Beach Nature Study

We’re back from the beach.  One of my favorite days was right at the end, when we took the kids (and their cousins) on a walk at low tide.  I love seeing the world through their eyes.

We saw a huge jellyfish. (Better to see it on the sand than have it find you in the water!)
We think these are crab poop.  Don’t they look just like chocolate sprinkles?

And then there were all these horseshoe crabs. First one, then lots of pairs. “Oh they’re best friends!” Well, sort of…


So here’s the site we found to inform us about the life cycle of the horseshoe crab.

And I think a sandpiper?

Have you been doing any nature study (formal or informal)? I’d love to see it.

For more summer nature study, check out Nature Study Monday at Fisher Academy International.

Come Walk with Us

It was so fun having you run with me, I thought you might like to join us on our nature walk.  You’ll want a sweatshirt and some sunblock.

We’ve had such a drought this winter (well, all year, really) that the lake is very dry.  Normally all this red is under water.

Clearly we’re not the only ones who can’t keep from walking out toward the water– there’s quite a path here.


The boys were deep in conversation and didn’t want to wait on the girls, so they’ve gone ahead.  If you listen, you can hear the geese out at the edge of the water.

The boys come running back to tell us there are deer.  Can you see her there, pretending to be invisible?


Just ahead of the kids, after the boardwalk turns the corner, is the tree where the great barn owl likes to roost.
Did you see that?  The kids must have scared the owl, because it just took off over our heads.  All the geese startled and made a crazy noise until they decided it was a false alarm.


This is my favorite bit of the walk: it’s like a tunnel of cottonwoods.  The fragrance is incredible.  SweetP likes to collect bouquets of leaves here.

Oh– the deer are back, trying to sneak back into the clearing we frightened them out of on our way down the far side of the boardwalk.


Total, I count nine.  The boys say they saw a buck but I missed him.




Not bad for a twenty-minute walk.  Thanks for joining us.

What’s your favorite nearby walk?

A New Nature Table

I’ve been reading lots of Charlotte Mason lately– ever since Amazon raised the price on the Kindle Georgette Heyer books I’ve been consuming like candy corn.

Right now Miss Mason’s going on and on about Nature and getting kids into Nature and how our early exploration of Nature is vital to all sorts of later functioning, like Faith and Science.  Here are some quotes:

“It is infinitely well worth of the mother’s while to take some pains every day to secure, in the first place, that her children spend hours daily amongst rural and natural objects and, in the second place, to infuse into them, or rather to cherish in them, a love of investigation.”

“Consider, too, what an unequalled mental training the child-naturalist is getting for any study or calling under the sun– the powers of attention, the discrimination, of patient pursuit, growing in his growth, what will they not fit him for?”

“There is no sort of knowledge to be got in these early years so valuable to children as that which they get for themselves of the world they live in.”

“The little girl: she it is who is most tempted to indulge in ugly tempers (as child and woman) because time hangs heavy on her hands… is it to the girls, little and big, a most true kindness to lift them out of themselves and out of the round of petty personal interests and emulations which too often hem in their lives; and then , with whom but the girls must it rest to mould the generations yet to be born?”   (All from Charlotte Mason: Home Education, Vol. 1, sections V, VII and VIII)
But I struggle with Nature Study.  Seriously, I am supposed to make my children spend hours daily outside?  I’ve got laundry to do, people.  Our yard is the size of a two-car garage, and the only wildlife there I can see is the neighbor’s cat.
I liked the phrase she used: “to infuse into them, or rather to cherish in them” a love for Nature.  Maybe I can go back to shooting for an hour outside every day.  I notice that when we get our one hour outside (especially in the winter) in the morning, then we are more likely to want to go back out later.
I want to bring more Nature into our home (and thus, our school).  I saw this great idea on Still Parenting recently: sandwiching a specimen from nature between two pieces of clear contact paper, for looking at later.  Duh, but it had never occurred to me.  Whenever I think, “Bring Nature inside,” I end up with a pile of crushed, dry leaves underfoot or a dead cricket in a glass jar.  So her idea– preserving the Nature so we can look at it– cherish it, investigate it— later was a  lightbulb moment for me.  It only took me 6 weeks to get my hands on clear contact paper.
How do you encourage your children to Cherish Nature?

