Friday, February 8, 2013

Ways to Liven Up Winter at YOUR House!

As we move into the midst of this season, the winter doldrums begin and symptoms of cabin fever appear. Like many families, we tend to read more, work on home and craft projects, and of course, our learning continues full speed ahead. I thought you might enjoy a few suggestions to help you enjoy your family's studies as well as the season.

I've discovered a fascinating book about the man who really opened our eyes to the structure of snowflakes—William Bentley. The book that I refer to is Snowflake Bentley, written by Jacqueline B. Martin and illustrated by Mary Azarian (published by Houghton Mifflin Company, 1998).

This book is a biography of Bentley’s life and fascination with nature and snow, from childhood through adulthood. It is a picture book for all ages. This book, along with the book that he wrote and filled with his photographs of snowflakes, Snow Crystals, is all that you need to enjoy a study of snow, as well as perseverance.

If you have the luxury of having snow on the ground, send everyone out with a magnifying glass to study the snowflakes as they fall. They can sketch their favorite flakes and cut them out to hang in the window. For those of you who don't live in snow country, use the opportunity to study some of William Bentley's photographs of individual flakes, and then draw them and cut them out of white paper. The variety in shapes and structures is fascinating, and fun to try to capture on paper. Of course, when the opportunity presents, the art of snow sculpture has a definite attraction. We've had snow dogs, snow men, snow women, snow bears, and all kinds of fun sculptures! Don't forget to keep the camera handy for these ventures—the memories are priceless.

Winter also brings everyone closer to home, and there’s plenty of time for cooking, games, and other "together" activities. At our house, we keep the Pioneer Lady's Hearty Winter Cookbook (written by Jane Watson Hopping) handy. This book is written like a journal, with some wonderfully simple recipes for delicious home-cooked meals. 

As my son reminds me, Spring Training begins February 11th. If there is an interest in baseball or softball in your house, use the time to explore the Internet baseball sites to find out Spring Training plans, trading of players, etc. 

There are sites for all of the major league teams, as well as many of the minor league teams. The Major League Baseball Association has a very informative website, and there are also the usual sport sites such as

Don't forget to have your baseball fans write to the major league teams and ask for team information, along with a spring and summer game schedule. Several of the teams send bumper stickers, posters, and plenty of fun information. 

If you want to encourage the children’s interest in baseball and learn in the process, order the Baseball Unit Study Adventure now, and get ready for a fascinating adventure into the history and science of baseball. What a way to liven up learning during dreary winter days—poring over baseball cards, learning how American history and baseball history intertwine, and more!

For those students interested in playing baseball this spring, the winter can provide some opportunities to begin to get in shape for the season. The books at the library on Little League, baseball training, sports fitness, and other topics for children are usually very available in the wintertime; don't forget to include them in your next library search. 

Remember the saying "bloom where you are planted"—perfect for being cooped up inside and looking forward to the coming of spring. The seed catalogs are coming, and I hope you are going to receive some of them. They are wonderful planning tools, bringing a reminder that the cold weather will end soon, and that a whole new season of fun and growing is about to begin.

Start preparing for a fun study of gardening. Let each family member choose a vegetable and flower to grow, and have the children start listing the choices. Bundle everyone up and send them out with a tape measure to choose a site and size for their future garden. As they choose the site, remind them that the amount of sun the garden location receives is important, as well as proximity to a water resource (or a good, long hose!). Once the site and size are determined, have the children draw a plan for the garden, using graph paper to keep the sketch simple and accurate. Don't forget to order the Gardens Unit Study to get ready for learning fun in the spring!
After sketching the outline of the garden, use seed and garden sites on the Internet to order seed catalogs, read articles about planning the garden, and ask questions of gardening experts. If you don't have or want an outside, in-the-ground garden, consider planting your garden in above-ground containers, such as barrel halves or large buckets that have drain holes.

When the seed-selection process begins, either online or through the seed catalogs, have the children note how many days until each plant produces fruit, as well as the best time to plant that seed for your geographical area. Then, if you have time, plan on starting the seeds inside in a sunny spot in your house. This can be a great learning experience, even with snow on the ground. We've learned so much just through starting seeds in plastic bags with damp paper towels, watching the roots grow and the seedlings develop.

This jump-start on your family's garden will help bring some bright and fun times into the slump of winter. Also, keep an eye out for the small bulb gardens available at your local discount department store this time of year, for forcing bulbs in the midst of winter. This can provide some winter color and excitement as you all wait for the first signs of growth, and then for the flowers themselves!

I hope that these ideas help brighten your family's winter. These are special times that can't be relived and will pass all too quickly.

Amanda B.

P.S. Winter Wonders DNG is on sale now for $5 through 2/9/13. Warm up to an educational exploration! A Snowflake Bentley pop-up book, a winter bird-watching log, creative instructions for hot chocolate, and more will all end up in a memorable lapbook by the end of the week!

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