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Homeschool Nature Study: The Chickadee

This homeschool nature study will have you looking at winter birds and in particular the sweet little chickadee.

I consider this particular challenge as a personal lesson/revelation that nature knows no borders. You see when we first started using the Outdoor Hour Challenge and this little bird popped up as the focus of our weekly studies I was disappointed. I live in the UK and we have different birds to those of you in the States. I didn’t think that we would be able to follow along and it was so early on in our nature study days that I did not have the confidence to just find something else on our walk.

As I was gazing out of the dining room window at our bird feeder pondering on my dilemma, who should come along but a coal tit!

They are no stranger to our feeders along with their cousins the great tit, blue tit and those sweet mouse-like birds, the long-tailed tit.

The coal tit looks remarkably similar to the chickadee. After a bit of investigating I discovered that the American Chickadee and the British tits are all in the same genus. Yes, we may live across the pond and have wildlife that is unique to each country but there are similarities and connections.

From that challenge on if it was focussed on an animal or plant unique to the States, I would simply see if we had something similar and go with that. So please be encouraged to do the same whatever country you live in.

Homeschool Nature Study: The Chickadee

Nature Study Lesson Plans for Chickadee Nature Study

Here are some inside preparation ideas for your chickadee nature study:

  1. Read in the Handbook of Nature Study pages 68-69 (Lesson 14).
  2. Highlight a few of the questions in the lesson to use during your outdoor time.
  3. Check your bird field guide, using the index to look for chickadees in your area. Share the images with your children.
  4. Younger Children: Read Burgess Bird Book Ch. 37 online or listen to an MP3 recording to hear the chickadee story.
  5. YouTube: Chickadee Documentary and What Do Chickadees Eat? 

Outdoor Hour Time: 

  1. Use some of your outdoor time this week to look for backyard birds. Chickadees should be present during the winter season and are often found at backyard feeders. Remember the questions from the Handbook of Nature Study lesson and gently guide your children to observe the chickadee to find the answers. Chickadees are often seen with nuthatches and downy woodpeckers and are attracted to feeders that offer suet and black oil sunflower seeds.
  2. In areas that do not have chickadees, observe another feeder bird and their habits. Do they sit on the feeder or under the feeder? Which kinds of food do they like? What do they sound like? How big are they? How many of them are at the feeder?

Chickadee Nature Study Homeschool Follow-Up Activity:

  1. Follow-up your outdoor time by pulling out your bird field guide to identify and/or confirm any bird observations. If you saw a chickadee, have your child describe the bird with as much detail as possible. If they have trouble remembering, bring up an image on the computer to help them along.
  2. If desired, allow time for a nature journal entry. Ebook users: Complete a Chickadee notebook page (regular or advanced) or a Winter Feeder Bird notebook page entry to capture the memory of your time outdoors. There is an optional coloring page included in the ebook.
  3. Advanced follow-up: Read Distinguishing Chickadees. Read about Tricky Chickadees (Black-capped and Carolina). Compare two chickadees (notebook page included in the ebook).
Homeschool Nature Study: The Chickadee

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Outdoor Hour Challenge – Fall/Winter Specific Plans

Outdoor Hour Challenge Plans for Sept 16 to March 17 @handbookofnaturestudyI have received many emails asking me specific plans for the Outdoor Hour Challenge for the autumn and winter seasons.  I had hesitated to post up a plan until I had it nailed down on my calendar. But, now I have it all straight in my mind and I’m going to share the specifics in this post. Make sure to bookmark it or add the topics to your calendar for future reference. My wish is that we all have some interesting and productive nature study time as a regular part of our week. If you miss a week  or you don’t have access to the particular topic, just pick up where you can participate.

Remember that we are going to be starting up the Outdoor Hour Challenge Blog Carnival again on November 1, 2016. If you create a blog entry with your nature study activities featured, please send me the link and I will add it to the carnival. My email is:

Note: You do not need to purchase the ebooks to participate but they are handy to have for planning and for the regular and advanced notebook pages included in each one. Click the graphic at the bottom of this post to go over to check out the Ultimate Naturalist Library membership.


