For the Love of Bugs 🐛

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One of the best things about ‘doing school’ at home is discovering things together with my kids. In fact, many days don’t feel like we’re doing school at all, but rather just living life with curiosity and wonder.

I keep the word Explore in the window of our dining room where we spend a lot of time, and it’s such a good reminder. Exploring is a better description of what we’re doing on a daily basis than schooling. And isn’t that true for many of us throughout our lives?

Here’s an example of where our exploring took us one day. I love that it was no where on a syllabus or even in my plans, but it’s one of the more memorable ‘lessons’ we’ve had this year.

** Links are affiliate links. To buy local 🙌🏼 you can purchase from Parnassus Books or your nearest bookstore. Thanks!**

I.

Here is how it started. I was reading this book to my kids one day:

 

It’s called Women in Science: 50 Fearless Pioneers Who Changed the World. (Note: There is also one for Women in Art and Women in Sports). It’s a great book in itself, but this particular day it led us on a fun discovery.

II.

We got to the biography of a woman named Maria Sibylla Merian whom I had never heard of before in my life. Born in Germany in 1647, she studied and chronicled the life cycles of bugs and butterflies. And she did so in some of the most incredibly beautiful, exquisitely detailed drawings that had/have ever been seen.

She even financed her own voyage to South America – in her fifties – to further her studies (and took her daughter with her – love that!), way before Darwin, and at a time when the field was dominated by men.

My kids were fascinated by her story, and so was I.

III.

We went to the internet to see if there are any video biographies of this woman. There are. Here’s one. We watched it twice. (I also recommend this article from the Atlantic that I found later).

IV.

Then I searched for a used copy of her most famous book while my kids were in the yard with a bug box trying to catch (and observe, but not keep) as many things as possible:

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V.

The book arrived a few days later, and we spent a good chunk of the day looking through Merian’s gorgeous drawings like this one:

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The book still sits in our dining room  (probably freaking out our guests). It gives me a lot of joy, not only in its beauty, but also in the story of how it got to our table, which is the story of where our curiosity took us together one day.

It’s fun to think about people who will randomly discover one of Merian’s books in a used bookstore, or maybe on their own coffee table collection and will take the same journey of discovery in the opposite direction that we did to learn about a scientist who really really loved bugs.

My life is so much richer for knowing who this woman is. I feel like, in some small way, our little family going on this journey is also acknowledging her journey as a woman scientist and giving that the weight it deserves.

I love learning. I love that it gives me a deeper connection with my kids. I love that it connects us to the past in a beautiful web of all the things that others have learned before us. And I love that there is so much left to be explored.

Native American Reads

This is an area of children’s literature that’s very near and dear to my ❤️. I love encountering great books on Native American history and culture.

Here are some we’ve been enjoying recently:

For the youngest crowd:

Ten Little Rabbits, by Virginia Grossman. A sweet and simple board book that I love. Beautiful illustrations.

Thanks to the Animals, by Allen Sockabasin. Award-winning book by a Passamaquoddy author.

Cradle Me, by Debby Slier. I bought this as a gift for my youngest child, but everyone in our house loves this book. How could you not??

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More for Ages 5-8

The Very First Americans, by Cara Ashrose. Simple overview of various groups of indigenous peoples in North America.

I am Sacagawea, by Brad Meltzer. Maybe one of my favorite people to read about ever 🙂 I am a huge Sacagawea fan. There are probably even better books by #ownvoices authors, but I haven’t found yet (for this age group). Let me know!!

Fry Bread, by Kevin Noble Maillard. This one just came out this year. It has a simple but very powerful message. May lead to some conversations…and to baking fry bread.

Thirteen Moons on Turtle’s Back, by Joseph Bruchac. As the author notes in the afterward, the Potawatomi people alone had three different names/stories just for the February moon! This book is a collection of different moon stories from various Native American peoples.

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For the older crowd:

Native American History for Kids, by Karen Bush Gibson an An Indigenous People’s History of the United States, by Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz. These are both packed with historical information and insight, with maps and illustrations. Again, there are probably  lots of historical overviews for this age group, and I’m still looking.

