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Sammy, the Blue Jay

We live in the midst of many trees and often hear the call “Jay Jay Jay.” I love that this is one call that everyone in my family can identify, from our 2 year old to my husband. You might have heard Sammy in the trees and not realized it before. Listen in on the call:

My Backyard Birding

Thornton W. Burgess actually gives Sammy Jay a big role in many of his books. This makes sense because they are prominent and well-known birds. They are very easily identified, however, you may not know that they are actually very intelligent.

Burgess writes about Sammy and Blacky the Crow in a chapter labeling them both robbers. But he picks up on the intelligence and even help Blue Jays can give to other birds.

There are no sharper eyes anywhere than those of Sammy Jay, and I’ll have to say this for him, that whenever he discovers any danger he always gives us warning. He has saved the lives of a good many of us feathered folks in this way. If it wasn’t for this habit of stealing our eggs I wouldn’t have a word to say against him, but at that, he isn’t as bad as Blacky the Crow….

Burgess speaking through the character of Jenny Wren p. 85, Living Books Press Edition

Even identifies that “Blue Jays are known to take and eat eggs and nestlings of other birds, (adding) but we don’t know how common this is. In an extensive study of Blue Jay feeding habits, only 1% of jays had evidence of eggs or birds in their stomachs. Most of their diet was composed of insects and nuts.” (source)

Here are the other things we gleaned from our resources about Sammy Jay:

Form 1, Grade 3 Student

Blue Jays are smaller than a crow, but surprisingly, they are still quite big. It’s amazing to see their sharp demeanors and strength as they go about their day around the spinney. Until the next time, keep on birding <3 Kate

Burgess Coloring Writing & Coloring Pages

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The reality of waste

Does waste bother you?

For a long time there is one type of waste that has really bothered me: food waste. It’s when.. a food expires or goes bad before we are able to eat it. We go out to eat and order too much. We get fast food and I’m sitting there faced with countless wrappers, boxes, and bags… not to mention the ketchup packets, plastic straws, and SOOOOOOO MANYYYY napkins.

What is a type of waste that has always bothered you? Can you think of one?

Waste is a natural part of life. Animals have waste. Their bodies go through and digest every little thing that is valuable to them as a nutrient and everything else is waste. The difference is that they do not over-indulge on most of what they take in. Humans, however, do.

Zero waste has many goals and definitions but it can be streamlined to understand 5 core concepts. This is especially helpful if you are just starting to learn about your ecological footprint. I found this valuable Beginner’s Guide to a Zero Waste Lifestyle from Arctic Gardens and I have paraphrased it here:

Five Zero Waste Concepts

  • Refuse: not everything that everyone gives you is necessary for you. Not everything that you want to buy is essential for you to buy. Learning to discern what is essential and necessary for you and your family is the first step. Say no and limit your purchases of everything else. Stop bringing needless things into your home.
  • Reduce: reducing the things that you consume and adopting minimalist tendencies may be hard for some. But if you find yourself going through this cycle: “I get to the point where I just have to purge everything that we don’t need. We just have too much stuff….” And then you go on buying the way that you always do until the next time that you feel like you need to have a massive purge… You have a problem, and so do I. There is something that can be done about this when you stop and think about the things you are buying, the things you are collecting, and the things that you are then purging because you have too much stuff. Try to reduce those things and realize that you don’t need them all to be happy. Happiness was never found in a big box store.
  • Reuse: when you have reduced what you own, you can focus on re-using things. When you do want to buy something, try to focus on getting second-hand things or repurposing what you or friend’s have to give! Let me tell you something: Almost all of my kids’ clothes have been given to us as hand-me-downs from friends, with the odd exception of very specific items bought at a store. It has been such a blessing because it gives us what we need and it keeps those clothing items from piling up as waste. If you have a lot of things to give, please consider donating it to those who may need it.
  • Recycle: If you can’t reuse something then opt to recycle it. One thing that I have been thinking of is the necessity to buy things from the store with the intent to be able to recycle them. For instance, if you have the opportunity to choose between salad in a packaged plastic bag that your neighborhood recycling program cannot recycle or a plastic carton that they can, then by all means, please choose the plastic carton of salad! Or better yet, purchase some reusable produce bags and actually just get the open head of lettuce! Everything that can be recycled is a win for you and the environment!
  • Rot: When you have organic waste choose to compost it instead of throwing it into the garbage. And if you don’t have any idea how, what or why to do that, then learn! There are even ways to establish composting gardens.

