Monday, September 20, 2010

Give-away winners!

Okay, so that give-away wasn't very popular, but at least the odds of winning were pretty high! The winners are:

Homeschool Dawn


The McDonalds

With so few people entered, I felt so bad for the ones who didn't get picked. So I figured, I'll just give everyone a copy! So Melissa and Heather, you won't get the journal, but I hope you enjoy the book as much as I did. And Sharon, I wish Amazon Prime would ship to you, but let me know if you can't find it in Australia. Maybe I can convince Marc we need to take a vacation like you did! : )

Everyone, email me your mailing address (Dawn and Ruthanne, I still have yours).

Saturday, September 18, 2010

OHC Autumn Series #1: Nature Journal

The new school year is underway, and it's time to start up our Outdoor Hour Challenges again! We spent plenty of time doing informal nature study over the summer, but I'm ready for some structure again.

An exciting development at Blue House Academy is the addition of what my kids call "Friday School." My friend, Casey, and her two children, Cameron and Avery, will be meeting with us for a mini co-op. Our mornings will include art, math or other games, and nature study. We are all looking forward to the fellowship and I'm looking forward to the accountability. It is so easy to put off those subjects, so hopefully this will help me be more consistent with our nature study this year.

The kids enjoyed decorating cardboard boxes in the style of Piet Mondrian and Frank Stella. Thanks, Casey, for a great lesson and activity!

Next was a short math game, and then nature study. This week's Outdoor Hour Challenge topic was the nature journal. Anna Botford Comstock says in her Handbook of Nature Study, "[The field notebook] is a friendly gate which admits the teacher to a knowledge of what the child sees and cares for." It is not to be corrected like a grammar or spelling assignment, nor is it to be forced upon the child. So we began our nature time by just talking about how it might be fun to keep a record of our adventures. I showed them a few pages from Keeping a Nature Journal, explaining that even adults can keep nature journals -- so it's not just a "school thing." I think for the purposes of our little group we'll stick with notebooking pages that they will keep in a folder, but both of my kids have little spiral notebooks that we also use for nature study. I also won this neat nature journal from my friend Dawn's blog and am eager to start using it. Finally, we'll also be using Beginning Birdwatcher's Book with 48 Stickers to go along with Apologia's Zoology I. There are so many neat materials these days to help us journal!

Then we headed outside to the front yard. There was no particular plan other than to just to look around and see what looked interesting.

There was some debate on the differences between mushroom and toadstools. I told the kids I would do some research on the topic and report back. I thought this explanation from the Australian website FungiBank was helpful.
The terms ‘mushroom’ and ‘toadstool’ are subjective rather than strictly scientific, and therefore are open to a range of loose interpretations. In general, fungi with fruit bodies that have a cap more or less centrally placed on top of a stem are referred to as ‘mushrooms’, or as ‘mushrooms and toadstools’. Some people broadly consider that all fungi with a cap and stem are ‘mushrooms’, while others consider only edible fungi as ‘mushrooms’. In the strictest sense, the word ‘mushroom’ refers only to members of the genus Agaricus, e.g. the cultivated white button mushroom. ‘Toadstool’ is typically applied to any fungus with a cap and stem that appears different from Agaricus, regardless of its edibility, or more usually if it is suspected or known to be poisonous. In a broader sense, ‘toadstools’ also includes other non-mushroom forms of fungi such as puffballs, earthstars, and coral fungi.
I'm not going to be nitpicky about what word they use, but it was a good opportunity to expand on something that interested them. We'll discuss it more next week.

While they were debating mushrooms and toadstools, I almost walked into this lovely web. This time of year it's more surprising that I didn't walk into a web on our nature outing!

Grace enjoyed showing everyone the pears that don't really look like pears.


Ummm... not so lovely. The girls were crying for us to save the butterfly (it was frantically flapping around while the spider did its work), while the boys just said, "COOL!!!!"

We found an empty bird nest in a tree surrounded by some sort of wild grapes. I clipped an article a couple of years ago that gave the name of these grapes, but now I can't find it. Apparently a local chef uses them in his upscale restaurant. I've googled, but cannot figure out what they are.

After our outdoor time we went inside, carrying handfuls of flowers, pears, grapes, moss, and whatever else we found. The kids all completed a notebook page, although the girls seemed much more interested than the boys. I would love some ideas for getting boys more interested in journaling! I followed Comstock's directions and did not correct backward b's or other mistakes.

