Time for a Change

Here it is October, and I’m relieved by the cooler, beautiful weather. Yet the boys are full swing into their new homeschool year, and I’m already feeling the crunch of time. Sometimes I sit and breathe and remember that all will be well. No matter what we get done or don’t get done, the boys are growing into intelligent, caring people, and what more can I ask for?

Whether I like it or not, life is always changing. By that I mean people change and circumstances change, and I can’t control it. I’m getting older, and my body doesn’t agree with what my mind wants it to do. I can’t get society to act in ways that I wish it would, so instead I accept what is, and I do what little I can to help my family and make the world a better place.

One thing I have always loved to do is offer encouragement to other homeschooling parents. I don’t do this because I’m an expert at it. I’m carefully considering my every move on this unsure journey. However, I feel confident I have found some things that work well for the boys and me, and as they get older, I find it’s the boys themselves who are validating the overall choice to homeschool, go at their pace, and focus on their interests. Because like I said, they are growing into intelligent and caring people, and they have such interesting pursuits. (This doesn’t mean I think everything is perfect or that I don’t wish I had more resources at my fingertips!)

I hope we can help them in this later stage of homeschooling as they take what they’ve gained here and make their way into more independent lives and, most likely, higher education. I can’t wait to see what happens, but I’m humbled by knowing anything could happen, and nothing is certain.

I also think about myself and what I will do when I finish homeschooling. There are things I’d like to try, but I have less interest in the things I used to do. Will that interest come back when I’m less exhausted and have more time? Maybe. For now, I hope I can continue to be a source for homeschooling parents.

I have always been available by email, but I need to change that. I’m getting busier, and I have less energy for typing long emails. So I’m going to try out Zoom so that I can talk to parents. Unfortunately, I can’t do this for free, but I don’t need much to sustain it.

This Saturday, I’m giving a presentation on project-based homeschooling with plenty of time for a Q&A. (I can also make it available at a time that’s good for you.) These simple but powerful techniques helped me shift from thinking of myself as a parent-teacher to more of a mentor. It helped me identify my kids’ interests and not just the ones I thought were education-worthy.

I think it’s important to say that this is not about helping kids get into the best schools or putting them on a certain career path (unless that helps them with their goals). It’s more about supporting kids where they are at and creating a relationship of trust so that they know you are their advocate. Every kid should have an advocate that truly cares about what they care about! I think it’s these relationships that create a path of success for kids, and by success, I don’t mean just financial success. I mean a path that will be meaningful to them and the community they live in. When you respect kids and their interests, they will turn around and respect others. And that makes the world a little bit better.

Okay, I’ll get off my soap box now. I hope you’ll sign up for my presentation. Click here to do that.

If there’s an interest, I may create an on-going homeschooling support group for a nominal fee. So let me know, if you would be interested in that.

Top 5 Reasons Why I Love Homeschooling

a rare selfie 🙂

I’ve been homeschooling for over ten years, and now that I have some hindsight, it may be a good time to tell you what I love about homeschooling. Keep in mind that this is my experience; it may be different for other families. I may follow this up with a post about what I don’t love about homeschooling, but I’ll have to think about that.

So here are the top five reasons why I love homeschooling:

