One of the biggest things of the CM method I wanted to implement this year was nature walks and nature study. And if I grade myself according to the quantity of time we actually spent doing any of those things... I failed miserably. At least, the way I would grade it.
My son LOVES nature.
So I must be doing something right.
We have read a lot of nature books. In the winter, when I was a sissy- yes, despite the very mild winter we had- we stayed indoors a lot. We watched the birds and we read books. He does love the nature books. Though he did NOT seem to appreciate the Burgess book on birds....everyone on Ambleside raves about it. But my boy? He was bored out of his mind. I finally put it down for awhile. I got the Burgess chapter books instead. Much less valuable information is inside these little gems, but he loves them. And we still read his nature magazines and other books. And since the kid recognized , all on his own the other day, a red breasted grosbeak... the first I've ever seen and have never pointed one out to him in a book (in other words, he looks at the bird book himself quite often), I'd say we are doing okay. 🙂
I'm still using Ambleside as a guide for next year...but I am going to use a lot of my learning I absorbed from Teaching From Rest to tame things down and simplify quite a bit. There's no need for me to be stressing. This kid is a sponge. He's soaking up knowledge everywhere we go.
I'm continuing things through the summer but at a much much slower pace and with time to enjoy life and , well, especially nature! At least, that's the plan! 😉
Why Did I Choose It? This picture book was, indeed, one of my very favorites as a child. While it's out of print and hard to find, it is occasionally found on Amazon or Ebay - and I believe every child's private library should contain a copy! I did not keep many picture books from my childhood but this is one that I did. It's language and imagery are spectacular.
A Bit From The First Page: The Casual Observer simply turned up one day from Nowhere in Particular. From precisely where, the creatures in the wood never discovered. Many of them had enjoyed summer vacations at Someplace or Other; a few had spent Christmas with their grandmothers at Hither and Yon; but not one had ever heard of Nowhere in Particular. Hattie Raccoon's world atlas was not help at all...
My Review: I found this story delightful a child and still find it charming as a homeschool mom, especially one embarking on the nature adventures in a Charlotte Mason homeschool setting.Who wouldn't find this tale of the little girl in a sunbonnet charming? There she appears in the garden out of "Nowhere in Particular", quite astounding to the creatures living in the wood, making them all rather curious about what she is doing there. She does not speak. She stands above a small clump of violets, staring intently. The animals perform a number of silly antics to attract her attention - but the quiet child in the sunbonnet pays them no mind and won't be sidetracked from her observations. Later, we, the reader and the adorable creatures do find out exactly who she is and what she is doing - teaching us an important lesson of casual, albeit finely detailed, observation. The language is magnificent, greatly reminding me of the wording used by a favorite child's author of mine, A.A. Milne.
Wouldn't you love to be more like the girl in the sunbonnet? Keeping your focus on God's creation and not so easily distracted by the frenzy around us? Oh but to have that realization that there is so much more to see and observe in our natural world than the obvious things that meet the eye! I hope to endear this habit onto my young son. I shall start by reading him this precious story.
Other Books By This Author: The Casual Observatory
Read this book and share with me your own thoughts!
Book Title: From Little Acorns: A First Look at the Life Cycle of a Tree(First Look: Science)
Author: Sam Godwin
Genre: Picture Book, Science
Illustrator: Simone Abel
Publisher: Picture Window Books
Age: 4 and up
Why Did I Choose It? It is fall and we (my son and I) found it in the seasonal book display at our library. Eager to read and discover more about nature to start on our journey with the Charlotte Mason methodology, I found it to be a great accompaniment to our nature walks!
A Bit From The Back Cover: Take a walk through a leafy forest and join some curious woodland creatures as they find out how a tiny acorn becomes a giant oak tree.
My Review: This was a delightful read! It is a wonderful Living Book for this age group! From Little Acorns was a wonderful introduction for my son to understand more about the hundreds of acorns spread about our yard as well as motivate him to look for seedlings and saplings. He enjoyed the illustrations and hearing what the squirrels in the story had to say to one another. I enjoyed that he was able to absorb so much factual information within a nicely illustrated story. This was the perfect book to read at the beginning of fall when the leaves and acorns began to fall.
Other Books By This Author: A Seed in Need: A First Look at the Plant Cycle, The Trouble With Tadpoles: A First Look at the Life Cycle of a Frog, Which Switch is Which?: A First Look at Electricity, and several others! Find his page on Amazon.
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?