Lessons in Fleabane

April 22, 2014 at 9:10 pm (Education, Reviews) (, , , , , , , , , , )

Book - Wildflowers Of TexasMy favorite thing about homeschooling is hitting the books and walking in the woods.  All of our lessons involve those two things in some combination or another and it’s so invigorating.  Fresh air, sunshine, open spaces, trees, and good books – I don’t understand how I learned anything in any other fashion. With spring upon us, we’ve been going headlong into Wildflowers of Texas. We love this book. This book has already enabled us to identify Bull Thistles (& Yellow Thistles), Herbertia, and a number of other plants we’ve seen popping up along the trails in the last month.  We like taking the book with us, so if the little girl has a question we can pull out the book right away and discover its name.  The flowers are sectioned off by color to make it easy to do quickly. This weekend, we identified Philadelphia Fleabane, which apparently is an edible weed.  Roots, stems, leaves, flowers, every part of this plant can be made into teas and poultices.  Today, we made tea out of the flowers (making it from the root is more traditional, but the flowers work for a quick tea). P1010739So on our trail walk today, we collected fleabane flowers.  (Kiddo likes to pick them anyway, so if we’re collecting flower baskets, I’d like to get good use out of them.) There are a whole host of lessons that come into foraging.  Identify the plant, spell the name of the plant – with a three year old we get to talk about phonics and how the ‘ph’ in Philadelphia makes the same sound as the ‘f’ in Fleabane.  I wonder if in the long run the F sounds will always bring to mind images of white sunflower-like-daisy flowers and the smell of fresh, nearly summer tea. We learned that “fleabane” is a common name for Erigeron and is part of the Asteraceae (sunflower) family. P1010741  Once home, another science lesson ensues.  Boiling water on the stove.  After all, boiling is the rapid vaporization of a liquid with occurs when heat is applied.  We get to discuss the words ‘rapid’ and ‘vaporization.’  Rapid ties into our synonyms lesson (from the Bryan P. Collins’ Words are Categorical series that we’ve been reading since birth.)  Kiddo’s eyes light up when she sees the water get hot enough to cause steam and bubbles. P1010742We’ve used the strainers before, and the measuring cups, but becoming a pro in the kitchen is something to strive for daily.  Making tea this way is the perfect opportunity to practice reading our measurements and understanding what those mean… two cups, one cup, half cup, etc.  Understanding these concepts visually before setting fractions in front of them when they’re older is essential, I think.  Plus, there are some practical life skills gained from knowing how to make fresh food from fresh sources. P1010743 I also like her growing up knowing that food has purpose beyond pleasure and satisfaction.  This tea, for instance, has very little flavor.  It is a bit floral, obviously, having been made from flowers, but without honey tastes a bit like fancy water. It is a natural insecticide but is edible.  You can treat headaches with it as well as inflammations of the nose and throat.  It cleanses the kidneys and can aid against gout.  Be warned, like chamomile and licorice root, fleabane tea made from the roots can induce miscarriages and was commonly used for menstrual issues and birth control by Native American tribes.  Now, we’re diving into history… P1010744 The picture came out a little blurry.  But now, we’re enjoying our tea and a game of Name That Continent. Happy Earth Day.

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Oh The Holidays of April…

April 20, 2014 at 11:12 pm (Events) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

4-20, Easter Sunday, Resurrection Sunday, Spring Equinox, Earth Day (on the 22nd)… so many things to celebrate.  Today, we hid from them all and took to the woods after doing some spring cleaning and moving of furniture.

So as we practiced the catechism (“Who made you?” “God made me.” “What else did God make?” “All things.”  And so on), we gathered wildflowers in an ‘Easter’ basket and frolicked in the sunshine.

It looked a bit like this:

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This time in the woods was refreshing, as always.  And much needed after the exciting week we had.  All day yesterday I was out celebrating Earth Day with S. Smith on her last day in Houston, while kiddo was with her Grandmom dyeing Easter eggs (a tradition I can only get behind because I love eating hard boiled eggs).