  1. Flexibility. Whether it’s curriculum, taking time off, or giving my kids the time they need to master a subject, I would say that flexibility has been the best part of homeschooling. We are not on anyone else’s calendar. We can sleep in, if we need it. When Life gets hectic, we can take some time off. If I end up disliking the curriculum I bought, I can toss it and try another one. My boys can take their music lessons with their teachers during the school day, so we can get a good time for that, and we can go to the park or zoo when it’s not crowded. Since my husband’s time off from his work does not correlate with the public school calendar, that is a big bonus too. This doesn’t mean we aren’t busy. It means my family gets to decide how we use our time.
  2. Out of the Box Learning. Although I try to match the traditional course of study as much as possible, I have a lot of flexibility in how I teach it, and if I can tell it’s not working for my kids, I can put it off or skip it. (If they hate it, they are not learning it.) We can learn so much in an informal way, such as through the documentaries we watch, visiting museums or conversations with knowledgeable people. My kids also like looking up the answers to their questions on the Internet, though they learn in many other ways too, such as through video games, T.V. shows, and, yes, books. Sometimes they surprise me with knowledge I didn’t even know they had. It’s amazing how good kids’ memories are when they are interested in something.
  3. Going at their pace. I have nudged, and I have challenged, but I don’t force learning, and that makes a big difference. Take, for example, how my boys learned how to read. I started them off around the age of four or five with 15~20 minute reading lessons, and depending on how well they did, I either kept going or I took long breaks from teaching it. I took a full year off from teaching reading to my eldest son when I could tell he wasn’t ready for it, and when we went back to it, I spent 20~30 minutes a day teaching him how to read. I remember getting a little anxious and stressed about it. Would they ever learn? But I knew going at their pace was better than pushing it. Around seven-years-old, they started to get it, and then at age eight, they began reading perfectly. At nine-years-old, they started reading books without being told to read. I never made them read anything outside our short lessons, and I also let them read whatever they wanted. They both started with comic books and graphic novels. Now they are avid readers, and they read long novels or non-fiction on their own time. In fact, we can’t keep enough library books on hand for my younger son! I love this, and I hate to think how different it may have turned out, if they were in public school and forced to meet certain milestones in reading before they were ready.
  4. Discovering interests unencumbered. If homeschooling parents give kids enough freedom, they have time and energy to discover what they’re interested in. Then they can begin to gain valuable skills. (If you’re lucky, this will prevent them from floundering for years as a young adult like I did.)  I don’t think you have to be an unschooler to do this. I don’t unschool, but I have used project-based homeschooling techniques (PBH), which helped me see how I could give my kids the time and tools to create and explore while also teaching them subjects I thought were important. Some kids don’t want to explore or create. They may prefer reading or gaming. Others will keep trying new things and not settle on any one thing. That’s okay! Let them do that. You never know where it might go. Other kids may find something and wham! You can see that they’ve found their vocation. That happened for my eldest son, the pianist. The flexibility of homeschooling gives my son time to practice the piano, do his lessons, and just be a kid too. If you’d like to learn more about PBH, I am offering a class on it.
  5. Close family ties. This is a byproduct I never thought about before I started homeschooling. I love how close we are as a family, and I love that my boys are best friends. They rarely squabble, and when they do, it’s amusing to watch. Since my boys are three years apart, I think things would have been very different, if they attended school. I’m grateful I have been there for every special moment and milestone, and I know my husband is too. (However, this doesn’t mean that we don’t need space from each other. When we need space, we have places to retreat to in the house.) This is an unexpected part of homeschooling that I wouldn’t trade for the world.

What do you love about homeschooling? If you are considering homeschooling, what is holding you back?

Homeschool Zoom Chats with Shelli

New! I’m offering Zoom chat sessions in my store for parents who are currently homeschooling or are considering homeschooling. There are three options:

One-on-one chat – Set up an appointment with me, and we can talk for one hour on any homeschooling related topic that you want to talk about.

Six-session Homeschool Series – I’ve created a series of six sessions where I will explain how we have homeschooled in a child-centered, eclectic, project-based way while also knowing we need to prepare our boys to apply for college. I’m hoping to create a support group for homeschooling parents, if participants are interested.

Getting Started with High School –  A one-hour session. We are completing my son’s first year of high school. I spent most of his middle school wondering how we’d do this, but it’s not that hard. I’ll share everything I know.

I don’t know if anyone will be interested in these Zoom chats, but I’m putting it out there because I have loved helping parents over the years with their questions about homeschooling. I have written long emails, enjoyed a lot of correspondence and made some good friends. I know many families are considering home education, so I want to be available to help in all ways. Unfortunately, I can’t offer the Zoom sessions for free, but I hope you will find them very reasonable.

