10 Second Autumn Leaf Bouquet

Do you ever gaze awestruck at the autumn leaves and have to
convince yourself they’re real? Maybe we’re all dreaming.

Sometimes in November I don’t understand how we aren’t all
lining up our lawn chairs in the driveway to watch the glorious show—the honeyed drops tumbling on the wind, the scarlet embers drifting down.

Here’s my attempt to capture a few sparks of their splendor, if only for a day.

1. Collect the best leaves you can find, the ones that make your heart skip a beat, as you walk down the street with your children.

Arrange them artfully in your fingers as you go, so as to be delightful.




2. When the time comes that you must go inside, wrap the stems with Scotch tape to hold them together.







3.Plunk them into a glass jar, vase, jelly jar or
anything you find. I added water in an attempt to slow the withering, but I don’t know if it will help.

4. Sigh in rapture every time you enter the room.


Note: I expect these will be withering by morning, but they are still nice and colorful as they dry.

This might be a project I give to the children on Thanksgiving morning to decorate up the house, if there are any leaves left by then. It’s a perfect project for a child—they can spend hours collecting their most special leaves, and the only adult help they will need is possibly to help them wrap the tape around the stems.

P.S. I have to just tell you the lovely green grass in the above picture is our neighbor’s. Ours is a nice crunchy brown.  Theirs is much more photogenic.


Ridiculously Simple Autumn Leaf Art

Autumn Leaf Watercolors

Step 1: Have your children collect interesting and colorful leaves on a walk or while in the backyard.

Step 2: Give them paper and watercolors. They trace a leaf on the paper, then fill in with watercolors however they want.

If they get carried away and just start painting the paper with color, fine. It’s really about them interacting with the colors and lines and making art that is beautiful to them.
I like to sit at the table and paint with my kids. It gives the project a bit more importance, and besides that, it’s relaxing and fun.

Optional Step 3:
They can sprinkle salt on the wet paint. Let it dry. Dust off the salt. You can
see the interesting patterns the salt made as it absorbed the water.

Note: I love watercolors because they don’t stain clothes or people, so if your three-year-old paints his face green, and he surely will, it cleans right off.

Autumn Leaf Collage

Step 1: Use your collected autumn leaves.

Step 2: Give the child paper and glue. Have them glue down the leaves in any arrangement they find fitting.

Step 3: Hang up and have bejeweled walls.

As you can see, these are the types of projects that are really about the children interacting with God’s amazing creation, and form and color, more than making a certain product. Glorious.

Remember, it’s the process, not the product. Have fun!

Sorry, I accidentally posted this twice, once without pictures, so you might have gotten a repeat post in your email. Sorry!

In Praise of Dirt and Sticks

Have you noticed all the great “summer fun” ideas floating around on blogs? There are some wonderful ideas, but a lot seem to involve quite a bit of time, materials, or preparation from the parent.

I’m not against any of that, but what would happen if we just let our kids play in nature?

Mine seem to think it’s pretty fun.

Sometimes we fall into the trap of thinking we need to entertain our kids. Often, some good dirt and a big stick will do. When we visited my sister in Texas (back in the cooler spring), we went a few mornings to the pond near their house. The kids found lots of ”fun activities” to do. Here are the things they came up with, with absolutely no adult interference.

  1. Throwing rocks into the pond.
  2. Throwing sticks into the pond.
  3. Gathering rocks.
  4. Gathering sticks.
  5. Having sword fights with sticks.
  6. Trying to find the frog we heard.
  7. Finding a tiny frog.
  8. Looking at butterflies.
  9. Looking at ducks.
  10. Digging with sticks in the dirt. (Making a river.)






12. Playing in the wildflowers
13. Pretending to be lost in the “Flower Forest” (those tall yellow ones)
14. Running and hiding and jumping out to scare the other kids.








It was a good reminder to me of how much they love being outside, how serene they are when they’re there, and how much learning can take place. We did several Nature Days in the spring, before it got too hot.

In the summer we tend to go outside in the mornings or evenings to beat the heat, or go swimming.

Some Nature activities we’ve done lately (some on cooler days):

-Blue Hole – a natural spring-fed swimming place, like playing in a creek. Awesome.
- Fed ducks at a nearby pond
- Went to a friend of a friend’s farm and fed the chickens, saw goats, and a donkey. This day was a huge hit.
- Went to a normal park in town, but the kids played down in the creek and tried to catch tiny minnows or crayfish.

