Something New

Spring has zipped right into summer and the boys are outdoor explorers once again.

I bought little notebooks at the Dollar Tree last week. I thought they could use them as their Nature Journals. They’re small and easy to pop in their pocket for their outdoor explorations.

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As soon as they’d personalized their notebooks, they headed outside to hike the swales and search the property for something new to record.

Joe hopped on his scooter and hunt for milkweed.

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Jake waded through the tall grass searching for carrots.

 

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They both enjoyed showing me what they’d found and recorded in their journals.

Last night, while hunting for wild mulberries, we made quite the discovery.

“Mom! Come here and look at this! Hurry!”

Joe was by a large milkweed bouncing on his toes. “Look! A monarch butterfly caterpillar!”

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Jake, who’d been hunting for carrots again, ran over to join us. He was just as excited as Joe and both boys recorded the find in their journals.

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We contemplated putting it in our bug house, but ultimately decided to leave it in its natural habitat and observe it daily.

Joe added more detail to his milkweed drawing on the spot.

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We continued on our trek through the swales, once again in search of wild mulberries.

Today, when my nieces came over, the boys could hardly wait to show them the caterpillar. As I finished making a fresh cup of coffee, Joe burst in the house with some sad news…the caterpillar had been killed.

“A spider is eating it right now!”

He was shocked. Angry. Absolutely heartbroken. This spider had destroyed his monarch butterfly caterpillar.

I followed the crew to the milkweed to see the carnage for myself.

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It was a sad and gruesome sight. Joe wanted to get rid of all the spiders.

“This is how nature works buddy. Why don’t we find out more about this spider?”

He perked up a little bit at that, but I think he was more eager to find out its weaknesses so he could retaliate. Either way, the distraction worked.

We spent some time looking at pictures of spiders on the internet. One was too brown, another too small. We searched and searched, comparing our picture of the predator with the Google results until…we found it.

The Crab Spider had eaten the caterpillar.

 

“Now that we know what it is, we can research it. Find its weaknesses.”

“Ok Mom. But right now I’m going to go find frogs with the girls.”

Just like nature, a little boy’s moods can change in an instant. Something new pops into their mind…and they’re off on another adventure.

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A world of danger
A world of discovery
A world of wonder

 

 

 

 

Freedom to Change

“When are you done with school for the year?”

I get this question a lot. My answer is always something like: “Oh, we never really stop.” To which the reply is usually: “So you do school year round?”

Yes. We do.

For many, the end of the school year signifies the end of the structured day of learning. No more scheduled recess and lunch. No more assigned seats. No more after school programs.

For us, school is not a physical space we go to every day for 6-8 hours. I hesitate to even call what we do “homeschool”. There is, or used to be, such a stigma there.

Instead, maybe it should be called “life training” or “skill development”. Because really, that is what we are doing every day. We are providing the tools our kids need for living their best life.

We are creating little life-long learners early and in a safe environment.

We don’t stop learning with the end of a school year. We just keep going.

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We get to explore new interests whenever we want. There is not a set time for learning. We don’t do recess at 11 and then lunch at 11:30.

We don’t get in trouble for looking out the window when we are supposed to be doing our math work. We go outside and continue our math while jumping on the trampoline, doing laps around the house, or gardening.

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There aren’t punishments for talking in class without raising a hand. Some of our best discussions have been born from a wild and off-topic question during a lesson. We have the freedom to drop everything to investigate and explore.

If a fun field trip, activity or play date pops up, we go. We can do this because our school day is just another day.

On Sundays, I sit and make a list of lessons I’d like to do for the week. This structure, or checklist, is for me. The boys don’t care. Their interests change daily, weekly, hourly and sometimes by the minute. My list is a loose guideline that I can quickly adapt, adjust or abandon completely to chase a crazy question that pops up over breakfast.

We have the freedom to be flexible.

That is what homeschooling is–freedom to change. Freedom to choose a different direction or curriculum. Freedom to learn. 

Diary of a Chicken Day 87

87 Days in Captivity

Dear Diary,

We continue our voyage across the green lake. The Stick Monsters are pushing us further and further away from the Big Box. We are not sure what purpose this serves, but it seems to make the Stick Monster happy.

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Every morning this week, when the guillotine door opens, the Stick Monster pelts vegetable peelings and strawberry tops at us as we exit. What fresh torture is this? My cellmates run squawking from the box in effort to escape these missiles.

Still no word from the raccoon. We sent Bertha out to talk to him before lock down, but she escaped and we have not heard from her since. The lucky hen is free now and has forgotten about her sisters in captivity.

Yesterday, the Stick Monsters cleaned the box, destroying our carefully made beds…again.

Fluffy and Mildred were so upset that they flapped around and knocked the temporary door off the cage. For a brief, blissful time, we escaped. Our freedom was short-lived, however. The Stick Monster sent the Twig Beasts after us and soon we were imprisoned once more.

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The Stick Monster installed a strange light outside the box. Once dark, it turns on every time we move. At first, we hated it, but then it brought a crunchy, flying snack. We stayed up all night catching these winged treats. This made the Stick Monster angry and the light was disabled.

Fluffy is going to try and hide behind the silver water tower tonight. Hopefully she can make contact with the raccoon so we can plan our escape. Maybe he can take us one at a time so as not to look so suspicious.

