Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Nature Study :: Growing Butterflies

The start of a new school year seemed the perfect opportunity to finally order the caterpillars that came with the butterfly habitat we received in the spring.  This is something I have wanted to do for years, ever since reading Charlotte Mason's List of Attainments, but we have never had caterpillars in our own yard to observe.  So I was happy to find this kit as a second-best option.

Five caterpillars arrived a week later, and a few days later, we woke up to find two had molted into their pupas.

We were able to watch the other two pupate that morning at the breakfast table.  The last one was such fun to watch--wiggling off its molt, spinning faster and faster from its hook until it finally flung its last skin against the side of the cup and fell still.  We all squealed with excitement. 

And then the butterflies emerged much the same way, two overnight and two before our eyes: breaking through their chrysalis, wriggling out with their front legs, waiting for their wings and antennae to unfurl and dry, then fluttering around the cage.

They have been such a treat to observe.

We let them go this weekend.  I opened their habitat and waited for them to hurry away--but they didn't.  They stayed within, letting out their long tongues to dip into the flowers we dropped in there this week, flying up to the top but not quite out.  A couple hours later, all were finally gone but one.

It stuck around a little while, finding a favorite spot on Gianna's pant leg.  She stood motionless for several minutes, content to have it there, until it finally hopped off and onto a yellow clover for a quick snack, then into the hebe bush for another sip, and then over the fence and away.

I'm thinking this will be a once-a-year tradition for us.

Friday, July 11, 2014

What We're Reading :: First Week of School

Charlotte Yonge's Daisy Chain (my current reading-on-the-tablet book, perfect for when I'm holding baby--I absolutely love it so far)
Laura Hillenbrand's Unbroken (recommendation from dear Angela)
Charlotte Mason's Volume 6 (I'm trying to keep up with the reading schedule over on the AO forums right now)

Vincent, age 8:
C.W. Anderson's Complete Book of Horses and Horsemanship (a birthday gift)
Burton's The Song of Robin Hood (another birthday gift, this time from Grandma--a beautiful volume)
Windeatt's The Cure of Ars (his Sunday reading)
and still making his way through the Redwall series

Gianna, age 7:
Carroll's Through the Looking Glass (she was especially intrigued by the chess references at the start--so fun)
the rest of the All-of-a-Kind Family series (re-started it as soon as she finished it last week, this time reading aloud bits to Cate)
Neumann Press' Catholic Stories for Boys and Girls Vol.1 (her Sunday reading)
Eager's Magic by the Lake (the first sequel to Half-Magic)

Cate, age 5:
Flack's Ask Mr. Bear (just checked it out for her to read on her own!)
...and BOB books.  Oh, how she loves her BOB books. :)

To the Big Kids:
MacDonald's At the Back of the North Wind and Kingsley's Water Babies (we'll be reading these two AO Y3 "free reads" slowly over the course of the whole school year)
Wilder's On the Banks of Plum Creek (on audio, read by Cherry Jones)

To the Kindergartener:
Kindergarten Gems and Leading Little Ones to Mary (both by her request)
Elliott's Common Birds and Their Songs (her choice too--we just page through and I read her the captions)

To the Littles:
the Little House picture book series (4yo Xavier's long-time favorite)
Beatrix Potter's Ginger and Pickles (2yo Bridget's current favorite--and hearing her say "Ginger and Pickles" ranks right up there with "cutest things ever")
Aliki's Welcome, Little Baby (1yo Clara's current favorite--used to be Bridget's last month, and now the obsession has passed on to little sister)

And more used-book finds:
A box in the mail and a stop at the thrift store earlier this week leaves me with a nice little haul to find shelf space for!  A peek at just a few...

Monday, July 7, 2014

Back to School

Hi, friends!  I didn't intend to take a couple-week break from blogging, but I spent the time prepping our materials and pre-reading for the coming school year--which starts today!

I felt a bit like the mouse in Numeroff's books: if you give a homeschooling mom five minutes of free time, she's going to look over math curricula...

...and as she's organizing math books, she'll notice that all the bookshelves need sorting...

...and while she's sorting bookshelves, she'll spot the Calendar of Firsts and realize it needs updating...

Thankfully this little guy kept me from taking on anything too complex!  

Have I mentioned that he definitely sleeps best when snuggled up on mama?  Yes, well, ahem.  Time has been in short supply lately, and I wasn't sure we would be quite ready to start today.  Luckily Ambleside Online did most of my school planning for me. ;)

This year Gianna and Vincent are in third grade, doing mostly AO Year 3.  And I have a new student: Cate is starting kindergarten!

There has never been a girl more excited to start school!  This little dear has been asking me daily when her kindergarten starts for the past two months.  She's looking forward to learning to use scissors, doing a bit of math on the abacus, and special reading times with Mommy.  We keep kindergarten very informal and completely voluntary here, but I have a few fun things in mind for us two this year.

I can't wait to share what we'll be doing this term--I'm already swooning over our booklists after my first week of pre-reading.  I've also incorporated some new Keeping habits that I think we'll all enjoy, adapted our chore list to accommodate my growing kids, and reworked our schedule a tad.  Wish us luck!

(P.S. Apparently our painted lady caterpillars plotted together to make our morning special--three pupated overnight, and we got to watch the last one reveal its chrysalis right before our eyes after breakfast!)