In the month of September, I’m going to be focusing on how to move our family into more sustainable and less wasteful patterns and rhythms of life. That will start with a Ditch the Paper Towels opportunity, so stay tuned for that!

Until next time, keep trying to waste less. <3 Kate

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Blacky, the American Crow

“Caw, caw, caw” is a ringing call that many people would recognize by sound. Crows are large birds and very intelligent. Allaboutbirds mentions:

“Crows sometimes make and use tools. Examples include a captive crow using a cup to carry water over to a bowl of dry mash; shaping a piece of wood and then sticking it into a hole in a fence post in search of food; and breaking off pieces of pine cone to drop on tree climbers near a nest.”

The Intelligence of Crows- Hawaiian Crows “Alala”

Burgess captures a scene where a distressed Mr. and Mrs. Robin have come to their nest expecting to find their eggs, only to find the eggs have been broken and eaten by Blacky the Crow. Crows are omnivores and will eat almost anything. You may have been on a road trip in a secluded area and have seen them indulging in some carrion, which is the fancy term for roadkill. Did you know that they cannot break open the skin of an animal with their beak? They have to wait for another animal to break open the carcass and then they can eat some of it. Allaboutbirds adds that while you may see this sometimes, carrion is not a large part of a crow’s diet. Maybe you can find some information on other things they eat using your resources!

Here is another helpful thing because in the field it can be difficult to recognize whether you are seeing a Raven or an American Crow:

Carnegie Museum of Natural History

It is so interesting to learn a little bit more about birds, isn’t it?! Here is what we gathered from using Cornell Lab’s Allaboutbirds and our Burgess reading:

Form 1, Grade 3 Student

Until next time, keep birding! <3 Kate

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Glue Batik

I’m not really sure how I stumbled upon this idea, but I’m certainly glad that I did. If you are looking for something that you can do with all ages, that requires very few supplies, and that you can do over and over again- this is a great activity. We have done it twice. We did it the first time by ourselves and then invited friends to do it with us.

Giving credit where it is due, I found this idea and all the supplies and tutorial from Artsy Karma.

We had the Craft paint already. I bought White Linen Fabric napkins, square and already hemmed, which were perfect for what we wanted to do. I bought Elmers washable gel glue and the Textile Medium using Artsy Karma’s suggestions.

I set up one of our tables outside and put our art tablecloth out there, which we reuse. Then we set to work!

My 7 year old’s design

First, we used a fabric pen (which erases itself after a bit) to draw our designs onto the linen napkins. After drawing our designs, we traced over them with the gel glue and used the wrong end of a paint brush to make sure that the glue didn’t dry in glops but instead spread over the lines of our designs. You may need to add a bit more glue to accomplish this. We let them dry all the way.

Best part? Everyone’s design and skill was at different levels, but they all could do it! Even my two year-old. She skipped the drawing part and just started adding glue to her napkin.

After the glue was dry, it was time to paint. I prepared the paint mixing our acrylic paints with the textile medium using the directions at the back of my textile medium.

In a genius move, which was only truly realized later, I decided to use one plate and one paint brush for each color that we wanted to use. That way the kids did not need to clean their brushes in between using different colors and none of our colors got muddled up or mixed. I would definitely recommend doing it that way and then passing the plates between each other. It was also a great practice in patience and sharing for the kids.

The great thing about this technique is that there is no skill required, but they can grow in technique and skill as they go. The dried glue can be painted over because just like batik, it’s a process that uses a resistant to create the design. In this case, the resistant is the glue. When you wash it later, the paint over the glue washes away with the glue.

After everyone painted, we let the fabric and paint dry all the way. We waited until the next day to complete the next step.

After everything is dry, you can wash away the glue.

I made a hot tub of water and put all of our artwork into the tub to soak for about 30 minutes. Then, we used our fingers to wash away the glue from each of the napkins. We worked it with our fingers until we couldn’t feel any of the slimey glue left, one by one. I let each of the bigger kids wash off the glue from their artwork. I did the others.

Then we let them dry in the sun!

You can see the globs of glue and mixed paint on my little 2 year-old’s artwork. It turned out beautifully! The caterpillar and butterfly combo my 4 year-old made is so sweet! Everybody loved the results of the technique and couldn’t wait to do it again.

I gave my 7 and 8 year-olds some yarn and a large tapestry sewing needle to make two strands of our artwork to hang together in our front window:

The finished product!