Below are pictures from the Earth Day Celebration Seed Savers Signings at HPB Humble and then HPB Montrose.

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There’s more celebrating to be had.  S.Smith will be touring San Antonio, Austin, and Dallas before she heads back to Oregon; and HPB Humble will be giving away reusable bags to the first 25 customers Tuesday morning.  Next Saturday (HPB Humble) there will also be a seed presentation by the Mercer Arboretum volunteers!

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Earth Day Reading With Little People

April 17, 2014 at 11:33 pm (Education, Reviews) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

The Weekly Low Down on Kids Books – selected by The Kiddo

Holiday reading with preschoolers can actually be quite fun.  Although most people are doing a lot of Easter books, we’ve spent our focus on nature, enjoying spring, and covering the catechism this week.  Easter bunnies and egg hunting a thing on hold for now.

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Our daily go to during any season tends to be Cat in the Hat Learning Library and Magic School Bus books.  We love these.  They are highly educational and should be included in any homeschool student’s arsenal.  Kiddo goes back and forth on which of the two she likes best.  (A lot of times it’s Cat in the Hat Learning Library before bed and during day light hours it’s all about Magic School Bus.)

Life Cycles books are also great to read through when seedlings are popping out of the ground and butterflies are flitting from flower to flower.  It’s nice to read through the book and then step out into nature and see how much we can find in the woods that resembles what we’ve just read.

Because it’s Earth Day season (the actual day is April 22nd, which falls on a Tuesday this year), we’ve been reading up on conservation and organic gardening.  Of course, that also means that I’m letting my three year old water my tomatoes and walk in my garden.  It’s a learning experience for her and a letting go experience for me.

That’s why the woods being by the house is best for us.  It’s where I can really let her go and frolic and be herself.

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When we get to the open fields she gets to pick as many flowers as she wants.

P1010629Whether you want to make it part of your normal routine or you’re just celebrating Earth Day, check out kiddo’s favorite books and find a good outdoor park this weekend.  The fresh air and sunshine is amazing.

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Bouquet of Color

March 7, 2014 at 11:40 pm (Education) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

Revisiting…

dirt

Title:  I Love Dirt!

(52 Activities to help you and your kids discover the wonders of nature)

Today, we went for a much needed walk in the woods.  When the weather is nice, we’re out there five days a week.  When the weather is too hot to be nice, we’re out there four days a week.  When the weather is obnoxiously freezing cold, wet, and completely unnatural to a born and bred Texan, we hide indoors and rock back and forth holding our hot coffee and teas.  Well, not quite, but close.  We actually sit by the window and watch the birds eat bits of things we’ve left in the yard, name the squirrels that live in the trees out back, and read stories by the fire burning in the fireplace.

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Today, the sun was out for a bit.  It wasn’t quite so cold.  We needed the woods and we needed it bad.  There was cheering involved.

So, we loaded up our trustee going out bag and went for a trek.  Tucked inside was our copy of I Love Dirt and as soon as we hit the trails we read from chapter two: Bouquet of Color.

Bouquet of Color is an exercise in finding flowers and identifying how many colors we can see.  It’s a purely natural I Spy game.

P1010201   We discovered more flowers we would call purple than I would have supposed.  Lots of purple field pansies, baby blue eyes (that look more purple than blue), and even some butterfly peas.  We saw a lot of pointed phlox, but that is categorically considered a ‘red’ wildflower… so maybe we’re a little colorblind because they looked pinkish purple to us.

Of course, there was a lot of yellow in the form of dandelions, but not as many as I would have guessed.   We found a lot of dewberry patches sporting their telling white blooms, and took note of where they were so we could come forage berries come summer.  Yet, tt seemed Kiddo was still shouting “I see purple!” more than any other phrase.

P1010203We were pretty excited about the blossoms on this tree.  See what they look like up close.  Anyone know what it is?

Click this photo to find out…

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Sometimes on the trail we get distracted from whatever task is at hand and just enjoy ourselves.  Here she said, “I want to put the sun in my mouth!” I couldn’t resist snapping that picture.

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