Saturday, April 30, 2011

52 Weeks of Giving - Week 17 - Helping the Birds

This week for the 17th week of the 52 Weeks of Giving challenge, the girls helped the birds who are starting to build nests by creating nesting containers for them. 

Olivia making a bird nesting container.

Each of the girls filled a wire container normally used for bird suet with a variety of items:

- wool yarn cut into small pieces
- sheep wool
- horse hair

Sophia adding sheep wool to her bird nesting container.

They hung the nesting containers on two different trees near where birds made nests last year.  The wrens are starting to make their nests now, so hopefully we'll see them visit the nesting containers and take some of the items in them. 

52 Books in 52 Weeks ----- Week 18 ----- Sickened

For this week's book in the 52 Books in 52 Weeks challenge, I chose Sickened - The True Story of a Lost Childhood by Julie Gregory. 

The description on the back cover of the book caught my attention: 

"A young girl is perched on the cold chrome of yet another doctor's examining table, mising yet another day of school.

Just twelve, she is tall, skinny, and weak.  It's four o'clock and she hasn't been allowed to eat anything all day.

Her mother, on the other hands, seems curiously excited.  She's about to suggest open-heart surgery on her child 'to get to the bottom of this.'

She checks her teeth once more for lipstick, and as the doctor enters, shoots the girl a warning glance.

This child will not ruin her plans."

When most people think of domestic violence, they associate it with a male aggressor’s domination over a woman. Yet, in Julie Gregory’s case, and in the case of the majority who suffer from Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy (MBP), the violence that she underwent was caused by a maternal parent towards her vulnerable and powerless child.

According to SickenedMBP "may be the single most complex - and lethal - form of maltreatment known today."  Basically, MBP is when a caregiver (often a child’s natural mother) becomes irrationally convinced that her child is sick and - despite any medical evidence to the contrary - insists that the child be subjected to a multitude of often physically-invasive medical practices.

The caregiver becomes increasingly more frustrated as more medical professionals insist that the child is not sick. This frustration leads the caregiver to sicken the child or have the child act ill to fool doctors and specialists.

I began reading Sickened this morning and read 65 pages before relunctantly putting the book down to do other things.  It is absolutely fascinating - though quite sad - to read the impact MBP has on the author. 

This is the first time I've read anything about MBP from the victim's perspective.  In college, when working towards a degree in psychology, I learned about MBP briefly.  However, learning about different disorders in college was done as an overview (e.g., name of disorder, brief definition, key symptoms). 

Sickened provides an in-depth look at the mother (perpetrator), child (victim), and others in the picture (e.g., grandparents, husbands - the mother was married twice, doctors, specialists). 

The author can remember such tiny details - albeit very paintful ones - which paints a captivating picture of what life was like during her early, formative years.

If the remainder of the book continues as this one does, I would highly recommend it for anyone who in interested in learning more about MBP. 

This book is quite an interesting contrast to another one that I'm reading right now called Home Education by Charlotte Mason.  (Charlotte Mason was a British educator who lived in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Her method, the Charlotte Mason method, is centered around the idea that education is three-pronged: Education is an Atmosphere, a Discipline, a Life.  I use many of her ideas and methods with homeschooling Sophia and Olivia.)

The beginning of Home Education opens with Charlotte Mason's belief that children are a public trust.  She says,

"...that work which is of most importance to society is the bringing up and instruction of the children –– in the school, certainly, but far more in the home, because it is more than anything else the home influences brought to bear upon the child that determine the character and career of the future man or woman.

It is a great thing to be a parent: there is no promotion, no dignity, to compare with it.

....The children are, in truth, to be regarded less as personal property than as public trusts, put into the hands of parents that they may make the very most of them for the good of society.

And this responsibility is not equally divided between the parents: it is upon the mothers of the present that the future of the world depends, in even a greater degree than upon the fathers, because it is the mothers who have the sole direction of the children's early, most impressible years."

Clearly, Sickened and Home Education provide two vastly different views on motherhood and raising children.  As I read through Sickened, I'm horrified (and saddened) that there have been - and, unfortunately, will continue to be - children subjected to living their lives with such abuse (physical and mental/psychological) at the hands of their parents, most often their mothers. 

