Strawberries nature study

Have you ever looked up close at a strawberry? Neither had we until we did this little strawberries nature study over the past week.

It seemed like the perfect time for it; the wild strawberries all over our property are producing abundant flowers and so are the plants in our garden beds. Inspiration struck when D wondered aloud one day whether the leaves looked the same.

Naturally, we had to sacrifice a leaf and a flower from each kind of strawberry plant and check it out. (I won’t tell you the answer for this one; it’s too much fun to look for yourself!)

We picked some, smelled them, tasted the leaves, looked at them through our jeweler’s loupes and microscope, and sliced them in half to see the center.

We decided to use whatever medium stuck our fancy for our nature journal entries on this one. It was really interesting to me to see how the different kids (I use the term loosely since all three of mine joined in) opted to render their images. M’s blew me away – the art classes she’s been taking online  this year have really improved her skills!

strawberries nature study journal image 1

strawberries nature study journal image 2


strawberries nature study journal image 3

strawberries nature study journal image 4

And, of course, and good strawberries nature study requires that you eat as many as possible afterwards 🙂

I highly recommend that you also check out Barb’s strawberry nature study, more in depth than mine, from a few years back.

We’ve put together some great strawberry kids activities that you can use to create a  free unit study for PK up to mid elementary:

Find the Letter: S is for Strawberries from 3 Boys and a Dog

Strawberries Nature Study from The Usual Mayhem

Strawberry and Gardening Books for Kids from CraftCreateCalm

Fun & Easy Strawberry Paper Craft with Handprint Stem from Crafty Mama in ME

Strawberry Number Recognition Free Printable from Something 2 Offer

Strawberry Moon Outdoor Activities for Kids from FrogMom

How To Make Strawberry Shortcake from Tales of Education at Home

Strawberry Picking Sight Word Game from Books and Giggles

Strawberry Friends Printable Student Planner Free Pages from Look! We’re Learning!

S is for Strawberry Letter Maze from Simple Fun for Kids

How to Make Strawberry Lemonade from The Jenny Evolution

Preschool Strawberry Math from Schooling a Monkey


Happy strawberry picking!




Top 10 Ways to study flowers (with a giveaway!)

Here are my top 10 ways to study flowers, gathered through hours of perusing Pinterest and the rest of the web – oh, how I suffer for this blog! Torture! If you want to do more flowers nature study but lack inspiration, this post is the one for you to pin. Don’t miss all the links for other flower activities from fellow bloggers near the end of the post, too. Oh, and the great giveaway to get to started!

Ok, let’s get to it! In no particular order:

Top 10 Ways to Study Flowers

1. Why not forage for clover and make tea  with your kids, like Cassidy at Freshly Planted did?

making clover tea with kids

photo credit



2. Proof positive that even the little ones can study daffodils with a still life painting at Rainy Day Mum.

Rainy Day Mum painting-still-life-spring-daffodils

photo credit RainyDay

3. You can study dandelion seeds with this great collection of resources from Unit Study Ideas blog…I don’t know about you, but our grass has enough dandelions to spend a good year on this one!


photo credit

4.I shared my own  wildflower identification project from at the cottage when I was a kid  myself, oh-so-many-moons ago. Why not see if your kids would like to try it where you live?

wildflowers identification project image 1

5. Munchkins and Moms had her preschoolers sorting actual flower parts – what a great hands-on learning experience! I’m pretty sure that my elementary aged student would love to do a more detailed version of this one.


photo credit

6. Sugar Spice and Glitter had a different take on it that incorporates some fine motor skills as well – flower dissection


photo credit

7. KC Edventures has this fantastic post that shows this parts of a flower pollination activity .

flowerpart 1 KC Edventures

photo credit KC


8. Cathy from Nurturestore show you how to grow Sunflowers with children. Lots of good ideas in there!


photo credit

9. Over at Premeditated Leftovers there’s a great tutorial for how to make a portable flower press. I can think of so many times this would have come in handy!


photo credit


10 If you want an entire overview of the wildflowers around you, why not grab this Wonderful Wildflowers unit study that’s all pulled together for you with links, artist study ideas, poetry, Bible study (in its own section so secular homeschoolers can use this study just as well too), and book suggestions?


photo credit

I’m a huge fan of Shining Dawn Books’ NatureExplorers units, as longtime readers may remember from our Fungus unit study, and we’ve done many others along the way that didn’t make it onto the blog……in fact, right now we’re in the middle of their Delightful Deciduous Trees unit study.

