Friday, September 28, 2012

Bats! The Big Bug Scourge of the Sky!

For some reason, this is always the first thing that comes to mind when I think of bats...
After finishing the unit study on birds, our next flying creature of the fifth day was the bat. Olivia, to my surprise, really enjoyed learning all about them. She was fascinated by their wings (which are essentially webbed hands) and their use of echolocation to catch 600 bugs an hour.

Olivia demonstrating how a bat's ears are made so it can hear really well.
 When she found out they eat mosquitoes, she immediately asked when we were going to get some in our yard. We went out each night for a week to try to observe the bats in our neighborhood, but didn't see a thing. Then, the whole family took a walk one evening and, right at twilight, we saw them everywhere! Unfortunately, they are extremely hard to get a picture of... 

I think one of our spring projects will be to put a bat house up in our backyard.

Monday, September 24, 2012


Our Cottage Co-op is doing fall crops this term for our nature study. Unfortunately, Olivia had a cold and so we could not attend the first meeting. The fall crop was corn. We read a book (Corn is Maize), a poem, and then went in search of a corn field to do some observation. Olivia added an entry to her nature journal and Gabe drew a picture with my help as he told me what colors to use and what he wanted to draw.  
The corn we saw was primarily dried so it was likely that some would be used as animal feed and some for seed for next year's crop.

Ezra even tried a little coloring but wasn't really interested in connecting his picture with the corn.
Olivia is walking through the rows and using her senses to make some observations to add to her nature journal back home. 
We looked at some ears of sweet corn back at home and then cooked them to eat with our lunch.

The second meeting featured apples. Olivia's biggest take-aways were that, when cut, you could see a star inside the apple with its five seeds. The other one was that it takes about 50 leaves to give one apple nutrition to grow. Gabe's take-away was that apples come in many different colors.

In addition to our nature study topic, here are our other subjects:
 Hymn: Take My Life and Let It Be
 Composer: Claude Debussy
 Artist/Picture Study: Pierre-Auguste Renoir
 Folk Song: If I Had A Hammer
Habit: Truthfulness
Poetry: each week one parent will share a poem and then the kids each share/recite a poem of choice
 Swedish Drill and PE 

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Family Fitness

Rebecca has been wanting to do a structured Physical Education curriculum and found one called Family Time Fitness. It has 260 daily exercise routines for the whole family to take part in...well, almost all the family...

Olivia and Gabe were picking up the hoops, laying them down in front of them and then stepping into them.  Notice Mommy trying to get Ezra involved.
They had to do it all the way across the yard and back. Mommy is still trying to cajole Ezra...
It surprises me sometimes what our children are capable of doing. Here they had to hold the hoop out in front of them and balance on one foot for 20 seconds.
All-in-all we are having a great time doing the curriculum so far. Well, most of us anyway...:)

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Waterfall hike

My kids are troopers! Rebecca decided to take them back up to the same area the next day following the scavenger hunt hike to try some harder hiking.  The destinations were Dark Hollow Falls (70' 1.4 miles, rated very steep) and Lewis Falls (81' 2 miles, rated moderately steep and rocky with a stream crossing). That's right, just her and the kids. Because Emma automatically got to ride and the jogging stroller wouldn't go so far, the other three had no choice but to walk and climb.

About 5 minutes or less into hike number 1, Gabe tripped and hit his head on a rock. There was quite a bit of blood but truly it was a small hole. After starting to clean him up, Rebecca managed to get him to smile for a picture. :)

There was lots of climbing using hands and feet for the kids. Also, there was lots of slapping away flies as you can see Gabe doing here.

The kids did so well. They took it slow and Rebecca helped them along, literally and with song and encouragement. It had rained the night before so it was a rather wet hike making them muddy, especially Ezra. I am so impressed that he hiked this whole trail with only some whining/crying towards the end.

There was lots of speculation as to what this was. Olivia said that it looked like the house that Mary and Lara lived in at one time. She said that she read about them living in a house dug into the ground. (On the Banks of Plum Creek is the book she is referring to.)  :)

The kids were much more tired on this hike. They had taken a long break for lunch after the first hike and Rebecca was able to get the jogging stroller about 3 tenths of a mile down this trail giving the boys a bit of a break from hiking. But they did it! Rebecca did report that Ezra was to his "I don't like" stage. That is when he is tired or moody and his response to everything is "I don't like ______ " with a serious or frowning face. You can put anything in that blank, even things he likes or wants normally. The boys were super happy to see the stroller. Rebecca said it was much harder to push back up the trail than it had been getting it down.
They got a lovely view at Lewis falls. Unfortunately, the trail simply took them to the top of the falls and there was no safe way to climb down with the kids. So this was a mountain view and the sounds of rushing water but no actual viewing of the falls.

There were a larger variety of wildflowers and many butterflies to watch. God's creation is just beautiful!

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Scavenger Hike

During our stay in Harrisonburg, Rebecca drove the kids up to the Shenandoah mountains along Skyline Drive. They went on several hikes. The first one was on a trail called Story of the Forest near the Big Meadows area and Bryd visitor center. It was a 1.8 mile hike along an easy trail that had a free scavenger hunt adventure to go with it.  There were clues and 18 natural landmarks to find. We saw hemlocks, trees with lumps and bumps, branches shaped like deer heads, witch hazel trees, a gooseberry plant growing in a dead tree, a black fungus, and a second growth forest that had previously been a cow pasture among other things. You can see them below. Such amazing fun!

The clue read, "Find an awesome tree Indians and Pioneers used. Do not move--stay in the shade of the hemlock (our previous clue)-- turn toward the beginning of the trail--count 4 steps and look on your right hand side." Then we read about the yellow birch tree, its colors/bark and uses. 

Isn't nature just lovely to look at?!

The clue read, "Find the big rock that looks like it has snow on top" along with clues as to where it was located. Then there was a section to read about lichen and how the rocks formed and then eventually broke down.

The clue read, "Find a tree doing a backbend" and then there was a discussion about the weather in different seasons and how it affects the forest.

"A twee with 3 Twunks!" Say that 3 times! :) Did you know that sometimes a tree with grow several trunks because it had been cut down at one time. It has its original root system but as it grows, instead of sending up just one trunk it sends up several trunks. Sometimes this also happens when an animal chews on the tree when it is young. 

Red Spruce Trees planted by "Roosevelt's tree army" in the 1930s

Milkweed plants. We recently had two of our own Monarch butterflies so this was a great time for review.

Looking down on the local watering hole. We discussed the wildlife that drink from or live in this stream.

A tree (white oak) shaped like an octopus

Along for the ride. She just is so smiley. :)