As I look at the photographs in Sickened, it reflects a life and story of courage and persistent spirit. It has appeared in over 20 countries and was named Book Of The Year by The Sunday London Times, and editor’s pick in Entertainment Weekly, as well as being a top ten book of the year in their December issue. It is definitely a worthwhile book to read.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Learning How to Transplant Houseplants

Many years ago, the girls planted two terrariums as well as a variety of cacti in two different planters. The cacti have outgrown their planters, so it was time that the plants were re-distributed to give the roots some more room.

The girls had never transplanted plants before, so I thought it would be a good thing for them to learn.

The first container had three different types of cacti plus an aloe vera plant.  When the plants were only about 2"-3" tall when they initially planted together.  In only a few years, they have grown quite a bit.

The other exciting thing - for the girls, especially - was that there were numerous smaller off-shoots that were starting to emerge from the soil ("baby plants" as they termed them). 
This is what the planter looked like before the transplanting.

Sophia decided to work with this one since she likes the aloe vera plant.  The next step was to fill the planter with some soil.

Sophia filling her container with soil.
She removed the plant from the soil along with its super long roots.

Sophia holding the aloe vera plant and
showing its long roots.

After adding more soil around the aloe vera plant, she watered it.  Since being transplanted about a week ago, the plant has done very well.  Now it has some room to spread out and not compete for water and space.

The aloe vera plant in its own container.

The other container also started out with similar-size plants (2"-3" plants).  The plant in the back has grown into what now looks like a small tree compared to the other cacti.  Olivia wanted to give the "tree" its own container.

The container before transplanting.

Olivia filled her container with soil, just like Sophia did.  She, likewise, allowed room in the container given the size of the "tree."
Olivia filling her planter with soil.

Olivia removed the "tree" from the container.  "It's heavy!" Olivia said.  She was so suprised at the weight of the plant once it was removed and she was holding it.

Olivia holding the plant she will be transplanting.

This is the result of Olivia's first transplanting.  Her "tree" is doing well on its own, just like the aloe vera plant. 

Olivia's "tree" that she transplanted.

We put the "baby plants" in a smaller planter and put them on an east-facing window ledge. 

Off-shoots of larger cacti and the aloe vera plant.

We are hoping that they develop stronger roots and grow larger.  It will be the first time that both girls will have successfully started new plants. 

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Learning about Mexico through Food

The girls have been doing a multi-year study about different countries around the world (from A to Z).  Currently, they are on "X."  Since no countries in the world begin with an "X," I chose Mexico for them to study. 

They have already studied about Mexico at a couple different times in the past few years, once when we did a unit study using the Josephina series of books (part of the American Girl series).  They also learned about Mexican holidays and celebratations through a Home Ec class I taught a few years ago.  We focused on Las Posadas and some of the food that would be made for that holiday.

Currently, we have focused on learning more about the Aztec and Mayan cultures. In addition, we have done some cooking recipes from the book Fun with Mexican Cooking by Karen Ward.

The girls took a look at the book and chose some recipes from it to try.  There are a few more recipes that we want to try (including one for salsa and one for a type of bread). 

One of the recipes the girls tried was for churritos.  It was an easy recipe because the only ingredients needed were tortillas, cinnamon, sugar, and cooking spray.  You could either fry them or do a healthier version of baking them (we chose the latter method of cooking/baking).

Olivia cutting the whole-wheat tortillas into triangles.

The baked churritos that were simple to make and
ones that both the girls enjoyed.

Another recipe we tried was for guacamole.  There are plenty of recipes out there for guacamole, but the one in Fun with Mexican Cooking is delicious.  Again, it's a very easy recipe since the cookbook is written for children. 

Sophia made the guacamole by herself...though she always checks with me to make sure that she's using the right measuring spoon.  The last thing we want is a half tablespoon of salt when, perhaps, only a half teaspoon is suggested.

Sophia adding salt to the guacamole.

The guacamole that Sophia made.

The girls had the churritos and guacamole with chips with lunch.  They also made Resurrection Buns since it was a few days before Easter.  These are the ones where you take crescent roll dough and roll it around a marshmallow that has been coated in (dairy-free) butter, cinnamon, and sugar. 

When you bake the Resurrection Buns, the marshamallow disappears.  They are incredibly unhealthy with no nutritional value whatsoever, but they are good...especially right out of the oven.

They also made "Dainty Basque Egg and Ham Sandwiches" - a recipe from the cookbook The New Spanish Table.  This was a recipe that we never got around to making when we were studying about Spain.  We finally had all the ingredients needed to make the recipe, so the girls got to make and try it.  Sophia liked it, but Olivia didn't.   

