The first time I read this quote it hit me really hard. The words, they struck like lightening, and left and indelible print in my memory. I think of them often as I rush through the days, moving from one important thing to the next. They remind me to slow down, and if the words alone can't slow me down, because the demands of life are too much, they at least can wake up my soul, making it more aware of the precious life around me....the bright, cheerful echo of a giggle, Charlie's chubby hands tugging at my pant-leg signaling me to scoop him up, fresh fall air streaming in through the windows, a cup full of hot coffee....
...or a game of peek-a-boo with daddy who took time out of his busy day to join us for lunch.
Even though we keep are pretty strict about the amount of time our kids are "plugged in" during the week, I still feel the tempting pull that technology has on our kids, a pull away from the simple things - nature, reading, playing games and music. A couple of weeks ago, I decided to do a multi-subject study on trees for my pre-schooler and include the older grades on a few lessons. The boys enjoy being out in nature very much, and knowing that the days would soon grow short and cold, I wanted to take the opportunity to soak in every last moment of the beautiful fall weather possible.
Before moving to the farm, we often went to the Arboretum in Overland Park to hike and enjoy the beautiful variety of flowers and trees. There are so few trees in this part of our state, but nonetheless, I want the boys to know about the most common trees in Kansas and to be able to identify them. So, we drove to a park in town and I let the boys run around and grab a few leaves from the trees.
Then, during lunch, we sorted the leaves into labeled ziplok bags. I originally chose 8 trees, but ended up reducing that number to 4, thinking that we might do the same lesson next year and add to their list, and that 4 might be just enough to keep Henry's attention. Our leaves to identify included cottonwood, elm, maple and oak.
That evening, I traced the pattern of the leaf on a sponge and cut it out with an X-Acto knife. I also used a fine-tip permanent marker to write the name of the leaf on the back of the sponge.
For the proper leaf shape and size, I used the Family Field Guides Fandex of Trees as a template. The fandex was also used by the older boys to record facts about the trees in their books.
Then, I drew a rough sketch of a tree trunk and branches on four large pieces of heavyweight paper. At the bottom of the page, I wrote the names of the trees with dotted lines for Henry to trace.
The next day, we reviewed a few facts about the trees (what their seeds look like, how fast they grow, color changes in the fall etc.). The older boys drew their own trees on their papers. Then, they took turns using the leaf-shaped sponges to stamp paint onto the branches. While they painted, we listened to George Winston's Forest.
While the leaf-art dried, I read The Oak Inside The Acorn and then the boys each made a cover page for their little book. Finally, we used simple brass brads to hold the pages together to create a little book. Every book turned out beautifully, a unique piece of work from each child.
These are my favorite projects - educational, artistic, factual, fun and most of all memorable!
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