The Missing Mushrooms

We’ve been  looking for mushrooms for weeks!  No mushrooms! 

Not good, since we’ve been trying to study them this semester.


Talking with my young student a couple of weeks ago, we got on the topic of the missing mushrooms.

“Could it be because of the drought?” I asked.

He shrugged, “They need moistness.”

“I guess you’re right,” I nodded.  There had been no moistness, no rain, no mist in weeks.  We hadn’t even seen a cloud in weeks.

The subject was dropped.

Then, one morning last week, it was mentioned again.

“Mom, there is a mushroom over by the big swing.”

“Really? I asked disbelievingly.  There had been no rain.  But this was the mushroom season… so perhaps he has made a real sighting.  Maybe a ‘shroom has pushed through, I thought.  

Quickly, we gathered our mushroom observing paraphernalia: a field guide, tweezers, magnifying glass, a plastic bag, cameras, and set off for our adventure.  We walked a little ways over the creek and along a grassy path into a field.  Cut up apples and flies were scattered in a little ring near a tree. 

“Look, that’s where Jared is feeding the deer,” my boy pointed as we walked by the green and red pile, flies buzzing between the fruits.  Then, we turned right and walked out of the field into a small sloping wooded area.  Pines and oaks dominated the landscape.  Sure enough, right there in front of the big swing, in the dappled midday light grew a single white mushroom.  Like a light house on a dark coast, its stark, white beacon drew us hither.


Non poisonous mushrooms

We stooped down to take a closer look, dropping our gear.

“What kind is it?”  I asked. 

“It’s not a Destroying Angel!” returned my son.

“How do you know? ” I inquired as I tried to keep his hands from touching.

He thumbed through the guide.  “Here it is, a Smooth Lepiota,” he indicated, touching the laminated page.   “It isn’t poisonous.”

mushroom field guide

“Good.” I sighed, thinking that he’s really mastered this art of nature study.  He’s gotten pretty good with woodland fungi identification.  The mushroom field guide shows the underbelly of the mushroom, the shape, the color and other features to help us newbies along in discovery process.  


There is something so gratifying about these brief nature moments with my youngest.   

Selfishly, I just love being outside and taking pictures.  But, more than that, I think something is happening here, where this boy really likes stopping to appreciate what’s growing around him. Hopefully, these experiences will stick and he’ll be a lifetime appreciator of nature.  

As we left the scene and walked toward home, we spied a striking rotting branch covered with pale colored turkey tails.  Already, we are getting the mushroom lingo!  Turkey Tails are shelf mushrooms that grow on rotting trees and look like little fanned out turkey tails.

“Those will be cool to sketch,” I suggest.

Carrying these forest treasures back to the house, we plopped down on the deck to sketch and identify and make a spore print.  And, for mom to take pictures!!




Away from media and cell phones and schedules, the quest for the missing mushrooms became our classroom.

All this talk of mushrooms has got me thinking about Sylvia Plath, one of my favorite poets! 


by Sylvia Plath

Overnight, very
Whitely, discreetly,
Very quietly

Our toes, our noses
Take hold on the loam,
Acquire the air.

Nobody sees us,
Stops us, betrays us;
The small grains make room.

Soft fists insist on
Heaving the needles,
The leafy bedding,

Even the paving.
Our hammers, our rams,
Earless and eyeless,

Perfectly voiceless,
Widen the crannies,
Shoulder through holes. We

Diet on water,
On crumbs of shadow,
Bland-mannered, asking

Little or nothing.
So many of us!
So many of us!

We are shelves, we are
Tables, we are meek,
We are edible,

Nudgers and shovers
In spite of ourselves.
Our kind multiplies:

We shall by morning
Inherit the earth.
Our foot’s in the door.





Workbooks Anonymous

“Another workbook, Mom?”  I could already see that baked look on his face.  As I peered at my young student,  a rather cumbersome pile of consumable workbooks cast a shadow on his work space. Since I wasn’t able to honestly answer his question, I said to myself, “Yikes! He’s right. We have too many workbooks going!”  This September, like so many other Septembers, I ask myself, “What are we doing?”  and, more importantly, “Why are we doing it?”

These same questions come up year after year as I try to filter all of this learning through a Charlotte Mason paradigm.   My problem is that I’ve been influenced by too many great approaches to learning.  Sure, the Classical and traditional approaches have their great ideas to add in too.  Plus, when I get to a summer curriculum fair, I see all manor of great workbooks and materials. “I gotta get this!” I’ll say, and grab another spelling book (we already had 3 at home). Then, there are the occasional used book sales around here.  I’ll pick up a great workbook and say, “Gee, I’ve been hearing about this for years and here it is for $2.  I gotta get this!”  And, home it comes to my home school in-basket.


Then, August comes around and we have to actually implement all these supposedly “great” workbooks and materials.  Then, my son asks, “Another workbook, Mom?”

Short of throwing all the workbooks out, there is one approach I have been doing for several years now that actually really is awesome.  And this is just plain reading.  After morning prayers and breakfast, we all lay around and read. Reading is the first subject every day.  I’ve got my  Northanger Abbey, my 14 year old has his Around the World in 80 Days and my youngest has My Side of the Mountain.  Even on late start mornings we still read for at least 45 minutes to an hour. Right in their midst, tea cup on the arm of the couch, I read too.  It is glorious.

So, back to the questions, What are we doing?  Why are we doing it?  These are good questions for any school.   What we are doing is learning magnificent things, but we can get bogged down when this home school mama  over plans. Why do I over plan?  Because I have a hard time saying No!  What are we doing well?  We are reading every day. Why are we reading?  Because we enjoy it.

There!  I said it!  I feel like I’ve gotten something off my chest at the local chapter of Workbooks Anonymous!   Its time I stepped out onto a limb and said NO to about half of these superfluous workbooks! That should give us more time for the subjects we love like reading, writing, art and science.



Chime in!  Have you had to examine the materials you are using this year and make changes, small or drastic?  Is there something you are doing that is really working?  I would love to hear your stories.