Botany

April garden

Spring has sprung. There are still heaps of snow, particularly next to north facing walls, but the birds are about, plants are poking up through the soil, and the weather is lovely. I have snowdrops and crocuses in my front garden and they make me smile. We need to plan more in the back garden in the corner that melts first so we can see that kind of joy from the window. The cats are very happy (though not this afternoon because I’m keeping them indoors so I can find them for their vet appointment later) and have tried to bring birds in. I draw the line at wildlife in the house, dead or alive. Mostly they don’t bring it to me but catch birds (mostly sparrows, I am not worried about the general state of the population), chipmunks and other small wildlife for their own purposes.

My spring plan was to study botany and now that we can see the ground we have started. My partner, Mat, is leading on this because I will be travelling a lot in May. But when I’m in town, I’m joining in. Overall, my objectives are pretty simple.

  • Develop the habit of taking nature walks.
  • Observe nature carefully.
  • Learn something about botany.

We are using the Elpel books as a guide. Mat and Tigger started reading Shanleya’s Quest this morning. He has been reading Botany in a Day at bedtime, giving me highlights and interesting facts. Also, Mat loves to draw and his Christmas present was a drawing class at the local art school, which he loved. So he is a much better candidate for the whole sketching side of this study.

We actually started on Wednesday. We went for a walk in the little woods that borders the Experimental Farm (an AgCanada site near our house). There was still snow in the woods so not much coming to life. We ended up collecting different kinds of pine cones and needles (ones that had already fallen to the ground). We came home and sketched what we collected (well Mat and Tigger did) and talked a bit about how conifers work and where they fit in the evolution of plants. I found a field guide online but it wasn’t designed in a way that makes it helpful for the kind of identification we are doing right now. We need to get some field guides that are organized by family so we can look at the characteristics of the plants we are observing and relate them to classification and whatnot.

Other things that happened included a rather detailed discussion of the plot of the Agatha Christie novel they are currently reading (Death on the Nile), with Tigger putting forward her thoughts on who might get murdered and who might do the murdering with her reasoning. Very interesting and worthwhile. Sometimes just going out walking offers an opportunity for this sort of thing in a more natural way. Since one of our learning goals is for her to develop her ability to discuss what she reads, I’m very happy that this is starting to happen spontaneously.

And while my goals are vague, I did decide to push her a bit to go out in the garden and actually sketch something related to the reading on the mint family that they did this morning. They had both gone out into the garden after reading the chapter but hadn’t done any sketching. I think I was right to give that gentle push because when I came back from my fitness class she had done some drawings and explained to me what the characteristics of the mint family were (clearly illustrated in her sketchbook). It didn’t take her long and she wasn’t bothered by it at all. The trickiest part of this whole homeschooling thing is knowing when to push (gently) and when to just drop something.

So we are off to a good start. Our plan is to go for 2 or 3 short nature walks every week. I suggested to Mat that a further objective of this unit could be

  • To explore local conservation areas, parks, and other related amenities.

We like to go hiking. We like nature. We enjoy cycling. But we don’t get around to getting out and doing those things as often as we might like. And we’ve lived here for over 4 years now and haven’t been to some of the parks and conservation areas that are really close to us. So this might be part of objective 1 above. We need to get in the habit of going out and doing these things more often. And we need to have a sense of the places that we could go. We seem to be on our way.

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7 thoughts on “Botany

  1. We’ve just started in on those same books as well. So far the kids are enjoying them very much. Superboy is eager to learn how to identify edible and poisonous plants for his wilderness survival stuff he’s into lately, and he totally sees how the logical approach of the Elpel book (Botany in a Day)will be useful for that. And JBug enjoys the stories in Shanleya’s Quest, so everyone has bought in to it very well here.Which is good since it is probably the last pre-planned unit I will be doing with Sb before going the unschooling route. Nice to leave off on a high note, right?

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  2. I have been studying both in prep for the nature science class I am teaching in fall. I’ve got tons of resources here, so if there is anything specific you are looking for, let me know and I can send it on your way.

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  3. Beautiful flowers. We probably have less snow than you do right now, but not as many flowers. Sniff…

    It’s amazing what you can talk about while “just” walking!

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  4. I think you will really enjoy the books. We are anxious, now that the weather is breaking here a bit, to get out and identify some of the plant families that we have learned about this past schoolyear.

    Have fun!

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  5. I hear you. We are outdoorsy people, but never seem to have the time to get out “for fun.”

    We’re weather watching here… dh is perched on the edge of the tractor, ready to spring into action at the first sign of dry fields. 🙂

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  6. I did this botany thing a few years ago with several very savvy plant loving friends. We all picked a wild plant species to study in depth. We went on walks to find it, made pressed versions of it, made tinctures, found out regions where they grew and similar species.Read everything we could about them, took pictures. It was really fun and we all learned alot about each other’s plants. Mine was wild oats by the way.

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