About Heather Woodie

Homeschooling mom to our fantastic four – two in high school, one in middle school, and one last elementary student. I'm a former middle and high school biology teacher who has embraced the independent nature of homeschooling and I mentor my children through authentic, student driven projects and learning adventures. This year we are homeschooling 11th, 9th, 7th, and 4th grades. I hope you'll find this space to be a useful resource for your homeschool.

Tips for Botanical Illustrating

Blog, She Wrote: Tips for Botanical Illustrating

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We had the distinct pleasure recently of attending a workshop on botanical illustrating through our 4-H Plant & Environmental Science committee. Rebecca loves to draw plants in her journals and has been honing her talents. The workshop was a fun way to reinforce skills she’s been working at on her own.

Botanical Illustrating Has a Long History

Our artist instructor shared reminders about people drawing plants throughout history. We know that Lewis & Clark took with them naturalists and they themselves kept extensive journals on their journey west in 1804.

She also mentioned that Charles Darwin drew many pictures of plant life during his infamous sail aboard the HMS Beagle.

In addition, Beatrix Potter is well known to have been a natural scientist and an illustrator of the natural world in addition to writing stories for children.

Blog, She Wrote: Tips for Botanical Illustrating

An Artist’s Advice for Drawing Plants for Botanical Illustrations

Botanical illustrators are still needed to provide detail that a photograph may not easily reveal. Cross sections are drawings because the artist can render an accurate image of the many layers of detail in the plant. So, how do you approach making a botanical drawing?

  • Pay attention to detail not the plant’s surroundings.
  • Box off quadrants of the plants and focus on drawing the shape of one quadrant at a time.
  • Notice and draw individual shapes not the plant as a whole which will lead to the best accuracy of the specimen.

Blog, She Wrote: Tips for Botanical Illustrating

Opportunities for Illustrating Plants

Need a reason to draw the plants you find?

  • Keep a garden journal and draw the various stages of growth.
  • Illustrate your leaf collection.
  • Improve your nature journaling by drawing the plants you see on a walk.
  • Collect for your nature table and draw what you find.

Rebecca has already requested one garden upgrade for this next season and she’s working it out with Dan. They are going to make a cement table top from the directions in The Family Handyman. Before the slab sets, she will draw plant designs into the cement. It’s going to make a fantastic garden table. She can hardly wait to sit out there in the warm weather to observe the garden and do her school work outdoors!

Blog, She Wrote: Tips for Botanical Illustrating

Resources for Botanical Illustrating

We enjoyed a look at some of these books. I added a few of my own discoveries on the topic. Pick them up at the library for an added bonus to your nature journaling.

Tools for Botanical Illustrating

Where art is concerned I prefer to provide the best tools we can afford. It’s frustrating to any budding or seasoned artist to work with inferior implements. I’ve also noticed the better the tools, the better the results.

  • Drawing pencils– not just your ordinary #2 pencil, but a set of drawing pencils ranging from soft to hard. Rebecca recently got her first set and it’s made a big difference in her ability to shade. With this being her first try with them, we went with a modest priced set.
  • Watercolor Pencils– Our favorite moderately priced sets are the Prang pencils. They have thick color and you can use them in a variety of ways. Have you ever seen Harmony Art Mom’s Watercolor Pencil 101 Tutorials? This post opened up some new ways of using the medium. It’s a must view!
  • Colored Pencils– We use Prismacolor pencils for our art projects. They lay down the color so nicely and they are worth the investment if you take care of them.
  • Pencil Sharpener– I like the Prismacolor sharpener because it is kind to the expensive pencils!
  • Watercolor Paper– Nothing beats water color paper for when you are using this medium. I find it helps to take in the water and leave the pigment nice and brilliant in the finished product.
  • Sketch Book– Rebecca loves the smaller sketch books with a hard cover and thicker pages for use with wet or dry media. The hard cover lets her sketch out on the trail which is a favorite past time for her.

Blog, She Wrote: Tips for Botanical Illustrating

Plant & Flower Anatomy and Taxonomy

Before we drew our botanical illustrations, we were given a review of plant anatomy. Understanding the various plant parts and where they come together is important for making an accurate drawing with labels.

Floral formulas help to identify what family the flower is in- is it a rose? A lily? Orchid? Flowers have a certain number of petals (corolla) and sepals (calyx) along with the reproductive parts- the stamen (andrecium) and pistol (gynecium). Of course floral formulas only apply to angiosperms (flowering plants). Do you remember the taxonomic name of non flowering plants like conifers and ferns?