Outdoor Hour Challenge – Autumn and Winter 2016/2017

More Nature Study Autumn Cover imageSeptember 9 – Leaf Miners

September 16 – Pears

September 23 – Milkweed

September 20 – Fall Webs

October 7 – Fall Color Walk

October 14 – Chipmunks

October 21 Sparrows

October 28 – Leaf Study

November 4 – Thistles

November 11 – Maple Tree and Seeds

November 18 – Oaks (from the archives)

November 25 – off

December 2 – Silent Nature Walk (from the archives)

December 9 – Senses Nature Walk (from the archives)

December 16 – December World (from the archives)

December 23 – off

December 30 – off

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More Nature Study Ebook Bundle

More Nature Study Bundle Button - Square
Now you can purchase the More Nature Study Ebook Series as a bundle!
Special Discounted Bundle Price of $29.99.

Ebooks included
More Nature Study—Autumn 2011
More Nature Study Book 2 —Winter 2012
More Nature Study Book 3—Spring 2012
More Nature Study Book 4—Summer Sizzle (2012)

More Nature Study CoverMore Nature Study Book 2 Winter Wonder cover
More Nature Study Book 3 Cover imageMore Nature Study #4 Cover image

Special Bundle Price of $29.99
Please note that I send the links within 24 hours of purchase to the email address associated with the Paypal account.

Complete list of topics included in all four ebooks in this bundle:

  • Buttercups and poppies
  • Chickadee
  • Chipmunks
  • Cottonwood
  • Daisy, aster, and black-eyed susans
  • Dogwood
  • Ferns
  • Gall dwellers
  • Goats
  • Granite
  • House sparrow
  • Hummingbirds
  • Iris
  • Leaf-Miners and leaf-rollers
  • Leaf study
  • Magnets and compass
  • Maples
  • Milkweed
  • Monarch butterfly
  • Moon
  • Mouse
  • Mullein
  • Pansies
  • Pears
  • Quartz
  • Robin
  • Sand and soil
  • Sheep
  • Snails
  • Thistles
  • Tree—Buds, catkins, blossoms. Twigs.
  • Turtles and pondweed
  • Vines-Sweet peas, dodder, hedge bindweed
  • Weather—spring, winter, fall color, summer
  • Webs
  • Yellow jackets and mud daubers

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Early Spring Flowers – Nature Study and Art Project

Finch on the Feeder Spring

Our Pansy Study and Early Spring Flowers Challenge

What a splendid time to be out in the garden! Our neighborhood is coming alive with spring blossoms and the birds are flocking to our feeders in record numbers. We have an abundance of house finches this year and they vary in color from light pink to purple to almost orange. Amazing display of creation!

Daffodils and Lavender 2

The early spring bulbs are all up and many are blooming. The daffodils and the grape hyacinth are blazing with color. The forsythia is starting to blossom and the lavender has new flowers for our bees to buzz in. The tulips and iris are all up but just showing lots of green leaves so far.

Daffodils in Vases

We arranged dozens of flowers in the house and our kitchen table is so cheerful and happy. I got out all my vases and dusted them off for the season. I seem to collect pretty vases and I love it even more when they don’t match exactly. Even my hubby had a smile on his face when he spied the colorful flowers on the table.

Pansy Study Collage

So our pansy study consisted mostly of admiring them and recreating them in artwork since we have studied them closely in the past. Mr. B and I had pansy art time on a rainy afternoon. There really is no better way to make yourself examine a subject better than to apply your attention to an art project. Slowing down to discover the shapes, form, and patterns makes a big impression.

Pansy Art - Markers

Mr. B always chooses to work with markers if given the choice but I am still working on feeling comfortable with acrylics. I think these pansy creations are going to be framed and hung in my bathroom vanity area. I have a small collection of floral artwork done by children there already so it will be a perfect fit.

Pansy Art - Acrylics
I played around with the acrylics and a small canvas panel I had from Michaels. I tried not to take myself too seriously and just have fun. Art therapy….even for moms.

So now we are officially finished with the More Nature Study Book 2 – Winter 2012 challenges and we will be going over a few of the suggested Charlotte Mason Exam Questions that are included in the ebook. The thing about Charlotte Mason style questions is that they ask the child to tell back in some way what they know about a topic and never to find out what they don’t know. I do not grade these assignments and look at them as a way for Mr. B to review what we learned and enjoy a little more time together discussing things that are fresh in our minds. I recommend you give it a try if you have the More Nature Study ebook and see how it goes.
More Nature Study Book 3 Cover image
Don’t forget to send me your Outdoor Hour Challenge Blog Carnival entries directly since the carnival website is not working.

As a reminder, we will be starting the new More Nature Study Book 3 – Spring Splendor series on March 23, 2012. Just in time for the first days of spring! I look forward to another season of nature study with all of you.