Other Nature activities we’ve done in the past:
- Driven 45 minutes to a nearby lake with a state park for the day. Ate a snacky lunch and McDonald’s on the way, so I didn’t have to pack too much.
- a local museum is free for kids and has an incredible garden, some cultivated, some more wild. We just pay the adult fee, $8.50.
- gone to a sheep farm, Shepherd’s Cross sheep farm in Claremore (we go spring or fall)
- picked strawberries, blueberries, and blackberries.

As I plan out this upcoming school year, I have every other Thursday planned as a Nature/Science day where I’d like to get the kids out of the city, go to a lake or other wild place, and hopefully play, then do a nature journal (we are studying birds this year so I’m hoping to have them make a bird journal).

As you plan your school year, think about where you’d like to take your kids. Are there state parks within an hour’s drive? Mountains? Lakes? Even a duck pond in town can be a nice lunchtime break on a school day. Is there a way to incorportate whatever science you’re studying? A Nature journal is a great way, or looking at field guides to find birds or animals, or making a Tree or Bird Book of whatever they observe!

September and October are perfect weather around here. (If you live in Alaska, now might be the perfect time!)

How do you like to get your kids out in Nature?

For more reading on this, I highly recommend Richard Louv’s Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-deficit Disorder.


Frugal Family Fun: Shaving Cream, Popsicles, Boats and Work

When I saw that Moneysavingmom is doing a series on frugal family fun, I thought, “Great! Whatever we’re doing tomorrow I’ll take pictures and that will be our Frugal Family Fun!” Turns out, we had several fun activities.

Maybe we have this much fun every day and I just don’t notice because I’m not looking forward to it with the camera ready!

No, probably not.

Fun Activity #1: Shaving Cream       Cost: $3 normally, but free since I had it

Let me start this by saying my mom is in town, so it’s not like we do all this crazy stuff every day. My goal was to keep the kids busy while I worked on serious decluttering. During my decluttering of the laundry room cabinets, I came up with a bag of junk fun activities that I wanted to get rid of/use up while my mom is here.

There was no writing of the alphabet in the shaving cream or anything educational. My thinking about the project was, “Whatever.”

My six-year old decided to paint her limbs, then announced, “I’m the White Witch. I declare my dominion!”

(Yes, she knows the White Witch was evil and wanted to rule the world, but she still wants to be her. This is slightly troubling.)

My sons worked together to paint the little fort with shaving cream.




And more fort painting  . . .





Then, more body painting . . .

You are not really seeing huge piles of trash in the background there. You’re just hallucinating because of the heat.*



This went on for some time, with the kids progressing to nakedness (toddler), then swimsuits, then to playing in the water. All told, the shaving cream/water fun lasted a couple of hours.

Fun #2: Boats                                     Cost: Free

At some point along the way I put the toddler (who is doing wonderfully on his potty training this week, by the way) down for his nap.

The older two then rummaged through the recycling box for empty milk cartons and made a fleet of boats (their own idea).




They had quite a time with normal old milk cartons, but you can also fancy them up with toothpicks and make flags on them if you want.

Here’s a picture from when we were studying Columbus a couple of years ago and made the Nina, Pinta, and Santa Maria. That was really fun.

(The moss you see growing on the bottom of the pool is also a hallucination due to the heat.)

Fun #3:  Popsicles            Cost: $1-2






We just do paper cups with sticks in them, filled with orange juice, but somehow it is very exciting to my kids who ask for them constantly.

When friends come over who are used to normal popsicles they are wholly unimpressed, but my kids
don’t know any better and think these are great!


Fun #4: Work (Raking Plum Pits)              Cost: $2 (I paid him for 15 min of work)

I find that my kids often enjoy working on special projects, so I hoped that today they’d so something useful that was also fun. My angel mother was raking up the plum pits, so my son joined in and earned a couple of dollars.

My son really enjoys doing hard work and earning money most of the time.  (He complains sometimes too, but especially yard work he likes. I think it makes him feel tough.)

One thing I messed up on though was: SUNSCREEN!!! I forgot about sunscreen! This was one of our first days outside for hours, and I was in and out, so the kids got burned. :( Yikes. So be sure to remember that.

