Strawberry Freezer Jam

We’ve been having fun and getting sticky at our house. I think getting sticky is one of my kids’ favorite activities. This time I commissioned them with the job though.

Yesterday we made five flats of strawberries into freezer jam. Yummy!

Making Strawberry Freezer Jam

I took this picture when we were just starting. My fingers were still clean enough to use the camera. I promise that that table did not stay white. It was eventually covered with bags of sugar and boxes of pectin and empty flats and plastic containers. We had to set up another table, because we didn’t have enough room for the jam! We had the table and the aprons and the fingers smeared with red before we were finished. For that matter the kids didn’t keep that eager look on their faces the whole time either. In fact, they went AWOL on me and started riding their bicycles and tricycle all around me, while I was reminding them that I wanted to get done as soon as possible so that I could have some sleep last night and their help would be very much appreciated.

Riding his Tricycle

G’tums is very proud that he can pedal his tricycle. Finally his legs are long enough. So he was the first to go AWOL, unless perhaps it was for reasons of his age!

Well, that’s a short post on something that took a long time to accomplish!

Learning About Taxonomy

The first lesson of the Exploring Creation with Botany is all about taxonomy. This seemed like a difficult concept for young children to understand, but fortunately a couple of pictures in the book spurred my kids on. My daughter set up a chart with the taxonomy of her closest. For example kingdom: shirts phylum: short-sleeve order: button-up. She had fun with this.

Taxonomy of Duplo blocks

Taxonomy of Duplo blocks

JD Boy classified G’tums’ Duplo blocks.

So what I thought would be quite a boring subject for my youngsters turned into quite a fun activity and even my three-year old enjoyed joining in. I have to say this gave me a good first impression of the Botany book. When something dry is turned into fun, my children giggle and I smile.

The next day after they learned the concept of taxonomy, they enjoyed learning about the first two terms: vascular and non-vascular. But they got a bit bogged down the following day when we hit angiosperm, gymnosperm, Anthophyta, Bryophyta, etc. Maybe I went too fast on that part. Maybe if we’d done one term per sitting/day and a nature walk to find that kind of plant, then maybe all would have been well. But we did four terms and then went for a nature walk to find them and they were getting confused which "phyta" was which. By the time we were done with this lesson, my daughter was hanging upside down on her chair saying "This is boring." Oh no, I hope I didn’t strike out.

The kids did enjoy finding the things that we had read about. Here are the things that they found. We’re only going to name the phylum, not the plant, since that is what we were studying.

Anthophyta: all flowering plants.




all cone producing plants.



I don’t know if that cone belonged to that tree. Zippy just thought they made a nice picture together.

Pteraphyta: Seedless vascular plants–ferns.



A shot of the spores on the fern (and my personal favorite shot of the day.)

Bryophyta: moss


We’ve been busy making entries in the Botany Notebooking Journal, while we’ve been studying.

Botany Notebooking Journal 1

Left is JD Boy’s dried leaf and his moss drawing. Right is Zippy’s drawings for angiosperm and gymnosperm.

Next we’re off to plant some seeds. I’ll keep you posted.


Western Bluebird

Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? Matthew 6:25-26

Our start on Botany

We decided to study botany this summer. We are going to use the Exploring Creation with Botany book by Apologia as long as we enjoy it. So far so good. We’ve done it two days. We also purchased the Botany Notebooking Journal to go with it. We’ll see how that goes. For the most part, JD Boy will have to narrate and I’ll have to write. He enjoys drawing, so any and every page that has drawing will be up his ally. Not sure if I’ll have him do the scripture copywork or not. As for Zippy, I’m having her write the short answers and narrate the long answers to me and do all the copywork.

If you know us, you might wonder if we’re better off to just learn about flowers and not follow a book. I’m not sure. We enjoyed learning about birds so much and it was a lot more spontaneous even though we were following the challenges on the Outdoor Hour Challenges. I guess this is my reserve on this book. But it does give lots of ideas for outdoor activities, so we’re going to give it a try and I’ll let you know if we love it or not.

With all that said, my husband took the kids on a flower quest walk, which started off our botany journey. My children just love going to find what they can find. He took the camera to see what wildflowers they could find. I don’t know if this got the kids excited about studying botany, but it made me excited. Although, I enjoyed the pictures not the walk, because it’s when I had the flu and I sat in the car. I did my part though–I identified the flowers. I’m not a pro at identifying flowers, but I’m going to learn how to do it. Maybe you get the idea, that I was the one that wanted to learn botany.