If this grabs your interest (there are tons to choose from and all laid out for you to open and go!), you’ll be delighted to know that Cindy from Shining Dawn Books has offered THREE lucky readers the NatureExplorers nature study unit of their choice! This is open to my readers worldwide and comes as a download. Enter this one really simply; by sharing this post on social media and copying the direct link to your share as a comment.

Bonus entries (separate comments please!): Follow The Usual Mayhem on Facebook and leave me a comment telling me what name you’re following under. Follow Our Journey Westward on Facebook and leave a comment telling me what name you’re following under.

I’ll get in touch with the winners June 1st, 2016. Scroll down to enter and good luck!

top 10 ways to study flowers cover image 1

This post contains affiliate links; when you click through my affiliate links I get a tiny percentage of the sale which goes towards the costs of running the blog. Thanks for your support!

Make sure you take a look through all these great posts on flowers too!

Top 10 Flower Sensory Play Ideas from Sugar, Spice & Glitter

Top 10 Flower Activities for Preschoolers from Living Life and Learning

Top 10 Flower Wreaths from Witty Hoots

Top 10 Flower Art Projects for Kids from Craftulate

Top 10 Flowers for Summer Color by Our Good Life

Top 10 Flower Recycle Crafts by Teach me Mommy

Top 10 Flower Fine Motor Skills Activities from Happy Brown House

Top 10 Flower Petal Art Ideas from Our Whimsical Days

Top 10 Flower Sensory Bins from Adventures of Adam

Top 10 Flower Painting Ideas from Messy Little Monster

Top 10 Sunflower Activities for Preschool by Preschool Powol Packets

Top 10 Flower and Garden Themed Snacks from Something 2 Offer

Top 10 Flower Math Activities from Play & Learn Every Day

Top 10 Book-Inspired Flower Crafts for Kids from Playground Parkbench

Top 10 Flower Books for Kids from Sunny Day Family

Top 10 Flower Suncatchers from Rhythms of Play

Top 10 Flower Science Experiments for Kids from Lemon Lime Adventures

Top 10 Seed Science Experiments for Kids from Little Bins for Little Hands

Top 10 Ways to Learn and Explore with Flowers for Kids from Powerful Mothering

Top 10 Magical Fairy Gardens from Crafty Kids at Home

Top 10 Flower Themed Foods from Eats Amazing

Top 10 Ways to Study Flowers (with a giveaway!) by The Usual Mayhem

Top 10 Flower Gardens to Grow With Kids by Nemcsok Farms

Top 10 Flower Projects to Eat Wear Decorate or Gift by Words ‘n’ Needles

Top 10 flower ideas for kids Lemon Lime image

Wildflower identification project, 80s style

I’ve been on a huge decluttering binge, and what should turn up in a dusty box but some of my own nature study projects from when I was a kid! The summer I spent at the cottage (now less than 5 km from our own homestead) engrossed in a wildflower identification project is one of my best childhood memories, so I thought I’d share the album pages here in case your children might enjoy it. I think I was 10 or 11 at the time.

Obviously you could enhance this for an older child and have them look up the classifications. I think my Mum was probably happy just to have me out of her hair and off sketching somewhere else!

Here you go: proof that even those of us with zero artistic talent can still produce decent pictures from close observation during nature study 🙂 Also, proof that sometimes tired people can’t turn photos the right way up on their blog.

wildflowers identification project

wildflowers identification project

This post contains an affiliate link. We only share affiliate links for things that we ourselves use and love-the small percentage we earn when you click through the link helps to cover the costs of running this blog. Thanks for your support!

wildflowers identification project

wildflowers identification project

wildflowers identification project

wildflowers identification project

wildflowers identification project



wildflowers identification project

Wow, would you look at that….one that you don’t have to crick your neck to look at.

wildflowers identification project

wildflowers identification project

wildflowers identification project

wildflowers identification project

wildflowers identification project

wildflowers identification project

wildflowers identification project

wildflowers identification project

wildflowers identification project

What really amazes me is that decades later, some of the wildflowers still retain a portion of their original color.

