Tuesday, April 24, 2012

The Blessings Bible Academy: Nature Study Spring Wild Flowers '12

Nature study is a habit we are trying to instill in our weekly rhythms.  Getting ourselves out in nature can be as easy as taking walks or as complex as one would like to investigate and read up on a specimen of interest.  My 7 & 5 year old daughters, along with my 2 year old son, really enjoy getting outside for fresh air and play, so taking a few moments out to examine birds or flowers & trees isn't too difficult.  Of course, this easily gets forgotten and set aside without a plan, so I tend to follow the plans that I find at the Handbook for Nature Study

Outdoor Hour button

At this site, Barb posts weekly challenges to go study, and they tend to go along with the time of the year.  We don't do much of it during the winter months, but we work hard at making time for it the rest of the year.  There are a variety of challenges that a student can choose to do, and many have free downloads or printouts.  A major tool that goes along with nature study is the book, Handbook for Nature Study, a rather thick book that is chock full of information and lessons to go with your specific study.  You can buy this from bookstores like Amazon, or you can download it for free right now from the Homeschool Freebie.  There are 6 parts to the download, so make sure you get every part.

While nature study sounds nice and maybe even fun, you may wonder why bother?  I mean, is there enough learning going on here to totally skip doing other science?  I suppose that's really up to you and what you're looking for in elementary science.  I choose to follow a curriculum during the winter months, because it's cold and snowy in Michigan.  But here's why I choose to incorporate it the rest of the year.  

I believe that in giving our children "regular opportunities to get in touch with God's creation, a habit is formed which will be a source of delight throughout their lives."  (A Charlotte Mason Companion, p. 253)

Children need to be taught to observe carefully the world around them, and a way we do this is by creating a nature notebook, where the girls draw or color pictures of what we've been observing.  They also add a few notes, such as where and when the item was observed, and maybe a few sentences about it.

As we studied violets outdoors in our yard, I brought out our Handbook for Nature Study and read a few things about violets.  The book contained far more than was appropriate to teach to a 1st grade and younger, such as petioles and stipules (meaning, Mama didn't know what those were yet), but we did discuss how the violets were shaped, how many petals there were, what color the center of the flower was, and the leading lines into the center where the nectar is.

I took pictures of the violets so we could continue the study indoors, and Hannah picked a few and made this bouquet that fit into a curled piece of bark.  I thought it was quite creative and pretty!  She also picked a few so we could try pressing some flowers.

A few days after this, we got out our watercolor paints and first sketched and then painted the violets.  For Makenna, 5, this was the first time she sketched out a picture before painting.  She decided to include a variety of colors, so we came up with bluebells, poppies and snapdragons to go along with her violets.
Hannah was more careful in her approach.  She made sure that the violet in her sketch contained the 5 petals that she observed.

Hannah, age 7
Makenna, age 5

Another reason that I like Nature Study is that it incorporates art into our schooling.  The girls love to do art, and I easily skip over it, maybe allowing them to do it on their own if I'm up to the mess.  Making this a part of our day makes it so much more enjoyable, and the girls are excited to explore the world of art.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

The Blessings Homestead: Sourdough Starter

Linking to Homestead Revival Barn Hop

I have a dream of living on our very own homestead.  I'm not an animal lover, don't even like your dog licking my hands.  But the idea of living a self-sustaining life off the land really appeals to me.  When I was investigating options in making my own kefir, my brother joked that I was going all "Little House on the Prairie".  I responded by saying, "I guess I got to be who I always wanted to be!"

Sometimes a dream seems like too much to accomplish, and I can get overwhelmed and give up before anything truly gets off the ground.  An all or nothing kind of girl. Not this time, though.  I've got plans, some specific, some not so much, nothing down on paper or in the planner.  But every week I want to add to my list of skills or to my pantry or to my outdoor living spaces that promote homesteading and sustainability.

Sourdough:  what a place to start!  This isn't the first thing I tried, but it was one of the more interesting, on-going projects that I've started.

First, I created a starter.  Following some instructions, I placed 2 Tbl of rye flour and 2 Tbl water in a jar and stirred.  I added this amount again every 12 hours for the next 10 days.  It began to get very bubbly and yeasty smelling and started growing, just like it was supposed to.  Why does this happen?  I've used and made Amish Friendship sourdough before, but that had sugar and yeast in it.  This only has water and flour.  Apparently, our air has wild yeasts floating around in it, and they get pulled into the flour and water, creating a ferment.  On the top of my jar, I used a rubber band to hold a coffee filter over it, so air could pass through, but not dirt and bugs.

Here's a video that explains the process really well:

This lady's site has so much about sourdough as well as many other traditional foods that I would like to investigate further.

Why would I want to go to all this work for bread, when I could just pop ingredients into my bread maker and be done with it?  Or just buy it from the store?  Because I wanted the challenge.  Because I like the taste of it. And because it's healthier. 

It's healthier because of the long process it takes to soak the flour and get the dough ready to bake.  This process breaks down the gluten and makes it more digestible.  It also frees up more of the good stuff--the good bacteria, minerals and vitamins to be freed up to used by your body. Keepers of the Home gives some easy to read reasons as well as some recipes.

I think my starter is off to a good start and I've made a few things, like pancakes and biscuits, and even bread!  I may have baked bread before my starter was mature enough to handle the task, but my husband and I thought it was delicious!  I didn't care for the pancakes, and the biscuits were pretty good. I will experiment some more and post results.

