Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Keeping Company :: Our Nature Study Collection and Display

I was excited when I saw Celeste's prompt for this month's Keeping Company link-up because I am really pleased with our nature study collection and display.  Our display has lived in a few different places, and at one point moved to a temporary location on the hutch by our dining room table.  Well, this location ended up being not so temporary, because we all decided we liked it in this prominent place.

Yes, there it is, centered under that south facing window on our dining room hutch.

And here's a closer look of our display.  I got this wooden case from a homeschooler who was "retiring" because her kids were heading off to high school.  I'm not sure what she used it for, but when I saw it, it screamed "Nature Study Display!" to me.  My father-in-law informed me that it was a packing crate for soda bottles once upon a time, back in the days before plastic.  When we got it some of the smaller dividers were already missing, which has worked well for our purposes.

We keep bones, leaves, interesting rocks, pine cones, acorns, seed hulls, little things made of natural materials like a few pine needle baskets, dead insects and insect molts, dried lichen and moss, and sea shells on our shelves. We have a repurposed strawberry basket on the left that we use for holding feathers, and another basket on the right for bigger shells.  The wooden box on the right holds my rock, fossil and shell collection from when I was a child (I guess I've always been a keeper!)  My collection is a combination of bought and found, and I take it out periodically to show the kids some rocks, fossils and other things things we wouldn't find around here.

I've tried taking pictures at different times of day but the lighting is always difficult.  I wish I could share better pictures with you!

I lightly dust our display every six weeks or so, and twice a year - generally spring and late fall - I take it all off, dust, rearrange, and together sort through the accumulated treasures, deciding what needs to return outside and what is going to stay.  

Yes, it looks like a mushroom, but it is actually a growth we found on an oak branch several years ago.

The process of deciding what goes and stays has gotten easier as the kids have gotten older and more experienced.  We started this when my oldest was six or so, and it seemed like we had to keep everything forever back then!  But now they are generally a little more selective about what they want to see displayed, and about what they want to keep.  The youngers are a little less discerning, but they are generally willing to listen to their older siblings.  And I've been known to toss a few leaves and rocks outside periodically to keep the display from getting too overwhelming in between the big reorganizations.  I do try to ask first, and generally after something has been displayed for a couple weeks the child won't mind it getting put back outside.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Mother Culture - Handicrafts and Making Baskets

My daughter is a handicrafts extraordinaire.  At 13, she's won best of show for a sweater she knitted for her sister, made numerous crocheted items, sewn, sculpted, beaded, and started a Etsy shop to sell her popular earrings.  We recently joined the local fibers guild because I wanted to give her opportunities to learn about other creative endeavors and help to connect her with people in the community who are doing wonderful work.  As members of the guild, we can attend monthly meetings where we can learn about all sorts of amazing things and we can attend events and workshops at a discounted rate.  It also gives us a way to find out about events and workshops where we can learn new things.
Weaving the base of the basket
I must admit that I largely joined for my daughter's sake.  I can knit, sew and crochet reasonably well, but I haven't the skill, interest, or dedication that my daughter has.  But I'm always interested in learning, and I want to support my daughter in an area where she is gifted.

The basket with finished sides
When a class came up for a introductory basketmaking class, I was intrigued.  We had never tried anything like that, and my daughter was interested as well.  So I signed both of us up, and we spent a very rainy Saturday and Sunday afternoon in a former church sanctuary learning to weave and shape baskets.
Adding the false rim and trimming the spokes (this one is actually Emma's - hers has a dark blue in it instead of brown)
And you know what?  I loved it.  I love how tactile it is, how little you have to rely on tools to do the work that needs to be done.  I love how as I worked with the pattern, I could start to see the pattern in the basket and anticipate what I would need to do next, no longer needing the pattern so intensely.  And I appreciate making something useful as well as decorative.  I am excited about starting a new basket in a way that I've never been with other handicraft projects.

The rim is on, and I'm almost halfway through the lashing

And now I present, my first basket!

