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The story of our precious little girl's 17 months of life with Trisomy 18 (July 4, 2010 - December 15, 2011) and of us, re-learning to live "after Lilly."
"I will praise you for I am fearfully and wonderfully made ...." Psalm 139:14

Friday, May 24, 2013

Homeschool tips: Nature Guides and Reading with Easter eggs

For the past week or so, the kids and I have been enjoying watching two very busy bluebird parents feeding their babies (bird photo by Tabby) :

Then yesterday during Literature, Hunter interrupted and said "Why is the bluebird box open?"  Uh-oh!  We all jumped up and ran out the door to look inside.  "Snake!" Tabby said in disgust.  Then we all felt sad thinking of the baby bluebirds that were now being digested in that ugly snake.  We watched for awhile but the snake wouldn't move.  It just stayed curled in the box most of the day. Even when Tabby threw rocks at it.

Yuck, huh?  I got out our new snake identification guide book and we determined that it was a rat snake.  (Commonly called a black snake.)

In the evening Mr. Rat Snake slithered up the pole the bluebird box was on (notice the fat belly full of birds):

But then he turned around and went back in the box.  Then started to leave again.  Then went back.  Not sure what he was thinking!  I joked he kept remembering things he forgot.  "Oh my! I forgot my keys!"  This morning he was still there.  But finally disappeared this afternoon.

The kids urged me to contact the former owners of our old farmhouse, to ask if snakes ever got their bluebirds.  (They were big nature watchers and said over 200 bluebirds were hatched in their time at this house!)  Mr. A e-mailed me back and told me they had only lost about 10% of the birds.  He explained how he did it (which really cracked me up picturing this in my mind):

"If you hav'nt moved it, there is a long (8-10 ft.) cedar pole at the back of the house with a "V" notch on the skinny end. That was refered to as Pat's snake flicker. When I saw the black snake coming toward the back area, I would take out my stick to him. Holding the stick by the fat end with both hands -one at the end and the other about 18" up-I would walk up to him and slowly place the "V" notch at his middle. He will stay still because he does'nt know what is going on. Have one point of the "V" on the ground and the other above the snakes belly. Then, aiming at the fence, jerk the stick forward with all your force. He will fly up in the air, and when you get good at it, will fly about 15ft into the air and go over the fence, landing on the grass with a loud thump. Then you go outside the fence with your stick and place the "V" as close to his middle as you can. This time he won't stay so still!! Flick him in the air again and he will be halfway down the back lawn. The third time you approach him he will say "I've had as much of this as I can stand" - and he will scoot off into the woods as fast as he can wiggle. He remembers that lesson. he won't be back for a WHILE. When the snakes get too big - some were 6ft. then I must admit I used the shotgun. But that was the last resort, as most of the time they are good for you."

We do still have the "snake flicker" pole, just where Mr. A left it, and I admit there is a part of me curious about trying it.  If I'm wearing high boots.  And if it's not a copperhead. 

One thing we really enjoy and use a lot are our collection of nature guides.  Our favorites are all focused on our state, North Carolina.  All the pictures are in color and the information very helpful.  It makes things so much quicker and easier to only be looking at the area you live in.  We have:

- Birds of the Carolinas - both the book and companion bird call cd (mine and Hunter's favorite)
- Wildflowers of the Carolinas (Tabby's favorite - she writes a wildflower report each week for school)
- Butterflies of the Carolinas
- Trees of the Carolinas
- A Guide to the Snakes of North Carolina (our newest which we keep pouring over in disgusted fascination)

Finally, one last little tip I wanted to share was in using a plastic Easter egg to teach a child how to read a few rhyming words.  (I got this idea online somewhere.)  I took a plastic egg, wrote "at" on one side.  Then on the other side wrote these letters:  f, m, p, s, r, c

All Hunter had to do was turn one side, and line up each letter in turn with "at."  And within minutes he was reading 6 new words.  (He already knows the sound each letter makes, but this seemed to really help him understand better about putting a word together.)


  1. What a story! And I love the reading egg idea. LOVEc

  2. oh wow. A snake flicker. I am not fond of snakes. At all. But I think I'd try this! Especially since he said it worked for them. Good luck!