The Birchbark House, Louise Erdrich. Quite possibly my favorite book (for adults or children) that I have read all year. We always hear that books help us (and our kids) develop empathy, and this book is the perfect example of that. This story of the Ojibwa tribe encountering white people for the first time has changed forever the way I see and feel Native American history. There is a whole series that follows which we’ll dive into soon. It has replaced my Little House on the Prairie series at our house. We hadn’t started reading those with our kids yet, and now we choose to do Erdrich’s series.



I hope you’ll enjoy some of these, and that they’ll lead to wonderful conversations, nature walks, lots of animal watching, but most of all an even deeper appreciation of Native American history and culture. If you’re aware of more resources for young ones, please let me know!

Check out more video resources and teacher content for Native American Heritage Month here.

And, good Native reads booklists can be found here:

First Nations Book Lists

ALA’s Inclusive Book Lists

** Dec 2019 Post Update: We just finished a study of the Iroquois and I really liked these two books as well:

If You Lived With the Iroquois, Levine

Hiawatha and the Peacemaker, Robertson (also, did not know that Robbie Robertson of the Band and author of this book is Cayuga and Mohawk)

** Links are affiliate links. To buy local (🙌🏼) you can purchase from Parnassus Books or Birchbark Books (an incredible bookstore with an emphasis on Native reads owned by Louise Erdrich). Thanks!**

Mondays

Mondays. It’s always been a little hard to get back into the swing of things after a weekend. Now with homeschool I’ve found that’s just as true and maybe more so! No one is really pumped to jump right into math and handwriting first thing Monday morning when they’ve been running free in the same environment all weekend.

So…we just stopped doing Monday mornings. At least we don’t do typical “school.” My new rule is we have to start Mondays with something unexpected, something fun and adventurous. And I don’t tell them what it is until we get there.

Maybe it’s a field trip to the zoo, a hike, a creative game we make up. Today it was a walk in our neighborhood to see a specific tree.

This one:

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I thought the boys would find this gorgeous tree fungus fun. And they did! We didn’t touch it, we just looked at it. And then we tried to draw it.

This led us to more discussions which I foraged for on Google….

  • what are the differences between mosses, lichens, and tree fungi?
  • why does moss commonly grow on the north side of trees in the Northern hemisphere (but the south side in the Southern!)?
  • and of course…can we eat it?

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Every time we have a nature walk I am always amazed at how much more flows from it. And, now that we’ve done away with Monday mornings as we knew them, it’s created the perfect space for more of this.

 

Our Planet

The planet Earth has been on our minds a lot lately. When you have kids that constantly remind you to reduce, recycle, and reuse, it’s really a wake-up call. Kids are so passionate about the planet, especially when they learn how our environment is suffering at human hands.

Recently, we were so shocked (and thrilled!!) when our son’s pre-K teacher told us that he loved answering the questions she’d posed in a classroom discussion about conservation.

It’s all thanks to this amazing documentary series,  which our dear friends told us about. I started letting the boys watch it as a treat on rainy school days, and I found myself sitting down next to them on the couch, unable to do anything else for 45 minutes but be captivated by the wonder and glory of creation. This show has changed our family’s life. We now have metal straws, and our seven year-old recently compared our baby’s noises to a bird of paradise which cracked me up. All thanks to the amazing perspective on wildlife and our amazing planet that this show has given to our family.

I recently picked up this book, Heroes of the Environment: True Stories of People Who Are Helping to Protect Our Planet, at the library and have been really enjoying it with our boys. It’s nice to have some great biographies to go along with our household conversations about the planet.

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** Links are affiliate links. To buy local (🙌🏼) you can purchase from Parnassus Books or your nearest bookstore. Thanks!**

Skipping School

Today we skipped our regular morning routine and took off on a nature hike instead. We saw a blue heron and a raccoon fishing side by side in the soft morning light. We identified a plant I’d never heard of before – a beautyberry – and discovered that it is native to Japan and plays a role in a famous work of Japanese folklore, The Tale of Genji (which now I have to read because it sounds so interesting!). And this was all in the first five minutes of our walk…

I think it’s safe to say we found some ‘school’ out there in Nature.

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