My own little wildflower identification project that I’ve shared here is just the tip of the iceberg, really, for what you can learn and how you can learn it. If you’d like some more ideas for how you and your kids can do some more wildflower nature study this summer, you might want to take a look at the Wonderful Wildflowers nature study unit . It has nature study ideas, poetry, notebooking pages, experiments, Bible study, book ideas and more…..enough for several summers if you wanted to space it out!

How have you studied wildflowers? Please share in the comments – ideas are great and links to your posts are welcome too so I can pin and share.

wildflowers identification project image 1

Frog Writing Prompts

D,8 and I had some creative writing fun this week as he brainstormed a series of fun Frog Writing Prompts!

We started with the two pages I made for verbs and adjectives, to give him lots of options for descriptive language without a bunch of repetition.

frog adjectives for frog writing prompts

His list of frog adjectives, to give you an example of what your elementary aged writers might come up with:

  1. slimy
  2. quick-moving
  3. green
  4. sleek
  5. smooth
  6. loud
  7. glider
  8. beautiful

D didn’t make it to 10 adjectives, but it gave him a head start when it came time to choose a writing prompt and try his hand at crafting a story . I printed the writing prompts that he’d come up with and stuffed them into a coffee can so that he could draw one to try out.

frog writing prompts example

A few examples ofthe frog writing prompts that D created!

You can grab this set of Frog Writing Prompts for your own students by clicking the link.

Frog Writing Prompts

Want to make it a whole unit study? Check out these great ideas and activities from other bloggers to round it out!

Find the Letter F is for Frogs from 3 Boys and a Dog

Frog Life Cycle Free Printables from Natural Beach Living

Frog Books for Preschool from Look! We’re Learning!

Frog Anatomy Worksheets from Living Life and Learning

Frog Hop Activity from CraftCreateCalm

Make a Fun Handprint and Footprint Tissue Paper Frog from Crafty Mama in ME

Free Resources for Frog Life Cycle from Something 2 Offer

5 Easy Frog Exercise Moves for Kids from FrogMom

Children’s Books Featuring Frogs from The Jenny Evolution

Frogs of the Rainforest from Tales of Education at Home

Frog Theme Color Words Book {free printable} from Books and Giggles

Recycled K Cup Frog Craft and Skip Counting Activity from Artsy Momma

Frog Life Cycle for Kids {Printable Set} from The Natural Homeschool

Lots of Learning and Fun with Frogs Sensory Bin from Living Montessori Now

Frog Race Graphing Game from Simple Fun for Kids

Poison Frog activity from Schooling a Monkey

Non-fiction Frog Emergent Readers from Royal Baloo

Interactive Frog Life Cycle App for Kids from iGameMom

Do you have frog themed posts to share? Please feel free to link them in the comments and I’ll make sure to add them to my list!



How to teach any subject without a curriculum

You can teach any subject without a curriculum.


It doesn’t take tons of planning, tons of your time, or tons of headaches.

What it does take is focusing on what your kids are saying instead of letting their words wash over you, especially when you’re driving or super tired. You’ll also need an inexpensive notebook or two and something to write with, and access to the internet (which I assume you have if you’re reading this). A library membership is also really great.

teach any subject without a curriculum

Here’s how we do it:

I keep a notebook in the car, along with a pencil (because around here pens freeze in the car after about November). It’s got an elastic band around it, too. I keep another one in the living room, because I have the attention span of a fruit fly and if I had to move the notebook from the car to the house…..well, I wouldn’t.

When we’re out driving around, or loafing in the living room, often a thought or question will be thrown out while we’re in the middle of something else. We’d all go nuts if we paused Netflix every time this happened, or (oh the horror!) paused a meal. So what we do is grab the notebook and write down that question. In the car, a passenger writes it down, in case you were wondering! The car notebook also has samples of plants and feathers pressed into it, hence the elastic band, and occasionally a brochure, map or some other bit of randomness.

