Tag Archives: nature

Read, Write, and Learn…With DevoKids!

About a year ago, I first found out about DevoKids.com, a fun and safe site for students. Part of Christian Devotions Ministries, DevoKids’ mission is to entertain children while sharing with them the love of Christ. There’s so much for kids to read and learn about — and they can even contribute, too!

Devotionals are posted weekly on the site, and each one is based on a particular scripture or passage. The link “Music Dudes and Divas” contains articles about different types of music and various musicians.  In “DaVinci’s Playground,” kids will find ideas for crafts and experiments. There are also links for puzzles and games, cooking ideas, nature and history articles, and money tips.

And there’s more! You’ll find two writing sections to the website, “The Write Buzz” and “Write Now!” In “The Write Buzz”, award-winning author and teacher Christopher Maselli answers questions about writing, while the “Write Now!” column features tips for kids by published authors such as Margot Finke, Carol Baldwin, Donna Shepherd, and Patti Shene.

One of my favorite features of DevoKids is that the site is open to submissions from students, too! What can kids send in? They may choose to write devotions, or they can give directions for making their favorite recipes. If they’ve found a good way to earn money, they can send that in, too. DevoKids is also looking for students with stories about saving, tithing, investing, and giving. Or, if your child has an idea that would fit in the music column, he can submit that as well.

DevoKids is constantly adding new articles, so it’s a site to return to again and again. And because it has so many opportunities for children to learn, create, and grow, you’ll want to do just that.


Last weekend, we met extended family in the mountains of Tennessee for our annual Family Reunion Campout. The group included a grandmother, thirteen (grown) kids and spouses, twenty-four grandkids and three spouses, five great-grandchildren, two friends, and — a beaver!

For many years, we didn’t see much wildlife around the campground, but within the last five or so, we’ve seen quite a lot. We’ve come upon a rattlesnake, a deer, hatchling turtles, and this year, a beaver! It was swimming above the water in the river when someone spotted it, and we all ran over to the bridge to see. You might have thought that with so many people there it would go under and disappear, but it didn’t; it just kept going along against the current until it was so far upriver we couldn’t see it anymore.

Now, what’s a homeschooler to do with an event like that? Why, make a lesson from it, of course! And while you may not have seen a beaver recently, you may still have a young beaver fan at your house. If so, here are some resources to check out:


Beaver Unit Study – based on the book Paddy the Beaver by Thornton W. Burgess.

Beavers – Wetlands & Wildlife – This website was created by the friends and associates of conservationist Dorothy Richards to continue her efforts to educate others about beavers. Lots of interesting information here.

– More beaver facts in this National Geographic article.

“Beaver Family”
– National geographic video featuring a beaver family through the seasons.

“How Beavers Build a Lodge” –   This BBC YouTube video shows amazing footage of beavers building their home.


  • Beavers by Helen H. Moore
  • Building Beavers by Kathleen Martin-James
  • Beavers: Where Waters Run (Northword Wildlife Series) by Paul I. V. Strong
  • The Adventures of Buddy the Beaver: Buddy Explores the Pond by Carson Clark and Jim Clark
  • Beaver – The Life Cycle by Bobbie Kalman
  • Beavers (Kids Can Press Wildlife Series) by Deborah Hodge and Pat Stephens

With so many resources,  it’s time to get busy — like a beaver!!


Photo by Carlson


This past week, my six-year-old was playing in the backyard, when he discovered a snake close beside him. He called to his sister who then called to me, saying there was a baby copperhead in the grass.  I rushed outside and caught it by the head with a stick; on first glance, it did look like a copperhead.  I told my oldest son to bring something to “take care of it” with. He came from the house with a container to put it in — not quite what I had in mind — so we pushed it into the clear little bowl.

The snake immediately flipped over, opened its mouth, and dropped out its tongue! It was playing dead!  Though the copperhead would have wanted it’s life spared, they don’t know that trick. A few years ago, we had found a much-larger, black-colored snake that did the same thing. This snake was a hognose snake.

Just to be sure, I did a quick Internet search of photos and found pictures of hognose snakes that are similar in color to copperheads — and just like ours. Through the bowl we looked at his nose; it was a little upturned. We now had a confirmed hognose on our hands.

Much relieved, I took out the snake so the children could hold it. When we found the previous snake, we learned that hognose snakes aren’t poisonous, rarely bit, and can make good pets. The snake cooperated; within a few minutes, it was no longer frightened.

That was on Sunday…we still have the hognose. His name now is Snake-ily, and he lives in our house. Fortunately, we had a “spare” reptile set-up in storage, so he’s very comfortable and doing well. And next week, we’ll be starting a unit study about snakes. 🙂

Time to Sleep

When my oldest son was very young, I discovered the picture book Time to Sleep by Denise Fleming at the library. It was such a fun book that we purchased our own copy and used it every year.

