Friday, June 23, 2017

The Benefits of Our Outdoor Life Challenge

This is the first year that Jack's apple tree has had blossoms! Very exciting!


It's been quite a few weeks that we've been out of our usual routine. Between getting ready for a 19 day family road trip, the trip itself, getting back to life as normal, friends coming to stay for a few days, and just the usual chaos of homeschooling with three little kids, life has been anything but routine! 

Have I forgotten the Outdoor Life Challenge? No, but it has morphed into a different form. I haven't been keeping logs and tallies, but we have been prioritizing time outside. And June is a glorious month to be outside! As the weather gets warmer and lovelier, we are in and out of the house in a way that doesn't make sense to track. Without our usual schedule, we haven't been doing much for formal nature study. 

But the Great Outdoors has become an extension of our everyday living now. The grass is warm and thick beneath our toes. The swings, the hammock, the front porch swing, all beckon us out. Flowers are popping out everywhere. There are a dozen shades of green to revel in. 

The garden path


In some ways, the Challenge wasn't everything I had hoped it to be. We didn't do as much nature journalling as I would have liked. I started a sort of "Calendar of Firsts" for myself, but then we were away for so long. I didn't get to try out all of the Charlotte Mason methods I had wanted to. 

But we made progress! And we'll keep going. And even with things going the way they did, I can still the results of the intention and effort we put into spending more time outdoors. 

Here's what I've seen:

1. Heightened Observation


This spider lives just outside our dining room window


My kids are more apt to take notice of what is around them. They are more tuned in to nature's details. They are becoming more observant. 

This really stood out to me on our trip to Ontario. One day we went for a walk in the suburbs of Ajax, looking for a park. Though our walk was on the concrete sidewalks, we stopped many times because the kids were busy observing things along the way. They wanted to smell a lilac bush. They wanted to figure out which nearby plant the seeds on the sidewalk had come from. They kept picking up tiny bits of nature to inspect more closely. They even remembered our way home based on the flowers they saw growing in people's front gardens. 

Observation is the key to nature study. It all starts with pausing to pay attention. To really look at something. And I can see this quality increasing in the kids as we've made nature study part of our lives. 


2. Delight in the Small Things


A dandelion seed


A monarch butterfly. A tiny white flower we've never seen before. Quartz hiding in a rock. First blossoms on our pear trees. The quivering gills of a sunfish up close and personal in our hands. 

These seemingly insignificant details have brought real joy into our lives. I love the excitement in my kids' eyes when they run to me with some new discovery. The natural outcome of heightened observation is heightened delight.

When we learn to look we learn to love. 

Knowledge is only part of the picture. Wonder, respect, delight - these are what colour in the bare sketch of "facts" and bring our relationship with the outdoor world to life. 



3. A New Normal


In her own front porch swing


I love it when one of the kids says, "We should put this in our nature journal," or, "Let's get out the bird book," or, "Let's look at this under the microscope." (My 7 year old asked for a pocket microscope for her birthday!) I love that they are becoming familiar with some of these tools for exploring nature. 

I love it when going outside is so much a part of our daily rhythm that they stop fighting it.

I love that the flowers and feathered creatures of our yard are becoming familiar friends. 

I love that my daughter, who is working on a puzzle at the table right now, just remarked, "Oh, there's a seagull out there," when she heard a bird call off in the distance. 

Are we doing this perfectly? No. Could we be doing more? Yes. Do we have a lot to learn? Oh yes

But I can see it happening before my eyes, and it's exciting. 

Our relationship with the outdoor world is becoming stronger and deeper. Nature is getting under our skin and becoming part of who we are. 




It's a process for sure. The best we can do is start where we are and keep going! I hope no one feels discouraged if you haven't got your family into the Great Outdoors as much as you would like. Just keep at it, and I know you'll see the fruit! 

This Challenge has no grades, no prizes, and no losers. Every small win counts. Every minute adds up to those golden hours. I'm hoping to take the progress we've made so far and keep building. Keep wondering. Keep growing. 

Happy Outdoorsing!


~ Lindsey







Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Outdoor Life Challenge Interrupted!

Our regularly scheduled program has been interrupted! Family vacations have a way of doing that. :)



I have a Week 6 log written down, but I don't have access to the pictures I wanted to post with it. I'm not even sure what "week" it is now. We're going to explore the area and see what happens. I don't think I'll be able to post pictures for awhile. 