Please help me spread this information. If you have enjoyed my blog posts and other resources, please share it on your social media platforms. I thank you from the bottom of my heart! ❤️

March 2022

“I’m late! I’m late! For a very important date!” 🐇

Actually, I’m just behind in writing a monthly blog post. I thought I’d at least be able to keep up with once a month, but life has a way of snowballing as kids grow and we venture more and more into meaningful projects, which is a good thing!

My eldest son is working harder than ever on his piano repertoire, although he’s not doing any competitions this year, and he hasn’t posted much to his YouTube channel lately. He has longer term goals now. All I’ll say is that he continues to take us on many adventures, and while it can be stressful, it’s also a pleasure.

My younger son has taken charge of his YouTube channel that is dedicated to our backyard birds. I still help him a bit, though. It’s really great to see him learning video editing skills as well as developing his interest in birds and the natural world. Recently we tried to rescue one of our favorite bird friends, and we made this tribute for him:

And finally, I have a project of my own that I hope I can get off the ground in the next couple of months, but I’m not quite ready to share it yet. However, I did open an Instagram account that will be dedicated to our homeschool journey. So if you’d like to follow me there, here’s the link. (I haven’t posted much on it yet.)

I love our projects not only because they are personally fulfilling but because they are putting good things into this world. We need more of that, and I wish everyone made it their goal to put beauty and love into the world. I’m glad my boys are learning the importance of that.

I hope you have a beautiful spring. Please tell me what you’ve been up to in your homeschool.

Scheduling Your Homeschool Day

My son’s pitcher plant is blooming beautifully right now. The Carnivorous Plant Project was a lot of fun.

This post talks about how I block big chunks of our day for our homeschool lessons. If you’d like to know how I schedule the individual, academic lessons within those larger chunks of time, please refer to my blog posts on each grade, which you can find in my menu. For 7th grade, I have a PDF resource in my store.

***

Looking back over the years that we’ve homeschooled, we have kept a very similar schedule each year, though, of course, it gets tweaked here and there. For me, the best time for formal, academic lessons has been in the mornings right after breakfast, though for my younger son, he isn’t a morning person, so I usually spend an hour one-on-one with him after lunch. But he usually joins his brother for some lighter lessons in the mid-morning, or he does some work on his own at this time. (Currently, he’s working on his own in the mornings and with me after lunch.)

My eldest son has always worked in the mornings, and in the last few years, he’s gotten up slightly earlier each day so that he has more time. As he gets older, he has more work to do. Right now, in 7th grade, he spends three to four hours each morning on his lessons. He’s very motivated to finish by lunchtime because the afternoons and evenings are reserved for his piano practice. We usually have outside lessons and activities in the afternoons too.

When he was younger, he had many varied projects because I use project-based homeschooling techniques. He used to like to build and make things, or we did science experiments, so our “project” time was either right before lunch, and then it moved to after lunch. This is where it’s stayed because this is when he practices piano, but he also practices right after dinner too. The piano is his only project now, but it has morphed into a serious vocation. 🙂

My younger son has never been as much of a maker and builder as his older brother, and curiously, the only long-term project he’s got going on is his love of birds. We’ve done many activities and field trips to help him with this interest, and we continue to do so. But he’s never needed a specific “project time” for this, so he just works at his lessons at his preferred times — before and after lunch — and he also practices cello (a hobby for him) after dinner.

Setting Your Own Schedule

If you’re trying to work out a homeschool schedule for your family, I would try to follow the natural schedule that your family is already inclined towards following. You can ask yourself these questions:

–What is my family’s preferred schedule on the weekends?
–Are there times during your weekends when your kids want more time with you, i.e., when you have their attention?
–Are there times when they want to retreat and be by themselves?
–Do they need a nap or downtime in front of the T.V.?

You can use this information to help form a schedule during the week, leaving the quiet time alone (keep that!), and using the other times when you have their attention to do work. But don’t forget to also use some of that time to have fun with your kids or just talk to them about anything. You don’t want all your time together to be prescribed work. Those fun/quiet moments can be much more important and valuable for your child than academic lessons.

How much time to spend on academic lessons?

I mentioned that my eldest son, who is thirteen, is working 3~4 hours in the mornings on his academic lessons, but this is because he now has specific goals for his future, so he’s very motivated to do the hard work.