Blog, She Wrote: Tips for Botanical Illustrating

Botanical illustrating is a great way to combine art and biology. Of course, as children grow, their skills will change. Not all of my children love to sketch, but they have all done it. I find that Rebecca can be very inspiring to her brothers and she will often take them out on excursions or rope them into helping her collect. Enjoy these resources and get ready…spring is right around the corner, right?

Geography Quest: Great Backyard Bird Count Edition

Blog, She Wrote: Great Backyard Bird Count Edition

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It’s that time of year again! When families everywhere will be counting the birds that come to their yards in the Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC) sponsored by The Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Audubon Society, and Bird Studies Canada. This year’s count takes place on February 11- 17, 2014.

Observe & Submit Your Bird Checklist

Have you participated in the GBBC before? If not, you can read all about how to get started. It’s a pretty easy gig:

  • Register or log in for the count.
  • Count birds for at least 15 minutes a day on one or more days of the GBBC.
  • You can count for longer than 15 minutes and you can count birds on as many days and in as many places as you’d like during the GBBC.
  • Read the directionsfor submitting the checklists using the checklist page or the new app.
  • Do you regularly use eBird? eBird is another website where you can submit bird sightings year round. If you are already an eBird user, please use your eBird account and your observations during these dates will count toward the GBBC. That is great information because I did not know that.

Use GBBC Data to Map The Results

Did you know you can access historical data on the GBBC? This would be a fun map making adventure.

  • There a few map options available to explore on the website.
  • Toggle between top ten lists for species and the map room to find what to map.
  • Pick a favorite bird species and map its populations in North America- or name any location.
  • Observe the data and see if you can find winter patterns or to see if any migration patterns emerge.
  • Look to see if there are patterns in the activity of a species using the places page.
  • What other types of maps could you make using the data from the GBBC? Tell us about them!

Resources for the GBBC

Need some help to keep things easy? Here are a few resources made available by the folks with the GBBC.

  • Create your own tally sheet.
  • A downloadable pdf data form
  • Birding apps recommended by the GBBC- this makes it easy to keep track of the birds you see and you can use it to log your results when the count is complete.
  • iBird Pro mobile bird guide- It’s got a thorough library of bird species information, calls, pictures, etc. This is one of the few apps I’ve paid for for my phone!
  • Merlin– this is a new app by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. This looks pretty good although it’s not available for Android until the spring. Bummer! It’s a bird ID guide- I saw the prototype at the lab a couple years ago and it’s fun to use.

Join us this week to count some backyard birds and submit your results to the GBBC. Our feeder needs filling before we get more snow tomorrow. We see a bunch of birds daily out there enjoying our black oil sunflower seeds. I’m looking forward to officially tallying them this weekend.

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5 Reasons to Host a Girls’ Book Club

Blog, She Wrote: 5 Reasons to Host a Girls' Book Club

Are you looking for a way to get your girl to connect with books and have time with other girls? Having just one daughter among three sons, I have to be intentional about making sure we have girl time. When we were invited to be a part of a girls’ book club, I happily accepted the opportunity to host. We meet once a month in our home, and we have six girls who attend. The parents stay for the club time and share their expertise with the girls. Why take the time to work a book club into your schedule?

For five reasons to host a girl’s book club, click on over to the Bright Ideas Press blog where my post is today!

Workshops Work! A Parent’s Guide to Facilitating Writer’s Workshops for Kids

Blog, She Wrote: Workshops Work! A Parent's Guide to Facilitating Writer's Workshops for KidsThis post contains affiliate links. Thanks for your support!

I’ve been hosting a writer’s workshop in our home since September. A writer’s workshop is a time for writers to gather together and share their work. Sometimes workshops hold a mini lesson and give participants time to write and some, like ours, encourages writers to bring pieces they’ve already written to be shared during the workshop.

Writer’s Workshop with the Workshops Work Model

Our workshop is based on the model from the book Workshops Work by Patricia Zaballos. The book explains the benefits of doing a writer’s workshop with kids along with the nuts and bolts of putting a workshop together. I was convinced from the moment I started reading the book and aimed to invite kids to join us this fall. We are a success!

The book is divided into two sections: The Workshop itself – how it works and what to do and The Toolbox- resources and information you can use during a workshop.

To see more detail about each section, please click over to my review over at The Curriculum Choice and enter to win your own copy of Workshops Work!

Also, stay tuned to Blog, She Wrote for a post explaining more about our workshop and how it’s been successful for the kids…successful enough that when I began to ask them about what project they’d like to do to wrap up the year when it’s time, they couldn’t believe we had to end!

