Tag Archives: wildlife


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

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…

Snow Days

snowLiving in the upstate of South Carolina, our snow days are rather limited; we usually have a couple of ice storms and maybe one good snow (actually, about 2-4 inches) a year. This past weekend, we had both, as Friday brought the snow and Friday evening brought in the sleet and ice. Our wintery mix hung around until Monday, when it finally began to melt.

With the public schools closed on Monday and still a little snow on the ground, we (of course) had to declare Monday a “Snow Day.” But it wasn’t without its educational value. They didn’t realize it, but as the children were enjoying the snow, they were learning, too.

John, my 13-year-old, was quick to snatch up the camera and head outdoors. He took pictures of everyone and everything, experimenting with the settings on the camera, the lighting, and the subject matter. He kept working at improving his photos with each shot.

Cassie, Lillie, and Luke played in the field a long time, creating “roads” and “houses” in the snow. They figured out a way to surf down a small hill on their sled. We looked for animal tracks in the woods and found deer and coyote prints. We made snow cream by following a recipe we found on the Internet, mixing fresh snow with vanilla, sugar, and milk. And we drank a lot of cocoa.

Even during an “off” day, even during a day of play, it’s good to know that learning was going on, creative minds were thinking, and relationships were growing. Now the snow is just about gone and life is again returning to normal. Or as normal as it can be for now. We’re expecting another winter storm this weekend. 🙂

Nature Journaling

A couple of weeks ago, my daughter Lillie came running in from playing outside.

“Mommy! Mommy!” she shouted. “It’s spring! It’s spring! I saw one of those yellow flowers in the front yard!”

It was still pretty chilly outside, but she was right — the daffodils were starting to bloom. It was a good reminder to pull out our nature journals.

We started working in our nature journals again last fall, then with the busyness of the holidays we tucked them away for a while. But new life in the spring presents the perfect opportunity for a fresh start. 

Fridays are our least busy day, so that’s when we set aside some time to go outside. If you’d like to start a nature journal, here are a few tips for getting started. 



Paper: An ordinary tablet, sketchbook, homemade journal, composition book, or spiral notebook 

 Pencils and erasers

Colored pencils or watercolors

Field guides of birds, snakes, lizards, mammals, rocks, trees, etc.



The date, time, place, and weather conditions

What you see, hear, or smell. You can try to identify the objects, plants, and animals and write about what you find.

Drawings in pencil, pen, colored pencils, or watercolors.



The scientific names and common names of specimens

Interesting facts about the specimens you find

Special poems, scriptures, or hymns

A brief description or story about what you’ve found

Pressed leaves or flowers 

Leaf rubbings


There aren’t any set rules to nature journaling — one child may want to include only butterflies, while another is interested in trees. Or, a child may want to include everything he finds. As you head outside with your child, though, be sure to take a notebook and pencil for yourself. You never know what you might find!