When my kids were in the first grade, I found we didn’t need more than an hour to work on reading and math. That was all the “academic lessons” I did with them, but once you consider everything else we did — reading aloud as we snuggled on the sofa, building/craft projects, watching documentaries, visiting museums, exploring nature trails, I could tick off all the boxes of a typical 1st grade course of study. The boys had no idea that all that “other stuff” was educational. For them, it was just fun! It was our DAILY LIFE. I did not plan much. I followed the boys interests and my interests. If anything, I was strategic about picking out what library books I wanted to read to the boys, but I always let them pick their own books too, and we alternated the books.

Every year after that, our “academic lesson” time got a little bit longer. Some years, it may have only been stretched by 30 minutes. Other years, it got about an hour longer. Overall, I would say we didn’t need more than three hours to complete formal elementary curriculum in the 5th and 6th grade, and I don’t think we’ll ever need more than four.

I think as homeschooling parents, it’s our job to look at our child’s overall day and find the moments when our kids are learning despite it being part of our planned agenda. Kids teach themselves far more than we can teach them. If you compare their child-led work to a typical course of study, you will find they are doing far more than is expected. (Even if they are playing video games — look for what they are learning from that!) Over time, all of this learning can make some exceptional kids…as long as the adults don’t get in the way.

Unfortunately, kids who go to school are so used to adults planning every minute of their day and having information forced upon them that they are incapable of getting excited about the natural world, or books, or documentaries, etc. It all smacks of “school” to them. Anything associated with “school” isn’t fun to them. These kids need a long time to adjust and get used to more freedom. They especially need to be given freedom in exploring things that interest them so that eventually, they will begin turning down metaphorical “rabbit trails,” i.e. learning about other things that branch off their main interests, which can lead to many various and highly educational places.

If you find my blog helpful, I ask for only one thing — please share it! Share it with your friends and on social media. And please leave me comments about how you schedule your day. You may help others that way. If you have any questions, you can also leave a comment or email me through my contact page.

Our 7th Grade Homeschool Curriculum and Schedule

Every year since my eldest son was in Pre-K, I have written about our homeschool and the resources we use. Now he’s in the 7th grade, and I’m still writing about it, but as I mentioned in my last post, while I love writing and sharing, I’m not in a position to put so much time and effort into this blog for free anymore. 😦 So, I’m trying something a little different. I’m not asking for donations or subscribers. I’m simply putting my work into pdf format, and I’m selling the digital files for a small amount. This way, you can purchase only what you need. If you do purchase one of my resources, I thank you from the bottom of my heart. It helps me more than you know.

With that said, it’s my pleasure to announce that I have a new resource available in my store. Our 7th Grade Homeschool Game Plan contains all the information you want and more about the 7th grade curriculum I created for my son. At approximately 20 pages, it’s much longer than any of my blog posts. I include links to all the curricula I purchased as well as some alternative resources that I know to be quality products. If warranted, I comment on how we use each curriculum and give brief reviews of each. I also share how we plan our priorities and schedule our time.

Creating a course of study that is flexible and offers plenty of time for my son’s other endeavors was an important consideration as I planned this year. I am also including a printable checklist for those who would like to try my rotation method.

Topics covered are:

  • Language Arts (Grammar & Writing, Literature, Vocabulary)
  • Math
  • Science
  • History
  • Foreign Language
  • Critical Thinking
  • Art
  • Music
  • Making Priorities
  • Scheduling: My Rotation Method

As I mentioned, this resource is approximately 20 pages long, and I’ve been working on it since September. Yep, it’s taken me four months to write 20 pages. (Sigh.) But I’ve finally finished it, and I hope you’ll like it. I hope you’ll buy it!

If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to contact me! And please let me know if there’s anything else I can write up and share in a pdf format. I’m always looking for more ideas, and I’d like to know what people are interested in learning about.

Click here to go to MY STORE

Thank you for your support. If you like my blog and find it useful, I would greatly appreciate it if you would share my store with your friends. Thank you!

