Monday, April 29, 2013

The same nature walk....but new again!

"Let them once get in touch with nature and a habit is formed which will be a source of delight and habit through life." ~Charlotte Mason

One of the the things I encourage the children to do is to try and find what is different in the yard as we go around. In the spring, this is super easy to do as the plants are all new and the changes seem obvious on a 
near daily basis.

Remember these lovely flower? They were only just opening and covered with rain drops the last time I took a picture.

The daffodils are coming fact, in the 2-3 days since I took this picture, the buds are just past the leaves & far more yellow. Oddly enough, my next door neighbor's are all completely in bloom!

With the much warmer weather, comes the opening of windows & the patio door. Unfortunately, even the the screen door latched, this big beastie has figured out if he jiggles it enough, it will unlatch and he can get outside. Today, we let him stay out and roll in the dirt. He was very happy about that, nibble on fresh catnip, ate some other plant leaves that he should not have (and those with cats know what happened later, lol!), inspired the 2 year old to try same said leaves. Momma figured that one out immediately and we had a chat about not putting just any old plant in the mouth.... For some reason, G3 would not cooperate with looking at the camera & smiling, so here is his tongue.

This is where it gets complicated about what plants we can and cannot eat around the yard. The mint (even the cat mint), the parsely, basil, & chives  are just fine to eat the leaves of as one feels the mood. Other plants, not so much. Then, we have the asparagus bed showing up (those spikes have grown another 2-3 inches since this was taken a couple of days ago!). I like to eat it straight out of the bed. But, the younger 2, while knowing it is edible, have no clue how to properly harvest it.

The regular vegetable garden is not yet quite ready to plant, but we will probably start getting things in there this coming weekend. Before we put up the fencing that keeps out both the 4 legged & 2 legged critters, the children love to run around the beams. PE? Who needs PE class when they can do this? But then, we also have a very basic low balance beam that we use for fun obstacle courses in the yard.

We also looked at the pussy willows last time. Before they were just barely out and very soft and fuzzy. I love them at that stage. Here, you can see that they are "out" a whole lot more. 

A quick study in our Handbook of Nature study revealed something I had not known until now....the fuzzy parts are the flower! Seriously, I had no idea. But, my children won't go through life with that kind of cluelessness.

Here is one take just today and you can see the change that happened in just 2 days time. They are now covered with pollen
While running around looking for things, as we come up the far side of the yard, the little ones decide that a game of Hide & Go seek is in order. G3 is quite certain that he is hidden from M3.

However, in the running about near the pine tree on the left, they spied something bright blue under it. It is a beautiful (and sadly, very cold) robin's egg. We talked about what it was and that there was a baby bird inside that would not hatch out now. We were very sad about that. Such a tiny beautiful egg.

Surprisingly, G3 wanted to hold the egg, but not for long because M3 was already dashing across the yard to look at the next fun thing! That might be a good thing, because I am fairly certain there was a tuft of bunny fur in the mix below the tree...

During today's walk around the yard, we noticed the ant hills that had showed up between the bricks at the firepit and the back sidewalk. I gave both of the little ones magnifying glasses to use so they could watch these tiny ants up close. G2 spent quite a bit of time watching them. 
This is not from the nature study walk at all, and really belongs in the earlier post about Macktown. Except it doesn't totally fit there either. This is the Rock River in Rockton, IL.  It is WELL over its banks here, rather loud in places, and moving very, very swiftly.  It is actually down a couple of feet since last Thursday.

It gave us the perfect opportunity to talk about where the snow goes when it melts & where rain goes when there is too much for the ground to soak up. We also talked about the dangers of moving water and how they should never go into water like this because they would get swooshed away and we might not be able to help them.

If the weather holds tomorrow, we will go over to the local nature preserve and see what changes we notice since our last trip there in November. I wonder if the frogs are out by the pond (the pond is in the background picture of the blog).   And I know just where to look for some asparagus there...