We are so happy with the results! Until next time, keep creating!

<3 Kate

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Chore Rhythms as Core Rhythms: Laundry

Teaching our children how to care for themselves, their people, and their spaces doesn’t have to be difficult when we think about teaching them how to do it step by step. Many of us were thrown into it when we had to figure out how to cook, clean, and care for ourselves after we left home. And so we understand the value of starting early after we ourselves were thrown into the deep end. It can help and serve us to have some of our Core Rhythms be Chore Rhythms.

The Discipline of Laundry through the Years

A discipline is, simply put, a pattern of behavior that can be applied and cultivated. The time we take to grow in different disciplines gives us grounding in those areas thus giving us the ability and time to focus efforts in other areas of our life.

In the discipline of laundry, some of us really struggle to get laundry done. We let it pile up and then get overwhelmed by the huge pile and how long it will take for us to do it. If we instead focus on the discipline of laundry and develop helpful habits, our minds can rest easy and focus on the things we really want to without facing the overwhelm later.

Needless to say, it is actually a great gift to our children to give them time and opportunity to develop their own areas of discipline. Instead of running our houses in a mindset of “I can get it done quickly and effectively all by myself”or even “I’m all alone in this,” we can realize that every chore is an opportunity for teaching that discipline.

As teachers we strive more for progress than we do for perfection and this is a really important thing to remember each time you work to instill chore disciplines in your children. Through these Chore Rhythms remember to leave your perfectionistic expectations at the door, it will serve you well and your child well if you do that. Instead, offer them structure and room to grow. Then, enjoy the rhythm together.

A Real Ol’ Fashioned Laundry Machine!

Chore Rhythms for the Discipline of Laundry

Often times, we want to do our chores in the nooks and crannies of our day out of the way of our families. The flip side is never doing them and that isn’t helpful to us or anyone else! So let’s see how we can grow our rhythm through the years:


This is the easiest but sometimes hardest step for us as parents, but it’s simple: Do your laundry in front of and with your babies. Don’t only do it when they are asleep or napping. I’m not saying that you can’t do any of your chores when your baby is sleeping because we all know that is impossible. When you have a newborn or infant, you need that napping time to get some important things done. But as they grow, when they can crawl and sit up and want to play, start to do your laundry and their laundry with them awake. They will see you doing it and learn that it is a part of your family’s weekly rhythm and bonus: you’ll get it done!

2-3 year olds

This is a fun age when your toddler wants to experience everything that you do, with you. They have learned that laundry is a weekly rhythm and they want to be involved. So let them be involved. Give them a few pieces of their laundry to work with as you fold the rest of their clothes. Let them try and “fold” their own clothes, encouraging them as they try to do it. It’s a really hard skill actually, so realize that it will look like they just bunched it up. But as they practice they will improve and you’ll be surprised one day when they figured out a key part of folding a shirt, like first tucking in the sleeves. Next, they can master folding it in half one way and then eventually the other. Be okay with less than perfect! Help them to understand where their clothes go and how to put them away.

4-5 year olds

They know a little of the basics of what to do with laundry after it is finished. Continue to let them be a part of folding and putting it away. Now, help them to understand more about how you gather the laundry together before you put it in the machine and let them put it in the machine themselves. When it is done in the washer, let them change it to the dryer safely. We have front loading machines so this is very easy, but I know some people have stacked machines or top loaders, so remember that safety is a priority. Use a stool and a laundry basket as an in-between step if you need to.

6-7 year olds

This is the age when our family gives the responsibility to the child to fold their batch of laundry and put it into their drawers. You may have a specific day for your child to do laundry or some other “hint” that tells the child it’s time. I’ll give you an example by telling you how we go through the rhythm:

  • The child realizes they need to laundry because they have one pair of clothes left in their drawer.
  • They tell me that it’s the day they need to do their laundry and gather it together to take downstairs in their designated laundry bag.
  • They put it into the washing machine and tell me that it’s ready to start.
  • I put the detergent in and start the machine.
  • Sometimes I have them change it over or I give them a break and do it myself. I like to surprise them and do it sometimes.
  • It goes through the dryer and finishes.
  • I ask them to gather it back into their designated laundry bag and they take it back upstairs to fold it and put it away.