Weather Stations & Forecasting

Blog, She Wrote: Weather Stations & Forecasting

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We studied weather with our Nim’s Island unit and I thought this would be a great time to add to this long standing post and bring it up to date with resources and ideas. The kids and I had some meetings over a few days to discuss exactly what we wanted to measure, where, how and how often. We tried a weather station a few years ago that bombed out because of equipment failure. It was just not designed to go the distance as you’ll see below.

The next time we tried, we pieced together our weather station down at our mailbox and the kids ambitiously decided to record the weather three times a day! You’ll have to design a data chart to accommodate the vision that your kids have. We wanted to track it daily long term which is fun for math and science pursuits. As you track the weather, you can introduce forecasting and statistics over time. We even did a math lesson using the Beaufort Wind Scale and median statistics.

Keeping a Weather Calendar

 

  • For a glance at our former weather calendar- it evolved into a workable version using small pocket charts from the Target dollar aisle.
  • There are many ways to keep a weather calendar. Many of you might have a weather observation during your morning time or circle time if you have one- displaying your weather observations is one option.
  • I prefer the notebook/data gathering method. Instead of each student keeping his own notebook of weather data, I like to have a common weather log where the kids record their observations for the day. The tricky part is finding the data chart that you want. I dislike trying to search for the perfect page for notebooking so I went to notebook paper a long time ago. Decide all the things you want to record and keep a log book handy.

 

Resources for Studying Weather from Preschool to High School

 

Book List for Weather Studies

It’s a long term science project to incorporate weather into our nature and unit studies throughout the year.

Explorental Offers a Weather Meter Rental

Explorental is a company which offers high quality equipment and materials for short term rentals to families. The Multi-Function Weather Meter can measure many of the measurements we’ve been tracking in a small hand held digital form. If you aren’t sure to begin with a weather station or you want to track weather in the short term, then try out this handheld digital weather meter from Explorental.

I think it’s fantastic Explorental is excited about getting big ticket items into the hands of families. What does your family want to explore together?

Blog, She Wrote: Explorental

Finding Encouragement at a Homeschool Convention

Blog, She Wrote: Finding Encouragement at at Homeschool Convention

I’ve partnered with GHC this year to bring you convention news and announcements throughout the year.

Great Homeschool Conventions is gearing up for three conventions in California, South Carolina, and Ohio. The speaker line up and vendor hall is sure to equip you for a new season of homeshcooling. How do you find encouragement at a homeschool convention?

Seeking Encouragement at a Homeschool Convention

Find Speaker Sessions That Will Speak to Your Homeschooling Heart– My homeschool heroes will be at GHC and it would be my great pleasure to meet them both and enjoy their sessions. Being a loyal Five in a Row user for our core homeschool curriculum for the last 8 years, I would love to meet Steve and Jane Lambert. Whether or not you can actually have a conversation with your homeschool hero, doesn’t diminish the opportunity to hear them in person and to be fed by the words they bring that day. Take the time to be a part of talks that will fill you up.

Engage in Sessions that Challenge You– Make sure you look over the schedule to see which speakers and topics are what you need for this season in your homeschool. I love to sit in on sessions which I know will stretch me or help me to think of a topic in a new way. I take notes and think about how I will apply what I’ve heard to our homeschool. I’m a pragmatic thinker, so you’ll find me in sessions which are very practical in their application. Which ones are your favorite?

Visit the Shops– Homeschool conventions are a fantastic venue for browsing and picking out items you haven’t seen before and getting a closer look at something you’ve thought about for a long time. Sometimes you want recommendations from others and to see something in person. GHC has many exhibitors planned for each location. Be sure to check them out for your location.

Seek out Vendors– Make a list of the exhibitors you want to be sure to connect with. You can see beforehand who will be attending each convention location. More than just browsing and shopping, specific companies can help you discern whether their product is for you. I reached my final conclusion about purchasing Math on the Level after attending a convention and talking with the authors myself- asking questions and looking closely at their materials.

Go with A Friend and/or Find Time to Relax– Whichever sounds more rejuvenating to you! It’s great to make the convention a time to get away and enjoy friendships. It can also be a time to enjoy on your own as you think and plan for the following school year. I like a bit of both- time to hang out with a friend and bounce ideas off of each other on what we’ve heard and some time to myself to reflect on things I’ve seen and heard during the weekend.

Blog, She Wrote: Finding Encouragment at a Homeschool ConventionJoin other bloggers from the iHomeschool Network to find out how they will spend their time at convention this year. It’s going to be an amazing experience all in one spot!

Geography Quest: Groundhog Day Edition

Blog, She Wrote: Geography Quest- Groundhog Day Edition

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It’s that time of year again when Punxutawney Phil comes out of his burrow at Gobbler’s Knob and either sees his shadow or doesn’t. Otherwise known as Groundhog Day, this tradition has been around since 1887 when a group of groundhog hunters named themselves the groundhog club. Let’s go questing and find out more about this weather predicting cultural event!