Here’s what we found.

Mullein Pink -- Lychnis coronaria

Mullein Pink  Lychnis coronaria

Foxglove -- Digitalis

(Purple) Foxglove Digitalis

Foxglove -- Digitalis

(White) Foxglove Digitalis

Foxglove -- Digitalis

Foxglove Digitalis   A wide shot for perspective

Shasta Daisy -- Leucanthemum x superbum

Shasta Daisy Leucanthemum x superbum

I hope we identified this flower correctly. It is a bit hard to tell the difference between this and the Oxeye Daisy, but this one stunk and that was the identifying difference. The Shasta does grow wild west of the Cascades, which includes our area.

Oxeye Daisy -- Leucanthemum vulgare

Shasta Daisy Leucanthemum x superbum   A wide shot for perspective.

Well, we enjoyed the flowers. Now to see how we enjoy the botany!

Discovery Park–Seattle, WA

A few weeks ago we got to take a very enjoyable walk at Discovery Park in Seattle, Washington. If you ever visit Seattle and enjoy walking and want to get away from blacktop and skyscrapers, visit Discovery Park. It’s really neat. We only scratched the surface. There was a lot more to see and many more walks to take. Maybe we’ll go back again sometime and do some more exploring.

One of the neatest things to watch from there is the sailboats. There are points where you can look right out on the Puget Sound and on a nice day, it is full of sailboats. You can also look across the water and see the Olympic Mountains–beautiful.


This is our only picture of the water. You can just barely see the Olympics in the background and our big bodies are blocking all the sailboats. Sorry my eyes were closed. It was very bright that day.

Zippy using the birdscope

Whie we were standing on this deck, we got to see the most beautiful little bird. He stayed in one place for quite awhile so we got out the bird scope and each enjoyed a real close look at him.

Anna's Hummingbird

Here he is–an Anna’s Hummingbird.

Anna's Hummingbird

Zippy snapped this photo with her dad’s camera. I just love how his feathers reflected in this picture, even though it looks like he’s wearing a mask.

Smelling Wild Roses

There were wild roses all around that deck. We enjoyed watching the bees fly in and out of them, but we really enjoyed smelling them.

Then we took off on a walk and these are some of the things we found.

Indian Artifact

This was an artifact saved from the demolition of a building in Tacoma, Washington that had been built in 1909. it is called the Guardian of the Spirit. There were even little bowls on the ground where somebody had left their offering to the spirit, I guess. My kids were convinced it was a real idol. They may have been right.


We had the opportunity to see some beautiful flowers along the path. I think they were cultivated at some point, but they definitely were not being maintained when we saw them. Not quite sure what the story was on that. My six-year-old son took this picture of the Iris.


JD Boy took this shot of a Columbine. I think Columbine are just such delicate and special flowers.

Daisy in a puddle

JD Boy also took this picture. He thought it was so amazing to see that daisy growing in that puddle.

Big Leaf Maple

JD Boy and Zippy were very impressed by the size of these Maple leaves. They might have worked for a hat!


And this little guy was our last discovery from Discovery Park, but I haven’t succeeded in identifying him. Insects are another thing we need to learn more about.  UPDATE: Somebody helped me identify him: Buprestis aurulenta. It looks like he’s a bad guy. He can bore holes right through tar roofs and cause all kinds of damage to wood structures. And we thought he was just so pretty.

We didn’t take the time to read about anything that we saw from this walk, we just enjoyed seeing it and smelling it and appreciating it and being thankful to the God who made these things for us.

Here is a quote that I just love about taking children into nature:

"How can children receive a more correct knowledge of God, and their minds be better impressed, than in spending a portion of their time out-of-doors, not in play, but in company with their parents? Let their young minds be associated with God in the beautiful scenery of nature; let their attention be called to the tokens of His love to man in His created works, and they will be attracted and interested." Child Guidance, p. 534.

Gray Birds–Pigeons

This is the last of the bird challenges from the Outdoor Hour Challenges. We have enjoyed doing these so much, that we are a little sad for them to end, but I guess now we can make our own bird challenges or maybe do some other challenges. We are thinking about learning about what’s happening in our garden or else learning about some botany. Those are kind of related.