Having lunch with food made from recipes Mexico and Spain
as well as a special Easter dessert.

For another meal, the girls made flan from the recipe in the book Fun with Mexican Cooking.  I remember making flan when I was in high school during Spanish class.  It was horrible. So, needless to say, I wasn't particularly excited about making flan with the girls. 

Despite my hesitation about flan, this batch turned out amazingly well!  The girls were able to make it on their own. The only part they needed help with was putting the baking dish with the unbaked flan in a 9"x13" pan and then filling the 9"x13" pan with water so it covered the sides of the baking dish. 

You need to be careful in placing the pan in the oven so no water spilled into the baking dish...otherwise the recipe won't turn out.

After the flan bakes for an hour, it turns into a custard-like dessert.  To finish it off, a layer of brown sugar is added to the top and then placed under the broiler for a bit. 
Flan with a piece taken out so the inside can be seen.

The girls also wanted to try a Mexican breakfast.  So, they made hot chocolate which was very rich and thick.  It makes the hot chocolate that we drink look like chocolate water.  The recipe called for a bit of cinnamon which was an interesting taste that we all liked.

Sophia measuring dairy-free milk while
Olivia stirs the ingredients in the saucepan.
They have the cookbook propped up in front of them
so they can follow the recipe.

Mexican hot chocolate.

The main course for breakfast was scrambled eggs with tortillas.  Olivia worked on cutting the tortillas while Sophia concentrated on chopping the vegetables.  The eggs were spicy and had a lot of flavor (there was quite a bit of black pepper in the recipe).  Since Olivia can't eat spicy food, I made some plain eggs for her.  Sophia and I both liked the scrambled eggs with tortillas and would make it again.

Scrambled eggs with tortillas.

The girls having a breakfast of Mexican scrambled eggs and
Mexican hot chocolate that they made.

This was a fun unit study, and one that involved the most cooking.  Learning about Mexico throughout the past few years has been interesting because each time we've looked at different time periods; learned about different holidays and customs; and tried new recipes. 

Only two more countries left to learn about before the end of the ABC Tour of the World:  Yemen and Zambia.  Then we move onto learning about each state in the United States which we're all looking forward to doing!

Monday, April 25, 2011

Celebrating Womanhood (UWIB Blog Hop)

Each month, the Unique Women in Business team does a Blog Hop focused on a different theme.  For April, the focus is on celebrating womanhood.

Each woman has many roles in her lifetime.  At some stage in her life, a woman may only have a couple of roles (perhaps a daughter and niece, for example). 

My Niece's Hand
One of my niece's hand. Her fingers are saying
"I love you"
in American Sign Language (ASL).

At another stage in her life, a woman could have many roles such as: daughter, sister, aunt, niece, cousin, friend, wife or partner, mother, grandmother, worker, volunteer, leader, follower, nurturer, caregiver, peacemaker, teacher, artist, or more. 

Nana and the Girls
My mom with two of her grandchildren:
Sophia and Olivia (my daughters).

Some of these roles are not of one's choice - they are made by others...while other ones are clearly personal choices. 

Two of the roles that I have chosen are: stay-at-home mother and homeschool educator.  When I was younger, I did not even envision my life as having children in it...much less being a mother who homeschools her two daughters.  Yet, being a mother and homeschool teacher have been two of the most challenging and rewarding roles in my life!

Girls in Awe as Monarch Flies Away
The girls watching a a monarch
that they raised from a caterpillar
fly in front of them. 
This particular monarch stayed around them
for quite a while before flying to the pasture. 
It was such a memorable and amazing moment for us all!

Prior to adopting Sophia in 2000, I was content with running a non-profit organization that I founded that offered art and farm camps to children; a teen mentorship program; and volunteer program for individuals, families, corporate teams, and individuals required to do court-ordered community service.  A good percentage of my year was spent writing proposals and seeking funding to do the camp program; and writing curricula for each of the camp weeks. 

Once Sophia and Olivia were adopted from orphanages in China, and their special needs were diagnosed in the United States (both came with referrals as "healthy" children), life took a very different...and unexpected...turn. 

With Olivia requiring in-home therapy multiple days per week from an occupational therapist, physical therapist, and special education instructor combined with therapy that I needed to do with her multiple times per day, my decision to end my outside-of-the-home career was necessary.

