drink from an empty glass, you get nothing. No refreshment, no filling, no satiation – your need is not met. Same for moms, if you try and give to your children from an empty, exhausted place you provide them little. Now the pressure is on! Be brave because you need to fill your cup, mama. I am not sharing this for you, more for me. Or maybe for you, if you need to hear it too.

Here is the thing: I used to feel guilty if I bought myself something nice (the children need things more than I do). I would feel badly if I left them for two hours to spend time with a friend or go on a walk alone (my first duty is to my kids, they need me). I would not allow myself time to read a book for pleasure, or to sit and sip my hot coffee. Then I began to understand what I was offering them. I was offering my exhausted, bitter, cranky, easily frustrated, wore down self. It was all I had to give them.

Be brave, mama bear. Be brave and take 10 minutes to read some scripture or a new book while you sip your favorite warm tea. Be brave and hang out with the ones that fill you up. Be brave and smile and laugh in the woods all by yourself. Be brave and ask your husband to watch his babies so you can run and grab a pedicure with a friend.

I am not advocating doing less for your children. I don’t even put a demand on how often I do these things. Demands can become more crushing than freeing. I am merely saying, offer your children yourself from as full and beautiful a place as you are able to. In the newborn with two toddlers phase that may look like a shower every day and nothing more. In the one or two have started school and I have a toddler phase it will probably look more like time to yourself, time with a friend (how exciting, right?).

So, be brave, Mama Bear. You can do this. You can pour from a filled place.

Blog Post, New Year, Uncategorized

The Journey Begins

So….a new year, a new blog, a new adventure.

The other afternoon, one of my boys came into the kitchen while I cleaned and proudly showed me the “food” he had created and placed inside the expensive wooden doll house refrigerator he just received at Christmas. As he explained in great detail the tacos, vegetables, soups he had stored inside, I became increasingly irritated and voiced my frustration with a quick scolding for not caring better for his new toy. His eyes dulled and his demeanor shifted. Immediately, I saw the error of my ways. I bent down on one knee and connected with his little heart. I apologized and told him I thought his food was creative and witty. He smiled and I hugged him.

For several weeks, I have been praying for a “word”. Looking for one word to define 2019. Mother culture and Christian culture indicate I am to have one. Just one. Except God chose differently for us. He saw my need. Our need as a family. He graciously gave me two words. I asked Him to change them. Give me one, I pleaded. It works better. It posts better. One word is what everyone else gets. I whined and He kept giving me the same beautiful two words. Finally, I conceded. As I let the words settle down in my soul, I felt the beauty and fit of them. Like new clothes carefully chosen for their quality and appropriateness for the occasion, these two words fit perfectly.

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Joyful connection – a daily reminder to speak to those around me with joy and love and patience and kindness. A daily reminder to be purposeful in my relationships. I have three sons given to me for a short season. I already find life is flying by at a startling pace. This will be the beginning of a new year, a new season, a new adventure. One that I will do my best to honor with these two words. Will you join me?