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Winter Wonder Follow-Up Nature Study

Winter Wonder Collage

Remember back to when we started the Winter Wonder series of challenges? Your child filled out the questionnaire and came up with some things they were interested in learning about during this season of nature study. Pull that notebook page out and see if you have been able to find answers to your child’s questions. (Note: notebook page is in the ebook.)

Also, see if you were able to complete the three winter activities yet. If not, make some plans or add it to your Winter 2013 list. Nature study is something you can build on from year to year or maybe you can complete the activity in an up-coming season.

How did we do as a family?
We were able to find answers to all three questions and completed two of the three activities Mr. B asked to do during the winter season. One of the things he wanted to do was to hike to the river and we did that five times since we had such wonderfully mild weather during our winter. The best part of it was that we actually discovered two new hiking trails within ten minutes of our house so we are going to have a whole year of exploring as we watch the seasons change along these unfamiliar pathways. Just the thing to spark new discoveries and new subjects for nature study!

I encourage you to follow up on any interest and keep asking questions. There will be an opportunity to do this same exercise in with the Spring Splendor series of Outdoor Hour Challenges.

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OHC More Nature Study Book 2 – Pansy

Purple Pansies


More Nature Study Book #2
Flower Study – Pansy

Inside Preparation Work:

  1. Read in the Handbook of Nature Study pages 555-558 (Lesson 152). Pansies are a flower children love and once you point out the “face” in the flower they will never forget this lesson. Highlight information as you read the narrative so that you can acquaint your child with the details of this pretty flower.
  2. See if you can find some pansies at your local garden center to purchase and bring home for observations this week as part of your nature study time.
  3. Watch these videos for good information on growing pansies: Learning About Pansies. Planting Pansies.
  4. Advanced preparation: Read the Wikipedia article on pansies.

Outdoor Hour Time:

  1. If you were able to purchase some pansies, use your outdoor time to plant them in your garden or in a container. Follow the directions that come with your pansy for proper placement in the garden.
  2. Observe your pansy using the suggestions in Lesson 152. For younger students you should complete suggestion #1. For older students you can add as many of the other ideas as you have time.
  3. If you do not have a pansy to observe, spend your outdoor time looking at any spring flowers you have available. See this past challenge for observation ideas: Early Spring Flowers: Tulips, Daffodils, and Crocus. 

Follow-Up Activity:

  1. The pansy is a wonderful flower to watercolor in your nature journal. Get out the paints and let your children give it a try. You can use watercolor paper cut to the right size to fit in your journal or notebook if you don’t want to watercolor directly onto the journal paper.
  2. Sketch your pansy, write a description of your pansy just like a scientist would do in a journal, and then use your words to make a pansy poem. You can copy your poem to fresh paper and decorate it for your nature journal. Ebook users: Complete the notebook page included in the ebook and/or the coloring page.
  3. Advanced follow-up: Use the questions from Lesson 152 to summarize your pansy observations (Ebook users: notebook page provided).

Make sure to sketch your flower and label its parts. You may find these two pages helpful: Pansy Flowers and Standard Flower. You can also press a pansy and then include it in your nature journal. You can see my short video tutorial: How To Make a Flower Press for ideas.

More Nature Study Winter Wonder

Ultimate Ebook Library @handbookofnaturestudy

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Magnets, Compass, and Moon Nature Study in our Neighborhood

I am going to combine two of the Outdoor Hour Challenge nature studies from the More Nature Study Book 2 series since we have been working on them over the last few weeks a little at a time. The topics have provided plenty to talk about during our walks and rambles around the neighborhood.

Moon Names and  Magnets and Compass

The compass directions were easy to determine in our yard after years of observation of sunrises and sunsets. We decided to test our sense of direction as we walked our regular trails and found a map of our local area to use as a starting point.

I will readily admit that I have a terrible sense of direction and live in a family of men who seem to never lose their way. This was a good exercise for me in particular. We would walk to a certain point and then try to determine north and south. We had the small map of the area in our pocket and we would check the actual direction after we made our guesses. I am happy to report that I have gained some skill in determining direction. 🙂

Hiking with the Moon
The moon has also been a subject of discussion and observation since it has been visible in the afternoons as well as in the evenings. Tonight it is HUGE in the twilight sky and we even saw Jupiter and Venus while we out there looking (opposite parts of the sky). You can read about them here: This Week’s Sky at a Glance.

Mr. B and I decided on our choice of names for the March full moon (instead of the official Full Worm Moon).

  • Radiant Moon (Mr. B’s choice)
  • Manzanita Moon (my choice)

Manzanita Flowers
The manzanita trees are bursting out in bloom over the last week so I picked that as the full moon name. The blossoms are so delicate and pick and almost look like ornaments that someone has strung on the branches.