And if I had to find a moral to this little story, I think it would be to keep trying different handicrafts. You might end up finding something you really enjoy doing, and are willing to do for more than the sake of setting a good example for your kids and keeping your hands busy when you're listening to children practicing their reading.

Friday, February 12, 2016


About two weeks ago on a cold morning walk I stepped off the trail to watch a seasonal stream course over the rocks through a small meadow near the creek.  As I surveyed the meadow, I noticed a strange red coloration and bumpiness to tips of the dead reeds in the meadow.  As I bent closer to look, I realized what I was seeing was actually ladybugs, clustered tightly together on the top one to two inches of the reeds.

As I looked around, I realized that many of the reeds had ladybugs on them.

I got really excited when I noticed the large clusters of ladybugs under the leaves and hiding amongst the tufts of grass.  I suddenly realized that there were thousands upon thousands of ladybugs in this small meadow!

Some species of ladybugs while in their winter diapause state group together and cluster in sheltered spots until the weather warms and they can return to their aphid hunting grounds.  When it is cold, the ladybugs are completely still and sometimes covered with dew, frost or snow.

But when it warms, the ladybugs are in almost constant motion, only to be still again once it grows cold again overnight.  The motion surprised me, as it doesn't seem like there would be much purpose for it, and there is little food available for an insect that preys primarily on aphids and scale insects.

As you can probably imagine, we've been learning a lot about ladybugs around here!  We've added entries to our nature journals, read about them in the Handbook of Nature Study, and visited them many times.  We're all wondering how long they will stay and if we'll ever get to see this again.

If you'd like to see more ladybug pictures, as well as other daily life pictures, you can follow me on Instagram.  Thanks to Celeste's gentle encouragement, I've started sharing photos there and I'm enjoying it.  

Saturday, February 6, 2016

CM West :: A Beach Retreat and a Goals and Projects Update

In the interests of accountability, I'd like to share a little update with you all regarding the projects and goals I shared about a month ago.

Community Building

CM West :: A Beach Retreat is live and accepting registrations!  I'm very excited about this small, Charlotte Mason style retreat that Celeste and I are hosting in April.  We announced yesterday, and already have more than half our registration slots booked.  I think it is going to be fantastic.

Nature Study in Nevada County met for the first time in January, and we had a good turn out.  I was hoping we'd get a few more older kids, but I'm also very glad people showed up!  The next one is February 15th.

I had a decent response to the Teaching from Rest Live Online Video Discussion announcement last month and I ended up scheduling two chat times for this group because of how availability worked out.  The first sessions will meet later this month, and will continue through March and April.

I haven't moved forward with the Start Here: 20 Principles Discussion yet, but that's because I'm not planning on starting until April.  So that is still going according to plan, even though I haven't done anything!

The Shakespeare Co-op has not received the welcome I had hoped for though, as only one other family will be able to join us.  I am thankful that they are interested, but I was hoping we'd have at least one or two more families as well.  Our first meeting will be on Feb. 19th.

The First Saturday Adoration and Social is a non-starter, as Adoration doesn't actually happen on the first Saturday at my parish.  It is just listed in the bulletin, and has been for ages.  Ahem.  

Our Home
Books on the left are weeded books,
on the floor on the right are to be sorted,
and the bookshelf closer is all sorted,
the bookshelf farther is about half done.
I've also sorted a smaller one in my room, but
then there's still 3 smaller bookshelves of fiction
and one more bookshelf downstairs left.
Maybe I'm just a third of the way done?

As I mentioned in my first post, my first project was going through the books.  At this point I'm almost halfway done, and I have accumulated a prodigious pile of weeded books.  I've also realized that the real struggle is going to be in trying to figure out what to do with these books that didn't make the cut. Some are worth selling, but many will need to go to the Friends of the Library.  I'll probably try to bring a box of Catholic books to the religious education program we attend, although I feel a little awkward about it because I feel like I'm saying, "here's some books I didn't think were worth keeping on my shelves, but maybe you'll like them".  There's got to be a better way to say that!