Playing in the Body Sack
Sophia and Olivia playing in the Body Sack I made.
It was designed so that they could go into the tube of fabric
and move, crawl, and stand up
(they were small enough to do that at the time this picture was taken).
It helped both of them with their sensory issues
(sensory integration dysfunction); and
helped them identify where their bodies started and ended
(a proprioceptive issue).

I have learned a tremendous amount over the past 11 years in terms of special needs; health/medical issues; developmental delays; learning disabilities; educational philosophies and methods; and a variety of subjects that I have taught the girls....just to name a few areas of growth.

Womanhood, though, isn't limited to child rearing. While this is certainly an important role and is central to many women's lives, there is so much more that we (as women) are called to do.

One of the things that I believe celebrates being a woman (and that I try to make a central focus of my life) is is of helping and serving others - whether people are struggling financially, emotionally, or physically.  Women can help individuals outside their family or they can choose to focus on providing support and care for their own family or aging parents.

Looking at the Sensory and Memory Quilt
My dad looking at the sensory and memory quilt
that I made for him (he has Alzheimer's Disease). 
I gave him the quilt for Christmas 2009.

As the Washington Post reported in its June 16, 2009 issue, "Assistance for frail elders comes, the majority of the time, from a single individual. More specifically, from a woman: Seven of every 10 adult children who help frail parents are daughters."

Another way in which women can celebrate their gifts is by working with their hands and sharing their creativity with others.  I believe that creativity can inspire, encourage, and even provide comfort to others. With only one lifetime given to us, it's important to use our time wisely to make things that are wholesome, beautiful, nourishing, and inspiring. 

Mary Mom Me Sophia Olivia
From left to right:  My sister, my mom, me,
Sophia, and Olivia on my mom's 80th birthday (April 24, 2010).
I made the quilt she's holding. 
It has the handprints of each family member on white squares. 
On the blue squares, I hand-embroidered words that
were qualities her family used to describe her.

As Anne Frank said, "How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world." It's worth taking some time to think about how you can make a difference with your gifts and skills.

The poem, Beauty of a Woman, was written by the late eduactor-humorist Sam Levinson for his grandchild and read by Audrey Hepburn on Christmas Eve, 1992.  I think it is a wonderful poem that celebrates womanhood:

For attractive lips,
speak words of kindness.

For lovely eyes,
seek out the good in people.

For a slim figure,
share your food with the hungry.

For beautiful hair,
let a child run his or her fingers through it once a day.

For poise,
walk with the knowledge that you never walk alone.

People, even more than things,
have to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed, and redeemed;
never throw out anyone.

Remember, if you ever need a helping hand,
you'll find one at the end of each of your arms.

As you grow older, you will discover that you have two hands,
one for helping yourself, the other for helping others.

The beauty of a woman is not in
the clothes she wears,
the figure she carries,
or the way she combs her hair.

The beauty of a woman
must be seen from her eyes,
because that is the doorway to her heart,
the place where love resides.

The beauty of a woman
is not in a facial mole,
but true beauty in a woman
is reflected in her soul.

It is the caring that she lovingly gives,
the beauty of a woman
with passing years—only grows.

Harvest Moon by Hand celebrates womanhood with the following products:

Set of three fabric bags that can hold gifts for a special woman in your life.

A peaceful image of a swan to hang in your window
made from hand-poured beeswax.

A set of upcycled notecards made from wallpaper samples.
Wonderful for sending a beautiful greeting or thank you letter to
a woman who has made a difference in your life.

A hand-embroidered needlebook made with all-natural wool felt.
If you sew and share your skills with others,
a needlebook is a good way to keep your needles and pins handy.

A four-color window star to beautify one's home.
Window stars are lovely gifts for birthdays and Mother's Day.

The UWIB team has many inspiring and creative women who are participating in this month's Blog Hop.  Please take some time to visit these women and see how they are celebrating womanhood:

Audrey Fetterhoff
Linda Stranger
Judy Woodley
Janet Bocciardi
Ann Rinkenberger (you are here right now)
Celeste Bocchicchio-Chaudhri
Wendy Kelly
Cory Trusty
Karen Terry

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Celebrating Easter

Easter was on Sunday, April 24th.  The girls did some activities at home before Easter to celebrate the holiday.  One of the things they look forward to doing each year is coloring eggs. 

