Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Question of the Week

QOTW: Do you include outdoor time and nature study in your homeschool? If so, how do you incorporate it? How much time do you spend doing this?

We use the outdoors for PE, walking, running and biking around the neighborhood. We also take hikes in a state park five miles from our house. We take note of wildlife when we see it.

When we moved from the city (we put up a bird feeder, and no birds came) to to a small town surrounded by farmland, we wanted to take advantage of the increased opportunities to observe nature. At first, I put out peanuts for the squirrels, but it turned out to be harder to keep them away than to attract them. Rabbits are also frequent visitors. I wish I could keep them away from my garden. We had an unusual visitor last year. I grabbed my camera and managed to snap a photo before it ran away. We decided later that it was probably a badger.

I hung a feeder with a seed blend the bird feeding specialty shop recommended for the birds in our area. Ignore the seed mixes marketed to attract a particular species or mixture of species. With any mix, the birds will pick out their favorite seed and throw everything else on the ground. If you want to offer two or more types of seed, put them in separate feeders. I read up on which foods attract which birds, selected the two that would attract the widest variety, (suet and  black oil sunflower seed) and hung feeders with each. I also read that offering water without food will attract more birds than offering food without water. I decided to offer both. The key is to offer water when it's hard to find. A birdbath heater keeps it from freezing in winter. For the health of the birds, offer clean water. Change the water at least once a week, and scrub the birdbath when it starts growing algae. Bleach works best.

I fed the birds so we could observe and enjoy them, so I hung the feeders under the eaves in front of the picture window in the living room, and cut off the perches on the side away from the window. If the birds want our food, they have to perform. I placed the birdbath so we could see it from the kitchen table. Once the birds started showing up, we bought bird books to identify them. Goldfinches were the first to visit our feeders. When a new variety appears, we grab the books.

We also got Birds of Wisconsin Audio CDs. There is an edition for each state. I sorted the birds by season, and made complilation CDs for winter, spring, summer and fall. I had the boys listen to the appropriate CD for the season during their daily memory work the first year. The second year, we did the same with Reptiles and Amphibians of Wisconsin. Yes, our boys can identify frogs by their calls.

We're no biologists; we have not done any organized or in-depth study of the animals we see. But it's remarkable how much we can pick up just by noticing animals as they appear and keeping a few references handy to answer questions as they come up.

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Blogger Bob Wingate said...

I'm all for attracting and feeding birds, but we have way too many squirrels. I've had to resort to surrounding my garden with chicken wire up to six feet in height, or else my tomato crop will be totally wiped out. Once in a while a squirrel will climb up over the top and get a tomato (I hope to cover across the top with chicken wire this year), but last year we kept out all the rabbits and chipmunks...and I think most of the squirrels.

There are probably several good bird books available now, but one our family has used for years is "Birds of North America", by Robbins, Bruun, Zim, and Singer, published by Golden Press. Lots of good illustrations.

April 14, 2010 at 9:22 PM  
Blogger Arby said...

We use any outdoor activity as credit for our homeschool, but it really doesn't matter "officially." We do no thave to report our schooling to anyone here in Kansas.

April 15, 2010 at 8:21 AM  

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