Blackberry Picking

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An end of the year, beginning of the summer tradition, for us is picking blackberries with our nature group. It’s always a fun time.  We pick from wild, public access bushes so some years we end up with just a few for each child.  Other years we end up with overflowing containers.  This year seemed to be somewhere in the middle.

The berries weren’t of as much interest this year honestly.  The kids had a lot more fun playing and finding other things. Pine cones, tree bark, dried sap formations, and even snails ended up in baskets.  Megatron digging in the dirt and bug chasing were some of the highlights.  So even though we only ended up with enough blackberries for Greenbubbles to eat with his lunch, the kids all still had a great time and explored the outdoors.  And isn’t that the whole point of this anyway?


Summer Plan

Just because it’s summer doesn’t mean the learning stops.  And I refuse to go without routines.  Routines have become a bit of a mantra for me lately helping me with all areas of my life!  Without them there is crazy and I end up with angry, bored kids and one very frustrated mama. So I’ve roughly planned out our summer based on routines and things I wanted to accomplish.

Now, this doesn’t mean I have our entire days scheduled to the minute.  My kids have a lot of free time to do whatever they want, including screens.  I don’t limit much.  But our mornings are more structured.

Here’s Galleons Lap’s summer schedule!


I like to think this is pretty self explanatory, but how about some ideas of what we’ll do these days!

Monday: Library/Park Day

A once a week library trip is just what we need to keep up summer reading goals and participate in all the wonderful summer reading programs that are going on both online and locally.  And right next door to the library is an incredible playground that includes not only slides and swings, but also building materials of all kinds, a sensory garden, chalk, trucks, sand toys, an art area with a new project always going on, and a water pump area with water tables that drain into a muddy creek bed.  Everything is supplied by the city.  All I do is bring a change of clothes, when I remember too, because the kids do get wet and muddy.

Tuesday: Art

This isn’t just drawing pictures, although I’m sure it will include that as well. We’re talking about sidewalk chalk paint, squirt guns filled with paint, clay, and lots of other messy, hands on activities that all three kids, even the toddler, can participate in.

Wednesday: Nature

This is our nature study day during the normal school year and it doesn’t really change in the summer time.  We’ll still be getting out once a week, although there’s a lot more beaches involved and maybe not as much study.

Thursday: Field Trips

I always have a long list of places I want to go to or see that never seems to happen so making a special day dedicated to doing these things is perfect!  We already have passes to the local Science Museum for days that we don’t want to spend a lot of money or time.  But I’m also including trips to the water park, art museum, zoo, and anything else that comes up that I feel the desire to do.  I know it’s summer, and many of these places will be crowded with camp kids and kids out on summer break.  I’ve learned if you go early, at opening, and plan to spend just a few hours, not only do you beat the heat of the day, you also beat a lot of the crowds.  And sometimes, you just have to deal with the crowds.

Friday: STEAM

If you don’t know, STEAM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math. I’m setting aside a time to build, discover, and explore.  This includes creating slime and putty, making catapults, building bridges for hot wheels out of tin foil, LED circuits out of play dough, and more.

It’s also summer of course, and some days/weeks we won’t get to it.  We have family visiting, or traveling ourselves. Summer camps to attend.  And days we’ll just want to hang out at the pool or splash pads.  And that’s okay.  Having a rough guide is important, but it’s just a guide.




Mom’s Nature Journal


I’ve subscribed to the Handbook of Nature Study blog for years now and, while we don’t always follow the monthly theme, I do love getting the emails for ideas to help focus our nature study.  Now that Green Bubbles is in 1st grade, we might start a more intentional nature study with a monthly focus as she sends out.

She encourages Mom’s to also have nature journals.  I LOVE when I’m able to draw and write in my journal but with a toddler and preschool joining us on our nature outings, I rarely have the time to do it.  I noticed I’m a much better artist than I thought I was when I just took the time to try. It’s the time that’s in short supply however 🙂

She started a monthly Mom’s nature journal blog post so I thought it would be interesting to try it out.

During our outdoor time this month we went….

August felt very rushed!  We managed to visit zoos, beaches, and a nature center.  I felt like we were rushing to fit in every last bit of summer we could before September.

The most inspiring thing we experienced was…

For me as a parent, watching how much more independent the baby has gotten in just this last month.  Megatron is now walking most of the way on our short hikes and prefers it!  He doesn’t want to be carried or be put in the baby carrier I have.  While I am loving his growing independence , because it makes it much easier on me, it’s also bittersweet since he is growing up and is more than likely our last baby.

Our outdoor time made us ask (or wonder about)…

This past month I noticed a few new things in our yard that made me do more research.  We watched a June bug burrow under the grass and Green Bubbles wanted to know why.  (They lay their eggs under ground by the way!).  I also noticed a beautiful orange spider in the trees in our side yard and wanted to find out what it was.  (Orb Weaver.)