Our nature study is off to a great start, and we've decided it definitely is more fun with friends!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

"How dreadfully old I am getting!" {and a give-away!}

That is the first sentence in the book Stepping Heavenward. Those words are very appropriate today, because today I am one year older. {Sigh}

Only the main character, Katherine, wrote those words in her journal when she was turning just sixteen. {Sigh}

I'm so old I can hardly remember sixteen anymore.

Never mind. Bemoaning my old age is not the point of this post.

Last year during ladies' Bible study at my church, the book we were reading referenced Elizabeth Prentiss, author of Stepping Heavenward. The faces of the other women in the group all lit up as they said practically in unison, "I love that book." I had heard the title before, but knew nothing about the book. So I made a mental note to put it on my long to-read list, and I finally got around to reading it early this summer.

I love this book.

It has earned a "forever" place next to my bed, because I love to just open it up and reread short portions. My girls will each get a copy for their sixteenth birthday.

The story, first published in 1869, is the fictional journal of Katherine and documents her spiritual journey as she changes from an emotional teenager to a seasoned mother. So often her words described my own thoughts in a way I could never convey to paper.

It is a marvel to me why God allows characters like mine to defile His Church. I can only account for it with the thought that if I ever am perfected, I shall be a great honor to His name, for surely worse material for building up a temple of the Holy Ghost was never gathered together before. The time may come when those who know me now, crude, childish, incomplete, will look upon me with amazement, saying, "What hath God wrought! If I knew such a time would never come, I should want to flee into the holes and caves of the earth." (p. 208)

To me, Stepping Heavenward is the perfect example of a living book. I could have read self-help books on marriage, more books on parenting, and a whole shelf of books on Christian living, yet still not have received as much guidance as this one small book gave me.

My darling, precious children! For their sakes I am continually constrained to seek after an amended, a sanctified life; what I want them to become I must become myself. (p.209)

Through this book I became much more aware of God's sanctifying grace in my life and how I should respond to this gift.

For me to live to Christ seems natural enough, for I have been driven to Him not only by sorrow but by sin. Every outbreak of my hasty temper sends me weeping and penitent to the foot of the cross, and I love much because I have been forgiven much. (p. 216)

But it's not a book of lessons; it is a beautiful story, which is what makes it so much more appealing than a shelf full of self-help books.

Some of my favorite quotes come from the end of the book, but I don't want to spoil the treasure of reading the words yourself.

Because you are going to read this book.

I insist.

In fact, in honor of how dreadfully old I am getting, I am giving away three copies of Stepping Heavenward for three readers to win. I chose the number three in honor of my last year as a 30-something. {Sigh}

Plus, I'm throwing in a journal with each of the three books for you to document your own spiritual journey or to use as you wish. If you've already read the book, enter anyway and give the book to a friend.

Enter by leaving an encouraging comment about how I do not look a day over 29 -- Oh, I forgot my profile picture has been missing since I changed my Google account this summer. I think I need to schedule another photo shoot in the closet! Any comments that make me feel my age (or even older) will disqualify you from winning. : )

You can enter a second time by telling your friends about the give-away (just leave a second comment telling me you spread the word). Comments must be received by midnight (CST) Sunday, September 19. I'll announce the winners Monday morning. Sorry, only people in the continental U.S. are eligible.

Just a warning: Elizabeth Prentiss also the wrote the hymn, "More Love to Thee, O Christ." Never again will you be able to sing it without crying. Trust me; that's a good thing.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Outdoor Hour Challenge Ebook with free gift - today's the last day!

Note: I wrote this post last week, but got distracted and then forgot to post it! So sorry!

Who would like to join me for some nature study this school year? If the idea sounds attractive, but overwhelming, let me share my secret: Barb at Handbook for Nature Study. Every week she has an Outdoor Hour Challenge that guides you in being a guide for your children. She provides the topic, a short reading assignment for mom (from Anna Comstock's Handbook of Nature Study which can be found free online), and finally ideas for your nature study. Then you're encouraged to blog about your outdoor hour (which can actually be as short as 15 minutes). To me, that's half the fun -- getting to see what everyone else did and sharing our own adventures.

Barb has put together an ebook with all the 2010 autumn challenges, complete with notebooking pages specific to each challenge. I purchased my copy yesterday last week and it looks wonderful. Plus, if you order by Tuesday, September 7, TODAY you will receive a free set of nature notebooking pages from I used their state pages last year and loved them, so I'm very excited about this free gift!

I'm not blogging about this for a give-away or any reason other than I just really like this resource and wanted you to know about a great deal. : )

Happy Homeschooling!

The pictures in this post were from a nature walk Grace and I took a year ago, but never made the blog. Grace was excited to show me a giant uprooted tree in our neighborhood.