We're not "doing school" but we've got our curiosity and some nice weather. Oh, and nature notebooks! I couldn't resist bringing those! Just in case...

Happy outdoorsing, wherever you are!


~ Lindsey


Monday, May 22, 2017

One big Suburban, three little kids, and over 3600 km...

We're gearing up for a road trip around here! Yes, over 3600 km of driving, round trip. With three kids. Gulp.

This baby has 3 bench seats and 9 seatbelts.


It will be the first time our family has undertaken such an adventure! 

I have many memories of road trips as a kid. If we wanted to go anywhere from our small town in the NWT, we had to drive quite a distance. (It was three hours to the nearest town, with a fire tower and an outhouse in between.) I know Dad always eagerly anticipated the first Tim Horton's, a mere ten hours into the drive. Back in those days, I remember sleeping on the floor of the backseat, or stretched out in the back of the wood panelled station wagon. I remember the tragedy of being stuck in the middle seat between two sisters who complained you were in their space! I remember my legs going numb after sitting still for so long. I remember getting out at various provincial and territorial borders to take a picture with the big welcome signs. I remember stopping to take pictures at the world's largest Nickel(!) and Canada Goose(!) conveniently situated in the middle of nowhere, aka northern Ontario. Fun times indeed! 

And just how did we pass the time, in the bygone days before in-car DVD players and various mobile devices? 

I remember reading books, at least until I got queasy. I remember trying to sleep in awkward positions, jolted out of slumber by some pothole with drool leaking out the side of my mouth. I remember playing Punchbuggy and I Spy and seeing who could spot the most license plates from different provinces or states. And I remember a lot of just staring out the window. I don't suppose kids do much of that these days.



But I think what I liked best was the music and audio books we played in ye ole cassette player. I don't remember all the albums now, but I remember singing along! We liked to sing as a family. (Sometimes Dad would even play the harmonica that we kept handily in the glove compartment. While driving. The only thing was he tended to exceed the speed limit just a tad while doing so . . .) I have vague recollections of Agatha Christie and James Herriot audio books too, borrowed from our local library. 

Our twenty year old "new" to us Suburban doesn't have a DVD player, or even a CD player! We're letting our kids have the "vintage" car experience with a classic tape player and roll down windows. But we've got a $3 piece of technology that looks like a cassette tape with a cord that plugs into a "modern" device. So one thing I'm definitely doing for this trip is loading up on some of our favourite music and audio books. It's certainly a lot easier with digital files! 

What's on our list for this road trip? Here are a few I'm adding to our road trip playlist:

Music & Musical Stories:

  • Maestro Classics - Including our favourites Peter and the Wolf and The Carnival of the Animals. We got the whole set at the start of the school year! These have been great. We've used some for our composer study, and the rest we listen to just for fun.
    • Right now you can get some of these albums as part of the Build Your Bundle sale! Carnival of the Animals is included in Elementary Bundle #1, which also has my Advent devotional, Abraham's Advent! (Thanks for using my affiliate link!) 
The BIGGEST Homeschool Sale of the Year!

  • Classical Kids - Mr. Bach Comes to Call and Beethoven Lives Upstairs (We just got these second hand, and I haven't listened to them since I was a kid. I'm excited to introduce them to my kids.) 


Audio Books:

  • James Herriot Treasury for Children ~ narrated by Jim Dale (AO Y1 booklist)
  • Winnie-the-Pooh ~ narrated by Bernard Cribbins (AO Y1 free read)
  • Peter Pan ~ narrated by Jim Dale (AO Y1 free read)
  • The Wonderful Wizard of Oz ~ narrated by Anne Hathaway
  • A Little Princess ~ narrated by Justine Eyre
  • Anne of Green Gables ~ narrated by Karen Savage (free from Libravox)
  • Teddy's Button and Sir Malcolm and the Missing Prince ~ from Lamplighter Theatre

So with all of that loaded up on the iPad, and a few of my mix tapes from the 90's, we should have lots for our listening pleasure. 

***


Interested in the Build Your Bundle sale? It's live today! If you're in the market for digital, printable or online curriculum, now is a great chance to get some amazing deals!