In the garden, we are planning/planting/harvesting….

We planted a pumpkin seed!  Well, actually 10 of them. Only two sprouted however, and I had to remove one of them because of how close they are together.  So we only ended up with one pumpkin plant.  It’s still very small but the kids are excited to grow their own pumpkins.  I’m not sure it will be before Halloween though!

I added nature journal pages about….

None 😦  I need to draw more in my journal.  It’s been a long time.  Maybe I should find my nature journal first.

A photo I would like to share…

Only one??  How about my picture of the orange spider because I’m rather proud of it. 🙂


Nature Study: Enviromental Nature Center Butterfly House

Almost caught up on our nature study posts for July!

We love the Environmental Nature Center (ENC) in Newport Beach, especially in the summer when other locations are to hot to visit.  It’s close enough to the beach that you get the cool ocean air that helps everything feel better.


The butterfly house is a great place to see in the summer as well.  They always seem to have Monarch butterflies and sometimes they have other species as well. They have guides available online to download of the different butterflies that can be seen there as well as local plants that are butterfly friendly.  While we didn’t see any caterpillars this trip, we were able to see a butterfly laying its eggs, eggs that were close to hatching, and of course the chrysalis and adult monarchs.


The trails at the ENC are small but the kids always seem to enjoy it.  We play on the rocks, look at the cactus, and end up at a small creek where we eat our lunch and the kids play near, or in, the water and under the large pine tree.


Nature Study – Dana Points Headland

I’m a few weeks behind for our nature study posts so let’s see if I can catch up! 🙂

While Green Bubbles was at Cub Scout Day Camp, I took Wednesday off from volunteering to take Little Miss and Megatron out for our nature study.  We headed up to the Dana Point Headlands Interpretive Center and hiked down to the beach for some fun.2015-07-15 12.58.18

The nature center is really cool.  The staff is some of the nicest I’ve met and were quick to interact with both myself and my children.  They allowed Little Miss to explore to her hearts content and jumped in when she became interested in something to explain or help her with an activity.

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The center has puppets, puzzles, books, models of the area and a really cool display that explains the watershed.

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There is also a map of the trails that you can take from the center.  Some are short, out and back type trails.  Some are long 12 mile loops that follow the coastline.  I took a chance with Little Miss and we hiked down to Strands beach, 1 mile each way.  The hike is beautiful, up on the cliffs with the sea breeze helping you to stay cool.

2015-07-15 10.37.15She even carried her own sand toys since I had the backpack and Megatron in the ergo.  I always find it amusing how many people stop to tell me how brave I am when I take the kids out hiking.  There is one part of the trail that’s a little confusing since you leave through a gated area onto a street before getting back onto the trail again, but if you view the map carefully you’ll see it.

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The kids loved playing in the water, although today was mostly about the sand play and not much water happened.  We brought our lunch and ate it down on the beach.2015-07-15 11.15.29

The challenging part, which I knew it would be going into it, was the hike back up to the interpretive center.  Little Miss was getting tired and it took us twice as long going back as it did coming down, but she made it!  I told her over and over how proud I was of her.  That’s a long walk for a little girl.  Of course, I did end up carrying the sand toys back up.

If you have a chance to explore the interpretive center, I highly recommend it.  Even if you don’t hike down to the beach.  It’s close enough it’s very easy to drive down the road and park closer to the beach after your visit.

Ralph B Clark Regional Park Nature Study

2015-07-08 10.35.35Last week we went to Ralph B Clark Regional Park.  This park includes a large lake and a lot of play grounds.  The kids had a lot of fun playing on the playground, something we don’t do very often on our Nature Study days.  They also explored the lake and were dipping sticks into the water, watching the fish swim by, commenting on the grass growing under the water, and Little Miss was amazed at the ducks flipping upside down and thought it was funny!

The main reason we choose this park however, was for the interpretive center.  The center doesn’t open until 12:30, which is why they got to play on the playground so long.  It’s a unique nature center in that it’s actually called the paleontology museum.  The entire museum is fossils that were found in our immediate area!

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Green Bubbles took Flat Ziggy with us on this trip.  You can see him in a few photos.  Flat Ziggy is a fun activity from All About Learning Press for the summer including a fun activity list and contests! Ziggy, or Zig Zag Zebra, from All About Reading Pre-level, has always been a fun part of our school.  Even Little Miss loves him even though she hasn’t started AAR so the kids jumped at the chance to play with Flat Ziggy.

