Sunday, April 10, 2022

Nature Study Resources for the Charlotte Mason Homeschooler

For the last 16 years I have homeschooled my children with an eclectic tilt towards Charlotte Mason education and a heavy bent towards the constant study of nature.  In that time I have come across some of the very best nature study, living book reading material and I wanted to share that with you.  It has many vintage choices, but no worries, I found most of them on Amazon and put the links up just for you!

According to, 'Living Books' are:
Living books are usually written by one person who has a passion for the subject and writes in conversational or narrative style. The books pull you into the subject and involve your emotions, so it’s easy to remember the events and facts. Living books make the subject “come alive.” They can be contrasted to dry writing, like what is found in most encyclopedias or textbooks, which basically lists informational facts in summary form. You might be surprised to find that living books are available for most school subjects — even math, geography, and science! 
I search constantly for books that fit these credentials because it really does bring life to the Nature Study for my kids.  My kids wait for the next chapter or book with enthusiasm, and remember so many of the facts that they constantly shock people with the facts they know about these wonderful animals.

First up, the baby animal series written by Berneice Freschet, illustrated Jim Arnosky

To anyone who is familiar with nature study knows Jim Arnosky.  If they don't, they should.  ;)  He is an incredible naturalist that has styled and yet accurate drawings of all the amazing nature experiences he has.  All of his books are packed with information!  I tend to trust anything that has his name on it.  If you have never heard of him, try anything that has the word "Crinkleroot" in the title.

These books are for preschool - 4th grade.  They are adorable!  They follow a baby animal while adding true facts about how they grow and interesting facts about their life-cycles.

Next up, Shirley Woods books.  

Shirley Woods is a Canadian nature writer who captures the essence of each story about an animal with the enthusiasm and interest of a season of Meerkat Manor.  The topics vary, each book containing the first year (usually) of a particular species.  He follows anything from a deer mouse to a fox to a beaver.  The books contain one life cycle, from birth to having their own cubs/kits/pups.  The author brings the topics to life by writing in the narrative style of the animals, as if they themselves are telling about their experiences.

Last up for living books, Anna Comstock's Handbook of Nature Study.

This book (or book series, depending on how you buy it) has more of an 'informative' style.  But it falls into the "living book" category because it has stories about each subject as well as lists of facts.  The book even goes so far as to prepare the reader with questions to think about each subject as well as places they may be found and information that helps the reader study the subject more effectively.

How To Save A Life

“Mama. You can go home and rest easy now. He is in good hands and he’s not going anywhere. Your shift is done. We have him.”

After one of the worst months of my entire life, I found myself on a red-eye last Saturday.

My oldest son has been homeless for over a year. And three weeks ago he called me and told me he was going to kill himself.

And then he went radio silent.

I knew that he had been robbed many times and I knew that it was a distinct possibility that his phone had been stolen, but I also knew that these couldn’t be the last words I heard from him.

So I took the week off, made all the plans for childcare (because my husband can’t take time off work right now #bluelinefamily), printed out everything my boys needed, went on an extra grocery shopping trip for easy-to-make food, and took a red eye with my daughter to find my oldest son in a homeless camp 3500 miles away.

The only thing I had to go on was a Wendy’s that I bought him food at regularly, that, and a hundred prayers.

I had told my pastor before I left that I wasn’t sure what to do and he connected me with a pastor in a church in the next city.

So armed with prayer, I left. Not having any idea what I would find.

We got there at 6am. We got settled in. We slept a bit. Then we went to sit at the Wendy’s and wait.

And he came.

Dressed in holy pj bottoms and a woman’s sweater, he looked terrible, but he didn’t run. He just hugged me and cried.

I was right. His phone was stolen. Along with absolutely everything he owned.


First things first, dignity and communication.

We got him clothes, shoes, and a few simple supplies to shower with. We had him put them on as soon as we bought them.

He came out and looked human.

Dignity is absolutely invaluable.

Then communication. Next stop was Best Buy to purchase a phone and some prepaid Mint Mobile cards. (They are the best value, and the easiest to use.)

And now I had checked off all of the boxes I had for the trip. On day two.

If only I had had some idea of what God had in store. Because, my friends, God works in mysterious ways.


God works.

The next day I went to visit the pastor.

He just wanted to connect.

And after all, my son was still homeless… dignity only takes you so far.

My ‘loaves and fishes’ moments were just beginning.

Although we gave him dignity and communication (and my daughter bought him a used bike so he had transportation, too) he would be in a very similar spot when we left there and flew home.

I was just hoping for a few resources that he could lean on to help ease his way.

I met with the pastor for 20 minutes. In that amount of time he set me up with a woman who’s son had been in a similar situation and ended up dying of a drug overdose 4 years ago in May.

To say this woman had a thumb on this part of the population is a gross understatement.

She asked the right questions, had intimate knowledge of the area and the population I found my son in, a no-bullshit attitude, and a huge heart for him as well as the things I had gone through. “Does he have insurance?” “Yes. But only for 4 more months”. “Well we should use those wisely then.”

