Where the butterflies are…

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THIS has been MY summer dream!  To have a garden where the butterflies could flutter, land, sip, and flit about while I got to enjoy them and the beautiful flowers which attract them.  Many of the shots here are what I saw all summer, as I looked out my kitchen window, as I walked along outside, and this garden has brought us much joy!

I just love butterflies, and I love all kinds of flowers too!  I love having fennel growing where the boys bring in literally dozens of Black Swallowtail chrysalises to observe over the months!  I love the miracle of every new butterfly coming “out”!  It simply fills us with wonder EVERY TIME!

My dream was to grow an abundance of flowers where we could see how many butterflies would come!   We attended a seminar last winter about raising butterflies, and I thought that that sounded like so much fun! The presenter gave away free milkweed seeds (my husband asked me why in the world would they need to do that, since the plant grows everywhere as a weed…), and I took some!

The boys and I planted the seeds in a pot and they germinated just fine.  I really wanted milkweed to attract the Monarch butterfly, and so we could see it at all of its stages.  It just wasn’t meant to be for this year, I guess.  Little Acorn and I carefully transplanted the (weed) seeds to an area which he had worked hard to prepare.  We had dozens of little plants!  We planted a few in an old sandbox as well, along with some cute, short little sunflowers.  I never dreamed that we would have any trouble at all growing weeds!  But, that night a huge flooding storm came and completely washed away our milkweed from the bank, and I’m afraid the dog thought that the old sandbox would make a good bed, and she squashed the rest!  😦

Not to worry!  My husband showed me where several, nicely-growing milkweed plants were located, so we transplanted some of those to a couple of different spots.  I don’t know what happened, but they croaked.  This was about the same experience I had when trying to grow Black-Eyed Susan flowers this year.  I transplanted, seeded, and fiddled with several plants, unsuccessfully!  I was about ready to go out and BUY myself a plant (another weed), but my seeds finally did come through for me.  Not so with the milkweeds.  They never did make it.  Maybe next year.  I am determined to see a Monarch butterfly chrysalis!

Despite our several unsuccessful attempts, we did have some success as well.  One word for butterflies–ZINNIAS!  They grow easily, they come in every color you could want, even green, which we did grow, and the butterflies just LOVE them!   I took the boys to the seed store in the Spring, and they each picked out several different packages of Zinnias.  I picked out some, too, and when we planted them, they really took off!  Those flowers sure brightened up the front side of our house this summer.  I am going to be sad to see them go.  We will definitely grow those again–every year.  We have marked off the “best” ones with tape and plan to collect and save the seeds to see what we get.  Banana Man says not to count on much since they might not turn out like the parent plants.  Oh, well.  We will try, anyway.

I had some birthday money and was in the middle of this butterfly project, so I decided that nothing would be better than a book to teach me more!  This really could be a book for children, but I think it’s perfect for all ages, and I ordered it for me!  It’s called The Life Cycle of Butterflies by Judy Burris and Wayne Richards.  This book is phenomenal!  It shows the complete life cycle of 23 common garden butterflies in photos.  It does not cover every species you might see, but I like that it shows eggs, caterpillars, chrysalises, and butterfly, plus tells you host plants, nectar plants, and just an abundance of information that a butterfly grower or watcher would want.

I don’t see the butterfly garden idea as a one-year project.  We have enjoyed it so much that I believe that as long as we’re able, we will make a butterfly garden every year, and one of these times, we are going to witness that Monarch metamorphosis take place!

I hope you enjoy our butterfly garden!


The Little A’s Report

From the mouths of the Little A’s, here are their replies to the following question.

My favorite activity from the past week in school was…

Action A:  “Doing the science experiment with the balloon!  🙂  We used baking soda and vinegar and poured it into a cup (bottle) and put the balloon over it, and then it pumped up the balloon with the carbon dioxide.”

Little Acorn:  “I liked doing the science experiment because we could see how long the bag would stay filled up with air. ”

Little Animal King:     “Swimming!  I jumped and I laid down in the water, on top of it.   Oh, and Snap Circuits!  I like playing with them! “

THAT is an understatement!  Little AK really does love the Snap Circuits.  He seems to never tire of trying new experiments.  Or the same one over and over!  How many times did I hear the mechanical “happy birthday” tune tonight, accompanied by a scary space siren (over and over and over…), coming from his latest experiment!  I finally had to ask him to stop the noise unless he wanted to drive me bananas.  🙂

It did come as a surprise to me at how well the Backyard Scientist experiments have gone over.  Action A said they were his favorite “extra” activity that we do–I think he forgot about swimming team at that moment, but that’s still kind of neat.  This past week we did another one with baking soda and vinegar, learning about how CO2 is formed.   We blew up balloons, launched corks from bottles, exploded some baggies, all with the same lowly two ingredients.  We really did have a blast (pardon the pun), and I took very few pictures, because, well, most of these experiments required you to move very quickly to contain the CO2 before it all escaped.  This was fast-paced and explosively satisfying, which certainly has its draw to our boys!

Swim team is also going well.  Since it was mentioned, I thought I’d give a report.  The first week, I took lots of great pictures, only to discover that my memory card was home, and my camera was with me.  Oops!  😉  This past week, as promised, the teacher let the swimmers who wanted to “climb” a pole to the bottom of the 12-foot deep end of the pool.   Action A gave it his best shot, but never quite made it to touch the bottom!  Not yet!  He hasn’t given up, though.  Just needs to develop a bit more lung capacity!   Little Acorn and Animal King worked on things in more shallow waters, but did line up to take a jump off the diving boards with the other students.   They both wanted to do it, but still had some fears to overcome.  They both did end up jumping in and doing well, but the process was far from quick.  🙂  We all progress in our own time scale.  I’m grateful that the teacher is an understanding person who understands children and lets them move at their own pace.

