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 bought 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.

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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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