She had a room in a private rehab facility for him within hours.

The speed of it made my head spin.

She was an absolute force to be reckoned with and she had friends.

Then he failed intake.

He “didn’t need help”. He “was fine”. He “Wasn’t a danger to himself”.

They saw right through it.

But I didn’t.

Thinking he was going to a rehab facility, I decided to help get him ready. Having no idea I was being lied to.

The next morning we went to his camp and got all of the clothing items he had left to take to the laundry mat to be sanitized. And I was humbled and terrified by what I saw at the homeless camp.

I thought it was all buttoned up. Until she called me and said he said he wouldn’t go.

She connected me with two other contacts. Steven and Mark. Both former addicts that had found salvation and spent the last few years dealing with the addict and homeless population.

They started texting me asking for his whereabouts and asking for more history. They had another spot, if only he would answer questions honestly about what he was dealing with.

He failed intake again.

I was now in the loop, though….

Me being in the loop he came upon some hard realities.

I wasn’t taking him home.

First off: He is on probation and has to stay in FL.

Second: I have younger kids still living in my house. There was no way I was adding the chaos of mental illness and addiction back into that mix.

Third: Boundaries save your damn life. They are SO important. The only way that *I* was going to get through this is if I had clear and consistent boundaries. I knew it when I decided to come.

So I held firm.

And slowly he started to break.

He admitted he needed help.

He admitted how dark his mind was.

He admitted where his dealer and ex girlfriend (also an addict) were and they were just blocks away from the cabin I rented. So close to him that the only thing between him and using was a phone.

And I had just handed him that.

But, by God’s grace he had just failed the intake at both of the local places. The only one left that we KNEW had a room was 4 hours away.

This time, he didn’t fail intake. And they sent a car 4 hours to pick him up.

The drivers name was also Marc.

(God bless the Mark/c’s of the world my friends. That name will forever be in my good graces.)

At 8:30 Wednesday night, Marc comes with the car from the rehab facility - 4 hours from my son's troubled past and current pitfalls - and took him to a place filled with therapists, medical professionals, and HOPE.


Yesterday morning I got a call. After reviewing as much medical and mental health history as was needed, the therapist said:

“Mama. You can go home and rest easy now. He is in good hands and he’s not going anywhere. Your shift is done. We have him.”

It’s the only time the whole trip I cried.

But wait! There’s more.

The successful ending of the trip had not even truly dawned on me yet where we had to go to the airport. I was still in the heavy work of processing processing processing… it had only been an hour since I had spoken to the therapist.

I had done a great job of not falling into my more detrimental patterns of self-soothing while we were gone, but with the end looming and relief coming, I wanted a coffee, badly. Even though I knew it would hurt me.

Bad habits don’t always have to ruin your life. Some just ruin your day.

I am walking towards the Starbuck’s line, kinda like a zombie… but trying to convince myself to walk past when I see a familiar face.


When I say that God’s hands were on this trip… that the obviousness of miracles was so near that I could feel the beauty of the grace right next to me like the gentlest welcome touch…. I can’t even express my shock and awe at the “coincidence” of it.

Because here I was, at the Tampa airport, 3500 miles from home and I see one of my best friends.

We have raised our kids together. Gone through tragedy and divorce and (yes) her brother’s addiction together.

We had drifted apart due to our kids being in college these last few years, but not in a bad way. In a “we can pick this up next time we have time” kind of way.

And she was right in front of me.

Then the absolutely unbelievable happened.

We were seated together on the plane.

I kid you not.

We had assigned seats SIDE BY SIDE.

She being the only one of my close circle that didn’t know about this because we hadn’t talked recently. And also being the only one who would truly understand what we had just accomplished. She was next to me for 7 hours and 14 minutes.

My mind was blown. My “loaves and fishes” moment had happened.

God had spoken.

And he said that it was good.

God works in mysterious ways.



God works.

Wednesday, April 6, 2022

I thank you, God, for this most amazing day….

I thank You, God for most this amazing

for the leaping greenly spirits of trees
and a blue true dream of sky;

and for everything
which is natural

which is infinite

which is yes.

I who have died am alive again today,
and this is the sun’s birthday;

this is the birth
day of life and of love and wings:

and of the gay
great happening illimitably earth

how should tasting touching hearing seeing
breathing any — lifted from the no
of all nothing — human merely being
doubt unimaginable You?

(now the ears of my ears awake and
now the eyes of my eyes are opened)

- E. E. Cummings

Tuesday, April 5, 2022

The extraordinary will take care of itself.

“Do not ask your children
to strive for extraordinary lives.

Such striving may seem admirable,
but it is the way of foolishness.

Help them instead to find the wonder
and the marvel of an ordinary life.

Show them the joy of tasting
tomatoes, apples and pears.

Show them how to cry
when pets and people die.

Show them the infinite pleasure
in the touch of a hand.

And make the ordinary come alive for them.

The extraordinary will take care of itself.”

- William Martin
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