Olivia's hard-boiled eggs sitting in cups of dye.

Sophia and Olivia each dyed six eggs.

The girls also made Resurrection Buns.  They each had eight triangles of crescent roll dough.  They rolled a marshmallow in dairy-free butter and then in sugar/cinnamon mix.  Next, they wrapped the dough around the marshmallow and made sure there were no holes.  They baked them and when they came out of the oven, the marshmallow had melted leaving a gooey mess of melted marshmallow, butter, cinnamon, and sugar. 

The Resurrection Buns have no nutritional value and are very unhealthy.  Yet, they tie in with the Easter story...that's the justification for making and enjoying them!

Sophia making her batch of Resurrection buns.

A new thing we made this year were Italian Easter Egg Baskets.  They are called Pupa Cu L'ova and basically they are dough wrapped around a dyed, hard-boiled egg.

Olivia with the baked (but undecorated) Pupa Cu L'ova.

After the dough-basket is cool, it is frosted and decorated with sprinkles.

The idea came from a recent issue of Living Crafts magazine.  They didn't have a name for it in the magazine, only an explanation that the magazine editor's daughter received one of these pastries from her teacher at her Waldorf school. 

Sophia's and Olivia's Italian Easter Egg Baskets.
They want to do them again next year.

For breakfast, one of the recipes I tried this year was from a past issue of Family Fun magazine.  Basically, it is making scrambled eggs and putting them in hash-brown baskets/nests that were baked in the oven. 

After breakfast, the girls sang in the children's choir.  They both did a nice job singing.

We went over my parents' home to have Easter dinner and to celebrate my mom's 81st birthday which falls directly on Easter this year.  In her 81 years, she said that this was the first time that Easter was ever on her birthday.  "It's been on the 23rd, but never on the 24th," she said.

Olivia holding the Easter lamb cake that she helped make and decorate.
For many years now, she has wanted to help make this cake.

Having Easter lunch at my mom and dad's home.
We all brought food so that my mom
didn't have to do any cooking.

We enjoyed dessert, the children played outside on the deck, and then headed down to the dock to play in the lake.  They played games outside and had fun spending time together.

Inside, my mom opened birthday gifts and she handed out Easter baskets that she made for each of the children. 
My mom opening a present from my dad.
My dad wasn't able to get a card and gifts this year
since he no longer can drive (due to Alzheimer's Disease).
So my sister and I got some gifts for him to give to my mom. 
Needless to say, she was very surprised and teary as she opened each gift.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

52 Weeks of Giving - Week 16 - Make and Deliver Food to People Facing Health Issues

This week for the 52 Weeks of Giving challenge that the girls are doing, I had them focus on serving others who are dealing with major health issues and/or who are caregiving for someone who has challenges with their health.

On Tuesday and Wednesday, the girls and I made a variety of food for a friend who is recovering from a double masectomy.  She had surgery earlier this month, and is doing very well. 

Sophia and Olivia holding some of the food we made
for a friend recovering from surgery.

However, having to make meals for her family and then cleaning the kitchen and dishes afterwards certainly is something that she has needed help with during the month.  Because people have been bringing her meals, she can focus her energy on healing and her health. 

We also made food that we gave to the girls' grandma ("Nana") for her 81st birthday.  She is caring for the girls' grandpa ("Papa")/my dad who has Alzheimer's Disease.  Coupled with her own health issues, having the energy to make meals can be challenging at times. 

One of the desserts or snacks the girls made for
their grandparents: Cinnamon and Sugar Triangles.

So, we made a variety of breakfast food (two different egg bakes), quick breads (banana and pumpkin spice), and desserts (lemonade cake, macaroons, cupcakes, and cinnamon and sugar triangles) that we gave to Nana/my mom on Easter (which also happened to be her birthday).

Olivia holding the lamb cake she helped make and decorate.
The macaroons were some of the desserts
that the girls' grandparents received. 
The lamb cake had 8 candles in it (one per decade)
for Nana's/my mom's birthday.

Friday, April 22, 2011

52 Books in 52 Weeks ----- Week 17 ----- Give It Up!

For the 17th book in the 52 Books in 52 Weeks challenge, I chose Give It Up! My Year of Learning to Live Better with Less by Mary Carlomagno.  As I was looking for books on simplifying one's life on the library's catalog system, I came across this one.  It sounded intriguing, so I thought it would make for an interesting read.

