Nature Study: Total Solar Eclipse

Last month, our family hit the road heading north to Nebraska to get inside the totality zone and catch the total solar eclipse. I’ll skip ahead in our adventure and post the big moment pictures first. This is us watching the big exciting one and half minutes of darkness. It was absolutely breathtaking!

Even our three-year-old commented, “That was cool.” We saw a sunset at 11:30am and heard the crickets start chirping. The white light right before and after seemed more like an LED-powered headlamp than the familiar light of the sun.

Backing up to the beginning of the road trip, when we arrived at our hotel. The friendly desk receptionist gave us a welcome bag full of goodies about the area and the eclipse.

We read a book called The Moon in Fact and Fancy on our drive up north. It gave myths and legends about the moon from many cultures around the world. We had fun discussing the interesting (and sometimes wacky) explanations from ancient cultures.

The day before the big event, we went to a local festival in Sydney, NE. There were some wonderful activities planned to help the children understand the phenomenon they were about to witness.

They made UV bracelets that went from white to colored as you went outside into the sun. We noticed ours turned white during the one and half minute totality time.

We decided to watch the totality in Bridgeport, Nebraska. We found a wonderful State Recreation Area nearby. It was the PERFECT place to wait and watch. There was a parking place right next a beach that led out to a beautiful lake. The kids spent hours swimming and splashing as we waited for the big moment.

The kids built a fort to play in out of some picnic blankets and sticks.

As soon as the sun reappeared, we jumped in the car, handed the kids some sandwiches, and zipped away towards Denver. CDOT was threatening that the traffic could be horrendous that afternoon. Thankfully, I-76 was clear and we made it home in about 3.5 hours.

We are so glad we made the effort to head north and witness this amazing event. It was truly unique and I don’t think any of us will ever forget it.


Fun and Easy Tie Dye T-Shirt Tutorial

Summer is in full swing and we had a great time yesterday getting creative and making a couple of tie dye t-shirts. I had flashbacks to my childhood in the 80s when we would tie dye shirts and then use a plastic hair clip to scrunch them around our shorts. 🙂

I hope you will try this fun and easy project with your kids. The best part is cutting the rubberbands and opening the shirts unveiling their amazing creations.

You will need:

First fold the t-shirt up from the bottom accordian-style.

Next place rubberbands around the length of the folded t-shirt every 3 inches or so. It helps to have one person hold it and the other pull the rubberbands on.

This is what the kids’ t-shirts looked like at this point when they were folded and banded.

Next fill the bottle containing the dye with water, screw the top on tightly, and shake vigorously. We passed it around and all took a turn shaking the bottle.

Next put your drop cloth down and squirt the dye all around the t-shirt rotating until it is covered as much as you like. You can do as much or as little dye on the shirt as you desire.

Next, put the shirts in a Ziplock bag, close the top, and let sit for 6-8 hours.

Then use your sissors to cut the rubberbands and open your t-shirt to see your beautiful design.

After this, I rinsed the shirts in the sink with cold water until the water was running clear. I then laundered them separately twice with hot water.

They dried on a rack overnight and the kids were excited to wear them the next day.

The Finished Shirts

I hope you enjoyed this tutorial. Have you done any fun and easy projects this summer with your kids? If so, please tell me about them below in the comments area. Thanks for stopping by!

Nature Study: Metamorphosis

Bud recently had a birthday and received a butterfly kit as a gift. I remember growing caterpillars into butterflies as a child so I was very excited to do this with the kids. We ordered our caterpillars and they arrived several days later in the mail.

When they arrived they were small, black caterpillars. We received 5 and Bud immediately felt like a proud foster father.

As they continued to grow each day, Bud drew what he saw in his observation chart. You can download a PDF of the chart I created for this project here.

After about two weeks we came down to breakfast one morning to find one of our caterpillars in his chrysalis. The following day the other 4 followed suit. Peanut came running upstairs each morning to give me the update on what she saw in the butterfly habitat. We moved the lid of the caterpillar cup inside the basket. They would stay here and rest quietly as they began their amazing metamorphosis.

After another week we woke to find that one butterfly had emerged. It was so exciting to see a butterfly hanging and witness the amazing change that had occurred.

Peanut watched the habitat all day in the hopes of getting to see one emerge before her eyes. I was emptying the dishwasher when she called out for me to come and see. Bud rushed upstairs and the three of us got to witness one of the butterflies emerging. It was so amazing. It only took about 30 seconds for him to come out. He had crumpled wings and he seemed very weak.

The butterflies all emerged over the next few days and we enjoyed watching them flutter around their habitat and drink nectar.

Later that week we decided to let our butterflies go in a community garden in a nearby town. We thought they could help pollinate some of the fruits and vegetables that were starting to grow there.

I had painted the kids faces to practice for Peanut’s birthday party the next day. They had cute butterfly and dragon faces for our exciting afternoon giving our butterflies freedom.

Dad got out the habitat and we all waited anxiously after unzipping it to see what the butterflies would do.

The first butterfly flew out and over the fence around the gardens and straight off into the sky. He was so excited to be free and it was awesome to see him fly off into the sunset. The other four slowly fluttered out and rested on the ground.

We had such a wonderful time doing this project. It was so neat to see and observe God’s amazing design right before our eyes. We felt sad to let our friends free, but knew they would enjoy their new home.

