The Cicada Scene

Ah, cicadas. The sound of summer. There’s nothing quite like the remarkably loud buzz of the cicada to remind you of summers past. But man, are those things creepy! It kind of throws you off, when you’re walking down the street, and you see a massive bug on the sidewalk, or an exoskeleton hanging off a tree, no?

Well, we had a great time learning about cicadas this last week. It all started in a park… The Littles and I were meeting up with some fellow homeschooling families. Little Miss C (3.5) was playing around on the playground, and we noticed that there were some wasps buzzing around something on the ground. Upon closer inspection, we found that it was a partially eaten cicada:

Neat! We’re always up for exploring dead bugs, so we checked it out, and put it back down for the wasps’ dinner. As we went back to join our friends, we discovered that they were spending their time collecting cicada exoskeletons:

They also realized that there were many small holes around the trees, where the cicadas had come out of hibernation. Did you know cicadas can hibernate for as long as 13-17 years? Cool!

Here is Little Miss C exploring a cicada hole. She was curious as to how deep it was:

Here is a recently emerged cicada, however likely not long for this world, as it has an underdeveloped wing – an excellent opportunity to discuss the life cycle of the cicada. I love the bright colours.

And here is a cicada mid-emergence! This was a very neat experience. The cicada was vibrating its body, I believe to help stretch out its wings to allow them to dry off.

What are your favourite sounds of summer?

To listen to the cicada’s buzz, click here.

Snapdragon Fun

I love nature. I love God’s creation, and I think it’s beautiful, marvelous, and I often stand, or sit, in awe of it. And sometimes (often) I interact with it. Since I was a child, one of my favourite flowers has been the snapdragon. If you’ve never experienced snapdragons, you don’t know what you’re missing! These flowers begin to bloom in the month of August. In our neighbourhood, we they are scattered along the walkway in our ravine. Each year, I anxiously await their emergence.

What, you might ask, makes these flowers so special? They are TONS of fun! Fun? How can flowers be fun? Well, because they “pop”! Take a look at the three photos below:

Snapdragon Flower

Snapdragon Seed Pod

Popped Snapdragon Seed Pod

The first photo is of the snapdragon flower itself. It’s a brilliant orange, with specks of red. The second photo shows a seed pod. It looks kind of like a bean. A ripe seed pod is longer, and rather plump. These are the ideal pods. The third photo shows a popped seed pod. That is where the magic happens!

Once you find a ripe pod, very gently squeeze it. I can’t emphasize “gently” enough. Once you give it a gentle squeeze – POP! If they are particularly ready, even just brushing it with your hand will cause the pod to explode.

It’s a little alarming at first, but it is a LOT of fun 🙂 I promise!

Do you have a different name for snapdragons?

Look Up, Way Up

I love and adore experiential learning (learning through experience). You will notice that most of our meaningful learning happens in a casual fashion, through curiosity. So, I am always looking out for situations that occur in our day to day lives, where we can observe, and learn, about the world around us.

A couple of weeks ago, we noticed that the construction site by my parent’s home was active on a Saturday (a rare occurrence). They were removing a large crane that they had built the condo around, and therefore had to remove in a strategic way. It was fascinating to watch the construction workers disassemble the crane piece by piece, and lower the pieces onto large flatbeds like this:

We watched as they precisely lowered the pieces, using hydraulics, onto the trucks, then secured them into place. We discussed physics and engineering in a meaningful context. When have you experienced experiential learning?

Sorting Colours

Have you ever searched Pinterest for educational toy ideas? You know, the DIY ones that are “so easy” to make, and are guaranteed to entertain your child for hours? I have. And I’ve saved them all. I’ve even made a few, including my beloved Quiet Book, which truth be told, does not see nearly as much action as I thought it would. But, lately, I’ve started to have a shift in my thinking: What if kids learn things, even if we don’t sit down and formally teach them? What if their natural curiosity will lead them to learn the things they want to, and they’ll enjoy doing it all on their own? What if I stood back, and guided when needed, as opposed to creating more work for myself, and stressing myself out that she should be learning “this”? Or be able to recite “that”? Well, this morning, I was reassured that she will “get it” when she’s ready, and without all my Pinterest projects to help her along. Meet the Paw Patrol!