When we have a few minutes, we crack open a notebook to the most recent questions and thoughts, turn on a laptop, or hit the library books for answers.  It’s that easy.

If you want to direct the question a little, you can wonder aloud as the kids tell you what they’re finding out; “Hmmm. I wonder if that’s the same kind of rock as we saw in our study of Lake Huron.” “That’s really interesting! Doesn’t that burdock seed remind you of something we used in our sewing project last week?” (Ok, the last one is a bit of a stretch for casual pondering, but there’s an 8 year old firing questions at me about Fibonnacci sequences [really] and I’m trying to write them down and write this post in between……you get the idea.)

A lot of the time, discussing whatever they discover is enough, but sometimes we’ll go further and find a hands-on experiment, recipe, microscope, or whatever will give us more depth of knowledge and take it further. We may try a few math problems if that was the topic. A child may want to write a notebook page or include a drawing and some notes in their nature journal. We may consult a WonderMap to see landforms, distance from another area, sea level, or just where in the world this thing originates.

It’s been my experience that we learn as much from using this notebook as we would from a planned curriculum…..for any topic I can think of. I can’t recommend it highly enough.

How do you teach without a curriculum? Read posts about specific subjects from other iHomeschoolNetwork bloggers! And please share your own tips and tricks in the comments.

how to homeschool without curriculum


5 Reasons Butter is Better Than Margarine

So why is butter better than margarine? Read on! (Make sure you don’t miss the 2 amazing giveaways at the end of this post, too.)

I love butter. It conjures up wonderful memories from when I was small and my mum baked a week’s worth of bread at once. My brother and I would hollow out a hot, fresh roll and butter the inside as a treat.

Fast forward a here-unnamed number of decades and I now live with my husband and children on our own “farmstead”. Instead of cows, we have dairy goats, which means we get lots of fresh milk and delicious soft cheese, but the milk does not make butter…..not enough fat content.

So why do I buy butter instead of margarine? Here are 5 reasons why it’s better:

Gay Lea Butter Image

1. Taste.
This one is probably self explanatory! If it isn’t, do a blind taste test on a hot baguette, then come back for the rest of the reasons.

2. No trans fats.
Butter will never make the list of healthiest foods, but trans fats (found in margarine) are a man-made product, which according to my research lowers the good cholesterol and raises the bad.

3. Naturally occurring vitamins.
Butter has Vitamins D, A, E and K just as milk does. By contrast, margarine has none unless they are specially added during manufacturing. It’s also worth noting that studies have shown higher fat milk ( so, presumably, also butter) to reduce incidences of diarrhea in the very young and the elderly thanks to a type of fatty acid called Glycospingolipids.

4. No chemical gunk.
Margarine involves a chemical process to squeeze the fat out of vegetables, then hydrogen is added to solidify it. Butter involves skimming the cream off the milk, churning it, and maybe adding salt. I know which I’d rather have. Margarine also often has added color.

5. Butter supports local farmers.
In my case, I know some of the farmers that Gay Lea buys from right here in Ontario and have been to their farms. You can’t get more “buy local” than that! Chances are good that the butter you buy has traveled a very short distance from its source. Who can say that for sure about margarine, not to mention how long it sits around in storage?


Ok, now that you know WHY you should be thinking about switching to butter, here are two great giveaways to help you get going! Winners of each will receive their prize in approximately 4 to 6 weeks.
Giveaway #1- A KitchenAid Stand Mixer (ARV $450) Enter below:
a Rafflecopter giveaway

  Giveaway #2 – A year of Gay Lea Products (12 coupons for the products of your choice!)ends on April 30th at midnight so enter right now! Open to Canadian readers (sorry, no QC).

Let’s make entries for this really simple: In the comments for this post, tell me why you like butter and for bonus points you can include a second entry that tells me a fact I didn’t mention here about why butter is better. On May 1st I’ll throw all the entries (printed) into a hat and have D,8, reach up and pick out a name.

5 reasons why butter is better than margarine



Disclosure: I am part of the Gay Lea Ambassador Campaign and I receive special perks as part of my affiliation with this group. The opinions on this blog are my own

Mr D’s Algebra II for high school

I was compensated for my time reviewing this product and writing this
review. All opinions are my own or those of my daughter M, and we’re nothing if not opinionated!