Let me note as well that I don’t put time limits on their rhythm. I sometimes let my son or daughter wait until the next day to fold it because I care more about building the discipline than crushing their spirit. If they really want to spend time playing with their siblings or other friends, enjoying a good book, or finishing an assignment then I help them remember to finish their laundry when it is a good time. I’m the reminder but they grow in the joy of responsibility.

8+ years old

After growing through the how’s, when’s, and what for’s of laundry, I teach them the final step which is adding in the detergent to the machine. Why wait until this age? It’s something that I personally build in last because it requires self-control. It’s not necessarily the easiest thing to fill a scoop only 1/3 or 1/2 of the way when you are little and I want to make sure that my child has the discernment to follow my directions and not try something “scientific” with their laundry. We actually transitioned to using a liquid detergent instead of powder because it is so easy to teach my children how to do it and it’s safe for them to use. You can find it here: Liquid Detergent

I also wait until this age because of the safety systems built into our washing machine. In order to open up the detergent slot, you first need to slide a mechanism inside the handle to the left and then pull which requires a little more effort and motor control.

I love this detergent because it’s safe for my family and the environment and it gets measured out by pumps! My kids usually have medium loads so they add 2x pumps into our detergent slot before closing it and starting the machine. This liquid detergents lasts us a long time, it has a very pleasing lavender scent, and I love that it’s safe for our skin.


As you build in a Chore Rhythm you get to see the growth and progress of your child and build in a family culture that rings true to you. Remember to celebrate progress, celebrate growth, and celebrate each other along the way!

One of my favorite things is to see the personality of my different children shining through! My son does his laundry in a very specific way:

Until next time, <3 Kate

I am a Norwex Independent Consultant, if you want more help with product tips and care check out my Facebook Group: The Good Ol’ Fashioned Clean. Request to join my group and check the box: Chore Rhythms

You can find my website here: for a safe and effective way to clean your home!

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Year 6 of Homeschooling

Last year flew by for us. We settled into a new house, and all of us went through developmental stages in between the seasons, terms, lessons and experiences. We enjoyed the nature around us and loved settling into a place that we can call our own. We are so grateful for all that last year brought, but it was also hard.

I had two little ones, a 3 year old and a 1 year old, and they were unsettled most of the time. Our new-to-us house felt very hot in the warmer months and very cold in the colder months, which is always hard to adjust to for everyone in the family. We did most of our school time on the floor in their room to accommodate for the littles and that was fun, but it was also harder to be intentional and make sure that we were doing all the learning that we could together.

During our summer slow-down I realized how tired I was of schooling on the floor and decided to plan ahead to use our dining room table again for this school year. I set up a space downstairs for all of our books, and got out our age appropriate games and hands-on learning items for our now 4 and 2 year old. I felt relief as we started this sixth year of home education not on the floor, but instead sitting around the table together to learn. I think my kids feel just as much relief as I did, which is sweet.

We have also entered into a new stage for the older two and they are no longer in the same Form. I now have a Form 1 student, age 7, and a Form 2 student, age 9. I wasn’t sure how this was going to work out, but I realized as I thought on the end of our last year how eager my 9 year-old was to dive deeper into his subjects and learn more. It’s been a joy to add the Form 2 books into our Morning Routine. We also started Family Science together and a course from Waldorfish for Art, which the kids are all very excited about. This year we’ll also pick up where we left off with Amazing Africa from Heritage Mom. We hope to deepen our love for the Lord, cook, explore nature, and find some new things to make as well.

It’s with happiness in my heart that we start this school year. After a wonderful summer, we are so excited to wet our appetites with the wonderful things to learn around us!

Until next time, <3 Kate

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Forktail, the Barn Swallow

Barn Swallows are one of my favorite birds to watch as they fly over fields catching insects and really perform remarkable aerial acrobatics in the process. It always calming to watch and enjoy their flight for food.

Often, you will find Barn Swallows far away from any barns, which are a common place for them to build their homes, but not the only place! They will use many different kinds of human made structures to build their nests. We often see them nesting underneath the bridges of the forest preserves we visit. This is a very popular place for them because they like to dart over the water underneath to catch their meals.

The need for structure is an important one because of the way that Forktail builds his nest with mud and straw. This is an absolutely amazing video of how they build their nest step by step staring Forktail himself:

Isn’t that cool, what a feat of engineering and meticulous care!

I love the description that the Cornell Lab gives Barn Swallows:

Glistening cobalt blue above and tawny below… Look for the long, deeply forked tail that streams out behind this agile flyer and sets it apart from all other North American swallows.