This challenge was on gray birds–Pigeons and Mocking Birds. We do not have Mocking Birds where we live, so Pigeons it was.

We read all about Pigeons in the Handbook of Nature Study. The part from there that my kids enjoyed the most was the story about G.I. Joe the pigeon. G.I. Joe was a pigeon that saved a group of British troops from being bombed by Allies, by delivering a message just in time that the British had already taken occupation of the city of  Calvi Vecchia, Italy, which had been scheduled for bombardment.

Here are the pictures that we were able to take of Pigeons that live just down the road from us.

Rock Dove (Pigeon)

Rock Dove (Pigeon)

As you can tell by looking at the ledge where they are standing, quite a few of them live at this bridge. When we saw that we were going to be studying pigeons, we knew just where to go.

Sometimes I think we get a bit jaded by common birds and forget that some of them are really pretty too. I think that that pigeon in the first picture is a pretty bird, even though I have seen a bazillion pigeons in my life. I have to admit, I probably would not have stopped to take his picture, if it had not been for the Bird Challenge. So we’re glad that we were challenged to learn about common birds.

Pigeon by JD Boy (age 6)

J.D. Boy’s nature journal entry.

Pigeon by Zipp (age 9)

Zippy’s nature journal entry.

Sandia Mountain Tram & Jimez Mountains

I want to share one last post about our trip to New Mexico. We had the privilege of doing some very enjoyable sightseeing while we were there. We live not terribly far from the wettest place in the Continental U.S. (The Hawaiian island of Kauai beats it for rainfall.)  Traveling to a desert was a privilege for us. We were very excited to see the sights, sounds, plants and birds of the desert. And we were not disappointed (except for the fact that we never saw a Road Runner. Did I mention that before?)

We spent one day exploring around Jimez Hot Springs, just north of Albuquerque.

Jimez Hot Springs

Isn’t that a beautiful sculpture? Be glad that you can enjoy it in a picture though, because it stunk, like most hot springs.


It wasn’t really desert up there. Well, I don’t know what the rainfall is so perhaps it qualifies for desert, but there were trees and greenery and some just stunning sights, as you can see.

One of the most exciting things that the kids found was a beaver dam.

Beaver Dam

They went searching all around for beaver-chewed sticks and trees. It might have been an abandoned dam. It looked like it needed repair work, but maybe that’s the way they like it!

Stream Crossing JD Boy

The kids played upstream and downstream from the dam and just thoroughly enjoyed the place.

We also picked up a new bird for our life list at this spot: a MacGillivray Warbler.

The day that we came home, right before we came home, we squeezed in one last thing–a ride on the world’s longest tram, the Sandia Peak Tramway. It was really neat. You should go to Albuquerque just to do that. It is 2.7 miles long and has only two towers. The view from the top is spectacular. Actually the view all the way up and all the way down is spectacular. The only thing is that the next time we go (???) we need to allow a day and go hiking at the top, but if we had done that we would have missed our plane home and that would be bad.

View from Sandia Mtn.

One of the views from the top.

Sandia Peak Tramway

The tram car.

Family by Sandia Peak Tramway

Us at the top. If you’re wondering about my goofy expression–I was cold. Next time, I’ll take a jacket and a something to pull my hair back so that I don’t have to eat it–it was windy.

Learning while Visiting

While we were in New Mexico, we were so privileged to get some really quality time with friends and family. Spending time with others is really a great learning opportunity for my children. Our friends and family have experience, perspective and knowledge that I don’t have and they just unwittingly share with the children. My children always learn.

One of the days while we were in New Mexico, we spent at the home of some of our family. Now I have decided that getting to know extended family, definitely qualifies as social studies. There isn’t a better way to learn about the family tree than to get to know all of the branches. The last time that we were able to see most of these family members was when my oldest was 9 months old. In other words, they were strangers to my kids. So it was just great for them to get to know part of our family.

My kids were so excited because they added two new birds to their lifelists, while we were there: Black-chinned Hummingbird and Gambel’s Quail. We spent lots of time watching the Quail. Gambel’s Quail was one of the birds that I was so anxious to see on our trip. I’m sure glad that we got to, because the other bird was the elusive Road Runner, and I’m still upset with all of them for not showing their faces to us. Unfortunately, try as we did to persuade the birds, they did not pose for us, so the only photos I have to choose from are some irresistible pictures of my kiddoes.