3 1 10 Manzanita blooms

Here is a photo from a previous year with a close-up of the delicate pink blossoms.

Do you want to know something? Even though it pains me sometimes to have a challenge to complete each week….keeping myself accountable on the blog…..I realize that if we didn’t have a focus of some sort we would miss out on some really wonderful and insightful discussions and time outdoors together. Even when we just complete the preparation and then the outdoor time with no real follow-up we are gaining something extra from our Outdoor Hour. If nothing else, it gives me an activity to enjoy alongside my teenage son.

We have one more challenge to go in the More Nature Study Book 2 series – Pansies! I am really looking forward to this last study of the season and I am planning on a watercolor project for me and hopefully Mr. B will join me.

I almost forgot to mention that we acquired some rare earth magnets for a project my husband is working on in the shop. We highly recommend these for advanced magnet work and for some awesome fun too. The men are trying to make a magnetic motor…a motor that runs continuously on magnetic power. It keeps them out of trouble. 🙂

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Quartz Study – Rock Collecting Gone Crazy

Rocky Shore - American River
Our quartz study has stretched on for weeks. We have had numerous rock collecting hikes and each time we come home we develop new questions to be answered. The supply of quartz in our area is seemingly endless. Once your eye starts to look for it…you see it everywhere.

Our family lives in the gold country of California. The gold rush started practically in our backyard. We drive by the American River every day…as the crow flies it is about 3 miles from our house. This area is full of old gold mines and many people still today make a living by mining and panning for gold (or using a sluice box). Where there is gold, there is quartz.

Collection of Rocks - American River
We collected milky quartz for the most part at the river, along with a variety of other “pretty” rocks. I have a special place for pretty rocks in my heart. It may be the hunting for them or the spotting of a particularly nice rock that keeps me coming back for more.

Mr. A shares my love of rocks and we enjoyed an afternoon this week at the river with the Kona dog. Kona likes sticks more than rocks so we occupied her with fetching sticks while we looked for something interesting along the rocky shore.

Sunny Afternoon at the American River
The sound of rushing water always seems to welcome a good thoughtful sit..even on an uncomfortable rock. This day we sat and enjoyed the warmth of the sun after a freezing morning. Our jackets were slipped off on the hike back to the car which was nice.

At home we started off with a magnifying lens, looking carefully at the surface of each rock. This can quite addictive once you get started and there really is a lot to see.

Quartz Study with Pyrite

We noticed a colorful collection of sand on the surface of one rock and we had the bright idea to place it on a slide and look at it under the microscope.

River Rock - American River

We are still not sure if the shiny gold is actually gold or pyrite….probably pyrite flakes.

River Sand on a Microscope Slide
We placed a little sand on a microscope slide…our rocks all had small amounts clinging to the nooks and crannies.

Quartz Study  4
Now this is where the study becomes even more interesting! We spent the next hour or so taking turns finding things on the slides to share with each other. It was like discovering a new dimension.

We now have a larger collection of quartz and pretty rocks, a growing understanding of what “sand” is after looking at it under the microscope, and an appreciation that we don’t know everything about everything. 🙂

Quartz Study  3
Amazing world down there…who would have thought?

Quartz Study  2
It is not too late to do your own study of quartz using the Outdoor Hour Challenge. You may be as amazed as we were.

More Nature Study #2 button

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OHC More Nature Study Book 2 – Moon and Moon Names

Our Best Moon Shot of the Night 1 31 10  
More Nature Study Book #2 
Moon and Moon Names  

Inside Preparation Work:

  1. Read in the Handbook of Nature Study pages 855-859 (Lesson 232). Read for your own information only because this week we are just going to focus on enjoying the moon and learning some of the history of the full moon names.
  2. Read this page on Full Moon Names and see what March’s moon name means.
  3. If you have a blog or website, you can add a lunar phase widget to keep up to date.
  4. YouTube video: Moon phases (kid friendly)

Outdoor Hour Time:

  1. Spend part of your Outdoor Hour time in the evenings looking at the moon. (Full Moon March 8, 2012) Have your child use words to describe what they see in the winter sky. If you have binoculars, make sure to bring those out with you and take turns looking at the moon.
  2. As an alternative, bundle up and go outdoors for this challenge in the evening when it is dark. Have a flashlight for each person as you walk to a safe, predetermined spot (even within your backyard). Turn off the flashlight and allow time for your eyes to adjust. Make some observations. This might be a great activity to do when there is a full moon and then again when there is a new moon.
  3. Advanced Study: Keep a record of your moon observations. The Handbook of Nature Study suggests, “Have the pupils observe the moon as often as possible for a month, beginning with the full moon.”

