"....Your children shall be like olive plants all around your table." Psalm 128:3

Monday, July 22, 2013

Nature Exchange

Hi friends,

A couple of years ago, I read an online article out about a fun nature-sharing idea. It's called a Nature Exchange. At the time, there was a woman who was a  mediator of sorts, who would take the names and addresses of 2 families that lived far apart from one another (maybe even in another country), exchange the info, and then the 2 families would gather nature items from their area, and mail them to each other. It sounded like a great way to learn about nature in other parts of the country....or world. 

I sent the mediator our info. Long story short, we sent a family a wonderful box of nature goodies, and got nothing in return...no nature treasures, not even a thank-you note. My children were so disappointed.

So I gave up on that idea for awhile.

  But being the nature-loving children that they are, they brought it up a month or so ago, asking if we could try another family.

I decided that we would not use a mediator again since I have so many wonderful blogging friends to ask.

I made a mental list of the ones that I thought would be interested. There was one friend who is so busy, she can't possibly participate this time around. I completely understand.

So then I thought of my dear AO friend, Silvia, who although she doesn't live in another country, she lives far enough away that our climates and native animal/plant species are vastly different. 

I mentioned her to my children and they were very eager to learn all about the nature in Silvia's state.

So I emailed her to ask.  And she said, "Yes!"
 The gathering frenzy commenced. The children worked really hard to find things they thought Silvia's family would enjoy. If I had $1.00 for every time one of the children asked, "Can we send this in the box?", I would be a very rich woman.  :)

When the frenzy had subsided and we had enough to fill a box, we wrapped everything in bubble wrap,
 labeled them, and carefully packed them in a box. We also included a short letter introducing our family and telling a little bit about what it's like to live in our area.

We securely taped up the box and mailed it. 

We hope they have as much fun opening it as we did sending it.  :)
(And btw, we had so much  fun and learned so much about nature in Silvia's area, we're planning on doing it again later this year!)

Now, for the 2nd best part of this whole thing...would you like to know what Silvia's family sent us?
I thought you'd never ask! ;)

Take a look at my children (and oldest granddaughter) tearing into the box...

Here are the treasures that were in the box...
They sent us beautiful shells...

Pecans (we LOVE pecans!)...

A stick with smooth bark and a wonderful smell...

Prickly Sycamore pods (we love these, because we have only the smooth pods!)...

Lovely duck feathers...

A huge mushroom...

They also sent us a sweet treat - delicious figs! Yummy!  :)

They included a pamphlet listing mammal, insect, and plants species in their area. My children have learned so much from reading this! It has been so informative.

Last, but certainly not least, they sent us this lovely nature book.

It has the most beautiful illustrations, don't you think?
Now, where in the world should we keep our nature treasures, we wondered.
We knew it would have to be a very special place.
Well, on a shelf in our school room is where they found their home.
What a treasure trove of goodies!!!
And every time we look at them, we'll think of our dear friends from Texas.  :)
(We also received beautiful bookmarks, but my children whisked them away so fast, I hardly caught a glimpse of them. At the moment, they are safely tucked away in some of my children's favorites books.  :) )
This is one of the most fun-filled, learning activities that our family has ever participated in. We truly loved every moment of it!!
Now...want to know what we sent Silvia and her family??
Head over to her blog and see for yourself!

What about you, friends? Is there a family you'd like to have a nature exchange with? It's a wonderful experience. You'll want to do it again and again. Trust me.

"Many, O Lord my God, are Your wonderful works
Which You have done.."   ~ Psalm 40:5

Have a wonderful day, everyone!

Monday, July 15, 2013

Mealtime Geography

Good morning, friends,

I've been trying to think of a away to expose my children to more geography. We have plenty of maps, but no wall space. So I decided to use the dining room table instead. 

Here's how I did it....