Unintended Nature Study

We’ve missed a few weeks of nature study in June, but it seems even when we aren’t trying, nature study always seems to find us.   Little Miss found a spider in her play area.  While she knows spiders won’t hurt, she’s suddenly become scared of them.  But still cares enough to make sure no spiders are ever killed.  She just prefer they aren’t near her toys.  So I scooped this spider up into a little cup and brought him outside.  Something caught my eye though and once I realized what it was I took some pictures.  This Daddy Long Leg Spider, or a cellar spider, had an egg sack! Not a bad photo considering it was taken with my cell phone!2015-06-19 08.54.53It’s been warm but not hot lately. As a result we’ve opened up the house instead of turning on the AC.  With all the big sliding glass doors open the birds seem to like coming into our house.  It’s happened at least 3 times in the last few weeks. One was just causally hopping down the hallway towards the garage.  It’s a miracle one of the dogs didn’t decide it was a toy!  Megatron sure thought it was the most fantastic thing ever though! 2015-06-19 10.02.48We also found a bird nest in our backyard.  Little pieces are still falling and I’m having to pick them up.  I’m not really sure what happened.  There’s no eggs or pieces of shell.  We have a lot of crows in the neighborhood so, if I had to guess, I would say one of them is responsible. But it was still cool seeing the nest and having the kids guess what materials it was made out of.  2015-06-19 18.26.20 We also have a few wild rabbits living in our front yard.  Early in the morning or around dusk you can see them hanging out near the bushes where they inevitably run to for hiding when you get to near. I recently found one that was missing an eye however.  It led to a great talk with Green Bubbles about how he could have been injured including a tie to our trip to the natural history museum when we learned more about urban coyotes.

2015-06-20 08.40.47Even when you aren’t looking for nature, it’s still all around you!

Natural History Museum Nature Study Day

I got a little behind!  It’s summer.

A few weeks ago we went to the last homeschool day of the school year to the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles.  This is always one of my favorite field trips we do every year.  Little Miss is still asking when we are going to the museum again.

2015-06-17 14.34.312015-06-17 10.00.53The kids always love to see the dinosaur fossils.  They even have a special lab you can walk through to watch the museum’s paleontologist actually cleaning off various fossils from recent digs.  For homeschool day they have a lot of touch tables set up and Green Bubbles and Little Miss were able to touch an actual dinosaur fossil! 2015-06-17 11.17.37       We also did a quick walk through of the mineral area of the museum.  We’ll be studying Earth Science next year so I thought Green Bubbles would found the different ‘rocks’ interesting.  I had no idea Little Miss would be so excited though!  She climbed up onto the larger rocks they had on display but was equally enthusiastic of the smaller specimens in the cases.  She was pretending to pick them up, you couldn’t actually touch them, and told me she was going to put them in her rock collection!2015-06-17 10.10.402015-06-17 10.04.39

Turtle Rock Nature Center

Last week we were lucky enough to go to Turtle Rock Nature Center in Irvine.  Due to summer and illness, we were the only ones from our group able to make it out this day.  We almost didn’t go because of it but I’m so glad we did!
2015-06-03 10.00.44The nature center was large with a lot for littles to do.  My favorite part was the wooden trail map the kids got to touch.  The trail and river are both carved out of the wood giving it another layer to explore.  Having a large visual like that got the kids excited about our hike.
2015-06-03 09.57.45The nature center also had mystery boxes, an animal foot print guessing game, and so many books and toys ranging from board books and barn animal toys to nature guides.2015-06-03 10.11.29 The kids favorite part was the giant stone maze.  They loved running through the rock path all the way to the center and back out again.  Even Megatron liked exploring, although he didn’t stay on the marked path and liked the short cut of just stepping over the rocks!  There was also a human sun dial near by but the day was to overcast to create any shadows so we weren’t able to try it out.2015-06-03 10.24.24 We joined a nature pal exchange and collected a lot of samples during our hike.  Little Miss especially liked collecting all the flowers we passed by.  I wish I could have collected a cactus but wasn’t willing to risk the thorns! 2015-06-03 10.33.13 The creeks and wooden bridges were a special treat.  The kids love anything to do with water and bridges.  Here they are throwing leaves and sticks off the bridge and watching them race down the slow moving creek.  That game always reminds me of the story in Winnie the Pooh where they named it Pooh Sticks.2015-06-03 10.47.51Just outside the nature center is a playground with a lot of picnic benches nearby.  The kids had fun playing.2015-06-03 10.53.08It always melts my heart just a little when I see how much the big kids help and play with the little ones.  Green Bubbles loves to take Megatron down the slide on his lap now.

2015-06-03 11.01.38The creek actually starts near the playground before moving into the nature center.  After lunch and drawing in our nature journals I let the kids go play in the water.  It was pretty cool out and while both went near the waters edge, neither child decided to go in the water this day.  They both begged to come back when it was warmer to play in the creek though!