Follow-Up Activities:

  1. Talk about your experiences outdoors at night. Record your moon and nighttime observations. You can sketch the full moon with colored pencils or watercolors. View these moon nature journals as examples to get started: Just Before the Full Moon, Waning Sturgeon Moon, Full Worm Moon. These should give your child an idea of how to show the moon and a setting.
  2.  Ebook Users: After viewing the moon or looking at the Mood Words Images page included in the ebook, complete the Moon Words notebook page. Use your moon words and observations to make up a new full moon name. Be sure to record you name for this full moon on the notebook page or in your nature journal.
  3. Advanced Study: Keep a moon journal for a complete lunar cycle (full moon to full moon). Make as many moon sketches as you can during this month to document the lunar cycle. Record your observations in your nature journal. Ebook users: Use the Moon Journal notebook page from the ebook.

Additional Links: 

You can see how our family completed this challenge here in this entry:
Magnets, Compass, and Moon Names.

More Nature Study Winter Wonder

Ultimate Ebook Library @handbookofnaturestudy

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OHC More Nature Study – Magnets and Compass

Sunset with clouds and pines  
More Nature Study Book #2 
Magnets and Compass 

“The first ideas to learn are that the sun rises in the east and sets in the west. Just by knowing this he’ll be able to tell in which direction nearby streets and buildings are from his house or town….Have him stand so that east is towards his right where the sun rises and west is towards his left, where the sun sets. Everything straight in front of him is north, everything behind him is south.” Charlotte Mason, volume 1 page 75

Inside Preparation Work:

  1. Read in the Handbook of Nature Study pages 776-779 (Lesson 219 on the magnet). Use a highlighter or underline sections that you would like to share with your children. Suggested magnet activities: #1, 2, 3, 5, 6, and 7.
  2. As a supplement to the lesson on the magnet, introduce your child to a compass. Start by teaching your child the four cardinal directions: North, East, South, and West. Show them that the compass will always point to magnetic north. Now explain that south will be in the opposite direction, east to the right, and west to the left. Suggested activities from Lesson 219: #12 and #13.
  3. Watch these videos: How to Hold a Compass and Bill Nye on the Earth’s Magnetism.
  4.  Advanced suggestion: Make your own compass.

Outdoor Hour Time:

  1. Spend your Outdoor Hour time in your own backyard or neighborhood. Take your magnet and compass outside with you. Let your child use the magnet to find things that are magnetic in your yard. (Make sure to keep magnets away from electronics.)
  2. Take your compass outdoors and have your child find the four cardinal directions. Find landmarks for each direction. For example: north is the pine tree across the road from your house, south is the telephone pole on the next street, east is the neighbor’s flag pole, west is the mailbox.
  3. Advanced suggestion: Observe the sunset to see the exact direction it sets during the winter. Make observations over the next month, record the results, and see how the direction changes over time. Use a compass to record the exact direction in degrees. Ebook users: Use the Sunset Observation notebook page to record your results and conclusions.

 Follow-Up Activity:

  1. Take a few minutes to ask your child what they learned about magnets and compasses. They may be satisfied with this challenge at this point and the best way to follow up is to use the skills you learned in the days to come. Use the vocabulary you learned (magnetic, north, south, east, west) as you complete future nature study or outdoor activities.
  2. Your child may like to complete a notebook page recording their magnet and compass observations on notebook page or they could record their results in a nature journal. Optional: Use this Points of a Compass (Homeschool Share) activity for younger students if you wish.
  3. Advanced follow-up: Use your compass skills to determine the orientation of your house. Make a map of your neighborhood and include a compass rose. (You can learn more about a compass rose HERE.) Use this information in the future by recognizing wind direction as you observe the weather. Wind is named for the direction it is coming from and not where it is blowing to. (Example: North winds are blowing from the north.)
  4. Advanced follow-up: Map and Compass Basics-Azimuth and Navigation with a Compass.
  5. Advanced follow-up: Have you read about Letterboxing or Geocaching? Both of these family activities can be fun ways to get outdoors and use your compass and map reading skills.

You can see how our family completed this challenge here in this entry:
Magnets, Compass, and Moon Names.

More Nature Study Winter Wonder

Ultimate Ebook Library @handbookofnaturestudy