As you may remember, a while back  I was looking for high school math options  for my daughter M,15. She flat out refused to try some options that looked acceptable to her dad and I, so we opted for a personal finance course this past year while we searched for a solution that made us all happy. You can imagine how delighted we were, then, when we were offered the chance to try out the Mr D Algebra II course! What perfect timing!

Although her dad and I have been observing and I offer my own 2 cents here too, much of this review has been input directly from M, because I thought that her take on Mr D’s Algebra II course was equally as important (if not more so!).

Here’s a basic overview of how a Mr D math course is used:

At first sight, the initial menu can be a bit confusing; it says “go to lessons” but the lessons tab doesn’t show up
until you click on the actual course that you’re doing. After that it’s very easy and intuitive to navigate.

Mr D Algebra II lesson dashboard

This is what you’ll see (along with a calendar on the right) once you’ve logged in. You’ll click on the course link to access the lessons.

Lessons Dashboard


Each chapter is split into video lessons, course work, and tests. You can see examples of the chapters in the screenshot above. Within each chapter there are multiple video lessons (it’s worth noting that the video lessons are in the 140-360p range, something we really appreciated with our limited and sometimes spotty internet!)

Example of Mr D Video Lesson for Algebra 2

As you can see, the videos are clean, clear and easy to view.

The coursework consists of 2 to 5 pages of practice questions for the topic covered in each individual lesson. At the end of each lesson there’s a test. The end of the chapter also has a test encompassing all the subtopics in the lessons. There are also two semester exams.

examples of some questions from Mr D Algebra II coursework

It’s not only b/w pages upon pages with strings of algebra problems to be solved. We all liked the variety.


The course work and solutions can be printed out to make it easier to keep track of, and store, lessons for your portfolio or transcript preparations. M,15 printed and stored tests for the end of the year as she does with all of her classes.

The solutions are also offered below the course work so the student can grade themselves if you so choose. M took advantage of this option and then showed us her reworked solutions and described where she’d gone wrong originally on a problem.

Things that M particularly liked about Mr D Algebra II lessons:

The subjects change fairly quickly, making it ideal for a student (such as M herself) who is able to learn and remember subjects easily. It meant that she could fully digest a concept, master it, and move on instead of bogging down in one thought for a week. Since this was a major complaint about other math programs she has used, this was a big plus!

The lessons are quick and concise so that if a student so chooses, they could do all of the course work and the tests in one day and move to the next subject the next day. See the point above if you have any questions about how M liked this aspect 🙂 Anyone else with quick-thinking students who just want to work through it and move on will no doubt appreciate this too! That being said, they do offer – and how many companies do?- extra math help twice weekly right online with a teacher, should your student get stuck on a topic. This was the part that impressed me the most, since high school math makes me want to curl up under my desk in a fetal position with my fingers in my ears.

The explanations are clear and understandable and the speaker’s evident enthusiasm for the subject made the course very enjoyable. As well as Mr. D Algebra IIMr. D offers a number of high school courses for math, science, and social studies and the video lessons make it easy to access anywhere. For families with a lot of time spent out of the home, this would no doubt be another great feature since they can access it even on an iPad in any coffee shop. In short, this course would fit many high school student’s needs and we encourage you to look at their course offerings when you’re considering what high school math your homeschooler should take next, or looking for a summer course between semesters! We certainly will be heading straight for Mr. D’s courses next time!

Mr D Algebra II can be done anywhere

Proof that the video lessons download so easily that M can do them anywhere on our 9 acres :)

You can find Mr. D on these social media sites.



Mtap (Math Teachers At Play) Carnival for March 2016

Mtap Carnival Mar 2016I am delighted to be hosting March’s Mtap Carnival! It’s late because I had the flu for 10 days – sorry for the delay, I know that we all look forward to reading the contributors’ posts each month. Without further delay, then, here are the great reads you won’t want to miss.


Crystal at Triumphant Learning shared this great post about developing critical thinking skills. She talks about what critical thinking skills are, why we need them, and offers some great practical suggestions on how to develop critical thinking skills in students. You can find Crystal on Twitter, too, at @Tri_Learning.

