Sunday, May 3, 2015

Secrets of the Woods, Which Animals?

 Secrets of the Woods, by William J. Long  is used in year 3, terms 2 and 3.  

I started this post to help out somebody who asked how she could categorize it for school purposes (some states insist on this), and also what animals were covered.  
Secrets of the Woods is a little similar to the Burgess Animal book, but more detailed about the habitat described.  It also addresses more 'nature red of tooth and claw' issues.  

Secrets of the woods does usually cover one animal in a chapter, but sometimes a chapter is more about the woodlands habitat or ecosystem, particularly that part of the woods that meets the rivershore.

For those who need the refresher, Habitats are the specific areas different creatures need to live, basically, where all their needs are found. The children learned about a different habitat in term 1, when they read Pagoo.

  But you don't need to be that technical with them. The Charlotte Mason method places the emphasis on letting the children read about a topic, explore it in person if at all possible,  and learn to observe firsthand.  Technical terms can be added later.  

Now to the book itself.  Chapter titles are in all caps.  They are presented here in the order you will find them in the book.


A WILDERNESS BYWAY: Some mention is made of several animals of woods and stream, but mainly, this is a description of the habitat where woods meet riverbank and what you might observe there.


KOSKOMENOS THE OUTCAST: Kingfisher- a small but fierce wetlands bird.  This picture is a little dull.  In the right time of year and with the sun cast just right, kingfishers sparkle and are irridescent, hence the poem by Gerard Manley Hopkins that begins:
"AS kingfishers catch fire, dragonflies dráw fláme..."

   MEEKO THE MISCHIEF-MAKER: The American Red Squirrel, one of three members of the pine squirrel family.

  THE OL' BEECH PA'TRIDGE : The Ruffed Grouse. 

There are many species of grouse, but they are elusive and secretive and hard to observe, and at the time Long wrote this chapter, he believed there was really just one kind.   The best value in Long's, to my mind, is his observations.  I love the little things he notices and brings to the reader's attention, and it is our hope that reading Long will inspire our young scholars to go forth and do likewise- stop, look, observe, search the landscape with their eyes.  His conclusions are less important, although there is value in seeing this example of pulling together one's observations and drawing a conclusion- and making a mistake that will be corrected later by more time and experience.

 FOLLOWING THE DEER: This is straightforward enough.  Given that Long is in the eastern woods, I think it's safe to say he's talking bout white tails.

 STILL HUNTING-  Seasonal changes in the woodland habitat- specifically, the forest in October 

 WINTER TRAILS - a little more about grouse, a lot more about deer (he's hunting them), and mainly the woodlands in winter.

 SNOW BOUND- Several animals are mentioned, but the broader scope of the chapter is summed up in the first sentence: "March is a weary month for the wood folk."

All the above pictures except the red squirrel and the ruffed grouse are from Pixabay.

On finding the book: I think I'll take a moment to explain something about our website that sometimes people miss.  Anytime a book title in our curriculum list is hyperlinked, that is to a free title- usually Gutenberg.   But we also offer other options.  To save time and space on the pages, we use the same key as a shortcut to other hyperlinks.  You can find Secrets of the Woods at these links as well: 

 β-, which is another source for free books. Δ -'s free text version($)- A place to buy it- usually Amazon, and these are affiliate links. It's how we pay AO's bills and some of our bills. Κ-  Free Kindle version at Amazon (if it's a pay for it version, the K will be in parenthesis)
Don't worry- you don't have to memorize that.  Our wonderful Leslie Laurio put a key on each of the main curriculum pages.  But we have so much information that sometimes people miss it.

It's been many years since I read this aloud to my youngest children (the baby is now in year 11).  I really enjoyed skimming through it again for this post. It brought back many cozy memories, and I suspect this may have sparked my son's interest in hunting (don't worry, not every reader will take that from the book).  I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.


  1. We don't have true red squirrels around here. We have some squirrels that are reddish, but they are just reddish gray squirrels.

  2. Thanks for posting! What type of narration did you use with this book? Feels like an opportunity for something creative/beautiful/fresh!

  3. Probably a dumb question, but are the names (Tookhees, Keeonekh, etc.) the names given them by the Native Americans?

  4. It's a great question, but I don't know the answer.