"Children should be encouraged to watch, patiently and quietly, 
until they learn something of the habits and history of bee, ant, 
wasp, spider, hairy caterpillar, dragon-fly, and whatever of 
larger growth comes in their way.
(Vol 1, II, Out-Of-Door Life For The Children, p.57 )"

The Gathering at Macktown - Living History

About a decade or so ago, our dearest friends (pert near family!), took our oldest child with them to her first historical reenactment encampment.  She was 4 1/2. And she adored it. As her little brother got older, he joined in the fun around the same age (but was reluctant to do overnights as early as she did). G3 is of the same age and wants to day trip it. The next one they do is fairly close, so we might let him go for a day. Since his personality is so different from his older siblings, we shall see. Or, one of us will finally dress up as well and go along with. Connie & Dave know what they are getting into with him, so who knows, lol!

Connie & Dave

The persona that my children have has changed over since they started (as our friends children have grown up and moved on....and far away). Currently, they are indentured servants for our friends and are in the 1780's time period. They are French.

Dave Titter at closing ceremonies - center

So, this weekend kicked off the first reenactment of the year for the older 2 children at Macktown, a Living History Education Center in Rockton, IL. M2 went early and participated in the school day. G2 stayed behind because our church had their Men & Boys retreat and he just could not choose one. Gary drove him to Macktown after the retreat was over on Saturday afternoon & we went and picked them up about an hour before it ended.
G2 in front of The Ordinary
At some of the reenactments, M2 is an indentured servant in an "inn" - The Ordinary. She has a friend that she really clicked with last year at Trail of History in McHenry, IL that she got to work with at the inn again at Macktown (and probably at Kenosha & Trail this year). G2 is standing in front of the sign for The Ordinary (above).

G2 - center - green westcoat - closing ceremonies
G2 gets  to run around with the boys, but he also hauls wood, water, plays with knives, marches with his "gun" with the "militia" group at opening/closing ceremonies - fun stuff like that.  His favorite thing so far was getting to participate in reenacting battles at Trail of History. I think he had to die once last year (in fact, his group lost the battle!). The second time around, they were victorious, lol!

The yellow behind M2 is one of the voyageurs canoes.
When we got to Macktown, we knew we were there only an hour before closing time. That was just fine as we got to watch the closing ceremonies. Then, right away, G3 & M3 got to trade the "beaver pelt" they were issued at the gate with the voyageurs. They traded their pelt for a shiny bead. And lo & behold, big sister was there to help string the beads for the children. They were so excited to see her there! They had missed her terribly these last 5 days. After they got their cherished bead necklaces, we hiked up towards the tents where we knew we would find big brother.

Bead threading after the beaver "skin" trade
On the way, G3 was distracted by a man in a skirt that was wearing a "redcoat" & cleaning his musket. G3 immediately stated that that man in the redcoat was a bad man! We were a little shocked....until it occurred to me that he had watched several episodes of Liberty's Kids with his siblings... The Redcoats were the bad guys!! Ha!  We explained to him that the skirt was a kilt & then G3 asked a couple of questions about the musket.

Then we were off to find big brother!!  Dave & Connie presented G3 & M3 with their first wooden guns. They thought that was fabulous! M3 was not willing to give her gun to G3, much to his dismay... he wanted to have 2 to run around with (the easier to get the bad guys with, I guess).

G3 has the newly acquired weapons over his head.
We feel so privileged that our children have been able to participate in these reenactments. They have had a window to history opened for them that very few children have even the slightest thought about.  They don't just read about the history in books - they get to reenact some parts of it. Be in the battles, experience the life of indentured servants, wear funny clothes (and know when someone is quite obviously confused about the period of a certain piece of clothing, lol!).  At night, when the public is gone, they have gotten to sit in on all kinds of discussion around the campfire. They have learned a lot and I am so blessed that get this chance to help educate others at the same time.

M3 & Connie

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Spring Rains

It was sprinkling outside - well, not even that. More of a light mist. Safe enough to take the camera out in.

We had some very heavy rains over the last few days (somewhere around 4.5" over 4 days). With the frost line still up pretty high, you can imagine what the creeks and such look like right now.

But, those rains started to wake up things outside. So, we tromped around our muddy yard for a bit out in the rain. These were the things that caught our attention....and a change that the little ones noticed on their own from last time we were out looking (pre-gully washing rain system, lol!).

Before we went out, G2 saw that Frisky squirrel was hiding under the glider on the swing set. By the time he grabbed the camera, Frisky was on the move and he managed to catch a picture of him before he left the yard.

We went to have a good look at the oak tree. What we noticed today as how very bright the lichen was and the variety of color. When it is dry, the lichen is very dull. When wet, it brightens up considerably. Even the pictures do not really do justice to how bright the greens & yellows really are.

