Homeschool/Reading Notes: The Season of Nature Study

Homeschool/Reading Notes: The Season of Nature Study


(Notes from last week that I meant to post this weekend, but we were too busy with going to the farmer’s market with my mother-in-law on Saturday and then gardening and confession and dinner and baths. And then on Sunday my niece’s confirmation.)


It finally feels as if spring is here. The good spring when it’s warm and dry and you can actually get out to enjoy the flowers and green grass. The barefoot days have begun. The baby thrilling to discover that she can sit in the swing for hours watching her big brothers and sisters, them discovering again how fun it is to push a squealing baby.


Monday’s field trip to Mt Auburn Cemetery has sparked a new interest in nature study. We were dabbling before, but this week we’ve been diving in. Wednesday we read our storybooks outside. A chapter of Little House in the Highlands followed by several sections in Comstock’s Handbook of Nature Study. We read about sparrows to continue our bird studies. So far this spring our feeders have only had sparrows and an occasional cardinal or starling. I haven’t seen any tufted titmice, no goldfinches either. We have been delighted to have a pair of robins building a nest high up in one of our maples. Bella has been observing some wasps in the yard. “What do they do all day when they aren’t flying around stinging people?” she mused with a little self-deprecation at her previous lack of interest in them. So out came Comstock and we read about wasps. Then she wanted to know what else the book had. So we read about bumblebees. Later she noticed a shiny green fly landing on her hand. So I googled “green fly” and found out it was a greenbottle. Add those to our list of things we want to learn more about.


We pulled a bunch of weeds out of our garden bed and planted some of the sunflower seeds we harvested last fall. We also tossed in some zinnias and poppies. I really hope they all come up. Last year’s flowers were so glorious.

Then Bella rediscovered one of her favorite books, The Fantastic Flying Journey: An Adventure in Natural History by Gerald Durrell and Graham Percy. I picked it up at a book sale when she was a baby and I’m so glad I’ve had it lying around. It’s a lovely book that follows an eccentric family on a journey around the world in a hot air balloon. They interview animals and learn about their habits and habitats. It’s a great introduction to geography and nature study. We read a bit of it at bedtime on Wednesday and then more Thursday afternoon.


On Thursday I continued my pattern of afternoon snoozes. I fell asleep after reading the Fantastic Flying Journey and then woke up and went back for round two: More Little House in the Highlands, the story of Eeyore’s Birthday in our Pooh collection. How delightful that Bella and Sophie now understand what a poor speller Owl really is and how fun to watch Ben giggle. Sadly, Anthony, who had requested the Pooh in the first place, fell asleep before we had a chance to read it.

Also, I found a book my mom gave me years ago at about the same time that Miss Potter came out: The Journal of Beatrix Potter from 1881 to 1897 by Beatrix Potter and Leslie Linder. A delightful book that tells the biography of Beatrix Potter in the form of a journal. With flaps to lift and envelopes to open that contain handwritten letters. It’s a visual delight.


And then we read a few chapters in the new history textbook: The World’s Story. Although it isn’t quite as lively as Story of the World, it certainly has much more detail about history from a Catholic perspective. We read about the Peasants Revolt and Joan of Arc and the Hundred Years War and the Wars of the Roses and the Avignon Papacy. I wish I’d had this all along to balance out the stuff that SOTW misses.


Next up: Bella wants to learn more about grey squirrels. I’m putting this one on hold: Gray Squirrel at Pacific Avenue. It’s one of her favorite series, the Smithsonian’s Backyard. And also more about robins.


On Friday we limped our way through math this morning. Poor Bella woke up on the wrong side of the bed and was irritable all day. She required a break halfway through answering the Life of Fred questions. But she did come back to it later and finished them all. Sophie has finished Saxon and we’re dabbling with Miquon. Today we made a staircase with the Cuisinaire rods that went from 1 to 30.


Bella’s copywork has been alternating between passages from Narnia and antiphons from Morning Prayer. Today it was an antiphon, yesterday a sentence from The Horse and His Boy. We’ve worked out a system where I write it out on a piece of ruled paper and she traces over the letters on tracing paper. Sometimes Sophie will trace the same sentence as Bella, but she also likes copying passages out of picture books.