I went to the fabric department at Walmart and bought a piece of  heavy duty, clear  plastic to fit our table. It was really cheap - only $2.77 per yard. So the entire piece cost about $8.00.

Then I chose the maps I wanted to use and arranged them on the table. And covered them with the plastic. (You can secure the corners of the plastic with tape to prevent it from moving around.)

Our dining room table went from this...
To this...
Not very Martha Stewart-ish, is it? 
But we love it!!  :)

Here are some of the maps I used...

I also included a cut-away of the Old Testament Tabernacle...
And some works from Renoir...
And the parts of a flower...
I alternate the maps after a week, and add new ones. But the possibilities are endless. You don't have to use only maps;  you could use math charts, science posters, timelines, etc. Anything printed on paper will work!

And the most important part is that your children will love it!
You will find your children pouring over the table,  having fun and learning - all at the same time! And mealtime conversation will be very interesting. :)

Some of my children's comments have been, "Mom, we just saw a fly walk all the way across the Sahara Desert!"

And, "Oh, I just love Renoir's Le Grenouillere!"
By the way, for all you AO moms, this is great way to study artists. Next year, I'm going to print the pictures for each term's artist study and put them on the table. 
Have a blessed day!
"Show me your ways, O Lord;
Teach me Your paths." ~ Psalm 25:4

sharing this week at The Modest Mom

Friday, July 5, 2013

Lavender Jelly (Re-post)

Happy Friday, friends!

Ever heard of lavender jelly?
I made some about 2 years ago, and we loved it! And while I was in my herb garden yesterday, I caught a whiff of my lavender, and remembered how delicious the jelly was.

So for those who missed it 2 years ago,  here's my recipe for lavender jelly:

Lavender Jelly

3  1/2 c. water
1/2 c. dried lavender flowers
1/4 c. lemon juice
1 box  (1 3/4 oz.) powdered pectin
4 c. sugar

In a large saucepan over high heat, bring water to a boil. Remove from heat.  Add flowers, cover and let steep for 20 minutes.  Strain mixture into a deep kettle, discarding flowers.  (Your house will smell wonderful after this!)

Stir in lemon juice and pectin, making sure that pectin is dissolved.  Over high heat, bring mixture to a boil; add sugar.  Stir well.  Return mixture to a rolling boil; let boil for 4 minutes.

After boiling, ladle hot jelly into clean jelly jars, leaving 1/4 in. headspace, wipe rims, adjust lids and rings. Process in hot water bath 10 minutes.

Makes about 5 1/2 pints.
"Ointment and perfume delight the heart..."   Proverbs 27:9

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Sprinkler Art

Hello, friends,

I hope you're having  a wonderful summer! We have been enjoying our time off from school lessons, although I try to keep the children somewhat engaged in during the summer months. 

We do Math once a week so they keep the concepts fresh in their minds. We participate in our library's summer reading program. And we also do some crafts. 

One of their favorites is Sprinkler Art. It's super-easy, and the children create a masterpiece and cool off in the summer heat - all at the same time!  :)  All you need is a sprinkler, paper plates, and food coloring.

Here's what you do...

 Set up the sprinkler, and turn it on. Keep the pressure on low.
I put our sprinkler on a chair so it's easier reach.

Then, take a paper plate and put several drops of food coloring on it. 

Next, run the paper plate through the sprinkler.


Lay the plates in the sun to dry.

How easy is that?! 

Here are some of masterpieces that we created....

We're going to hang these beauties in our school room. :)

Now for some tips....too much food coloring makes all the colors run together and look like one big ugly blob (ask me how I know), so 3 or 4 drops on each plate is plenty. And contrasting dark colors and light colors works best.

Also, running the plates under heavy water pressure makes a GIGANTIC mess on your arms, hands, etc. (ask me how I know - I still have green hands). So keep the water pressure on low.

And lastly, use real paper plates - no styrofoam, or coated plates. I used cheap ones from the dollar store.

Have a blessed day, everyone!