The Cornell Lab of Ornithology

One of many highlights of our recent trip was being able to visit The Cornell Lab of Ornithology in Ithaca, New York. If you’ve been following my blog for awhile, you’ll know I’ve written several times about my younger son’s love of birds. He’s nine-years-old now, and he’s been talking about birds since he was about four. I am pleasantly surprised that his interest has not faded, though he definitely has his own way of navigating this project. We haven’t done a lot  of in depth study about birds. Instead, we’ve drawn them, watched them, identified dozens of them, collected toy birds, made toy birds, and only occasionally read books about them. Though I encourage it and offer whatever I can to foster his love of birds, I haven’t pushed all the ideas I would like to see done. This has been a good decision. It’s truly a child-led project.

We’ve known about the Cornell Lab of Ornithology for awhile now, and I have been wanting to visit it, but I never thought we would be able to see it so soon. Then my eldest son’s interest in music took us to Cleveland, and well, though that’s not extremely close to Ithaca, it was close enough for us. We had to go!

We loved Ithaca, and we loved the Lab. We went twice. On the first visit, we walked the trails in Sapsucker Woods for about an hour, and then we took the behind-the-scenes tour of the lab. The next day, we went back and took a longer walk through the beautiful Sapsucker Woods.

View of the lab from across the pond.

It’s a beautiful building. About 250~300 faculty, students and staff work there. We were told it is mostly member-supported, and Cornell University contributes only a tiny percentage of its budget. It has the beautiful Wall of Birds (click on that link and you won’t be sorry), the Macaulay Library, which you can contribute to, and the Lab also houses Cornell University’s Museum of Vertebrates, so bird specimens aren’t the only resource available to students and researchers.

Here is the Lab’s mission statement:

Our mission is to interpret and conserve the earth’s biological diversity through research, education, and citizen science focused on birds.

If you are at all interested in birds, then you have probably already been to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s website. You have probably used the section All About Birdswhich can help you identify the birds you see outside your window. Or you have contributed your sightings to to eBird or another one of their popular citizen science projects.

Their website has much more on it, and if you are a bird lover or you have a child who is, then there’s a lot of educational materials that you can use. I can’t wait until my son gets a little older. I think he’ll really enjoy the Bird Academy. There are also activities and planned lessons for teachers or homeschooling co-op parents in their K-12 Education section. There’s even more than that, but I’ll stop there and let you explore their website yourself. You can also read about the history of the Lab on Wikipedia.

Sapsucker Woods is a special place, and we knew it before we even stepped on a trail. I’ll show you our walks through my photos.

I know Canada Geese are everywhere up north, but we don’t see them too often in Georgia, so we still enjoy encountering them.
Right at the start of the trail, we saw a pileated woodpecker. We see these occasionally in our yard, but it’s always a big deal when they arrive because they don’t come often. We stood there watching this one for quite awhile.
Mama wood duck and her ducklings.

fleabane

Fawn. Mama was there too.
Song sparrow
Haven’t identified this fella yet. Anybody know?

Baby raccoon. There were two siblings and a mom in the tree too.
Georgia Blue Jays have never posed for me like this one did. 😉
The Cornell Lab of Ornithology and Sapsucker Woods is a special place, and I highly recommend that you visit, if you can.

Have you ever been to the Cornell Lab? Please tell me about your visit.

Project-based homeschooling: American Elm

‘Princeton’ American elm.

Happy Arbor Day!

In my last post, I told you a bit about my boys’ interest in plants and how we began identifying all the plants and trees in our yard. Even more so than plants, I think my eldest son is interested in trees, and he loves to try to identify them and propagate some of them, which I also mentioned in my last post. Today is Arbor Day, so I thought it would be the perfect day to write about my son’s special interest in American elm trees.

Sometime during this past year he read about the American elm tree. This is a beautiful tree that can grow to over 100 feet tall and live for a thousand years. You may already know how this beautiful tree used to line many urban streets in the central and eastern United States, but around the 1930s almost all of them died from Dutch elm disease. (Millions of elms were killed by this disease.) There were a few American elms that didn’t die, however, including one cultivar named ‘Princeton’ American elm. (Named so because it was developed by Princeton Nurseries in 1922.) Today these trees are under conservation, and many ‘Princeton’ elms are being replanted in urban settings. We have even found a few of these young elms in a town square of a small Georgia town we’ve traveled to.