Time to Sleep follows a number of animals as they realize that winter is coming.  The leaves are falling and the days are shorter, so Bear decides he must tell Snail that it’s time to hibernate. Snail, then, must tell Skunk, who in turn must tell Turtle, and so on until Ladybug hears the news. The story comes full circle as Ladybug goes to Bear’s cave and wakes him up to tell him… it’s time to sleep.

We made the story even more fun by creating a craft to go along with it. Here’s what we did:

Using felt squares found at the craft store, I made each of the animals depicted in the story. I cut out two pieces of the basic shape of each animal and sewed the sides together (leaving a small opening). My son then stuffed them with fiberfill, and I sewed them shut. We added googly eyes and noses to the animals that needed them.

Next, we found a cardboard box about 12″ deep. I turned it upside down and cut a hole in the bottom of it.

Then, we read the story again. As each animal went to “sleep,” my son put them in the hole in the box. The last one to go in was the ladybug. Not only did we have a good time reading the book and making the craft, but my son learned about hibernation and had hands-on reinforcement each time we read the story. We actually used the same book, box, and animals with all of my children (I don’t know how they lasted so long), and it was fun to reminisce each time we got them out.

For us, Time to Sleep was really time for fun!

As I Watch

As I Watch is another picture book I’ve had the privilege of illustrating. Written by Chitra Sounder and published by Guardian Angel Publishing, this simple yet beautiful book describes the life-cycle of a butterfly.

Designed especially for the youngest readers, As I Watch follows the development of the insect from egg, to larva, to caterpillar, to chrysalis, to butterfly and back to egg again. It’s a great starting point for a unit study about butterflies or insects in general. The illustrations are done in oils and realistically depict the tiger swallowtail butterfly.

If you have young children and are interested in doing a unit study on butterflies, here are some other online resources you might find helpful:

EnchantedLearning.com – This site has so much information for young butterfly enthusiasts! While you may need to pay a small membership fee to access all of the worksheets, it’s well-worth it. They’ve even organized all of the information into a hypertext book, covering topics such as butterflies and moths, defense mechanisms, classification, butterfly gardens, and butterfly anatomy. You’ll also find printouts featuring the lifecycle.

ParentingOurKids.com – Among many other resources, this site also offers butterfly lesson plans. Some of these are complete lessons in themselves, while others are links to worksheets and puzzles. All would be good additions to your unit study!

TheHealthyHomeschool.com – Here you’ll find all you need to know about how to plant your own butterfly garden.

Glorious-Butterfly.com –  – While this site isn’t particularly a schooling site, you’ll find some great ideas for butterfly study here as well. The lesson plans focus on the monarch butterfly, its development, and migration.

InsectLore.com –  This site sells the life cycle kits for various insects, including butterflies. For about $20.00 you can get a kit with a coupon for live caterpillars.

Enjoy a butterfly study with your children — and watch the wonder of nature together!

Fowl Play

1_vLast night, we had another encounter with our local wildlife. It happened late at night, or rather, early in the morning.

I was up late working on a project, when around 1:00 a.m., I heard our chickens clucking outside. We have only a few chickens right now, mostly roosters, and we let them wander around the yard free-ranging. For quite some time now, they’ve been roosting at night in the trees, lately choosing to roost in a cedar tree in our front yard. I thought it was a good choice, as they are tucked within the branches and hidden from predators.

Or so I thought. Last night, when I heard the clucking, I knew something was wrong. Chickens are sound sleepers, and they are quite disoriented when awakened in the night. So when they wouldn’t stop making so much noise, I found my shoes, grabbed a flashlight, and headed outside.

I saw something moving near the tree, and thought that perhaps a coyote was there. (We’ve had a lot of trouble with coyotes in our town lately). “Ha!” I hollered out, hoping to scare it away. Suddenly, a huge bird flew up from the ground. I watched as it took off in the opposite direction, flying out over my neighbor’s house.

I continued toward the tree, where I found one of our small hens lying on the ground. The large bird, which must have been an owl, had planned on making this little hen its dinner. In the light of the flashlight, I could tell the chicken’s face was a little bloodied, and it seemed to be having trouble breathing.

I couldn’t leave it there, so I picked it up and started towards the house, thinking I’d find a box somewhere to put it in. As I went, it seemed to come to its senses and began clucking and hollering. I put it in our empty chick pen and headed off to bed.

