Skill 1 – Plant Identification

Can you believe it’s summer already?  We just had snow last month and next Monday is already Memorial Day – the unofficial start of summer.  Is it just me or does every year seem to go faster than the year before?  Since Summer is upon us, this year, I want to make sure that I make the most of the summer.  I want to play with my kids, read to my kids, and teach my kids practical skills during this short less stressful time.  Remember, I homeschool, so my kids are with me ALL THE TIME!  Summer at least means that I don’t have to sit on top of them to get school done, but teaching my kids one outdoor skill (or five) could have a lifetime of benefits.

So, I have five topics that I want to cover with all of my children this year.  Some of these will be familiar to my older children, but a refresher isn’t a bad thing.

skill - plant identification

My oldest daughter can teach me a few things when it comes to plant identification.  The other day she brought up a fuzzy looking leaf on the blade of a shovel.  “Mom, do you know what this is?”  I reached out for it, but she said, “Don’t touch it!  That’s prickly lettuce, Mom.  It’ll hurt if you touch it with your bare hands.”  She then proceeded to tell me about other unpleasant plants in our yard.

So let’s break it down further.   Instead of talking just about plant identification, let’s talk about two different kinds of plants that we should be able to identify.

Can your kids identify poison ivy and poison oak?  They are kinda important to recognize so you and your kids can stay away from them.   But if your children can’t already identify them, I found a free printable .pdf on identifying poison oak and poison ivy. Have you heard about stinging nettles?   While they aren’t poisonous – they actually make a wonderful tea if you handle the leaves properly – they will sting you if you touch the leaves without protection. Can your children identify the poisonous plants in your own yard so that they don’t ingest them?   Here’s a great 35 page .pdf guide to identifying poisonous plants.

I don’t know about you, but while I’d prefer to get food from the grocery store, learning to identify wild edibles in my area is important to me.  I’d like to know that there is food out there that I can identify and my kids can identify that is edible.

While researching, I found some amazing free wild edible guides, but one of them was 410 pages long!  I wanted something easy to start with, so I found this one.  This is my favorite free beginner’s wild edible guide.  The pictures are wonderful, the descriptions are clear, the ways to use the foods were incredibly helpful!  My only caution is that I didn’t see anything about poisonous look-alikes – of which there may not be any, but make sure you research it before chowing down.

Now if you want the behemoth guide that’s 410 pages long with more edible plants than I could ever identify in a lifetime, you can find that guide here.

Aerial image of clouds

What?  Cloud identification?  Why cloud identification?  So here’s a little story.  The Ferguson Tornado wasn’t the first tornado I had been caught in.  When I was about twelve years old, I was at Girl Scout camp – like the kind of camp with tents.  You know, no-solid-walls.  Well while my group was there, five tornados sprouted up around us.  That leaves an impression on a twelve-year-old girl.  Fortunately, we were all safe.

Well after my husband and I moved to Texas, we were out with his parents, and I KNEW.  I mean beyond a shadow of a doubt, I knew what the clouds were telling me.  Nope.  I’m not a cloud psychic, but they were the same type of clouds that produced the tornados that we were caught in the middle of when I was a child.  And sure enough, the area just north of us got hit by a tornado.

Cloud identification can be so important!  What does each kind of cloud mean?  What are they made up of?  When do I need to take shelter?  When is it safe to go singing in the rain?

This great short video talks about all the major types of clouds, how to identify them, and the types of weather they forecast or produce.

Picture by: Tyler SilvestLicense

Have you ever had a fire drill at your house?  Brownie points if have!  Extra ones if you’ve done it more than once!  When we move into a new house, we walk through the house with our children and how them a minimum of two ways to exit every room in the house.  We do have two fire escape ladders – one in each bedroom upstairs.  If you have one, do you have a single use fire escape ladder or a multiple use one?  One of ours is a single deployment.  The other is a multi-use ladder.  This is very important, especially for our seven-year-old.  He needs to know he can do it if he needs to, and he needs to practice it, just like all of my other kids.

I have a really cool suggestion though!  If you really want to have a fire drill, call a friend.  Tell her your general schedule for the next week i.e when you’ll be gone from your house, when is too early, and what time is too late.  Tell her within those parameters, you want her to call you at a random time and say, “Fire Drill!”  I’ve always known when I was going to run a fire drill, so I’ve NEVER been in the middle of something when I ran a drill.  I’ve never made a drill when my kids were cooking or taking a shower.  What does the fire alarm even sound like from the shower?  Can you even hear it?