In my post from a few days ago, these pretty little flowers had not yet opened (I am ashamed to say that I don't know their name!). They have opened up, but the cooler temps along with the rain have caused them to not be open as much as they were in the sun just a day or 2 back.  The little  ones were very excited about them opening up!

I really want to encourage you to take your children around the yard in all seasons and all kinds of weather. There are so many different things to see as the seasons and weather changes. If you don't have a yard, find a park (preferably one with more than a playground).

Charlotte Mason encouraged us to take our children out Even if the weather was bad (well...if there is thunder/lightening/hail/blizzard/tornadoes/sub-zero temps with horrid wind chills...don't go out then....wait a bit, the weather will change!), take them out. Our temperature limits in the winter is typically when it gets into the single digits & the wind is blowing, no one is going out. The risk of frostbite is just not worth it. But, 13° and sunny - game on!  Going outside regularly encourages the habit of observation. You might have to encourage your children to notice the changes, but eventually, they will start doing it on their own. The older children tell me about how the daffodils and tulips are coming up and how quickly they are growing - without prompting (possibly in part because we are all anxiously awaiting the warmer weather of spring!).

The littles thought they were getting to tromp around in the rain, get out of the house, splash in the puddles, running in the fresh air, and be really loud. And they were. But, unbeknownst to them, they are at the very earliest part of their education.
This is all play to the children, but the mother is doing invaluable work; she is training their powers of observation and expression, increasing their vocabulary and their range of ideas by giving them the name and the uses of an object at the right moment,--when they ask, 'What is it?' and 'What is it for?'

(Vol 1, II, Out-Of-Door Life For The Children, p.46-7 )

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Spring has (almost) sprung!

It is mostly spring in Wisconsin. The calendar says it is. The satellite views comparing snow cover from last year to this year says we are crazy and not it is NOT spring yet. But, all the signs are there.

As my children are desperate to get outside and shed their winter trappings, the ground begins to thaw, the mud becomes part of the outdoor experience, and it is time to take the little ones out and about in the yard to see all the signs that point to warmer weather.

We are blessed to be out in suburbia (on the edge - there are farm fields less than 1/2 mile from here!). There is abundant wildlife: coyotes, racoons, rabbits, regular "yard birds", the occassional hawk, ducks, LOTS of geese, the sound of the sandhill cranes near the lakes and in the wentlands, and of course, our least favorite spring visitor - the skunk (the skunk makes us shut up the house from around 10:15-11:15 almost every. single. night. Stinky!!! Even without spraying!).

Today, we saw lots of things. The pussy willows have arrived for the season:

The little ones loved how soft and fuzzy they feel on their fingers and faces. I remember being enchanted with them when I was a child as well.

Our fall flowers have begun to show themselves already. The sedum are usually ready and waiting when the snow melts.

The lilies are coming up and it looks like the squirrels have added in a couple more stolen tulips from the neighbor's house.

Welcome Robin is here, there, and everywhere right now. Just a couple of weeks ago, we saw our very first one of the season (perhaps one that wintered over?). But now they are hanging around and quite intent on making more robins!  There were actually 3 robins in this group, but they did not stay still while in a group (how rude of them to not cooperate!).

Summer flowers coming up in the flower bed on the backside of the house. This part of the  house catches sun until around 2ish, so the house gets warm and that translates into these flowers coming out to play (I noticed that the ones in the unprotected bed out in the front yard are not out yet - in fact, there is still ice & snow in the nearby shade!).

Not a spring thing, but it is always fun to point out fun things on the trees.

Moss on the ground near the shed - I do believe the older 2 have buried a dragon fly or 2 here, hence the stone markers.

Sadly, the asparagus has not yet shown up...I am watching for those in the back flower bed! While we have a good sized yard (we have not always), one can always look for signs of spring in their own tiny yards. The signs are there, or at the park, or where ever you can get to outside. Don't let being in the city stop you. Go to your local park and see what you can find. You might be surprised.

Taking a tour of ones yard to watch for the changes is always interesting.

We will be checking on these flowers daily to see when they bloom. The buds are there and just waiting for the right moment to open. They are so tiny, but it is so exciting to see the first flowers in our yard each year!  Give a short nature walk a try around your yard to see what you can see!