Monday, July 4, 2011

A Little Fun With Our Feathered Friends

I am still learning about how to NOT control nature study -- the teacher in me thinks up lesson plans, and then I feel like I've "failed" as a homeschool mom if the lessons don't go as planned. It is only after letting a little time pass, and going back to look over my son's work, that I begin to realize the full reach of nature study, when you learn to just let go...

I am an outdoorsy person. Even when I'm inside, I'm thinking about the outside. I used to ponder the happenings at the opening of an anthill for hours as a child, and my husband teases me that I know the names of every weed and tree and slimy critter. Probably so. I dragged my two oldest sons through every thicket, and we looked under every rock in every creek. They were not always willing. And my third is not always as enthusiastic as I am, either. My consolation (and it's a big one) is that Reluctant Son #1 graduated with a double major in Natural Resources and Business, serves on his town's Parks & Recreation Commission, as well as the Inland Wetlands Commission, and is a Production Manager for one of the largest nurseries in our state. Reluctant Son #2 is a reptile enthusiast, "dad" to geckos, boas, an anole or two (I think...), as well as a cat, and works as a clerk at a local pet shop. Both of them have wall to wall aquaria in their apartments. So all my nature study DID fall on fertile ground, after all!

So I persevere with Reluctant Son #3, who sometimes appears disinterested, but then produces the gems that I'm including here today. Maybe not what the logical sequential teacher in me was expecting, but insightful and delightful, nevertheless!

Our Catbird Companion

We have a few feathery residents who are as interested in my gardening as I am. The robins and our catbird family follow around as I weed and till, searching the freshly turned soil for tasty grubs and worms. My eldest says that you can train a catbird to eat out of your hand -- we'll try that this summer.

The Grosbeak Surprise

You might recall the story about the two birdwatchers (me and Malik) having a thorny seat in the roses when we startled a Rose-breasted Grosbeak at the feeder. Well, we DID end up studying that species for a bit afterward, as part of our June Outdoor Hour Challenge -- we hear them singing every day, and Malik did a nice job capturing their coloring in his nature study notebook. (I love this paragraph -- it is so cute the way it looks like he said the male has "white underpants" -- guess we'll be working on penmanship this summer, so people won't think the bird wears "tighty whities!").

[NOTE: We used Rose-breasted Grosbeak notebooking pages from  The Notebooking Treasury to capture our learning for this Challenge and all of our bird studies.]

We discovered that our bird bath has sprung a leak over the winter, so it will be re-purposed as a table feeder for cardinals and doves. In the meantime, Malik had some other ideas for creating a bird-attracting station. He even had a list of "to-do's" which included a shopping list for Lowe's, as well as step by step directions for constructing the bird station.

Like I said, the teacher might have one idea of the outcomes of an activity, while the student often has quite a different idea! I wonder how long it will take us to put the whole thing together?

SUNY at Stony Brook has a website with bird songs and calls of common New York State birds. You can hear the Rose-breasted Grosbeak there. Also check out the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology (we called it the "O Lab" when I was there) for grosbeak songs, calls, maps and field identification tips (useful for the immatures and females, which resemble some other finches).

Are you looking for some summer activities to do this month? Did you have a hard time fitting in "specials" this year? CurrClick is hosting free membership in its Language and Culture Club, an online class where students learn new vocabulary from several world languages, as well as cultures of people around the world who speak each language. If you like the summer course, there are full online webinars available for your child (and you!).

For some music work, check out CurrClick's free banjo unit, which teaches the history of the instrument, the basic structure and how to play it. Units for drums, guitar and piano are also available, for a small fee.

If you're like me, you're reflecting on the school year past and trying to get a jump on planning for next year (or beginning it, already!).  See my article, Literacy 101: Language Arts Instruction, K-3 -- newly revised and revamped to include more book lists and ideas for teaching children from kindergarten through 3rd grade.

I'm trying to organize all my web articles in one convenient location. If you're a follower of my posts on other sites, too, you might be interested in my latest article, "These Are a Few of My Favorite Things," which is a master index of all my work (to date), including RSS feeds for all my blogs. It should update automatically, so bookmark it and check frequently.

Have a peaceful, safe Independence Day! And remember, we live in the Land of the Free, because of the brave -- thank a soldier (and that soldier's parents) today.


  1. Kim,

    I love reading your about your experience with your older sons and then applying your knowledge to your younger son. What a wonderful example to us all!

    I think your son is really personalizing his nature study and it doesn't get any better than that.

    Thank you so much for sharing your link with the OHC.

  2. Thank you, Barb. Malik really loves designing contraptions. We did a small unit on simple machines in the winter time, and he loved it.

  3. It's hard sometimes to get kids (mine, anyway) outside happily. It's wonderful, though, when they do enjoy it! Wonderful to hear what your older boys are doing to enjoy nature now!