Spring Things

Warm afternoons, sunshine, and the return of green, growing things… Spring!

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With the onset of spring comes a flurry of activity in and around our home. In addition to spending more time playing outside, we’re stirring the compost pile, planning the gardens, starting seeds, and bringing a bit of the outdoors in.

The most fascinating of our spring projects has been our twig study. Last week we snipped twigs from all the trees and bushes around our yard, brought them inside, color-coded them with strings of embroidery floss, and placed them in jars of water in a sunny window. Every day the buds on the lilac and apricot twigs have opened bit by bit, and today, exactly seven days later, we have abundant green leaves and fragrant white flowers! We’re still waiting on the maple, cottonwood, apple, pear, and unidentified varieties.

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We’re also sprouting beans on damp paper towels in plastic bags taped to the window. The kids have enjoyed watching the roots (and mold—yikes!) grow. No leaves yet…

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Last fall, Abram asked if we could plant a butterfly garden to attract the Monarchs to our yard, so this year we acquired milkweed seeds, which are planted and under the grow-lights inside. We’ll transplant the milkweed (hopefully!) when the weather warms up, along with broadcast sowing some mixed flowers in two empty plots around our house. The kids are also looking forward to receiving their butterfly garden starter kit from the National Wildlife Federation’s Butterfly Heroes program!

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This year we started our herb seeds outdoors in plastic jugs using a method called “winter-sowing.” I find starting seeds indoors tedious, so I was immediately drawn to this low-maintenance solution. Now if I would only remember to water them…

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Of course, no project is complete without a trip to the library in search of books about seeds and butterflies and outdoors projects and crafts. After perusing our books, both kids—without any prompting—got out their nature notebooks and drew pictures of the critters they hope to spot this summer. Then they flipped back through the pages, recalling our nature walks and projects from the fall. I revel in these moments of genuine enthusiasm, interest, and delight!

nature notebooks

Special thanks to my dear friends Sara, Rosie, and Meghan for sharing their knowledge, experience, and resources!

Learning at Home ~ Insects & Spiders

It all started with this French documentary Abram and I watched called Microcosmos. It’s not in French, if you’re wondering. In fact, there’s only minimal narration in the introduction; the bulk of the film is set to music. Here’s the blurb about it from Netflix: “Employing unique microscopic cameras and powerful specialized microphones, this highly praised French documentary is a fascinating look at the seldom-explored world of insects and other minute creatures as they go about their daily lives.” It’s really beautiful and interesting!

After watching this documentary, Abram developed a new fascination with insects. Luckily for him, we began finding dead insects around the house—a bee in the freezer, another bee in the dryer, a large dragonfly on the laundry room floor, and a wasp and damselfly outside. We gathered up all the insects and looked at them with the magnifying glass. A couple pairs of tweezers helped us hang on to the tiny body parts for closer inspection. We made a “Bug Box” in which to keep all of our specimens.


After inspecting the dead insects, I thought it would be helpful to draw and label the body parts of bees and dragonflies. I think I enjoyed that part more than Abram, but he worked pretty hard at tracing my dragonfly.



Being thoroughly unimpressed with the information on bees and dragonflies I found online, we walked to the library to check out a stack of books about insects and spiders. We read a little from each book every day, and Abram spends lots of time flipping through them on his own, looking at the pictures. I found the “Creepy Crawly World” books to be the most informative and age-appropriate, with the best illustrations. Our library had Creepy Crawly World books on bees, dragonflies, and spiders—perfect!


The next logical activity was to catch live insects! This was pretty easy, as the insects are abundant around our house. We captured a box elder bug (which Abram called a “zelder bug,” and now calls a “black silver bug”), a housefly, two daddy long leg spiders, and a grey beetle of some sort. Once again, we inspected the insects and spiders with the magnifying glass (but we left them all in jars, thank you very much).



Although Abram’s interest in insects is fairly new, he has always been fascinated by spiders. We’ve not done too much research on spiders (because there is only so much I can read about spiders before getting completely creeped out), but we did make pom-pom & pipe cleaner spiders and an embroidery-hoop & yarn web. We hung it up with a suction cup!