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Picture Books We Love :: Favorite Folk Songs, Part Two

I'm back to add a few more of our favorite picture books based on folk and patriotic songs.  (You can read my first round of picks here.)  Summer seems like the perfect time to get these out and enjoy some singing-along...and of course, July 4th is coming up as well.

We really enjoy Will Hillenbrand's illustrative take on the simple Fiddle-i-Fee--I won't spoil the surprise, but it involves a charming animal band preparing for a special performance.  I remember reading this one over and over when my two oldest were tiny.

Peter Spier's The Star-Spangled Banner is a favorite here for a couple reasons: his historically-detailed and vivid illustrations delight us all, and we're so happy that he includes all four verses of our anthem.  (And I just noticed that they are re-releasing his Caldecott-winning version of Fox Went Out on a Chilly Night this September--that'll make a perfect Christmas gift for my 4yo!)

I have to admit that I cringe slightly at the overtly political lyrics in This Land is Your Land...is that just me?  But those first few stanzas are truly lovely and the tune is so fun--and Kathy Jakobsen's detailed paintings make this book irresistible.

I didn't mention it last time, but one of the most fun things about this genre is that even my preschoolers can "read" these books aloud for their younger siblings.  You can imagine how proud that makes them. :)

Now I'm on to a new project: I have a big stack of folk song compilation books out from the library with an eye toward adding a few new ones to our personal collection for my big kids to play piano from.  I'll be sure to share which ones make the cut. If you have a favorite or two (especially if they're suitable for beginning-intermediate piano players), let me know!

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

{In a Week}

Hello, friends!  I hope you're having a lovely week.  We are still taking it easy, but there has still been lots going on in our home...

playing Mass
ballet practice - they're not in lessons but are teaching themselves from a book!
lots of incidental copywork and composition
she asks me to take a picture of her with her finished puzzles *every* time
our learning-to-reader with a little audience
more wildflowers
I have been busy keeping Baby Girl entertained...

And these two are so fun to watch together...

And then there is this little darling, who is already a month old now and getting so big...

I hope to be back soon with some more folk song favorites.  Until then!

Friday, June 13, 2014

Nature Study Outing :: Tiny Finds at the Park

After two weeks cooped up at home with our newborn, my kids were begging me to take them out for nature study beyond our backyard.  To be honest, I knew a change of scenery would do me good too--as much as I am thankful for days at home with a sweet baby sleeping on my chest, a bit of sunshine and fresh air sounded heavenly.

So I left the two littlest at home with Daddy and we went out for a quick trip to the park.  I promised them a half hour swinging and sliding if we spent a few minutes hunting down wildflowers first.  It was a fruitful little outing; we found a new flower for our life list...

Birdfoot trefoil
...and the children spotted some old favorites that they wanted to add to their nature journals.

Lots of chickory everywhere!
And as we were off the path, my son noticed this little group of berry-red insect eggs on a geranium leaf.

They are really tiny--the whole cluster was maybe three millimeters round.

We had packed light and left the pocket microscope at home, but luckily I had a small container along to bring it home in for a better look.

I have no idea what kind of eggs they are, but don't they look like jelly beans?

What have you been enjoying on your nature outings lately?  I'd love to hear!

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

What We're Reading :: Summer!

Elizabeth Goudge's Green Dolphin Street (had to return it half-way through, but now it's waiting at the library for me again)
Elizabeth Gaskell's North and South (rewatched the BBC series with my husband last week and decided that it was time to read it!)
Richard Headstrom's Adventures with a Hand Lens (previewing this to use with my two oldest next year)

With the children:
Elizabeth Enright's The Saturdays (just finished!)
Sidney Taylor's All-of-a-Kind Family (my girls in particular are so enchanted with this one)
Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, on audiobook read by BJ Harrison (really well done)
Howard Pyle's Robin Hood, on audiobook read by David Thorn (finishing up the last few chapters from our Year 2 studies--one of my son's very favorites)

Gianna, age 7:
Redwall, Redwall, and more Redwall! (she is racing through the series)
Fr. Francis' God Lives in Me (her Sunday reading)
Elizabeth Enright's Spiderweb for Two: A Melendy Maze (last of the sequels to The Saturdays--she keeps reciting bits of the clues to herself throughout the day)

Vincent, age 7:
Henry's Album of Horses (not sure what inspired the horse craze, but he and Xavier have been looking through this together daily)
Elizabeth Enright's The Four-Story Mistake (the first sequel to The Saturdays) 
D'Aulaires' Book of Trolls and Book of Norse Myths (much "playing Thor" going on here)
...and he's also Redwall-obsessed these days!

To the littles:
A Very Little Child's Book of Stories with Jessie Wilcox Smith's lovely illustrations (5yo Cate's current favorite)
17 Kings and 42 Elephants (4yo Xavier's current favorite, from his Easter basket)
Neumann Press' My Mass Book (2yo Bridget's current favorite--she loves to hold her dolly and and pretend she's a mommy at Mass)
Rockwell's Big Wheels (1yo Clara's current favorite--she is definitely a truck-loving little girl)

And in the mail:
And as usual, a couple boxes came in the mail this week with some fun treasures.  I think I might be a tad obsessed with online used book buying...