For Christmas, we purchased our daughter a used telescope from Craigslist, the book Astronomy for Dummies (I love For Dummies books), and paid for a private astronomy class taught by a scientist who designs telescopes and satellites used in space, Turner Astronomy Classes. The class was recommended to us by a few families we know.   But, the class isn’t just for kids. Parents are required to come, too. I’ve gone once. My husband took our daughter last week and plans to go again this week. The lectures are very interesting.  On clear nights, the teacher will set up his powerful, digital telescope after class and the kids and parents will get to view some things we will never hope to see with our simple telescope at home.  But, we’ve used our telescope a few times at home already.  It has helped us to put what we are learning into practice and it brings the academic material to life. My daughter is very artistic and last week’s class must have covered the topic of nebulae.  She came home and drew this beautiful picture from memory using chalk.  I was hoping the class would inspire at least some wonder over the beauty of the universe.  It think it already has!

Minimuseum from Mudpies to Magnets

We created a mini museum with some of items in our nature collection today.  As simple as this looks, it took quite a bit of time and diligent effort to confirm the exact names of the items so we could be certain enough about them to make their labels. I think this mini museum might become a permanent fixture in our house.  It would be easy enough to swap out these items with new and different ones as the months go by.  And it’s nice to bring some items in our nature collection out of shoe boxes where we can see them more readily and appreciate them more often.  Note: Once the baby is toddling around and pulling up, we may have to put this collection in the middle of the dining room table or someplace even higher until she can be trusted not to destroy it. But for now and at least another month or two, our mini museum has a happy home on our coffee table.

Color My Petals from Mudpies to Magnets

We took a walk in our neighborhood to get some exercise, enjoy the perfect weather and to see (and hear) the spectacular, autumn leaves everywhere.

Here’s the view out over Waterbury from one side of our neighborhood, East Mountain.  Glorious! The wind sweeps through this spot and when you are standing here and it blows, you can’t help but close your eyes and smile (and think of this song.)


There’s a hillside where several grasses and wildflowers (weeds) grow. The girls collected some of the last of the Queen Anne’s Lace and put it behind their ears till we got home.

Once inside and settled, we found a science experiment in Mudpies to Magnets called “Color My Petals.”  We added several drops of food coloring to water in a vase and we’re going to let the flowers drink it up (and change color) to illustrate how flowers drink water from the ground outside.

Pillbug Palace from Mudpies to Magnets

We took a clean, empty aquarium outside then filled it with some moist dirt, a small, flat rock, a piece of bark, a broken twig and various dead leaves.  Then we scoured the woods behind our house for pill bugs. We found several, probably fifty, under the logs and pieces of bark along the ground near our wood pile. Norah used a disposable, plastic spoon to gently coax them off and into the aquarium.  We put the lid on (tightly) and brought the aquarium inside to observe the pill bugs for a few days.  “Operation Pill Bug” was a success! Note: We got the idea for this activity from Mudpies to Magnets.

Usborne First Encyclopedia of Our World

Norah has worked her way through The Usborne First Encyclopedia of Our World, the first science book The Well Trained Mind recommends for second grade. She reads at least two pages a day and then finds a book about the same topic and reads more.  After she’s done reading, she tells me something she learned that day.  I write it or have her write it, depending.  And then she illustrates the sentence(s) with a drawing.  We collect her narrations and illustrations in three ring binder that the grandparents can enjoy looking through when they visit.

Science and Narration

Norah has read each of her Magic School Bus books about twenty times. I’m not exaggerating. Twenty may even be low-ballin’ it. She loves Magic School Bus books.

After she read Color Day Relay the other day for the umpteenth time, I strongly encouraged (made) her do a narration on it.

And when she moaned like a wounded animal over my suggestion (assignment), I just told her to tell me one thing she remembered or found interesting about the book and draw a picture to illustrate it. I wrote down what she said and then she copied it under her drawing in her own handwriting.

She was more willing (less unwilling) to do this after I told her she’d get to draw a picture. She loves to draw.

I am hoping doing narrations like this will get her into the habit/ make her more inclined to record interesting things she comes across in her reading. As she gets older, eventually, she could learn how to teach herself just anything by “collecting” information like this in notebooks or journals.

Collect Project Supplies In Advance

I’ve been working to collect all the items we are going to need to do Norah’s science experiments this year. After several months of working through Norah’s history book with her, I’ve realized that we are doing far less of the history projects (hardly any at this point) because I don’t have the stuff I need for the projects already collected in one place. It’s too hard to find this thing or that, too much trouble to run to the store for something, and far too easy to just skip the project and move on to the next chapter, etc. So, I am collecting all her science stuff now. This way, everything we need for every science project will be on hand. I also plan to go back through her history book within the next few days and make a list of supplies for the projects in the chapters we have yet to cover and collect those supplies, too. To do this up front is a tedious and expensive endeavor, but I feel confident it will be worth the effort.


We captured this little frog at the river and brought him home in our cooler (dumped of the ice and drinks and filled with fresh river water, of course.)

We’ve been feeding him house flies and crickets. We’ve had to clean his tank once. We refilled it with fresh rain water that we collected from the seats of our camping chairs. (It’s amazing how much rain water those seats will hold if we leave them outside during a storm.)

In the photo above, our frog had just eaten a cricket, a cricket that was as long as he is, mind you. He did this by biting him and letting the cricket swim, biting him again and letting him swim… this went on till he’d worn the cricket down and gotten him face to face. That’s when he proceeded to swallow the cricket and swallow him some more and swallow him some more and more and more till the whole cricket had disappeared head first down into the frog’s body (save the leg you see sticking out the side of his mouth in the photo above.)

The frog isn’t chewing. He’s just sitting there. From what we read, the juices in his body will digest the cricket for him.

We captured a praying mantis last year. And this year, we brought home a frog. I have to say that no amount of reading or videos on insects or frogs can teach what these animals teach us watching them for a mere thirty seconds every other day. It’s awe inspiring.