So we finally got adventurous and took our nature walk away from home and made a day of it. We really had a nice time, even picking up lunch on the way! ( No, this homeschool Mom was not well enough prepared to pack lunch at home...but I DID make dinner before we left so we could really enjoy the day and not worry about how long we stayed).
Feeding the ducks was the biggest highlight. Climbing the trees was next! We have a ton of trees surrounding our house but not many that have branches close to the ground for him to actually feel that he can climb it!
We spent a lot of time searching for frogs on the lily pads but had no luck - and I forgot to snap a photo of the lily pads themselves (though you can see them in the background of the tree photo above). He was easily able to make the connection to the Monet painting we've been discussing since last week!
In the picture above, there are some flying insects....but I don't think you can actually see them on here 🙁 I'm not sure what they were. I'm thinking a dragon or damsel fly but we made sure not to get to close...just in case....
It was a little like pulling teeth to get him to sit down and use the journal today. Perhaps we should have waited until we got home. It was a unique experience to go to a park as part of the official school day so I suppose the newness of the situation played a part in this. It's okay though. Even though it's not what I imagined, it was a record of our experience and a very worthwhile afternoon. That's all that truly matters.
We followed up the afternoon at the park with a quick stop at the library. I already had a few books on hold (Biscuit books for reading skills practice and Pocahontas for free reading time with our Ambleside Year One Reading List. I thought we could pick out something to read about from our day and I asked him what he wanted to read about. "Trees!" was his enthusiastic (and surprising to me) answer. So Trees it is!!!
All in all, it was a well deserved wonderful break from 'academics' and should be done more often. I am going to TRY desperately to make it a weekly- at least biweekly- thing we do.... go somewhere.... AWAY from home to enjoy nature and God's beautiful creation to just sit quiet, observe, and interact with God's world.
What are your favorite things to do with kids in nature?
The biggest thing that stuck out to me while reading A Charlotte Mason Education: A Home Schooling How To Manualwas the nature walks and nature notebook. This bit of the Charlotte Mason methodology really struck a chord with me. I LOVE nature. I THRIVE in nature. I just bought a house in the woods for goodness sake! Surely I can do this?
I immediately started my internet searches including an Amazon search to see what else was available on Charlotte Mason and nature notebooks. There's quite a bit and, yes, I did order a couple of things and I put several things on my wish list for Christmas!
I bought a notebook. It's a sketchpad with a spiral bound backing so we can open it flat. As he's 4, we are sharing the notebook for now. He will draw on one page and I will draw on the other. I think I will buy him his own come March when he turns 5.... or maybe just wait for the next school year. But for now, my plan is to share. We'll see how this goes.
There is such a plethora of things that can be done with the nature notebooks! In brief, it's a notebook kept to record memories and observations of your outings in nature. The first thing one must do is dedicate a notebook to use for this (p.s. If you are NOT a homeschooler and are still reading this - even YOU can keep a nature notebook! Really, anyone can). Most sources will suggest a sketch pad, one that is spiral bound so that it will lay flat. This is what I have purchased as well. And of course you'll need colored pencils, drawing pencils, crayons or whatever modality you want to use for your drawings. I have a huge array of colored pencils around already so that is the modality I've chosen to start with.
Now, what goes in there?
Drawings - the drawings can be done right there when you are observing or later at home. What should you draw? Well you shouldn't have to draw anything - the nature notebook should be a choice - something to encourage but not force. This is to be done for enjoyment, not pain. So now then, what CANyou draw? The possibilities are endless!
chipmunks, squirrels, rabbits
ant hills, bird nests
a meadow, a mountain
the sun, the stars, the clouds
animal tracks, animal droppings (I would squirm but I bet some boys would love this!)
Samples - The notebook doesn't have to just contain drawings - you can press and mount flowers and leaves.
Labeling - You can label your drawings. Dependent on the age and ability of the child, you may leave it simple with a single word by each drawing or you may add the scientific term or write a sentence or two about the observation perhaps including the date, place, time of day, weather that was occurring (sunny? snowy?) and/or anything else your child deems important. If the child is old enough and wants to, they can write it themselves. My son simply tells me which pictures he wants me to label and what to write.
Poetry - Who says it all has to be pictures? Today is a rainy day - while I'm really trying to motivate myself and follow the Charlotte Mason methodology, I know that facing the elements is going to be hard on me. Me? Going out in the rain and cold winter temperatures? Um..... well, we'll see (maybe my readers can encourage me). So our outing may be cut short today...but I do have a perfect plan (I think). We've been using the reading program put out by Simply Charlotte Mason and my son is working on the Robert Louis Stevenson Poem, Rain, so perhaps we can write that into his/our notebook today. You can write in poems you know or the child can make up his or her own poem too!
Quotes - Perhaps you'll come across an interesting quote in a Living Book about a nature topic that your child just loves or wants to remember. Put it in!
Over Time Observations - Perhaps your child has noted a particular tree in your yard and he notices that the leaves are changing color and falling. Use this tree to draw at various times of the year - Autumn, Winter, Spring and Summer - now you have a recording of the seasons. You can do this with life cycles as well such as the caterpillar to cocoon to butterfly! There is so much more!
Pictures - The visuals do not need to just be by pencil, paint or other art utensil.... one could simply or occasionally place photographs into your notebook as well! I haven't developed this one but I intend to put it in! It's our A page.... we were looking for things that started with A that day. Can you spot three?