Also, if you do the shaving cream, make sure and tell your kids to be careful of getting it in their eyes. I don’t think it would cause permanent blindness, but probably would result in lots of screaming. My toddler got it all around his eyes and I kept
wiping his face off,  but it never seemed to irritate him. (The shaving cream, I mean. The wiping of the face did irritate him.)

Have fun!

* Okay, fine, you were seeing big piles of trash. Our backyard closely resembles a trash heap most days, but today my saintly mother actually managed to clean the whole thing  while she was out there with the kids. How did she do that? Normally I cheer myself with the knowledge that the awfulness of our backyard encourages all who see it that their own yards are gardens of delight by comparison.




Beauty in a Juice Glass

White Peony, Pink Rose in Small Mason Jar

One of my favorite things in the spring is cutting a sprig of this or that and bringing some beauty indoors.  I wrote a post recently (and might actually be brave enough to publish it soon) about getting overwhelmed at the chaos that is my yard, but choosing to focus instead on the beauty that is already there.

Like roses. And peonies.

It really inspires me to keep my tables cleaned when I have a gorgeous flower to put in the middle of it.

It doesn’t take much. A few branches of some blooming thing: wildflowers, a flowering tree or bush, or one amazing rose. Here are some pictures from today. Everything’s in bloom, it seems.

White roses and pink Abraham Darby rose.

This pink one is an heirloom one called Abraham Darby. I only remember that because the name sounds so fancy and Jane Austen-ish. [Note: I read later that he invented smelting coke into iron, thus enabling the Industrial Revolution. So if I invent something that inspires a revolution, will they name a rose after me?] They are an heirloom variety, so they cost maybe $30 for a plant instead of $20. It’s worth it. The blooms are exquisite, and the aroma fills my kitchen. It’s rosey-lemony scent is delicious. (Despite the fact that my toddler takes a whiff and declares emphatically, “Pea-yuck!!!” He’ll grow into it.)

  I am told this is Privet. Two weeks ago I thought it was a weed. This week I see it has tiny honey-scented blossoms and apparently, is a butterfly magnet. I’m not sure how I’ve missed this the last nine years I’ve lived in this house.
One gorgeous rose in one beautiful glass (my grandmother’s juice glass). It doesn’t take much to brighten up a room.
Today we’re not doing school (other than a spelling page, listening to Little Town on the Prairie CD, and doing math worksheets), and I’m enjoying getting everything in order again after being out of town for a family camp over the weekend. And even though my toddler is potty training and things are a bit crazy with messes in the bathroom, we can still have a joyful kitchen and dining room with these friendly flowers smiling at us when we come in the room.
They make us all happy.

Here are the flowers that grow in our yard during the spring with very little involvement from me. This is the order in which they bloom.

  • Bulbs (Daffodils, Tulips)- March – we planted one fall about five years ago.
  • Flowering trees - March – Plum (others include pear, apple, dogwood, etc.)
  • Flowering bushes - March/April – Forsythia (Sadly ours is dying, but these are gorgeous. Others include Azalea or Privet.)
  • Roses/Peonies – April/May/June usually. I am in love with roses. I planted eight bushes three years ago (my birthday and Mother’s Day presents). They’re not thriving like I want, but they are working their best at it. At least one bush is blooming for most of April and May.

But, in almost any yard, I’d bet there is something blooming and lovely, if you look hard enough. Wildflowers in a tiny vase are delightful. Send your kids out with their safety scissors and they can probably find something.

What lovely things are growing in your yard? What do you enjoy in a vase? How do you bring God’s beauty into your home?

(I have to stop typing and get off the computer now so my daughter can do her Xtra math. Have you heard of Xtra math? I love it.)

Gardening with Young Children

Here’s my guest post today over at Like a Bubbling Brook…
(Those aren’t my kids at the top of the post over there, by the way.I think the blog host used a stock photo.)

Planting a garden is a great way to teach kids about healthy food, how plants grow, and the spiritual lessons of God bringing a harvest. March is just the time to begin!

It’s okay if you don’t know anything. Go to the nearest farm store (preferably one where they actually know something, not a big home improvement store), find a man in overalls, and he’ll help you. The people at farm stores or nurseries are usually very knowledgeable. If you don’t have a farm store or nursery, you can try a university extension office for seed planting charts and people who know something.