If you'd like to try Maestro Classic's Carnival of the Animals (and my own Abraham's Advent!) it's part of this bundle here:

Elementary Bundle #1 - Save 86%!



Or you can browse all the bundles and see what you can get for up to 96% off. (If you end up purchasing using one of my links, you are supporting a fellow homeschooler! Thank you!)

The BIGGEST Homeschool Sale of the Year - ends 5/30/17


~ Lindsey

Friday, May 19, 2017

A bit of homeschool excitement ~ and a Build Your Bundle giveaway!

I'm just popping online this morning to share something that is exciting in my world. Have you ever heard of the Build Your Bundle sale? It's a great way to get all kinds of digital homeschool curriculum at discounted prices. 

Enter to Win ALL 20 Bundles - Over $4,000 Value!


The thing is, little ol' me has a product in the sale this year!! I feel like such a tiny fish in the big sea of the online homeschool world, but there you go. (My main writing blog is Red Letters, if you'd like to have a look.) 

This year's sale starts on Monday, and I've had a sneak peek at the bundles. There are some great deals, so if you're a homeschooler you may want to check it out! 

Also, if you click through to the Build Your Bundle site using one of my links here, I will get a little more back in my pocket if you end up making a purchase. I'm not big on sales pitches, but I thought I'd mention it in case someone would like to take advantage of the sale and support a fellow homeschooler. :) 

This weekend there's a pre-sale giveaway happening too! There's a chance to win all 20 bundles, and also a coupon toward your purchase. 

For more information on the sale and what it's all about, just click on the link below.

Enter to Win ALL 20 Bundles - Over $4,000 Value!

You can get your coupon now, and the sale starts on Monday!



I'm not familiar with all of the curriculum, but here are a few of the contributors whose products we've used and enjoyed in our home:



We got the whole set of these albums at the beginning of the school year and have been enjoying the music and stories. Our favourites include Peter and the Wolf and Carnival of the Animals. We used a few of these with our composer study this year. It's a fun way to introduce and increase classical music in your family. Great for anyone, not just homeschoolers!



We've used Reading Lessons Through Literature for the phonics aspect of our reading lessons. It's a comprehensive yet uncomplicated program that fits in well with a Charlotte Mason approach. 



There are some lovely fine arts series put together for you here. If you're looking for ideas for your next Charlotte Mason artist study, this is a great resource.



Perhaps there's a deal on that will be just right for you. :)


~ Lindsey







Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Outdoor Life Challenge: Week 5 Log

Here are the days I had written something down in addition to the kids' usual 30-60 minutes outside before our morning lessons.

Ah, spring!

Tuesday

It was a rainy day. Thanks to MEC one piece rain suits, the kids went out twice! They weren't exactly enthused to begin with. There may or may not have been some complaining and/or stomping and/or door slamming. But once they got out, they had fun making a mudslide, biking around the driveway,  investigating various tunnels and holes, and doing things that only make sense when you're 5 and almost 7.


Wednesday

We all went out on the sunny front porch after breakfast. We hung up the baby swing and Ivy had her first go in it. We also set up the playpen on the porch so all three kids could hang out for a little bit while I was inside doing things. The afternoon was taken up with our weekly expedition to town.


Thursday

This was another sick day for me. Thankfully, by the afternoon I was starting to feel better. It was sunny and warm, and the kids begged me to go outside with them. I brought out a blanket and the big black Handbook of Nature Study and lay out in the sun while the kids played. Eventually, they were curious to know what I was reading about, so we read a little bit about flowers together. Then we had an impromptu dandelion dissection, a mini rainbow scavenger hunt (blue, purple and red were hardest to find), and a "Picture Painting" session. We played "I Spy," and noticed how we had to keep moving the blanket out of the shadow of the house as the sun swung around the sky. When Ivy woke up from her nap, she joined us on the blanket and was happy to sit and watch the world go by. The older two picked dandelions for her!


Friday

This morning we sat out on the porch together again after breakfast. This is one of my favourite things about the warmer weather! We did some spring cleaning in the afternoon, which was mostly inside, but when that was done the kids headed out to play and Micah joined them after work.


Sunday

Sunday afternoon we went as a family for a walk down the path beside the river. We met up with the neighbour and had a nice chat, found some marsh marigolds growing, and generally enjoyed our time together.



