Category Archives: Nature Study

Checking in…..So much for weekly write ups!

Not even one post! and it is half way through the school year, SO it is only fair to summarize our experience so far. It has been hard, really hard. There are days when I think that we are falling so far behind that she will never catch up, ever and be so far behind, and it is all my fault, and then there are days when i flip through her binders and take a deep breath realizing that we are squeaking by!

My girl has changed so much this year! Last years crazy foot growth was the beginning, growing a foot size a month for almost 3 months!. She is no longer a little happy go lucky country girl! but a tall, strong preteen, experiencing life to its fullest! What a ride!


Her love of music has also grown deep. Picking up her guitar several times a day to sing a song, practice her bar chords, or unwind. or sometimes a quick break downstairs to bang out a new rhythmn on the drums, or create a rhythm when memorizing a poem or speech. And in her spare time she mixes music on her expanding Dj set up. Yes the little girl who I tried to keep of electronics and pop media away  as long as I could! Now she has fully immersed in the pop music scene!  and I embrace it as i see her grow…in the past few months her musical taste has expanded (as has her physical taste she eats salami now!) Recently she developed an interest in playing cello and has started taking weekly lessons. Lucky for us out here in the boonies there is no shortage of really talented cello teachers.

We are both totally smitten with the cellist Zoe Keating, her CD “into the trees” is hauntingly gorgeous! We hope she makes it back to NY soon as we missed her this time around.

As well as her usual summer plans at the IMA PreTeen Rock and Roll Camp she has decided to try out the Village Harmony Program a teenage chorus/choir camp, in preparation for this she joined a weekly chorus in Northampton.


I have taken advantage of her love of music and used it as a jump off point for History of Music. We are presently doing a short unit on the History of Hip Hop, and The Roaring 20’s and Harlem Rennaissance as part of music and Black History Month. We have also tied in some Poetry specifically that of Langston Hughes. (I would like to keep going through the depression as some of my fav music styles came from that period but I know as soon as I mention Woody Guthrie I have lost her- unless i get creative! (wink wink)


Before this unit is over she will write a rap song, complete a unit on Song Writing with GarageBand too. The book she is presently reading for fun is  The Young Musician’s Guide to Songwriting: How to Create Music & Lyrics which in my opinion is written well for this age group.


In terms of Visual Arts we began the year studying Chuck Close the artist who has overcome such adversity. We recently saw The Theory of Everything about the life of Stephen Hawking and compared his life with that of Chuck Close. By the end of the year we will also study the Art and Life of Frida Kahlo another artist who overcame physical adversity.MV5BMTAwMTU4MDA3NDNeQTJeQWpwZ15BbWU4MDk4NTMxNTIx._V1_SX214_AL_

So far we have also studies Andy Warhol and the Pop Art movement. Zoe made her own pop art version of Taylor Swift! Presently we are studying Georgia O Keefe and she is working on a cow skull piece.


We are linking our somewhat abstract topics together by creating a master timeline! I hope to introduce a few photographers to her before the end of the year namely Vivian Maier, Dorothea Lange, Ansel Adams, Steve McCurry and a new to me but instant fav. Imogen Cunningham (which we will tie in back to Friday Kahlo)


The other big area we have focussed on so far and almost completed is Ancient Egypt, as planned we mostly followed Pandia Press Ancient History Odyssey- but I must admit to have hated the History Pockets book it recommended exactly what kills me about school all busy work no substance. I guess, if you have a detail oriented child it may work but it’s not for mine! We watched several Smithsian and National Geographic, History Channel Documentaries , the one on finding the mummy of  King Queen Hatshepsut was definitely a fav! as was the research project on her! Zoe has read The Golden Goblet by Eloise Jarvis McGraw, The Egypt Game byby Zilpha Keatley Snyder (def her least favorite) and Tales of Ancient Egypt by by Roger Lancelyn Green. She may still read Mara Daughter of the Nile also



She looks like she is reading but this fuzzy little trouble maker keeps her from focussing time and time again. Don’t let either of them fool you!


In math we have been moving slowly along with kumon workbooks, and more recently some of the Math Mammouth Make it Real series, it seems to be working well for her. I still would like to return to some compass art and History of math. We will see!