Just start; you’ll figure it out as you go. It will be a fun adventure and you’ll know more at the end of the summer than the beginning! Think of the fun you and your children will have learning all this together!  Read More >

(And if you read the book, you’ll see some of the irony of this post, but that’s just my life. I have a sometimes-fresh-from-the-garden, and sometimes McDonald’s approach to dinner. Sorry.)

How to Adapt a Lesson (Spelling / Phonics Hopscotch)

You know those days when your weekly lesson plans just aren’t going to happen? A child wakes you up by puking into your bed and you need to go to the doctor; your sweet husband might, for once in his life, have something he’s asked you to do and since he’s virtually ignored (ahem) you feel compelled to do it; or, like today at our house, it might be such a beautiful sunny day that you don’t see how you could possibly suffer doing school inside.

I know discipline is important, I do, but sometimes I just have a hard time doing our boring old book lesson when the birds and the plum trees are singing to us. Usually we can be a bit flexible and still cover the material. One of my friends said once, “Oh, sure, easy for you to say. I have no idea how to do that!” Really? I thought everyone did this. But, other things come more naturally to her, things like, say, keeping a clean house or cooking dinner. To each her own.

I thought I’d share sort of the thinking behind this particular day. And I’d like to know, how do you adapt the lessons at your house for sun or snow?

Step One: What is the material we need to cover? Today with my second-grader, it was a spelling test. Normally, we do one spelling word list per week (this is the A Beka Spelling and Poetry book), and a test on Thursday where he writes the words down.  This lesson was a bit tricky— the difference between “au” words and “aw” words–so the orange sheet was a little extra practice at which words go in which column.








Step Two: Where are we going to be? 

Outside. I wanted to do something outside. It was sunny and beautiful today. So, how could I teach the material outside? I decided to make chalk squares with the letters inside.



The idea was: I would call out the spelling word and my son would jump on each letter in turn. We started out with he and his five-year-old sister holding hands, but then of course the two-year-old wanted to join, and things got a bit tricky. So we switched to them taking turns.

I called out a word, “Cause” and my second grader would jump on the letters to spell it out.  Then, of course the other two were left out, which brings us to . . .

Step 3: How can my other children be involved in something similar?

For my kindergartener’s turn, I called out a simpler word from the list, “Paws.” That was still a little too hard because of those tricky au/aw sounds. So we went to just letters. I’d say “Puh” and she would jump on “P,” then “ssss” and she would jump on “s.” Then, that was a bit too easy, so we made it a bit trickier by adding short/long vowel sounds. She’s been working on that lately.

Long I and Short I

So, I’d say “ih” and she’d have to figure out which letter to
jump on (short i). Then, she wanted me to throw a rock on one, and she’d jump on it and
make the sound, which was great too.
My two-year-old mostly ran around jumping on things. When I wanted to give him a turn, I said, “ssss for curvy curvy s!” and took him over to jump on it, and we all clapped and cheered while he beamed to the crowd. You’d think he just won an Oscar.

Can I just point out our shoe style? We managed to get to library story time and back before any of us noticed my little buddy had on mismatched footwear. But at least he had them on, and he did it himself!

This is the other great thing about doing school outside—basketball.
My little guy ran off to play basketball while the other two finished up their spelling/phonics lessons. Lovely. And, really, that’s school for him too, isn’t it? Large motor skills, eye/hand coordination. Perfect.

So, that’s how we adapted our lesson for outside today. The other times I’ve found it very helpful to adapt a lesson from a book are:

  • When a child isn’t getting a concept, ex. Fractions. We back off the books and go to Krispy Kreme and cut donuts into fourths, get a pizza and talk about
    eighths, etc. Approaching the same material in a new way really seems to help.
  • When my son (usually) is having trouble sitting still or writing. Especially
    writing. We have done math and spelling orally, jumped on the trampoline while
    spelling out words, and written letters with wet sponges instead of pencils.
  • When we have to double up on lessons. This week for example. I have two spelling lists to cover this week, so by turning one test into hopscotch, I might, might have avoided a mutiny when I announce another spelling test in two days. Last fall we doubled up on math lessons (because we switched to Saxon and needed some extra lessons to get caught up to their way of doing things), but I tried to make one lesson into a game, or hands-on activity at dinner time.

Anyway, this is one of the beautiful things about homeschooling, isn’t it? We can adapt  lessons to fit our children, and enjoy the lovely spring weather as well!

I’d love to know (once I tell people about this blog): How have you adapted lessons to fit your children or your day?