Mischievous JD Boy

JD Boy

Mother and Daughter

Zippy and me

G'tums Waving


We also spent one day at the home of some very dear friends. As is always the case, when you take your children to somebody else’s house, they discover that the friends have way neater things than you have. This visit was no exception. The boys in that family took my kids for rides on their quads (four-wheelers). My kids are ready to move to New Mexico right now, just so they can have quads.

Trampoline Jumping

They also had the neatest trampoline ever! Even I have to admit, that that one is a winner. It’s just a lot safer looking than the typical. I’m heading to one of these days to see if I can get one.

Zippy with Static Hair

A bit of a closer look at what the trampoline did to Zippy’s hair. Impressive!

They also had real, live chickens.

G'tums feeding chickens

They got to feed the chickens…. and hold the chickens….and chase the chickens…

JD Boy Collecting Eggs

…and gather eggs.

The kids thought the chickens were so neat and are thinking that maybe we should get chickens. I informed them that first we have to get used to taking care of the dog. On top of that, we’re vegan, so what would we do with the eggs? Well, they had the answer for that: "Sell them." Don’t expect any posts anytime soon about us getting chickens. I have absolutely no intention of adding that to my life, but it was fun to watch the kids enjoy somebody else’s chickens.

Our time with family and friends was not only very enjoyable, but it was also educational for the kids. Sometimes, I think that I make learning too big of a project. Sometimes, I just need to turn them loose and let them explore the world around and meet and learn from the people around them. I try, really I do, to be the balanced homeschooler–with the right amount of structure and the right amount of spontaneity.

Now that we’re heading into the summer and I’m thinking that I need a little bit of break from lots of things in life, we have decided to take the education as it comes to us for awhile. We’re putting away our lapbooks and our workbooks and we’re going to go spend some time in the garden and outside and we’ll see what we can learn. Life is full of learning opportunities and surprises. I’ll keep you posted what we find and learn.

Albuquerque Aquarium & Zoo

We got to go a long ways for our last field trip. My husband was working out of town, so we tagged along with him. We love to travel with him, when he has to travel for work. We get to see new things; learn about new places; and visit new museums. This time we got to visit with friends and family too, which made it extra special.

One of the days that we were in New Mexico, we spent at the Albuquerque Aquarium and Zoo. Why is it that zoos are just so much fun? No matter how many times you take kids to a zoo, they’ll always be happy to go again. We hadn’t been to a zoo for quite awhile, so that made it even more fun.

Here are a few of the favorite things that we saw.

Trumpeter Swan

We liked the Trumpeter Swan because he swam right up to us. I think he was used to getting hand-outs, but I was quite happy to take his picture. We saw Swans when we were in Malheur, but those ones weren’t used to getting hand-outs so they swam the other way. Even though seeing birds in the wild is a special treat, seeing a beautiful bird like this up close, no matter where, is just special.

We saw several birds at the zoo, but the most important one was a Road Runner. I was hoping with all of my heart that we would get to see a Road Runner in the wild. I’ve never seen one before. Everybody I talked to said, "Oh, I’m sure you will." Well, we didn’t. Fortunately, though we did get to see one at the zoo. So I can’t complain, I suppose, but I still really want to see one that’s not in a cage, so I’m trying to plan my next trip there just so I can see a Road Runner. Not really.


This guy was hugemongous. I made up that word, but it’s still true. We’d never seen anything like this before and there was two of them. He might even be older than my grandma. (Don’t worry, Grandma, he looks a lot older than you too!!)

Baby Giraffe

Now this was the most exciting thing that we saw. We stayed and watched this little giraffe for a long, long time. I say little, but actually, he’s quite a bit taller than me. They’re around 6 feet tall when they’re born. It seems like babies from almost every creature are just cute. (There are a few that I don’t think are cute, even as babies.)

The zoo was full of babies and pregnant mamas while we were there. The zookeepers must have thought that it was time to really increase the population of the zoo’s inhabitants. We saw a baby chimp, a baby camel, a baby elephant, a pregnant snow leopard and what looked like a pregnant zebra and of course, the baby giraffe.

Sitting on a Throne

But the cutest babies of all were mine!!