Summer Nature Study: Dragonflies

Last week, we were lolling around in the morning when I looked outside and saw fifty dragonflies hanging out on our porch.  Literally.
Everyone hurried out to see them.  Another hundred or so were roused out of the plum tree when O walked toward it.  They flew around– too big to be annoying– and parked periodically on the wires.



One of the kids ran inside to get the bug book, where we learned that dragonflies live only 2-3 weeks; lay their eggs under water; catch and eat flies in mid-air (hooray!!); and that their wings make figure-eights.  Not bad for a summer morning.

Sadly, they’re mostly gone now, and the flies are a-comin’.  But it was great while it lasted!

A Few of our Neighbors


This little fellow has been hopping around a lot lately.  His mama stays near but hides better, until he calls out for her, “Cheep!” and then she comes flying over.




We try to sit very, very still so he’ll stay longer.

And there are lots of this family around:


They, too, are waiting for the raspberries to ripen.
Can anyone identify this little lady? She’s very well hidden, nesting on last year’s robins’ nest. I think she’s a mourning dove.  She’s so much smaller than the rock pigeons, though…


Fungus Nature Study

Fungus is fascinating, right? I know that secretly, when you are exhausted at night and can’t sleep, it’s because you’re pondering the amazing ubiquity of fungus around the world. And you’re just dying to do a unit study on fungus, but you have no fungus photos.  Well, ask no more.

We found these all on a two-mile hike and have been working slowly to identify them.  I’ve pasted below the photos.  The ones growing OUT of the trees are bracket fungi, and their “rings” indicate their age, just as tree rings do for trees. Most of them would make you very sick– so don’t lick the screen.  The ones that look like sponges are in the brain fungus family, and if you look closely at the mushroom-y ones, you can see both the gills and the spores on their undersides.















Nature Walk, Mid May

We’ve had another rainy May, with afternoon thunderstorms, hail and tornado warnings.  I learned last year and have yet to put any of my tomatoes in the ground.  While I’m not complaining, I do have to admit that we got a little tired of looking at each other in the dreary basement.

So last week, when we woke up to SUNSHINE!!!, a friend and I took our kids to the lake and called it school.  Last year, we saw five bull snakes at this time of year, and we were hopeful.   I can’t claim to have directed any actual nature study, but we were outside.  The kids got their stick-whacking fix.  SweetP had to be carried for most of the walk until I could convince her that the snakes weren’t out yet.  (They weren’t, though I think she’s right that she would have counted as a small mammal, a.k.a. lunch.)

The boys built a bridge to the far log.  Then they promptly “slipped” off it into the water.  Those Canadian geese had three fuzzy goslings.  They swam in a perfect line: parent-gosling-gosling-gosling-parent.  The cottonwoods had fat, green seedpods hanging in bunches like grapes.  The girls spotted three different great blue herons overhead.

Winter Nature Walk

Last week I was overwhelmed by how precious this time is that I have with my children.  Life is short.  And fragile.  And I am incredibly blessed.  So we ditched what I had planned, and we went for a hike.

O whacked things with sticks. 

M made trails.


 SweetP followed her brothers and sister around.  J made a heart with our initials in it.  

My heart sang, “Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.”  We may have to go again tomorrow.

Autumn Trip to Wyoming

We spent last week at Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks.  Goodness, those are beautiful parks!  We had gone when I was about eight or nine, and my impressions this time are just about the same as what I remember from that trip.  Isn’t that funny?

 As with all traveling, it’s so good to be on our own schedule.  It makes places much less crowded.  That said, it was still very busy at Yellowstone (less so at Teton, which is maybe why I love it more…)  My parents went with us—a blessing which becomes more a more precious as the years pass.

We stayed at Signal Mountain Lodge on Jackson Lake.  I kept fantasizing about retiring there.  (And no, it wasn’t just fantasizing about retiring.)  I could see the lake from my bed, and I could sit on my little log-cabin porch and watch my children play (for hours) on the rocky beach.  It was heavenly.

Yellowstone is a crazy place.  We’re just driving along on the road, minding our own business, and all of a sudden there’s a herd of bison.  On the road.  Or a whole bunch of elk sidestepping steaming fumaroles next to the road.  My kids loved the geysers and mudpots and mud volcanoes – and not just the ones called Dragon Tongue Spring, or Black Dragon’s Cauldron, although that helped. 

September was the perfect time to be there.  The aspens were all changing, the crowds had thinned, and we had such perfect weather.  Twelve thumbs up from our family.