So, there you have it–a small peek into the world of the Little A’s and what they liked from this past week.

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WooHoo!! Tuesday Extra!


Our “extra” school project for Tuesdays, when we are able, will be an experiment from the book, Backyard Scientist. These are simple experiments using household items, so very doable and reasonably quick–important when you consider that ANYTHING involving experiments and the Little A’s is bound to be less than quick and mess-free!

So, today we did one on density using popcorn kernels, baking soda, and vinegar. If you’ve ever made an exploding volcano, you’ll recognize the same ingredients, minus the popcorn! So, that’s pretty much what we had on our table–an exploding cup! But the enthusiasm was fun, as the boys brainstormed about what would happen if they doubled the ingredients (in the same cup–I had to put the halt on that one, as we’d already had an overflow with half the amount!).

We decided that the Backyard Scientist series is a hit here, so, as long as time permits, it will be a regular part of our Tuesday school experience.







First day of school, X2

The time has finally arrived for school to start up again for the year! So many times through this busy summer, I have said to myself, as well as others, “I’m eager for school to begin again so we can get back to some order and regularity around here!” It has indeed been a busy summer!

We have now officially begun our school year! We had an unusual beginning, a false start, really. We had aimed to begin one week ago, and did begin after a fashion. But, some of our books remained on backorder, so it was a rather hodge-podge kind of week, with many non-school interruptions demanding attention. So, while we had a first day last week, we all knew in our hearts that our official start would be when all of our books arrived. That has now happened, and so today marked our official beginning.

I believe that the beginning of the year is an appropriate time to post new pictures of the students in attendance. Here they are, during an outside break today:

We like to begin our school year by doing measurements. Each of the boys have really grown this past year! Action A grew in height by 6 1/2 cm, Little Acorn increased by 6 cm, and Little Animal King grew the most by gaining 7 cm in the past eleven months! (you may note that our youngest Little A’s online name has now changed from Ambulance Man/Boy to Little Animal Lover)

We have begun a new curriculum this year, and look forward to seeing how we fit into it. It’s called the Trail Guide to Learning, and this year we will be doing Paths of Exploration. I will not post all of the resources from this curriculum, as they are quite extensive, but it is a literature based curriculum, which basically means that you use real books about real people and events, instead of largely relying on a text for the information. It does actually have two thick textbooks, which guide you through what to do. Our first six weeks will be spent studying the life and exploration of Christopher Columbus. The readers and Little Animal King’s copywork book are in one picture. Instead of “readers” we will use actual books for reading practice; so far, the boys have enjoyed that part. Everyone got a turn to read aloud something from the life of Columbus. Each boy also works through a notebook of various activities in different subjects, which I think will be our biggest adjustment. This curriculum includes all subjects except for math. Here’s what our text and readers for the first unit look like.

One addition to our school program is an extra that the boys are VERY excited about! We have decided to add regular time using Snap Circuits as an instructional opportunity instead of a more casual play time. The boys’ grandpa has provided a different set over the last couple of years for each boy, plus Action A used some gift money and purchased a Snap Circuits Rover to use. These “toys” really do fascinate our boys–they love to do the experiments. Little Animal King just received a set for his birthday, and he has used a good bit of his free time this last week performing experiments, chatting ALL the time! “See, Mommy! Mommy, watch this! Mommy, MOMMY, you’re not watching! Do you want to see what this one does?” Etc. I feel quite overwhelmed with it all, but we have some good manuals to explain what is happening with each experiment. I’m thinking that over the next few years we will grow more into this knowledge, as there is so much to learn and knowledge to apply.

Here the three are on our actual first day of school, last week. They want to zip through the projects and not worry about the explanation. We do both. It’s a little hard to coordinate everyone on the same experiment since they want to see what the “next” project does, but we’re starting at the beginning and slowly moving through the explanations. This part will be a good lesson in patience. 😉 Here are some shots of that first day.

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We are looking forward to a great year! Another activity that has everyone about as excited as the Snap Circuits is a homeschool swim team that the boys will participate in once a week. Our local Y hosts this, and we will go to our first meeting this week! This will not be a competitive team, but a place where all of the children come together to learn how to build up endurance and improve their personal skills while meeting other homeschoolers. The boys all took swimming lessons this summer at the Y, and I was very proud of how much they each improved! Action A took off swimming like a fish once he realized that he could do it, and Little Acorn and Little Animal King both overcame their fear of the water and are now really making good progress as well. The leader will work with each child in the area in which they need improvement, make suggestions, and just provide a good environment in which to learn. It’s almost like year-round swimming lessons! With friends! Oh, and the parents can get right in and participate too, which they actually encourage. So, we are really looking forward to this aspect of the school year!

Our first official day certainly had its fun, as well as the usual unplanned interruptions. 😦 After spending forty-five minutes on a rabbit trail of looking for a lost marker, we all were a little high-strung! So, while we got to do much of what we had planned for today, I realized at last that we needed a little break away from the formal aspect of schooling. At that point, we all headed down to the pond with a good book, flopped ourselves into the hammock, and enjoyed some good read-aloud time with Laura and Mary from Little House on the Prairie and the Kid’s Edition of Adventist Frontiers magazine. Ahh…school can truly be fun again!