C. Welsch from Mind Research shared colleague Austin Fringer’s post titled Getting Curious About Geometry Through Visual Math Puzzles.  Austin can be found at @MIND_Research on Twitter; you’ll want to follow him for sure after you see more about how he used this guided puzzle for students to explore deeper connections in geometry through using common manipulatives: coins!

Joshua (@JoshuaGreene19) shared a post from Mike Lawlor’s blog, which he says has many great ideas and isn’t represented enough on Mtap , A Neat Idea About Primes I Saw From Dave Richeson.  

Denise Gaskins from the amazing Let’s Play Math blog and book shared a Kickstarter campaign that I think will interest a lot of us! You won’t want to miss getting more information about helping to fund a new picture book, Tesselation!

From my friend Marin, creator of the Math By Hand curriculum and blog, there’s a great post for grade 3 students about finding patterns in the times tables from 1 to 10. Marin’s teaching is a  hands-on style and the blog posts from 2014-15 cover every Common Core math and language arts standard with a Waldorf perspective, from Kindergarten through Grade 4.

Math Geek Mama has a free lesson out that looks terrific for pre-algebra and algebra skills, called Investigating Exponent Properties.


Last but not least, my own internet wanderings led me to a great post about math journals and notebooks so I thought I’d share them here in case you’re looking for a way to incorporate this into your math learning for any age! Jimmie Lanley, notebooking expert and all-around great writer, wrote this HubPage about all the ways you can enhance learning using  Math Notebooking


Thanks for having me as host for the Math Teachers At Play – it’s been a pleasure and an honor to share in the fun!



Waldorf-inspired geography with WonderMaps: Migration flyways

As part of our ongoing bird studies using the Burgess Bird Book for Children as our “spine”, D8 made a lovely, Waldorf-inspired geography project to show the two most common migration flyways that birds use.

If you aren’t familiar with the concept of a flyway, it’s basically a route that certain birds follow each year when they fly south for the winter and back north in the spring. There are many, many different flyways but D chose to show these ones.

I printed a map of North America straight onto watercolor paper with our (so useful!) WonderMaps curriculum.  D used the Waldorf wet-on-wet method – you use a moist sponge to dampen the paper first so that your colors flow when you add them. He loves this so it was no great hardship to get him to display the land and water.

waldorf-inspired geography with Wonder Maps

Waldorf-inspired geography with WonderMaps

I love the care he took with this! He really got into the moment.

Once it was dry, D chose some red embroidery thread. He showed me the two flyways he wanted to show and he drew it lightly with a pencil.He was having trouble not ripping the paper, so I pre-punched the holes with the tip of the needle for him, along his drawn lines. Then off he went with needle and thread!

sewing waldorf-inspired geography project: WonderMap fter painting with watercolorpics feb mar 039 pics feb mar 038 waldorf-inspired geography with WonderMaps: sewing watercolor map

D is so pleased with the result of this project and has glued it proudly into his lesson book. It’s come out several times to show guests, and he has been able to give a great explanation of North American flyways too. Simple idea, powerful geography learning!

Waldorf-inspired geography with Wondermaps: Migration flyways




Easy key lime pie

My friend and neighbor Mary gave me this recipe for the best key lime pie I have ever made! Out here in the boonies, we can’t actually get key limes so I just used regular limes and it was still absolutely delicious.

1/4 cup lime juice, freshly squeezed

1 can condensed milk

2 egg yolks

graham cracker crust

Gay Lea real whipped cream (Why? Because it’s nut-free, made with real dairy, and my 8 year old can help me decorate the pie – the only “danger” is that he may add what some would consider to be too much – no such thing in our house!)

Gay Lea real whipped cream to be used on key lime pieEasy key lime pie image

How to make it:

Blend the lime juice, yolks, and condensed milk together until smooth. Pour into the prepared graham crust and bake for around 15 minutes at 400 F. Cool, decorate, and wolf it down.

squeezing the limes for key lime pie

Disclosure: I am part of the Gay Lea Ambassador Campaign and I receive special perks as part of my affiliation with this group. The opinions on this blog are my own.

« Older posts

© 2016

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