Find Out More about Punxutawney Phil & Groundhog Day

Geography is more than just places on the map. It’s also about culture and the people in a place. A look at United States culture would not be complete without a mention of Groundhog Day. Elementary students all over have colored and cut at least one Groundhog project in the past week, right? Of course.

  • Find out more about when the tradition of Groundhog Day started. Visit the official Punxutawney Groundhog website.
  • How about some Groundhog Day lessons?
  • A post about studying Groundhog Day from last year- this is a nice one if you need to let go of any guilt of not having made any groundhogs with your primary kids!
  • What celebration did Groundhog Day come from that was a tradition for the early German settlers of Pennsylvania? (see the FAQ on the Groundhog site)
  • Map the location of Punxutawney, PA and Gobbler’s Knob. Where do the 20,000+ people go to see this forecast?

Weather Predicting & Climate Groundhog Style

While it may not be wise to get all of our weather knowledge from our favorite groundhog, Groundhog Day does give us pause to think about when spring will arrive. While weather itself is more earth science oriented, climate is most definitely a discipline of geography.

  • Did you see this year’s prediction? By now you’ve heard that Phil saw his shadow and predicts six more weeks of winter. Definitely take a few minutes to watch and hear the 2014 official proclamation.
  • Did you know that February 5th is Weather Forecasters Day? Is that a happy coincidence or are meteorologists keeping good company with critter forecasting?
  • How much more winter? This is a great opportunity to study climate trends at your latitude and to look at averages for when spring weather really arrives. Does Phil’s prediction match the expectations in your area this year?
  • Look at differences in spring’s arrival as you travel north away from the equator. Growing up in Maryland and living about 400 miles north of there in New York state has given me a whole new perspective on spring! I also experience big differences in the amount of daylight just 400 miles north. See if you can choose places on the map and compare their spring arrivals. Eye opening for sure!
  • A set of resources on the effect of latitude on climate– from cK-12 Foundation.

Enjoy a fun look at weather and climate as you explore more about Groundhog Day and look at the bright side… it’s February and for some of you that means spring is on the way soon- how soon? Study the climate and find out!

Geography Quest: GPS Edition

Blog, She Wrote: Geography Quest- GPS Edition

This post contains affiliate links. Thanks for your support!

It’s time for another Treasure Hunt Geography Quest only this time we’ll do a local treasure hunt with some geocaching! For this treasure hunt, you’ll need a GPS and some creativity with a desire for special surprises thrown in. Are you ready?

Geography Questing with a Geocache

Your task this week is to make your own treasure hunt for your family. Do you already geocache? If so, you might consider knocking another off your list. If not, or you want to make your own, now is the time!

What is a geocache? It’s when you use a Global Positioning System device or other navigational tools to hide and seek containers called geocaches- or caches anywhere in the world.

Need more information on geocaching? Try the wikipedia page and the official geocaching site.

There are caches stashed all over in public places for you to explore. All you need is a GPS and some time for adventure!

Making Waypoints with a GPS

To make your own geocaching adventure, make a set of waypoints that lead to a treat or surprise for you family. You could bury your own treasure (even in the snow if you have snow cover currently like we do) or you could make the surprise a destination. Don’t forget to let the trail go cold for a while before revealing the big fun.

What is a waypoint? A waypoint is a reference point in physical space used for navigation.

To make a waypoint, simply walk the path that is the route to your treasure and mark them in your GPS. The walk will connect your waypoints together.

Finding Treasure by Using Waypoints

Once you have your waypoints logged in on your GPS device, it’s time to have your kids follow the route noting the waypoints along the way. They will be send to the next one and they’ll have to use the GPS to find the next waypoint.

At the end of the route, they will need to look for the treasure you left behind. Need mid-winter ideas for treasure?

  • a trip to the yogurt or ice cream shop
  • a warm snack of cocoa and cookies
  • a family afternoon of games
  • a new movie to watch or a family movie night

You get the idea…nice and easy and fun for the family!

How to Have a Geocache without a GPS

Rent one! Explorental gets big technology into the hands of families. Why not take advantage of their Magellan GPS (just like the one we have above) for two weeks for the simple cost of $18.99. You can plan ahead for lots of geocaching field trips and enjoy trying out this great little tool. For less than the cost of a museum field trip or day out, you can have your own geocaching adventure.

Thanks for joining me for this week’s Geography Quest. Come back for more!

Blog, She Wrote: Explorental