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” 2 Corinthians 5:17

Spring Morning

We read a poem by A. A. Milne yesterday that perfectly described our morning. We found a trail in our backyard that we had never followed before and walked down it. At the bottom of the hill we found a pond, stream, and some shovels and pails left by children who had also discovered this backyard paradise. I brought along a book and a picnic blanket and read in the sunshine while the kids climbed trees, jumped across the brook, and dug in the muddy stream.

Sometimes I’m not totally sure if I’m doing this whole education, homeschool, motherhood, etc. thing right, but something in me keeps saying…”this is what they need.”

Spring Morning

by A. A. Milne

Where am I going? I don’t quite know.
Down to the stream where the king-cups grow-
Up on the hill where the pine-trees blow-
Anywhere, anywhere. I don’t know.

Where am I going? The clouds sail by,
Little ones, baby ones, over the sky.
Where am I going? The shadows pass,
Little ones, baby ones, over the grass.

If you were a cloud, and sailed up there,
You’d sail on water as blue as air,
And you’d see me here in the fields and say:
“Doesn’t the sky look green today?”

Where am I going? The high rooks call:
“It’s awful fun to be born at all.”
Where am I going? The ring-doves coo:
“We do have beautiful things to do.”

If you were a bird, and lived on high,
You’d lean on the wind when the wind came by,
You’d say to the wind when it took you away:
“That’s where I wanted to go today!”

Where am I going? I don’t quite know.
What does it matter where people go?
Down to the wood where the blue-bells grow-
Anywhere, anywhere. I don’t know.

Nature Study: Century Plants

We visited the Denver Botanic Gardens for one of our recent nature studies to observe Century Plants or Agave Americana. The gardens are home to about 10 of the plants along with many other closely related species of agave plants. We were able to print a map at home of the location of the 10 plants and use it as a kind of a scavenger hunt to locate them on the 23 acre property.

I read a newspaper article reporting that one of the century plants at the Gardens had recently budded its one lifetime’s flower and then died. I particularly hoped that we would see this one. The morning before we left, we read a wonderful story in Outdoor Secrets by Margaret P. Boyle about a century plant.

The kids loved the story and were eager to see this plant for themselves.

We found the cacti and succulent area of the Gardens and Bud ran ahead to explore. Suddenly I turned a corner and saw it! I was so excited! It was SO tall – probably 15 feet or more. The plant at the base had died and completely dried up. We were all excited to see the plant and the kids immediately related it to the story we had heard that morning. What a wonderful homeschool moment!

We drew in our nature notebooks that afternoon. It was easy to recall the dramatic plant and its umble shaped buds. I love the aquamarine blue color the living plants had had even in the dead of winter amidst the other dried plants.

Bud – Age 7

Peanut – Age 5

My journal entry

For as the earth brings forth its sprouts, and as a garden causes the things sown in it to spring up, so the Lord GOD will cause righteousness and praise to spring up before all the nations. Isaiah 61:11

Nature Study: Buffalo

We did a nature study focusing on buffalo a few weeks ago. This official national mammal was  wonderful animal to study because our history focus this year is Western Expansion. We have been reading books about the Oregon Trail, Buffalo Bill, and the Native Americans out West.
Thankfully, there is a buffalo herd close to our home that is maintained by the Denver Parks and Recreation department. We didn’t have far to drive to enjoy viewing these gentle giants.
We got takeout from our favorite Mexican lunch spot Tamale Kitchen and had a picnic near Bison Meadow park. Then we walked a short distance and could see them grazing in a field nearby.
We were in this area another day and got to witness the park rangers moving the bison across the interstate to a different pasture. I didn’t have my camera that day (bummer!), but the kids had a BLAST watching them unload the buffalo from the cattle truck. There was a large bull rolling around in the dirt and scraping his foot to intimidate the new animals. What a show! It made me so thankful that I homeschool and we can pull over any day of the week to watch things unfold. We didn’t even need a permission slip. 😉

During our nature study journal time that week, the kids drew buffalo from what they could remember seeing. Here are Bud and my journal entries:

You have exalted my horn like that of a buffalo; fine oils have been poured on me. Psalm 92:10

Nature Study: Moose

We were driving through the town of Breckenridge, Colorado after several feet of snow had fallen over the weekend and I was wondering how we would accomplish our nature study that week when Dad said, “Whoa! Look over there!” We turned to see a large female moose and her calf munching on a pine tree in a person’s front yard.
We pulled the car over and watched the scene for about 10 minutes. We were all amazed at the size of these massive mammals. After the pair walked away we drove to the end of the street and got out at a park to enjoy a morning of sledding. About 30 minutes later the two moose came walking up to the top of the sled hill. It was funny watching the crowds flee to safe distances and watch as these massive animals strolled through. After they left we went over to where they had walked to look at their footprints in the snow.
The rest of the week we enjoyed reading in our Handbook of Nature Study about moose. The kids and I drew pictures of the moose in our Nature Journals.

Bud – 7 years old


Peanut – 5 years old


My nature journal entry

We enjoyed learning about these formidable creatures. I thanked the Lord for the Nature Study opportunity he provided.

Psalm 150:6 Let everything that has breath praise the LORD.