Sunday, September 7, 2008

Botany with a Botanist

So Laurel is taking a botany class at our support group's enrichment class program. Her teacher, my friend and fellow homeschooling mom Jennifer, has been Laurel's art teacher (and American Heritage Girls leader) for years. She is a wonderful teacher, gentle, compassionate, empathetic, and smart.

I was thrilled that Laurel wanted to take this class, partly because she is getting a very thorough science course this year. And the other part: well, her father is a botanist. She should take a botany class. Actually, my father also has a master's degree in botany, so she is doubly dubbed the Botanist's Daughter. Plants run thick in her lineage.

But I have to crack up at the whole process. Jennifer assigns reading and lapbook work each week. She is amazingly organized and has about 4 wonderful mini-books for the students to complete each week, lapbook-style. They are using Apologia's Exploring Creation with Botany. So the thing is, like I said, Dr. H. is a botanist.

So here's how the process goes:
Laurel (as she works on her mini-book titled "Nonvascular plants"): So Daddy, what are some nonvascular plants?

Dr. H.: Well, technically, there is no such thing as a nonvascular plant.

Laurel: Huh?

Dr. H.: See, all plants, even those called "nonvascular plants," have conducting tissues. So nonvascular is just a common way to discriminate between plants.

Laurel: Huh?

Me: OK, so can we just stick with what the book says: moss and lichen are the two examples of nonvascular plants listed in the book.

Dr. H.: Lichen are not "nonvascular plants." They're not even plants. They're symbiosis between fungi and algae.

Laurel: So don't write lichen?

Dr. H.: So write mosses, liverworts, and hornworts. Those are nonvascular, although, as I said...

This evening we went for a walk so that Laurel could collect her specimens for tomorrow's class. Dr. H says, "I wish we could find a gingko tree. I bet nobody else will have a gingko for their gymnosperm sample. They'll all have pinecones."

I just find it all hilarious and terribly lovely.

And as a matter of fact, this seems like the perfect time to repost a poem I had published in the anthology Migrants and Stoways a few years ago: "The Botanist and His Wife."

The Botanist and His Wife

can't take a walk around the block
without a game of identification. He points:
She: Maple.
He: Yes, but which kind?
She (shrugging): Sugar? Red?
He (sighing): Acer saccharinum. Silver maple.
See how the bark peels and how the lobes
of the leaves are jagged and deep?
She (sidestepping): Watch out for the dog--.

First day of spring he kills plants,
sending the philodendron and the African violet out
to sun on the porch, imagining
their chloroplastic ecstasy.
their leaves are scorched, crisp
as potato chips around the edges.
She: Stay away from my plants. Don't dip
your fingers in my flower beds.
He (head hanging): Well, I just thought--
She (arms akimbo): And don't go near the
garden, either.

(where he pulls the stems off of onions, picks
cucumbers before the prickers have softened,
lets zucchini grow monstrous
like some forbidden radioactive experiment)

(By Sarah Cummins Small. Published in Migrants and Stoways, 2004.)


  1. that's great! a little annoying but still so great. i wish we'd had a botanist in the house when we went through that book.

  2. I always loved "life Sciences" Biology and botany. Stuff like Physics was never my thing.

    Ki is doing the Apologia Zoology this year.

  3. That my friend, is awesome! Reminds me of the Little House episode where 'Pa' takes the family camping to gather leaves for the girls' specimen books and Mrs. Olsen forces her husband to invite himself and their children along so that the Ingals Family is not at an advantage. The one sample 'no one else' gathers is found by the Olsen kids; Poison Ivy.

  4. Maybe you could send Dr. H our way.
    I look around and all I see is palm trees. But some have oilpalm seeds, some have coconuts (a couple different kinds I see), some have bananas (many kinds - I thought there were just 'bananas'), some have papaya.
    I'm sure he could enlighten us!

  5. I'm using the same book with my 3 (8, 10, 12) this year. We started lesson 1 last week. I downloaded the notebook pages from the Apologia website, but lapbooks sound so cool.... I am not quite creative enough to come up with my own lapbook ideas, though.

    Your botany discussion sounds like the ones we were having last year during the anatomy portion of my oldest's (16) biology class. My husband is a nurse anesthetist.

  6. The Ginkos are on the Ag Campus, bring Laurel and/or Randy up there.


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