Jul 022011

I may have mentioned a time or two about how much I struggle with actually doing nature study. Science has been somewhat inconsistent as well. Why it is so hard is kind of a mystery to me. I like science and I love nature. (Although I’m not real big on temperature extremes, so that does keep me inside a lot of the time…)

This year I tried something new with my kids. I gave them a survey to evaluate what things they liked about how we were schooling, what things they would like to study, etc. Most of the results were not surprising. However there was one area that took me a bit off guard. My older daughter doesn’t like science, and if given a choice of what to study in science, she chose botany.

Botany? That would be a great springboard to gardening. But trust me, I don’t garden. You can take one look at my yard and see that.

So I began searching for relatively independent things she could do to learn about botany.

NaturExplorers ReviewOne of the resources I found is the NaturExplorers series. Shining Dawn Books graciously gave me a copy of Fruits and Nuts to review.

The unit begins with a few ideas to get you thinking about the study. These include some suggested literature books, an inspiration point, and some background information about fruits and nuts for the teacher. After that you get right to the heart of these units: Getting Outside — because these are nature study units after all.

The Getting Outside section consists of several pages of ideas for learning about fruits and nuts…outside. Ideas include:

“Adopting” a fruit or nut tree to study throughout the year,
Going on a fruit and nut scavenger hunt,
Comparing wild berries to cultivated ones.

Many of these activities have a notebook page to accompany it. The notebook pages are very attractive color pages to print out as needed.

If this were just a nature study curriculum, the review would be over now. But there is so much more! After Getting Outside is the Branching Out section. Branching Out is divided into the following sections:

  • Hands-on Activities
  • Writing and Research Ideas
  • Bible Lessons from His Creation
  • Poetry Place
  • Artist and Picture Study References
  • Composer and Music Study References
  • Other Related Literature
  • Related Internet Links
  • Including Younger Children
  • Including Older Children
  • Additional Suggestions for Nature Clubs and Co-ops

The Branching Out section is what transforms this curriculum from simple nature study to a unit study. I am admittedly not a unit study kind of teacher. It’s not that I don’t like the concept, but I can’t wrap my brain around how do implement them. But I can see how other subjects are easily covered in this study. History (For example heirloom seeds and Johnny Appleseed), English composition (The writing ideas are super!), Bible, Literature, Art, Music, and even Math (graphing and measuring) are covered.

I hope to have my 6th grade daughter do much of this study independently. That’s probably not the intent of the authors, but I think this is an extremely flexible curriculum. Since my daughter is on the older side of the target age range (elementary), I think it will work well that way. I’m especially excited about the research ideas! Plus I’m planning on having her work with my kindergarten daughter next year as well. There are some great activities for the two of them to do together.

There are also some other great titles I’ve got my eye on like Constant Conifers, Delightful Deciduous Trees, Fungus Among Us, and Wonderful Wildflowers. (Actually they all look good, but these go with our Botany plan.) For only $12 for each e-book, these are easy on the budget too.

Disclosure: I received a copy of Fruits and Nuts from Shining Dawn Books to review. I was not compensated for this review. All opinions expressed are my own. This post contains affiliate links. If you purchase from the link, I will receive a small commission.



May 132008

My family loves games.  I mean all of us, really love games.  If you want to see how much we love games, take a peek into our game cabinet. (It’s not as neat as I would like it to be but…)

We have a family game night once a week. (Usually) So why have I not used our love of games in our homeschool?  I really don’t know, but it seems that the idea of using games to teach has been coming at me from all directions in the last couple of weeks.

The first mention of games came through a yahoogroup.  It was an invitation to join a group called Games4Learning because they had just published a new game on their group called Globe Probe.  If you’re interested in getting the game for free, then join the group here. After I joined the group I started looking at the files and found a really fun way to study state capitals: Capital Bowling.    The idea is to deal out 10 cards. Then go through the cards one at a time and see how many you get right.  If you get all 10, then you’ve bowled a strike.  If you get less then 10 (say 7), then deal out 3 cards to replace the ones you missed.  Try to answer those additional cards.  If you get them all right, then you’ve bowled a spare.  If not, just note the total correct and deal 10 more cards.   You score the game just like bowling.  I tried it with my kids with some state flash cards that we had and they absolutely loved it.  More importantly, they learned a lot more capitals.

Last week, we completed a lesson in Exploring Creation with Botany book on fruit. One of our assignments was, you guessed it, making a game.  Here are pictures of our game called Tooty Fruity (not our idea for a title, it was in the book and we liked it)

This is the board.

Here are the cards.

The kids and I had a great time playing the game and we also learned a lot about types of fruit. My dd was studying all the cards to memorize the types so she could beat Daddy. Cheating?? I don’t think so.
OK, so maybe I’m starting to get the idea. I went to the Scholastic Warehouse Sale. (which, by the way I love. Check here to see if there’s one near you.) I found a wonderful fraction game for my daughter called Fun with Pizza Fractions.  Not only did my daughter want to play but my son did as well. 
Yesterday was my older son’s 10th birthday.  Guess what one of his gifts was.  Hmm.  Maybe another game.??

He doesn’t look too thrilled, but he does like it.

Now I’ve got to make more room in our game cabinet.

Apr 022008

Disclosure: This post contains an affiliate link. If you purchase through the link, I will receive a small commission.

We’ve had a nice couple of days again, so we’ve spent some time outdoors.  We read about pollination in Exploring Creation with Botany.  My 8 yo daughter made her notebook page outside.

Pollination Notebook Page
Here she is working on her page.
Pollination Notebook Page
And her completed page.

She used a page from the Basic-plus set of Notebooking Pages from Notebookingpages.com.   I was really proud of the job that she did.


My older son much prefers making his notebook pages on the computer.  He’s a terrific artist, but he prefers typing to writing so much that he doesn’t like to do notebooking on paper.  So, for the most part, I let him use the computer.

Pollination Notebook Page
10 year old ds notebook page

I trimmed my lavender plant (a lot) and have lots of lavender drying in the attic.  I’m not sure what I’m going to do with it all.  I might use it in a wreath if it dries well.  DD wants to put some in soap.  I’m not sure what I need to do with it first to use in soap.  I have the  Your Backyard Herb Garden. I need to check out what to do with dried lavender leaves in there.


Then I cranked up the Mantis tiller (well, I can’t crank it, I had to wait for dh) and tilled up a little patch for spinach.  This is quite an experiment for me.  I’ve not had great success with gardening in the past, but I really want to try it again.  We have tomato and pepper plants that we’re growing from seed in the light hut.  So far one tomato plant has sprouted.