English has been less inspiring that I had hoped and other than some creative writing  (642 Things to Write About: Young Writer’s Edition, songwriting (more on this in another post) and book reports and biographies) we are relying on the workbook MegaWords. She seems comfortable with it as it is what they used in school last year. She is reading ” The Hobbit; or, There and Back Again ” by J. R. R. Tolkien (book report and author bio) and listening to the “Lord Of The Flies” by William Golding on Audible (book report and author bio as well as a short paper on Dystopian Fiction as she has read “The Giver “and the “Hunger Games Trilogy” and “Divergent”, for fun)

We are way behind on the Geography mapping program I was so excited about! She finds it quite dull 😦 We will plod along and through Geography lessons in whenever I can. We also have abandoned Latin and Spanish

For current affairs/science she has been reading Going Blue: A Teen Guide to Saving Our Oceans, Lakes, Rivers, & Wetlands Kaye M.A., Cathryn Berger and The Down-to-Earth Guide To Global Warming – by Laurie David which I hope to end with a photo essay on the environment to integrate her passion for photograhy. I am toying with the idea of introducing Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring, but I am learning to get go of my attachments! 

Here are two of her photographs that she is pretty proud of

IMG_8067 IMG_8096

Also for current affairs she has chosen to memorize the Emma Watson HeForShe Speech at the United Nations | UN Women 2014.


In terms of physical eduction she took a modern dance class this Fall with a local hero  Christina Gabriel who volunteer teaches fabulous dance classes in order to raise money for the Community Hall  in town (and she is juliard trained!) It was her first dance class in years! and looks forward to it again in the Spring. In the meantime she plays on the local 4-6 grade basketball team and an indoor soccer league which she also really enjoys.

Looking ahead, to next year while I feel like we are starting to find our groove, it’s not always graceful though! Zoe is eager to go back to school we have our fingers crossed that she will get into a regional local performing arts charter middle/high school- it seems like a good fit for this alternative young woman. And while I am up for the challenge on continuing on this path, I will be happy to have my days back again!

{this moment}

{this moment}

– A Friday ritual a la soulemama. A single photo – no words – capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.

If you’re inspired to do the same, leave a link to your ‘moment’ in the comments for all to find and see.

. . . . . . . . . .


Spring time!

The snow is almost melting. . .there are patches of brown. . .snow is being replaced with mud.

As many of you know I have signed up for a photography program at the New York Institute for Photography. I have loved taking photos for many many years, have a good eye (I am told) but have zero technical knowledge so I am embarking on mission to learn all that I can about improving my photos.

I am planning on exploring the works of many photographers. I have a few favorites am really open to exploring this new world. My passion lies photography, travel photography especially photographing oddities, curiosities and photographing children.

In the meantime here is a little challenge I am going to shoot along with

Nurture Photography Challenge - Spring 2013 Edition

Adventures in Backyard Sugaring…Every drop counts!

We have been wanting to do some backyard sugaring for a few years now,  finally…….. here is a low cost simple start. In these parts maple syrup is the promise of Spring! And a commodity we enjoy year around regardless of its cost!

The following key was really helpful when figuring out which trees to tap and how many taps per tree, we went for the conservative thinking key

  • one tap in trees 10-18 inches in diameter
  • two taps in trees 19-25 inches in diameter
  • three taps in trees larger than 25 inches

Ten now eleven! maples tapped. Understanding why maple syrup is so pricey is easy when you think of the equation somewhere between 30 to 40 gallons of sap to 1 gallon of syrup is about average for a yield: did you hear 30 to 40 gallons of sap to 1 gallon of syrup! It is the rose essential oil of syrups!

Zoe is super excited to finally be doing this as we have been talking about it and reading about it for years….Here are some of our past reads! I think our interest peaked with this early storybook from the My First Little House series “Sugar Snow ” and then of course more details when we finally read the series. Then there was “Sugar on Snow”by Nancy Parson Rossiter and finally the classic Sugaring Time by Kathryn Lasky.

This week I hope to tap a few black birch, Betula lenta (must get neighbors permission first!)