For the first time, we’ve been able to see new leaves emerge on our American elm tree.

After learning about the American elm and the conservation efforts to save it, my son wanted to get one to plant in our yard. We certainly don’t need more trees, but how could we say no to our little conservationist? Last October, we got one from Thomas Orchards, and we planted it in a grassy area in our front yard, which is near the street. It’s been exciting for us to see its first leaves appearing this spring and to think that someday it may tower over our street just like American elms did long ago.

Planting our new tree last October.

By coincidence, several years ago I got the opportunity to photograph an estate in Twin City, which is a tiny town located in central Georgia. On that property, there was a huge American elm, which was a rarity. The owner of the house said that researchers from the university had come to see her tree and study it. Here’s a photo I took of that tree:

Quite impressive, isn’t it?

What is your favorite tree and why?

Project-based Homeschooling: Plant Project

A winged elm (Ulmus alata). We found two fully grown winged elms in our yard when we began our mission to identify and label all the plants and trees in our wooded yard.

Happy Earth Day! To celebrate, I thought I would write about a project we’ve been working on for over a year. My older son has always had a special interest in plants. When he was little, he became obsessed with seeds for awhile. Then he had his carnivorous plant project, and we still grow the carnivorous plants. My younger son also enjoys gardening and likes having his own plants to care for too.

Wild ginger (Hexastylis arifolia) grows abundantly in the woods behind our house, and I love this wild plant. If you pull back the leaves, you can see their bell-shaped flowers.

About a year ago my twelve-year-old became extra interested in plants, especially trees, and he even asked to go to the Atlanta Botanical Garden for his birthday.  He’s been learning how to grow and propagate trees by himself, particularly redbud trees. His younger brother wanted to try this too, so he’s trying to grow some hickories. Needless to say, my refrigerator has been packed with little pots of dirt and seeds this past winter! If they have any success growing these trees, I’ll be sure to write about it in the future.

Butterfly Pea (Clitoria ternatea). We found this growing wild by our driveway!
There are some trees that are very difficult to identify, such as this prominent oak in our front yard (center). We think it’s a post oak. (Quercus stellata)

What started all this? Well, we decided to try to identify and label the plants and trees that grow naturally in our wooded yard. I had mentioned trying this a long time ago, but I never did it because it was a huge undertaking. Finally my twelve-year-old wanted to do it in earnest, so we got serious about it.

So far we have identified and labeled 20 different species of trees and plants! It feels like we’ve made a lot of progress, but there are so many plants we still haven’t identified!

Plants we’ve found:

Butterfly Pea (Clitoria ternatea)
Wild Ginger (Hexastylis arifolia)
Solomon’s Seal (Polygonatom Communtatun)
St. Andrew’s Cross (Hypericum hypericoides)
Smartweed (Polygonum pensylvanicum)
Pennywort (Hydrocotyle microphylla)

Trees:

Wild Black Cherry (Prunus serotina)
Dogwood (Cornus florida)
Willow Oak (Quercus phellos)
Winged Elm (Ulmus alata)
Hawthorne (Crataegus)
Blackjack Oak (Quercus marilandica)
Water Oak (Quercus alba)
Sassafras (Sassafras albidum)
American Sweetgum (Liquidambar styraciflua)
Carolina Basswood (Tilia americana caroliniana)
Loblolly Pine (Pinus taeda)
Shortleaf Pine (Pinus echinata)
Holly (Ilex)

Water Oak. (Quercus nigra) Surprisingly, we have only one water oak in our yard, but it’s huge, and it’s near our front porch. It also happens to be my favorite tree in the yard.

