Sunday, December 2, 2012

Winter Nature Study

Even in winter - no matter the weather - you and the children can connect with and learn about nature. In parts of the country right now, it's pouring so hard it's flooding. Obviously keeping safe takes priority over study.  Weather preparedness and care teaches our kids a lot about how to be in the world. Making sure our homes and our neighbors and animals are all ready and safe, as best we can, teaches kids about community, self-care, and respect for Mother Nature.

But given that you and the family are safe, you can study weather maps and learn where your weather comes from. What is "upstream" and how do meteorologists forecast the weather? Then make a weather station, putting out rain gauges, barometer, and digital or old-fashioned thermometers. For ideas and tips, see Franklin's Forecast. This can be as simple as a clear plastic container to collect rain and snow.

Look at the collected rain under the microscope. Anything living in it? Each raindrop - and snowflake - has a piece of dirt in it. Look for them under the microscope. Test the pH by using a pH test from science supply stores or basic science kits, or make your own indicator using beet juice.

If you're like me, you miss gardening this time of year. In some warmer climates, like Los Angeles, you might even have a garden right now. Plant some seeds whenever you can! Here in Colorado it has been dry and warm, though it has gone below freezing a few times at night. The kids wanted to plant seeds, so I gave them some of the orach seeds I saved from last fall, and they planted them in an empty planter box. They can handle the freezes, and will sprout in the spring. Or if you are stuck inside, try a kit like this one that lets you grow root veggies and see how they grow. Make your own root view box by following these directions. Or start some winter sowing. This is a great way to start perennials in winter.

We've also been able to get outside a lot - biking, walking, and playing in the dirt. We've been enjoying the winter animals; we've seen geese, bison, hawks, and jackrabbits, to name a few. If you don't have any local nature areas you like to visit, take some time to identify a few using google. Just search "greenspace" or "nature area" and the name of your town. Make it a family project to see your local nature areas in all kinds of weather.

If it's snowing where you are, bring sleds and snowshoes and head outside. Some outdoor stores and rec centers rent snowshoes and skis - the student outdoor center at my college rented them cheaply to students. This is a good way to try a sport without going broke.

Whether you get outside or observe nature from the warmth of the house, encourage lots of drawing. Get some magnifying lenses and a loupe to look at brown leaves, ice crystals, and bug carcases. Then draw what you see. Check out The Private Eye for ideas.

Another great resource for year-round nature study is the fabulous book For the Birds by Anne Schmauss, Mary Schmauss and Geni Krolick. It gives month-by-month tips for attracting wild birds to your yard - and keeping squirrels off the bird feeder! I've become a wild-bird hobbyist thanks to this book.Look for it at your local independent bookstore.

Enjoy the winter gifts of the land, wherever you may live!

I Am in Charge

My meditation of late is to remind myself that I am in charge. When my daughter starts to freak out (she has massive melt downs, usually from a low frustration tolerance), or the kids are fighting, or everyone is moving as fast as snails to get out of the house, my blood pressure rises, and I silently say to myself - "I am in charge." My blood pressure lowers. I relax a little. I am able to see how best to respond, rather than reacting in anger. This anger, which can flare so fast and big, usually stems from my feeling powerless. When I remind myself that I am in charge - not my daughter's anger or the clock or my toddler's need to wear that one filthy outfit - then I regain just enough sense of power within to settle down. And that's the key - it's not "in charge" in a "power over" another person kinds of way. While I do have a certain level of power over the children and the day and whatever, ultimately I don't - I can't control them. I can drawn boundaries and hold the line, but power over nearly always turns into a power struggle. Being in charge is a "power within" kind of power. I am in charge of my reaction, my space in the world. I am in charge of what comes out of my mouth, and the ability to drawn on my skills as a communicator and parent. I am in charge of this one moment, which for me exists for me. Taken moment by moment, in charge of my space in it, I can do this crazy parenting/homeschooling thing.