Good morning, and Happy Top Ten Tuesday!

I have been busy outside, doing all kinds of fun fall activities with my family. My mother spent the last week with us, flapping her Floridian wings to come and see the changing of the seasons, and to take care of me as I recover from some surgery. And autumn in just so spectacular, just the way it is. So much to do!

I sit here in the gazebo, gazing upon the collection of science and nature studies we have been working on this month. Here they are, in no particular order:

From our Simple Science Strategies September Newsletter nature studies:

  • A mini ant farm.  An old spaghetti sauce jar and a giant anthill at the edge of our front sidewalk, plus a sunny afternoon, were the prime ingredients for a little study of ants on our front porch. Mini-investigations included what would happen if you put a red ant in the jar with a bunch of black ants (not good for the red ant), the structure of an ant colony (very interesting to see through the side of the jar), and whether or not ants would eat dog food (they did, collaboratively pulling the kibble under the surface of the sand — cool). My husband brought home a giant plastic jar that will become the new ant farm.

You can find more about our past ant studies, including a very interesting study we did with citronella ants last year, at my nature study blog, A Child’s Garden.

Citronella ants – a discovery we made in our flower bed last fall. Photo credit (c) 2011 Kim M. Bennett.
  • “Fungus Among Us.” Apparently, the pine chips I have placed on my flower beds are perfect for these gigantic mushrooms, which erupt overnight. We have also seen great crops of puffballs, one of my all-time favorite mushroom friends. Right now, there is a very decrepit mushroom on the little table next to my grill, with a hand lens which is daily used by my son to observe the gradual decomposition of the thing.

I have posted several articles about our mushroom studies from this fall and last (it’s one of our favorite topics):

“Make Room for Mushrooms” — chronicles our hike at the Fenton-Ruby Park and Preserve last fall.

“One Small Square: Mushrooms and Other ‘Fun Guys'” — directions for a nature study strategy I featured in the September newsletter

Wood chips are a great place to observe many types of mushrooms. Photo credit (c) 2011, Kim M. Bennett.
  • Bird feeders. We refilled our bird feeding station, and now it’s buzzing with nuthatches and chickadees, among other winged friends.

Feeding the bird has been a favorite family activity since my adult children were born. We’ll be re-joining Project Feeder Watch (organized by Cornell University’s Laboratory of Ornithology) again this year.  Some of our more recent feeder studies are below (from A Child’s Garden):

“Winter Bird Feeding” ~   “Little Brown Birds: Sparrows and Friends”  ~ “Our Garden is for the Birds!” ~ “Feeding Our Hungry Birds After Hurricane Irene”

Bird watching — fun for the whole family! Photo credit (c) 2010 Kim M. Bennett.
  • Tons of videos and photos of wildflowers and seeds. My youngest son and I are creating a video of our recent “sock walk” to study wildflowers and their seeds. This is a fun (and LONG term) project, for both of us! There are a lot more wildflower study ideas at Simple Science Strategies.
My youngest son is an avid photographer and videographer! Photo credit (c) 2012, Kim M. Bennett.

Other opportunities to enjoy the natural world this month:

  • a giant toad that decided the bottom shelf of my mini-greenhouse is a great place to live;
  • our fall flower bed — a daily source of inspiration for photography, art and nature study.

Skipping over to technology and engineering, we have these ongoing activities:

  • three bags of apples from the orchard, just waiting to become something tasty via a cooking project (I have my eye on an apple start for starters…) [download my “Apple a Day” notebooking pages for your next trip[;
  • my little guy’s LEGO recreations of scenes from popular video games and famous movies and…
  • the stop-motion films he has made with these LEGOs (as well as his little green army men).

This month, LEGO has two great offers that are perfect for early holiday shopping:

Free Shipping on all orders of $75 or more. Valid 9.1.12 – 9.21.12

FREE Exclusive LEGO Monster Fighters set with orders of $75 or more. Valid 9.1.12 – 9.30.12

Because, when you homeschool, everything becomes a teaching opportunity, my recent experiences with thyroid cancer have become fodder for some studies of chemistry and human anatomy: cells (normal vs. cancer); the endocrine system (especially the thyroid and parathyroid); ionizing radiation; and all the cool instruments and monitors at the hospital.  Last night we talked about how a low-iodine diet tricks the cancer cells into sucking up the radioactive iodine — very clever.

My son attends the local public school for some testing and some classes (band, for example), and one of his classmates recently remarked that you don’t learn much when you homeschool.

Just looking at our September 18 list gives me great satisfaction.

Peace to you all!

Happy September, everyone! (Love, Malik and his mom)