Pteromyini or Petauristini……or what was that!

A Potentially Sad Mothers Day Story with a Happy Ending!

It was time to move our favorite birdhouse, one that Zoe built at a friends birthday party several years back.

“Hello who’s there”

I jumped back, is that a mouse?

No it is a chipmunk, no a squirrel….before we could ID it jumped right out and scampered up the old maple tree.

Cool a flying squirrel~Before I could think straight I had the bird house down and opened it up to put it in the truck….You know when you are moving you are on a roll…..out came the next which I thought was last years birds nest as we have seen birds previously nesting in it and out came a newborn. Based on this website I am guessing that it was between 5 and 10 days old!.

A little panic set in. What to do? What to do?

At first we left the newborn in the nest on the ground and covered it with a little box, but that did not feel safe from possible predators. Then we see mama start coming back down the tree, looking for her baby we suppose. Would she come all the way to the ground? With some quick thinking we placed the nest back in the birdhouse and the birdhouse back on the maple tree.

Phew,  Re-United! and then she poked her head out,

Are you still there? 

Flying squirrels are a mammal I know very little about! they are the oldest living line of modern squirrels! time to you read up on them!

As simple as a Puddle!

May began with tears, not mine, the girls. The floodgates opened about not wanting to move. I was waiting for it, I know how much she loves the land, her freedom when playing outside for hours, and the puddle.

Yes leaving the puddle caused a puddle of tears! As seen in these pictures the puddle is a big part of her play! It has been a source of tadpoles, frogs and salamanders, it has been the frozen waters of Alaska that Eskimos live on, fish and float in their rafts, it has been a beach on Hawaii!, it has been a marsh, a swamp. It is an endless source for imagination, many a friend has shared in the adventures of this puddle!

And so begins five days of good-byes!

Good bye Puddle!

Spring is nature’s way of saying, “Let’s party!” ~Robin Williams


In the Spring, at the end of the day, you should smell like dirt.

~Margaret Atwood


No matter how long the winter, Spring is sure to follow.  I noticed today on the first day of Spring 2011 that overnight the lilacs had formed buds, and the pussy willows burst forth… nothing makes me happier than the signs of spring. Did you all see the BIG full sap moon last night! WOW!

The Singer of Spring…

I woke up grumpy, the winter must go.

Then I saw a crocus push up through the snow.

And what is it making that crocus to rise?

The singer of spring has hollared–surprise.

(Sarah Pirtle, Pocketful of Wonder)


Just 4 hours south on Rosemont NJ, there is a world of (early) Spring.



Pussy Willows

Close your eyes

and do not peek

and I’ll rub Spring,

across your cheek-

smooth as satin,

soft and sleek-

close your eyes

and do not peek.

by Aileen Fisher

Its been a long cold lonely winter, Little darling

It feels like years since its been here

Here comes the sun,

Here comes the sun

It’s all right

(The Beatles)

This song has been heavily played recently, and loud!  as we prepare to welcome the sun back! In the meantime we plant Spring bulb into teacups! and pretend….while we wait for the snow to melt and the brown to turn to green.



Teach the children.  We don’t matter so much, but the children do.  Show them daisies and the pale hepatica.  Teach them the taste of sassafras and wintergreen.  The lives of the blue sailors, mallow, sunbursts, the moccasin-flowers.  And the frisky ones – inkberry, lamb’s-quarter, blueberries.  And the aromatic ones – rosemary, oregano.  Give them peppermint to put in their pockets as they go to school.  Give them the fields and the woods and the possibility of the world salvaged from the lords of profit.  Stand them in the stream, head them upstream, rejoice as they learn to love this green space they live in, its sticks and leaves and then the silent, beautiful blossoms.


~Mary Oliver



PS. A quick side comment is that we LOVE LOVE LOVE Sarah Pirtle’s Pocketful of Wonder. It is truly one of our family favorite CD’s. It is full of songs of wonder and possibility! If you have not heard it order it from you library and I guarantee you will be buying it! Oh and it comes with a PDF booklet with a ton of fun educational activities that can be done in relation with the songs and stories about how the songs came to be!