Scripture & a Snapshot A Cheerful Heart

Springtime in Oceana County is usually a beautiful site.  This year, spring started early, with wonderfully warm temperatures in March.  I was torn between giving the girls a few days off of school work, or trying to hurry through the rest of the year's schoolwork and just be done with it.  We went for bike rides and took walks along the wonderful shores of Lake Michigan.  During this unseasonably warm spring, though, worry edged the back of our minds.  Late frosts could come as late as mid-May.  How could we go the next 8 weeks without freezing temperatures to damage the fruit trees?

My phone tells me the weather forecast, and whenever there is a weather threat, it never fails to chatter out a wild jungle sound to alert me of it.  So many nights now, my phone would send out the jungle warning at 3:30 am of a frost advisory.  And I knew our friends were out fighting the frost the only way they could:  start the fans blowing on the orchards.  And I fought the only way I could:  prayer to the Creator and Sustainer of life.

As it looks right now, there will be a very poor cherry & apple & peach season, along with others, I'm sure.  Living is a small farming community, we'll all feel the effects.  Those who aren't farmers work in the packaging plants and count of overtime during cherry season. Most others work in small family owned businesses that farmers buy and trade with.  My own family, my husband and father-in-law, do a lot of the farmers' mechanical work on their trucks and tractors and machinery.

Jesus is the One who sends the rain and the sunshine, along with the frost and the cold.  We give him thanks during the bounty, and we must choose to give him thanks during the lack. Blessed be His name! Bring on whatever it takes to bring Him glory.

I am not a farmer.  I'm not married to a farmer.  I don't have farmers in my family.  But I like to eat the fruits of their labor.  My friends and neighbors are farmers.  My brothers and sisters in Christ are farmers.  Can we all choose to trust the Lord of the Harvest together?

 My bluebells and violets are up and looking pretty!

I even planted some peas along the edges of our TeePee and some spinach in the inside of it.
 Here's our teepee in the garden from last year.  I hope to get the peas and beans to grow up it better this year.  Last year, I planted the seeds long before the teepee was in place.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Nature Study: Robins

Robins are always one of the first signs of spring around here, and they are so easy to identify...I remember learning all about them in 4th grade Michigan History study, as they are our state bird.  This year, our yard seems to have invited many of them to come and stay a while.  I only hope they don't eat all my strawberries again!

I planned on having some time to watch the robins this afternoon when it warmed up and the other bookwork was done, but I forgot that they are more plentiful in the morning and evening!  We'll have to continue our bird watching at the appropriate time.

 This is one of the few we saw at lunchtime, and this was as close as I could get to it.  I wish we could see the white circle around its eyes and the white belly patch that we read about.

We read about the robin and watched a few YouTube clips about the robin.  After spending some time outside trying to find them, we came inside and Hannah drew a picture of a robin.  She used a bird drawing book to help, but no tracing on this one!  My aim is to develop her artistic eye and train her to be attentive to details and practice observation skills.  Whether or not a child is a very good drawer, learning to draw and observe an object allows her to see details that she would have missed, thereby becoming much more intimately involved with what she is studying.
On the first day of spring this year, it actually looked like spring!  We had daffodils and everything!
For Passover this year, I bought this set you see here from Dayspring.  I never celebrated Passover before, and I led our ladies Sunday School class through a Seder meal.  This set includes the cup, the plate and 2 candle holders.  Hannah decided that she wanted to paint the cup, and she got this all set up to sketch out the cup.  I think it turned out rather interesting.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

wintertime Scripture & a Snapshot

Traveling around the neighborhood last weekend, and stopped to see some friends along the way.  The snow was sticking to all the trees and was so pretty!  This is what a cherry orchard looks like in the winter!  

This verse is chosen for the friend to whom this landscape belongs...she has gone through some losses recently, and it is so comforting that we can trust in a mighty God who is always good. (Canvas Love Stamped Love texture)

(And Then Some texture applied here)
Enjoying the slushy snow and sunny days!

This boy truly loves the out of doors!  Can't get enough of this snow and playing!  Especially snow this size, he can still move around in it.  Earlier, it was too much for him to walk in and he didn't know what to do with it all! (above, used If Only texture; below used And Then Some texture)

I used textures to edit many of these pictures, using Kim Klassen Cafe's textures on the 1st, 3rd, 6th & 7th picture.  Linking up with her "Texture Tuesday"


Monday, January 30, 2012

Front Porch Scripture & a Snapshot Sunday

Pairing a beautiful photo with Scripture really speaks volumes! I just love when I can take the time to create this kind of art. My friends, the Vander Zwaag's, spent a few months this fall purchasing and remodeling an old farm house. When I took a tour of their house, I was taken away by the wonderous color and the accents she used for decorating it. {I can't wait to photograph the inside!} It looks perfect for their family of 8! Last weekend, the sun was shining, the snow had freshly fallen, so I stopped to take some photos on my way past their house. I like how they turned out...

Stacy did request that the next time I do this, would I please shut her garage door? {I already felt like a stalker! Guess I should help myself to the garage door opener, too!}

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Riley's Christmas Pictures & Photo Shoot

I had the great pleasure to try out my new camera with some friends in their family orchard!  We finally were able to pick a day, and chose late afternoon to meet for the photos.  The day started out nice and sunny, but by the time 4 pm came, it was quite cloudy and looked like rain wasn't too far off.  While I'm pleased with these photos, I was hoping for more sunlight to work with.

Such a beautiful family!  Baby Riley is expected in another month or so, so we got a few belly shots as well.

It's always great to practice on new faces!

Look but Don't Take

All content (including text, photographs, and design work) is ©Jennifer Beggs. My original artwork is shared for personal inspiration only and may not be copied for contest submission or publication.

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I'm a Jesus Lovin' wife and homeschool Mama to 3. Photography & digital scrapbooking are my hobbies, along with reading great books and studying Scriptures.


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