As a homeschooling mom, I can say it feels great when your kid gets old enough to do the hard work by himself. This project has led my twelve-year-old to learn how to use a dichotomous key when trying to identify plants and trees. He has used Tree Finder: A Manual for Identification of Trees by their Leaves (Eastern U.S.), Winter Tree Finder, A Field Guide to Eastern Trees and the Internet to identify several plants and trees. Then he lists the plant names in a notebook. Sometimes he takes photos of them, but I often do that. I’ve also been helping by uploading some of our photos to iNaturalist, which has been a big help in identifying plants and trees too.

We have several white oaks. (Quercus alba) The ink on the label has already faded in just one winter. Time for a touch up.

I also help by writing out the labels that we put on or near the trees and plants (because I have the nicest handwriting). We always put the common name and the scientific name. My yard is starting to look a little bit like the botanical garden….well, I guess it would need to be much neater before I could say that! But I enjoy seeing the labels nonetheless.

We have a few wild black cherry trees. (Prunus serotina) They surprised me one year by producing small, tasty cherries! These trees have beautiful bark too.

This Friday is Arbor Day, so I’m going to use that day to post about a particular tree my son wanted to buy and plant in our yard.

There is one small willow oak (Quercus phellos) trying to grow among the the other hardwoods in the backyard.

I hope you are having a happy spring!

The Family Project: Our Yard

purple coneflower

I have been gardening with my boys since they were very young, and though I’m sure that my love of gardening has influenced them, it hasn’t taken much effort on my part to get them to enjoy it. I think all children are drawn toward nature and plants when they have the opportunity to explore a yard. (You can find links to my earlier posts about gardening at the bottom of this page.)

I have enjoyed watching how my eldest son’s love of nature and plants has evolved. There have been years when I thought he was losing the interest, but now as I look back, I realize he has always been interested in plants, and perhaps now more than ever.

My eldest son’s white-topped pitcher plants and Venus flytrap (but you can only see the flowers of the flytrap in this photo)

My younger son, too, enjoys plants and gardening. He has his own Venus flytrap which he dutifully waters (when I remind him). He likes to plant new seedlings or store-bought plants, and in general, he’s leaning down looking at whatever his older brother is inspecting in the garden. He doesn’t complain at all when we go to the plant sale at the botanical garden, and he told me that our big project this year was “more fun than I thought it would be.”

What was that project? Well, it was reconstructing the path that I had created in our backyard woods before the boys were born. Back then, my husband helped me. We had collected many rocks from our new, uncultivated yard (and a few empty lots), and with his help, I created a path through the woods. However, over these past several years of having babies, child-rearing, and homeschooling, the path became neglected and overgrown with weeds. Erosion caused some of the rocks to get buried in the dirt or even moved around.

I had been talking about cleaning up the path with my boys for a long time, and back in April (when it was cool and there weren’t any bugs out yet) my eldest son suggested we do it. So we took a full week off from our regular lessons, and we went out back every morning and worked on our path. You can see the transformation in my photos.

BEFORE and AFTER we cleared the path in our backyard. A fun, spring project.

It looks great now, and we’re going to try to keep it maintained. Nature wants to take over so quickly, and this in itself is a great lesson for the boys. We will work on it mostly in the cooler months because it’s a mosquito heaven in the summer. We’re hoping to help cultivate the woodland plants that grow there naturally and get rid of the weeds and a few plants that tend to “take over.”

This wasn’t our only yard project this year, however. After watching Big Dreams Small Spaces with Monty Don, my husband got inspired! He suggested we try putting some flower beds in our front yard where we gave up growing grass. (It’s mostly a play area for the boys.) So with my husband’s help, we got the frames set up, and then the boys and I filled them with dirt, and we selected some partial shade loving plants, and they are looking very good! (In the future, we hope to add some more flower beds and fill the spaces in between with either pebbles or wood chips.)

These flowers have given us such joy this year. They are attracting all kinds of pollinators and birds, and we enjoy taking care of them. It was a relatively inexpensive project that renewed the boys’ interest in gardening!

Since we have the yard, I have many ideas for homeschooling projects, and the boys are pretty excited about them. It’s just a matter of finding the time to do them! If we do find the time, I’ll be sure to write about it.

Tell me about your garden. 🙂