Here is what we learned about Forktail:

Form 1, Grade 3 Student

Have you seen a Barn Swallow before?

Until next time, keep birding! <3 Kate

Burgess Bird Coloring & Writing Pages

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Twitter the Purple Martin

As the largest of the Swallow family, Purple Martins are very social birds. Take it from Skimmer the Tree Swallow who explains to Johnny Chuck:

“I like a home by myself, such as I’ve got here, but Twitter loves company. He likes to live in an apartment house with a lot of his own kind. That is why he always looks for one of those houses with a lot of rooms in it, such as Farmer Brown’s boy has put up on the top of that tall pole out in his backyard. He pays for all the trouble Farmer Brown’s boy took to put that house up. If there is anybody who catches more flies and winged insects than Twitter, I don’t know who it is.” The Burgess Bird Book for Children

Here in the Chicagoland area, there is a really fun Cook County Forest Preserve called River Trail Nature Center in Northbrook, IL, which has colony housing that you can go and see. They also have an amazing bird exhibit inside and some larger birds of prey to see outside. mentions that Native Americans hung up dried, empty gourds for Purple Martins to nest in long before European settlers arrived in North America. Isn’t that amazing? We also found out about The Purple Martin Conservation Association as we researched more about Twitter.

Here are all of the things we noted in our Burgess Writing section for Twitter:

Form 1, Grade 3 Student

Twitter is really a handsome bird when you look at his blue-black feathers and the sun catches him just right to become iridescent. And now we know how useful he is as well!

Until next time, keep birding <3 Kate

Burgess Bird Coloring & Writing Pages

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Sweetvoice, The Vesper Sparrow

Our final sparrow is Sweetvoice, the Vesper Sparrow. The name that Burgess gave this bird, Sweetvoice, and even Vesper have labeled this Sparrow perfectly and here’s why:

Vesper Sparrows sing a sweet tinkling song during the day and well into the evening hours—the twilight of vespers, prompting its name… a sweet series of musical slurs and trills.

Listen to a part of their song:

Cornell Lab- Vesper Sparrow Singing

Here is what we found through our gathering search on Sweetvoice:

Sweetvoice: Vesper Sparrow

Size & Shape: Vesper Sparrows are fairly large sparrows.

Color Pattern: Brown overall with crisp streaks.

Diet: Insects

Behavior: Spends most of its time on the ground.

Something you didn’t know: The Vesper Sparrow responds quickly to changes in habitat.

I found it very encouraging that Vesper Sparrows are resilient and creative birds, “often the first bird species to occupy reclaimed mine sites and abandon old farm fields as they revert to forest.” ( With so much habitat destruction made by humans, it is a wonder that birds can reclaim what was once lost and make a home in places where reforestation can occur. While these little birds spend most of their time on the ground, they are one of the easier sparrows to identify with their song, the time of day they love to sing (twilight), and the fact that when they sing they like to perch high above the grass to let their song be heard.

Sweetvoice, Form 1 Student, Grade 3

Until next time, keep singing with Sweetvoice and birding! <3 Kate

Check out our Burgess Coloring & Writing Pages

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Attracting Hummingbirds

We absolutely love hummingbirds. In our area there are Ruby-throated Hummingbirds that migrate up for breeding season during Spring and Summer.

A Female Ruby-throated Hummingbird at our feeder

Last year, we started trying to attract them a little late, but by the end of Summer and definitely by early Fall, we started to have consistent visits from a pair of hummingbirds. This is how we did it.

First, we went to our local greenhouse and got some red flowers. They were called Salvia Coccinea, or Scarlet Sage wildflowers. They looked perfect for hummingbirds, who love bright colors, because they had long tubular flowers lining the stems. We had the flowers out all summer and eventually they caught the hummingbird’s attention.

We also got a hummingbird feeder and found a recipe for homemade Hummingbird nectar on the Audubon website. I made sure to use the recommended sugar because, as Audubon warns, other sugars can cause problems for the hummingbirds and honey can result in dangerous fungal growth. Hummingbird nectar should be changed out regularly in order to ensure that there isn’t anything growing that will harm the birds.

Homemade Nectar

We love making our own nectar because the Ruby-throated Hummingbirds love it, it’s so easy to make, and it’s cost-effective. First thing this Spring, the Hummingbirds came straight to us!

Until next time, keep on birding <3 Kate