Give it Up! is one woman's quest to rid herself of material excess whereby she also sheds light on some of the emotional excess she carries. The twelve things she gives up include:  alcohol, shopping, elevators, newspapers, cell phones, dining out, television, taxis, coffee, cursing, chocolate, and multi-tasking.

Many of the items she writes about have absolutely no relevance to my life. (Giving up cursing...really!? This is a sacrifice?  It wouldn't be any sacrifice on my part since my language and writing isn't peppered with swear words.)  Other items simply reflect the excess and privilege in our society. 

I was hoping that for at least one or more of these things (like alcohol or excessive shopping), that the author wouldn't be so eager to resume activities that weren't of any benefit to her life.  For example, she reschedules get-to-gethers and activities with her friends in subsequent months so she can go back to drinking and purchasing clothing she doesn't need. (She said many of her clothes still had the tags on them which implies over-consumption and waste.)

However, it seemed as if - for many of these items she was giving up - that she was counting down the days when she could resume her previous behavior with very little insight into why she needed to continue using that item or behaving in such a manner.  Her eagerness to return to her vices each subsequent month made the book rather disappointing.

The chapter on elevators yielded an interesting awareness by the author, though.  After climbing and descending ten flights of stairs daily to go to her job in New York, she was in good shape and comfortable using the stairs when the events on September 11th happened.  "My preparedness and awareness were a source of some confidence for me on that fateful day."

The author continued, "...I be aware of your surroundings and that, unfortunately, an emergency plan is a necessary part of everyday life."

Under the cursing chapter, she mentioned a website called Wordsmith.  As she explains, "Each day wordsmith would send a new unfamiliar word to round out my vocabulary that I immediately applied, to the annoyance of those around me."  By clicking on the link above, you can add yourself to the free mailing list. 

One thing that stood out in the chapter about multi-tasking was the statement, "Time is a luxury and doing one thing at a time does not keep pace with our busy lifestyles, which demand doing more.  But if we do more, more inefficiently, what has been really accomplished?" 

This is a good reminder no matter what stage of life or where you're multi-tasking - whether in the office or an at-home business; your personal life (listening to someone talk while doing something else); while you're volunteering; trying to juggle homeschooling while raising a family; or even crafting and trying to do another task.  Something is going to suffer...or not be done as best it can.  Someone won't receive the attention they deserve. 

Give It Up! is not the best literary work I've read.  However, there were some interesting points made in the book.  Perhaps Give It Up! would be a more relevant and meaningful book if someone were having some challenges with the same issues or items.

If the majority of the items that the author wrote about don't have personal relevance, I would skip the book.  There are other books about voluntary simplicity and/or modifying one's life to be stronger and more effective that are a better use of one's time.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Outdoor Hour Challenge - Spring Series #1: Year-Long Tree Study

For this week's nature study, we focused on the Outdoor Hour Challenge's Spring Series #1: Year-Long Tree Study - Spring Tree Observation.

(Please note:  for this post, bold-face type is from the Handbook of Nature study blog; type in italics is from the book "Handbook of Nature Study" by Anna Botsford Comstock; and words in plain type are my own.)

“Like a friend is a tree,
in that it needs to be known
season after season and year after year
in order to be truly appreciated.
A person who has not had
an intimate, friendly acquaintance with some special tree
has missed something from life.”
(Anna Botsford Comstock, A Study of a Tree)

Inside Preparation Work:

Read pages 625-626 in the Handbook of Nature Study: Spring Work. This part of Lesson 172 should give you lots of things to think about as you prepare for your spring tree study observations. If the tree you chose to study has a section in the Handbook of Nature Study (check the table of contents), you might want to read the lesson for your particular tree in preparation for your Outdoor Hour time as well.

The Handbook of Nature Study suggests measuring the height of your tree using a stick 3½ feet long and a measuring tape. See page 626 Lesson 172 #4 for details.

We did not measure the height of the trees since it was very windy and cold outside as well as overcast.  To measure the tree as explained in the book, the day should be sunny so that the ruler and tree both cast a shadow.

Outdoor Hour Time:

Now that spring has come, it is time to check on your tree from your Year-Long Tree Study. If you are just starting out with a tree study, pick a tree from your yard that you can watch through all four seasons. Spend 10-15 minutes of your outdoor time using the ideas from the Handbook of Nature Study to do some focused observations of your tree.