Ah, that's the big question in my mind. Charlotte Mason believed the child should have outdoor play each and every day. THIS will be my biggest challenge! When it's rainy? snowy? Cold? Icy? Really, Charlotte? I'm such a wimp when it comes to non-sunny weather. I really need tips on how to overcome this. (REALLY...SERIOUSLY...Send me tips!!) But while the outdoor play is to be each day, the notebooks don't need to be. From my understanding, Charlotte set aside time weekly to do this. Please - correct me if I'm wrong...any of my devout Charlotte Mason readers - am I getting this right? But I believe some CM users may use their notebooks only on a weekly basis while others may get their notebooks out several times a week or whenever the mood strikes. For now I'm going with the whenever the mood strikes whether that be once during the week or each day if that's what we want to do! I'm following the lead of my son - I may suggest it, but doing it depends on his reaction to that suggestion.
If you are just getting started, believe me, there are lots of resources out there. But it's a bit overwhelming as to which ones to pick. I've seen Keeping A Nature Journal: Discovering a Whole New Way of Seeing the World Around You and The Country Diary of an Edwardian Lady mentioned quite often. I haven't bought either yet....
Do YOU have any other recommendations as a must have for someone just starting out?
With the autumn leaves changing all around us, color has been on my mind. My son and I often observe the fallen red leaves in our driveway and yard (woods) on our daily nature walks. Today we brought one back and drew a picture of it. So for this next writing exercise I thought of this one that involves color:
Select one color - maybe it's your favorite or maybe it's the color you are wearing or maybe it's just the first color you see when you look up from this screen - and write about a memory you have that can be associated with that color.
For me, today, I'm choosing red. Red is full of memories for me and when I was first thinking of this exercise I thought of Mrs. Allred, my fifth grade teacher, of nosebleeds as a younger child, and the color of my own hair and the nicknames I inherited as a result. All of these are encircled in memories, but as I was actually typing this I thought of a memory I haven't thought of well, maybe since it occurred. As a young child of seven, I lived in a trailer park for about a year (the trailer was this old looking, faded blue thing). The back yard (the only yard, really - there was no front) ran up a hill. At the top of that hill was a small garden held in by a stone wall. In that garden there were strawberries. RED, ripe, juicy strawberries! Perhaps they were wild - my memory isn't enough to tell me if they had purposely been planted there or not, but I remember the small, bursting with flavor strawberries. The smell, the sweetness, the juiciness of those delicate fruits. I remember picking them--- my first experience in picking berries -- and the excitement of finding the red treasures under the cool green leaves and fragile white flowers. I remember the coolness of the dirt as my fingers played among the runners and weeds looking for crawling beetles, wriggling worms and, of course, more berries lurking in the shade of the plants. Thinking back I can recall the heat of the sun and the buzzing insects in the air. I recall the people, my aunts and stepmother, and I can almost envision what my stepmother was wearing... mostly I remember the strawberries. Luscious!
Feel free to go into much more detail with your own writing. Encourage your child by (if you are a homeschooler using this) sharing a color and a few memories it makes you think of from your own childhood. Remember, also, a memory doesn't have to be from years and years ago. For a child, especially, the memory may be from the week before or even just a day ago.
My memory is much more vivid than I would imagine and I know I could write more. I could play around with this exercise and tell if from different points of view. I could also select a different memory associated with the same color or choose a different color. Have fun with it. You never know what a color may make you remember! I wasn't expecting this one 🙂
“Self-education is the only possible education; the rest is mere veneer laid on the surface of a child's nature.” ~ Charlotte Mason
One of the biggest things I find attractive about the methodology of Charlotte Mason is the self-education. I find that in all the methods I've tried or researched or discussed with others, it is the method that seems best able to offer a child the ability to learn self-education. This is so because it focuses on developing a love for learning using methods involving all five senses without methods that kill that love. It is not a methodology like our public schools where they test to see what a child does NOT know, but gives 'examinations' to determine what a child does know. There is no dry boring textbooks with countless questions to answer, no weekly quizzes or tests to memorize the information for and forget the following week,and no lecturing. The child develops a true love for learning in Charlotte Mason's techniques involving the heavy emphasis of LIVING books and short lessons with a large variety of subjects taught each and every year.
I'm really enjoying reading A Charlotte Mason Education (A Home Schooling How-To Manual) by Catherine Levison. It's providing a great overview of teaching various subject matter with the Charlotte Mason method. It's a quick read and is covering lots of subject matter that I won't necessarily use just yet (my son is only 4) but gives me a great resource to determine when I might start introducing things and a book I can turn to over and over again for review and ideas.
The book is broken down into 20 chapters. The first three chapters focus on an introduction to Charlotte Mason, the basic methodology and narration. The remaining chapters all cover how to cover basic subject matter: literature, poetry, art appreciation, music appreciation, science, math, history, etc. I'm about halfway through.
Just last night I ordered a sketch pad for my son and I to use as a nature journal. I have some ideas on how to introduce this concept to him this year in a basic way. I'm really excited about developing a habit of nature walks and nature observation outdoors. We
started last week but without a notebook. My plan is to simply spend time outdoors with him (my goal really is 5 times a week but I'm not sure I'll be able to keep up with it in winter - I'm a true sissy when it comes to the cold so if you have pointers on this, I'd love to hear them!) and allow him to pick something new several times a week to come back and either draw a picture of something we discovered or find a picture on the web to print, cut and paste into his notebook so I can label it for him. He's four, so I won't have him write the words in his notebook unless of course, he wants to in which case I'll write the word somewhere else for him to copy. It won't be something forced. If there's a day he doesn't want to do the notebook, we'll let it go. This is just our introductory year - for him and for me.
Are you using the Charlotte Mason method? Feel free to share your favorite resources or favorite activities. I'd love to hear about them!
“...my object is to show that the chief function of the child--his business in the world during the first six or seven years of his life--is to find out all he can, about whatever comes under his notice, by means of his five senses...” ~Charlotte Mason