We finished Little House in the Highlands. Big sigh. There was much consternation and distress at Lady Flora’s demise and much relief and consolation in the thought of the Water Fairy caring for her and of course in Duncan’s fairy dolls. I think the Scots vs Picts game was an especial favorite. And I don’t recall where she learned about drop spindles, but Bella figured out the answer to Martha’s dilemma before Auld Mary produced it.


We read a bit more in the Beatrix Potter Journal– we got up through her engagement and the death of Norman Warne. And Anthony requested Jane Yolen’s Owl Moon. I love doing the owl hoots in that one. So fun. And the pictures are gorgeous. It seemed appropriate too after Monday’s owl pellets.

It was a rainy day so everyone was cranky at being cooped up inside. Lucia seems to be working on a tooth too.

I’ve been dipping in to a couple of books about dodos. And starting The Dresden Files. And getting into too many debates on Facebook.


Join the discussion

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

  • Love your learning notes, as always ๐Ÿ™‚

    If my kids are anything to do by, yours will be thrilled to bits to read these journals of yours when they are older. There is something so satisfying about reading through all the little details of a day or week, loving inscribed by one’s mother, much of which they will activelt remember, once they read about it ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Ellie, Thank you. I truly hope so. I love writing them and I love going back and re-reading old ones. I hope my kids someday read them fondly as part of our family’s collective memory.

  • PS, my eldest is 25, was homeschooled all the way through, so I’ve been around the homeschooling merry go round for a while …. SOTW has been lauded in homeschooling circles for a long long time. A very long time ago, at a gathering of homeschooling parents where we shared our favorite History resources, i had the chance to page through the it. I was appalled at the lies that were written in it. Not unbalanced History, but outright historical falsehoods. I was shocked. (My own bias is that I am a History buff all caps, of course). It is one thing to gently introduce children to History with age-appropriate materials: what I cannot bear is false history.

    • Ellie, I’m not a history buff, my geek-area is Literature. So I’d really be curious as to the precise errors in the SOTW books that you looked at.Do you remember which volume you looked at? I understand they get worse in the later books, post Reformation, but up to where we are now, I haven’t noticed many glaring errors, at worst an emphasis I haven’t wholly agreed with. I like the story style and I like that they cover non-Western history concurrently with Western civilization. I’m not terribly concerned with precision for first and second grade, what matters most for me is that they get a sense of the general outline of history and an enjoyment of it. However, I’m always open to finding something better than what I have now. What did you use for history?

      • Re: SOTW, i would have to check them out from the library and write up a review. I’m not sure I want to tackle that (I am almost positive I write such an animal at my original homeschooling blog but that’s gone now …). I probably shouldn’t have said anything except … Ergh. They are just not good history, in my opinion …..

        In terms of what to use for History or what did I use, do we use …. Oh boy! Not easy to answer quickly!

        For me, philosophically, educationally-speaking, the early years are much different from ages 10 and up.

        For the younger years: Bible stories, saints’ stories, age-appropriate biographies of Scholars, Travelers/Explorers, Rulers etc etc. for the Middle Ages, when studying Marco Polo, also do Benjamin of Tudela (Jewish traveler from Spain), and Ibn Batutta (Muslin traveler from Morocco).

        Do you kids like coloring books? The Dover History coloring books can be a great way to gently introduce knowledge about various eras and cultures.

        This is all just off the top of my head ….

  • David has been very into tracing for his copywork, he will trace LOADS of copywork and then ask for more if he’s in the mood. But he had trouble handling the tracing paper and the bottom layer, and I had trouble getting the copywork written out for him in the style he’s used to. Sometimes I would accidentally veer into script, and had to start over. So I found a dashed print font to use, which simplifies providing him with copywork.

    There’s a whole bunch linked here, the one I’ve been using is Print Clearly Dashed.

    • For Sophie I’ve been putting a piece of scotch tape across the top to fasten the two layers together. That seems to be sufficient to prevent an excess of sliding. Bella hates the tape and so deals with the slippage.

      I like writing print so that hasn’t been a problem for me.

  • I love hearing about all of the reading you do throughout your day and getting great book suggestions from you. My kids are the same ages as yours (and similar temperaments), though I only have 4, so I feel like we are on the same page. Thanks for sharing it all and keep it up! It is encouraging!