Simple Suggestions for Spring Tree Study:

Pick a tree in your yard or on your street and look for its new leaves and blossoms if appropriate.

Sophia picked a maple tree in the far south pasture (where the nature trail use to be).  This is tree that we planted many years ago.  When it was transplanted, it was no more than about 6 feet tall.  There were some buds, but it is still too early for leaves.

Sophia by the maple tree she'll be studying for a year.

Olivia picked a white pine in the backyard.  This one was transplanted in the backyard around 1999-2000 at about 10-12 feet tall. 

Olivia by the white pine that she'll be studying for the year.

Olivia's pine had plenty of green needles. It was interesting that some of the tips of the needles were brown and the rest were green.  We didn't see too many needles like these bi-colored ones.

White pine needles on Olivia's tree.

I picked my favorite oak tree in the northwest pasture.  There are buds on the tree, but they are so high up that I couldn't examine them.

My favorite oak tree in the pasture.

Is it just beginning to show leaves? Can you tell if your tree has all of its leaves yet?

None of the trees had leaves.  It's still too early in the season.

Sophia's tree had some buds on it.

Can you see any insects or birds in your tree?

We didn't notice any insects or birds in Sophia's or Olivia's trees.  However, my tree had a robin building a nest.  The robin flew to a tree limb with a long piece of grass hanging from her beak. 

Robin with some grass for her nest in the oak tree.

She put it down in the nest, then hopped in the nest.  She would stand up, sit down, move a little, stand up, sit down, move a little, and so on.  Read in a book that birds do this to create the shape of the nest.

As a side note, in the book "Exploring Spring" by Sandra Markle, it said, "A male [robin] will stake out a claim as big as half an acre.  Then the proud landowner will patrol the perimeter of his territory, repeatedly stopping at selected perches to sing." It suggested trying to observe one male on his regular rounds and seeing if you can map out that robin's territory.

Collect a few leaves to use for leaf rubbings in your nature journal. You could also make a leaf bouquet.

We did bark rubbings directly on the tree instead of leaf rubbings. 

Olivia doing a bark rubbing of a white pine tree.

This is a bit challenging to do, and the rubbings didn't quite turn out like we envisioned.  However, it made us notice the difference in bark on the same tree as well as how the bark differs between the types of trees (maple, white pine, and oak).

Compare two leaves from the same tree. Are they exactly alike?

We were unable to do this since the leaves aren't on any of the trees.

Use your nature journal to record a sketch of the leaf and any blossoms.

We each will place a photograph of the buds or pine needles (depending on the type of tree each person had) in the nature journals rather than sketching them.  Olivia also taped some of the pine needles into her nature journal so she could touch them. 

How has the tree changed since autumn? Winter?

We just began the year-long tree study, so we haven't explored each tree closely in autumn and winter.

Follow-Up Activity:

After your outdoor time, complete a nature journal entry using the notebook page. Photos of your tree are a good record in your nature journal as well.

The girls did the first page of their nature journal about their trees based on what they collected and observed.  At a later date (once the photographs are developed), they will do another page in their nature journals.

Sophia's nature journal entry about the maple tree.

Olivia's nature journal entry about the white pine tree.

My nature journal entry about the oak tree.

Another activity we did was suggested in the book "Exploring Spring" by Sandra Markle called "Surprise Package."  The activity said, "...each spring bud is [a surprise package].  To find out what's inside, pick a swelling bud rom a tree or bush and carefully open it. 

Tray of spring branches with buds...ready for dissection.

Sophia cutting open a bud with a knife.

Then use a pin to separate any tiny leaves you find inside.  How many leaves are there?  Compare this number with what you find inside a bud from a different tree or bush. 

Inside one bud, were these separate leaves/petals.

Don't pick more than one bud from each plant, though.  These leaves are needed to produce food."

While we were dissecting the buds, I cut some of the thin branches for the girls so they could see what they looked like on the inside. 

The inside of a twig.  It had a white, solid center
that was surrounded by a green layer. 
The bark encircled the green layer.

And...only because I read a few jokes to the girls and got the groans of "I-don't-believe-you-just-told-that joke," I felt like I needed to include a couple of them here.  These are all from the "Exploring Spring" book:

What bird is a thief? (A robin)
What bird is there every time you eat? (A swallow)
What flowers do all people have? (Tulips)