I guess we’ll see.

–Roadrunner, Imprisoned in the Prairie

 

 

Fresh Fruit…?

Last year, there were kiwi flowers on one of the first vines we planted. There weren’t many, but we were so excited. At last!

But…then the beetles came. In waves. In hordes. A blanket of shiny, greenish, brownish ick destroying our vines, our buds…our spirit.

Now the buds are back. I don’t want to count my berries before they fruit…but they are everywhere on the vines and, with a little luck and milky spore, hopefully the Japanese beetles will not be as bad this year.

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Flowers started forming
On last year’s kiwi vines
Teeny, tiny buds appeared
At last! On fruit we’d dine!

But then, in hordes the beetles came
And blanketed the rows
Holding on with sticky feet
Those munching, crunching foes

Our defenses were no match for them
We put up quite a fight
But still, they beat us easily
That horrid, evil blight

Again, small buds are forming
We’re hopeful that this time
The milky spore has done it’s job
And on fresh fruit we’ll dine!

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A Little Patch

May I have a garden, Mom
One that’s only mine?
A little patch is all I need
A corner would be fine

I want to plant 9 carrots
I’ll watch them while they grow
Two broccoli, one cabbage
Are all the seeds I’ll sow

I’ll have to put a path in
And build a little fence
An arch for beans to grow on
A “Welcome” sign makes sense

May I have a garden, Mom?
One that’s only mine?
A little patch is all I need
In the bright sunshine

Diary of a Chicken

63 Days in Captivity

Dear Diary,

We’ve started our voyage across the green lake. The Wingless Bird will not let us stay in one spot for more than a few days now that we’ve destroyed the green jungle. It doesn’t seem angry though. More excited. Strange.

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Our eggs are still being taken. We’ve tried hiding them under the straw at the back of our box, but the Wingless Ones found them. They are far too clever for us. What could they be doing with all those eggs?

We met a raccoon on the outside who has agreed to help us. All he wants in return is a tasty snack. We’ve tried meeting him, but the Wingless Ones are ruthless in their determination to keep us in prison. They lock us up in the box every night and don’t let us out until sunrise.

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We almost succeeded in our escape last week when they opened the big door to, once again, demolish our freshly made beds. If only Fluffy hadn’t gotten distracted by that worm.

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Next time, we’ll leave her behind.

–Roadrunner, Imprisoned in the Prairie

 

 

 

Oversleeping

As I wandered around outside yesterday, I noticed some odd behavior. While the grass is greening up nicely and some of my lettuce is sprouting, the rest of the crew has hit snooze on the alarm clock one too many times.

My lilac is budding out, as well as my rose bushes. But the kiwi, trees and almost everything else missed the memo. IT’S SPRING!

Wake up my friends, wake up!
Smell spring’s fresh air at last
Stretch your bright green leaves
The time for sleep has past

Come kiwi vines, come berries
Break out the freshened shoots
Your rest has been a long one
It’s time to use those roots!

Those trees out in the pasture
Are budding left and right
They’re small but strong and mighty
They’re ready for the fight

Oh kiwi, grapes and berries
Please join us all today
It’s time to show your mettle
Get this season underway!

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Lilac bush

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Rose bushes

 

Enemies Beware

Thorns protect the sacs
Prickly, pointy and piercing
Enemies beware

Hundreds patiently wait
Feral, ferocious and fierce
Villains be warned

An army soon will emerge
Callous, cut-throat and cruel
Invaders be ready

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The Test Group

Because it’s SO gorgeous…and warm…and sunny, we decided to take the seedlings out for a little fresh air and direct sunlight.

They looked happy once they were released from the stuffy indoors. They gazed longingly at the freshly scratched soil in the kitchen garden. They begged me with their green leaves to get them in the ground.

“Ok,” I told them. “But just a few of you.

I planted a tomato that had started to droop. I dug a deep hole, planted it past the first set of leaves and lightly covered it with straw.

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The seedling looked so big in its little pot and seemed so puny once in the ground.

Next, a sad and sagging broccoli plant went in the ground. It too looked so small once settled in the garden. It got the same treatment as the tomato with a blanket of straw to keep it warm.

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I sowed some lettuce, orach and choy in a raised bed just off the deck. Then, I planted my large oregano smack in the middle.

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I was just about ready to call it quits for the day, when the strawberry starts stretched their stems as if shouting, “Me, me, pick me!”

I planted all 6 seedlings in another raised bed and both seed packets. I’ve never planted strawberries from seed before. I don’t have much hope for them, but the picture on the seed packet looked so delicious that I couldn’t resist.

My two assistants worked hard. Jake dug the holes, I planted and Joe watered. At the end, we worked together to cover the entire bed with a row cover. We made quite the team.

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Frost, frost, stay away
Don’t come back until Winter
And don’t kill my plants

We’re Ready!

We’re reaching! We’re straining!
We’re stretching our leaves!
Hey sunshine! Get out here
And roll up your sleeves!

The chickens have finished
The garden is planned
We need to get out there
Please give us a hand!

We’re ready! We’re eager!
It’s time for the show!
Warm weather is nearing…
Let’s get on our grow!