Escaping a fire/fire drill tips

1.) Walk your kids through EVERY room in your house.  Have them identify at least two ways out.

2.)  Talk to your kids about the importance of feeling a closed door before they open it. If it’s hot, they need to look for another way out of the house.  Once they are through the door, close it again to slow the progress of the fire.

3.)  Talk to them about staying low or crawling since smoke rises.  Putting a wet cloth over your mouth may not be a good idea.

4.)  Remind them to get out of the house as soon as possible and that nothing in the house is worth dying over.

5.)  If their clothes catch fire, they should never run.  They should stop moving, drop to the ground, and roll to extinguish the fire.

5.) Let them know once they get out of a burning house, they NEVER go back in – even for a pet or sibling.  Let the firefighters or parents do that if need be.

6.)  Set a meeting place where everyone is to meet if they get out of the house.  This way you know who is out and who isn’t.

Do your children know how to safely start a fire?  If they ever went camping, would they be able to start a fire with matches or a fire starter?  Do they know what kindling is and how to use it?  Have they actually started a fire under your supervision?

Even if they’ve done or known the importance of each of those points, how many ways can they (or if we’re honest you and I) start a fire?  How many ways have we ACTUALLY started a fire?  When I was researching this portion, I saw all these primitive ways to start a fire.  Can I just be honest with you?  More than likely neither you nor I will EVER do those.  They can take HOURS to do and there is no guarantee that it will be successful.  My suggestion is to always carry at least a cigarette lighter on your person.

That being said there are more ‘modern’ ways of getting a fire started that both us and our kids should be familiar with.

1.) Matches or utility lighter – Do your kids know how to start a fire using regular matches or a butane utility lighter?

2.)  9-volt battery and steel wool –  The reason you need to use a 9-volt battery is that both the negative and positive terminals are on the same side of the battery.   Here’s a great video on how to start a fire this way.

3.)  Flint and steel – Here’s an awesome video about how to start a fire using flint and steel.  They sell the different pieces that they use in this video.  You don’t have to buy anything.  I make nothing off off anything if you do decide to purchase anything from them.

4.)  Magnifying glass –  I did this as a kid.  It was kinda fun.  Did you guys use a magnifying glass to make something smoke or catch something on fire?  Here’s someone demonstrating how to start a fire using a magnifying glass just in case you didn’t do it as a kid.

5.)  Sandwich bag and water – Have you even heard of this method of starting a fire?  I was introduced to it recently, and personally, I find this fascinating.

Skill - cooking without power

This one works great when paired with #4 – Starting a Fire.  I wrote a post on cooking without electricity which dovetails nicely with this as well.  There are so many fun ways to tackle this one!

1.)  You and your kids could build a solar oven and try it out!  Or here’s a little easier one for kids to do using a pizza box.

2.) Learn how to cook pizzas or pies in campfire irons – Have you ever used a campfire iron to cook?  Do you even know what it is?  Here’s a picture.  What you don’t see are the handles that come out of both sides.  What you do is put your ingredients in like this, fold the top onto the bottom, put a hook around the handles and hold this over the fire.  It will cook the ‘pie.’

What’s awesome is that there are SO MANY different things you can cook in one of these from grilled sandwiches to pies or even……..pizza!  Now you CAN have pizza while camping!  Woohoo!

I found a site that has 23 recipes for your campfire pie irons.

3.)  Did you know you can bake a potato right in the coals of a fire?

4.) Cook over a fire with a grill –  This way you can cook in any of your cast iron pots and pans just like you cook on your stove with them!  Here’s an article with helpful tips!

5.)  Teach your kids to bake on your propane grill – Here’s a short video where someone is baking bread on their gas grill.

Do you plan on teaching your children anything to do with self-sufficiency or preparedness this summer?  If you don’t have any children what do you plan on learning this summer?

Remember, knowledge isn’t just knowing something.  It’s living it!

There are links in this post.  Some of the links may be affiliate links.  Some of the links may not be.  My promise to you is that I will only recommend the most economical version of the best quality of items to serve you. These are the items that I have bought for my own family.  You can feel free to use my affiliate links, of which I will get a small amount in compensation, or you can choose to search out your products on your own.

This post was originally published in May 2018.  It has been updated and this is the republication.

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[…] sure you check out our other articles in our kids and summer series here and […]

1. gardening, 2. shooting, 3. fishing, 4. how to scale and fillet fish, 5. how to catch bait, minnows and earth worms.

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Skill 1 – Plant Identification

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