Have you seen the show? We like it in our house. Ryder (a boy who loves to help people) and his team of pups (are you singing the song yet?) are here to save the day! My beloved husband bought a set of 6 action figures (the pups) for our daughter last week. We have tried VERY hard not to go overboard on branded toys, but these cute, small figures were too hard to resist.

This morning I was getting ready for the day, and came across Little Miss playing with her figures and her rings, the ones from the classic Fisher Price toy that go on a yellow cone. She had put the pups in their own life savers (I think that’s what she was playing) based on their colour. Rocky in green (Green Means Go!), Rubble in yellow, etc. She wasn’t taking yellow pom poms, and putting them in the yellow container while I coached her. She was doing this all on her own. Naturally she dismantled it all just as I was about to take a picture, but I’m sure you get the idea 😉

But surely, Liz, it was a one off, no? Nope. She then proceeded to the kitchen where she wanted to give them all water, and a bath. My hubby reported this back to me at the end of the day, when he came home before me to a puddle of water and cups all over the floor (I was in a rush!).

Again, the pups were all designated their own bath and water bowl based on their colour. Can you guess what colour cup Skye got?

They’ll do it. And you know what, does it really matter in the long run if your child never puts the red bead on the red string? Probably not. But, if they do, they’ll enjoy it more if they do it in their time, based on their own curiosity, not ours.

Blessings,

Liz

Learning To Line Up

Do we need school to learn basic courtesies? Sitting still? Lining up? Taking turns? When I asked a friend what her child learned in Kindergarten, that was it. Basic courtesies. Here in Ontario, our Kindergarten program is a full day of play-based learning. But, would my children (we have 2 daughters now!) not know how to politely interact with other children without being formally taught? Nope!

We had a wonderful opportunity to join in with a Forest Playgroup back in September. It was their inaugural meeting, and we had never met any of these families before. There were about 15 families and their children. My daughter was just over 2 and a half. And you know what? They lined up. Without any adult interference or interruption! Can you believe it?

Let me set the scene for you. There we are, enjoying a pot luck snack, getting to know one another. A couple of children find a log lying on the ground, and they begin to use it like a balance beam. Well, this, naturally, catches the attention of some of the other children (including my own), and they start practicing their balancing techniques. It was a little disorderly until a fantastic, spunky, young five year old encouraged them to line up. And they did it! No fuss, no muss. They obliged, everyone got a turn (multiple, actually), and they had fun. All without an adult interrupting their process. It was beautiful.

They can do it. They are completely capable of learning from, and respecting, one another. And they don’t need us to “teach” them. Stand back, and watch, because amazing things unfold.

Blessings,

Liz

P.S. They also fell off the log, got back up, and tried again. Some really got the hang of it this time, and some gained skills for their go at it. No one got hurt, as they trusted their expertise and weren’t pushed, nor dissuaded.  They just got to be kids.

Pond Life

We are very blessed to have the opportunity to visit a pond, which is right next to our accountant’s office. We pick up cheques from our accountant biweekly, so we try to get down there before or after each visit. This picture was taken in May:

Goose Eggs WM

It’s a bit hard to see, but there are 3 Canadian Goose eggs in the middle of the little island. We had watched the geese take care of these eggs for a few weeks. The last time we saw them, the geese were close by, but no longer sitting on them. I knew then that these eggs likely wouldn’t hatch. When we came back, and the geese were gone, but the eggs were still there. Although my Little Miss was SO excited to see some goslings,  it was a great opportunity to talk about the life cycle, and how not everything turns out the way we think it will.

I love learning through natural opportunity. I like to call it casual learning. Children are insatiable when it comes to curiosity – which I can absolutely vouch for now that my daughter asks “why?” roughly 35,000 times per day! Feed it as much as you can. Let them learn!

These next two photos are fun shots of our little piece of pond paradise. Can you spot the frog in the second one?

Pond Paradise WM

Frog WM