How’s the bird? She seems to be doing fine, though she’s still in the pen recuperating. And the owl? It will have to find another food source. Chicken just isn’t on the menu this week!

Lesson in a Can

P1150861A few weeks ago, for my son Luke’s sixth birthday, we had as many family members that could drop by for a party. It was a pretty day, so we ate outside at the picnic table, and with so many cousins, we created quite a mess. As my husband went to take out the trash, however, we were all met with a interesting surprise. There, stuck in the bottom of a plastic garbage can, were two small opossums.

They must have been there a while, as we hadn’t used that particular can for quite some time. We decided they had climbed in looking for something to eat, but because the sides were so slick, they were unable to climb out again. They were curled up in the bottom of the can, one on top of the other.

We decided to wait until dusk to let them out, as opossums are nocturnal and they’d have a better chance at escaping safely from any would-be predators such as the neighborhood dogs. We covered most of the opening of the can with the lid, to help them “hide” for the rest of the day, and then we went on with the party.

At dusk, before everyone left, our opossum lesson continued. We carried the can out back behind our house to the woods, tipped it over, and dumped them out. One of the opossums took off right away, while the other managed more slowly to find his way through the trees. They were both glad to be free, and we were glad for the opportunity to see them go.

We’re much more careful, now, about leaving the lids on the cans, though we’ve still had some opossum sightings around our trash bin. And just when we had gotten the cats and the chickens to leave it alone…

Nature Craft: Bird At Home

Here’s a fun craft to go along with a nature lesson. You can even work at it with your very small ones to help them learn their shapes.


  • Brown paper lunch bags
  • Newspaper
  • Rubber bands
  • Construction paper- yellow and brown
  • Googly eyes
  • Shoe box

1. To begin, cut three small triangles from the yellow construction paper, two large triangles from the brown construction paper. While you can cut out these shapes for young children, older children can cut them out by themselves.

2. Give your child a paper bag and some newspaper. Have your child tear the newspaper into strips and place some in the bottom of the paper bag. Twist the bag near the bottom to form the head of the bird. Wrap a rubber band around it to keep it in place.

3. Have your child tear another sheet of newspaper into long strips. Stuff these strips into the paper bag as well, filling it halfway.

4. Twist the bag again, wrapping another rubber band around it to keep it in place. Spread out the un-stuffed top of the bag to form the tail.

5. Find the three small yellow triangles. Glue one small triangle on the head with one angle pointing downward, creating a beak. Glue the two remaining yellow triangles to the bottom of the bird, forming feet. Affix each foot so that the straight side of the triangle can be seen when facing the front of the bird.

**TIP: While glue sticks are less messy and will work well when gluing paper to paper, white school glue works better when affixing the googley eyes to the bird. Be sure to allow for sufficient drying time when using white glue.

8. Glue the two brown triangles to the sides of the birds for wings.

9. Glue googly eyes to the head of the bird.

10. Have your child tear another sheet of newspaper into strips. Place the strips into a shoebox, forming a nest. Place the bird in the nest. You can also use this time to talk about all the things birds might use to build their nests.

For books to go along with your craft, you might try About Birds: A Guide for Children by Cathryn Sill ; Birds, Nests, and Eggs by Mel Boring; and Bird Songs by Betsy Franco.

Kelly Park – Rock Springs

pics_2_017While visiting in Florida, we took a day to visit Kelly Park in Apopka, FL. If you are ever in the area during the spring or summer, this park is a must-see.

The main feature of the park is Rock Springs, a clear, cold freshwater spring that comes up from a break in a rock outcropping. The spring becomes a stream that visitors can lazily float down on inner tubes, and it eventually empties into a pool where they can swim before continuing on a little further. Lifeguards are stationed along the stream and around the pool. The park has a well-build boardwalk to follow as you enter or exit the stream, and there’s also a sandy beach where small children can play.

Although the floats aren’t provided, you can rent a tube from $3 – $5 per day from nearby businesses, or you can bring your own. We did some of both — took a few floats we had on hand and rented a couple more, but the kids also enjoyed swimming down the stream with no inner tube at all.

Our other favorite activity to do at the park is search for shark teeth. When we reach the end of the first part of the stream, everyone hops out of their floats, reaches down to the bottom, and pulls up handfuls of shells and rocks. We carefully search through them, looking for very small shark teeth or some other treasure. This past trip, we found a different kind of tooth, which we believe to have once belonged to an alligator.

You’ll also find playgrounds, pavilions, and picnic tables at the park, along with a couple of bath houses and a concession booth. Entrance to the park was just $1 per person or $5 for a carload of eight. All in all, it was a great way to spend the day. It was also the impetus of a new homeschooling investigation: Just where do all those shark teeth come from?