I don't always do a good job of keeping track of our time outside. One of the reasons for this is that we're in and out quite a bit. I think that's a good thing! The outdoors just becomes an extension of our house. I'm so thankful for our big yard and the many wonders right outside our door!

It was a difficult week in some respects. An ear infection, a headache, multiple dentist and public health appointments, and generally being off our schedule made for some trying moments. But the time that we did spend outside together stands out as some of the best moments of the week.

Nature helps us all to clear that mental fog, resets attitudes, and brings us all together. Being cooped up inside can lead to tunnel vision. Getting out expands our horizons and helps us see beyond the many little things that can weigh us down. It wasn't perfect. I didn't reach my goals. And yet, every moment was worth it!


{Note to self: Become more familiar with flower anatomy.}


Happy outdoorsing!


~ Lindsey





Thursday, May 4, 2017

Outdoor Life Challenge: Week 4 Log

More catching up to do! Last week we still had one sick child, so we weren't operating at our best. I didn't get outside with the kids every day, although they played outside every day.


Monday

We found our very first dandelion of the season! It was on the south side of the house. We decided that was nature journal worthy, so we brought out our supplies and each made our own entry. Funny how such a common little flower can bring so much joy.

Mom's and Arden's journal entries

I think the passing cars may have been wondering what we were doing lying beside the house staring at the ground!
This is Arden's shorthand for dandelion! She was careful to observe and replicate the colour of the stem. 

Jack's entry



We also had our afternoon snack outside!

And dried some winter outdoor clothes on the line, with the hopes that they can be put away for the season. . .


All together: 90 min in the afternoon

Tuesday

No entry!


Wednesday


We were in town in the afternoon, but once we got home we all did some yard work together. That's always fun. :) We even did a bit of garden weeding. Arden was delighted with all the worms she found in her little plot, particularly with a big, fat one that she decided was the grandma of them all!

All together: 60-90 min in the afternoon

Thursday

It rained in the morning, but the kids have been making good use of their MEC rain gear so far this year! I decided last year that if we were going to be spending more time outside "whatever the weather," that we would need the right kind of clothing. The one piece rain suits are great. On chilly days the kids put warm layers underneath. So far, so good! They played outside by themselves in the morning.

By afternoon, the clouds had moved away and things were dryer. While the baby napped, we snuggled together on the front porch swing under some blankets and read a few chapters of Farmer Boy.

All together: 60ish min?

Friday

No entry, and I'm drawing a blank on that day! I keep thinking I'll remember what I did on what day, but if I don't write it down, things get foggy.


Goals

1. Spend a portion of our day together outside

This didn't happen every day this week. However, I went out at least 3/5 days. The times we did spend outside were good.

2. Have a snack or lunch outside

The kids had a few afternoon snacks outside.

3. Nature journaling 

We all made an entry on Monday - the humble dandelion!

4. Make outdoor play our default play

This is slowly progressing. This week Micah got out the baseball bats and we rounded up various balls. The kids spent quite a bit of time with their dad hitting balls in the backyard. I love to see them playing together! With warmer and lighter evenings, the kids will often head back out after supper for awhile.

The weekend was also great for family time outside! Weekends aren't technically part of my challenge, but we're making more of an effort as a family to get out together too. On Sunday, Micah had the older two off for an expedition, and I took Ivy for a walk down to the pond. She is getting used to crawling around on the grass now, but it still spooks her a bit! I'm looking forward to her discovering so much for the very first time this year.

5. Continue my own nature education

I read a little further in "Home Education."


A few random thoughts . . . 

I can't tell you how refreshing and almost healing it is to hear the robin song again. There was one evening in particular where Mr. Robin was singing right outside the dining room window. It must have been about 8:30, because it was almost dark. I opened the window and sat in the dim light and just listened. There were many things competing for my mental attention that night, but the robin song seemed to cut right through all of that. We live in an age of distraction and mental stress. I think God has a way of calling us back to more natural rhythms, if we have ears to hear.


Happy outdoorsing!

~ Lindsey

Monday, April 24, 2017

Moms Need Wonder Too

"Wonder" is a word that is part of my foundational philosophy of education. When I think about the ideal childhood, it is one that allows lots of room for wonder.



Charlotte Mason herself used the term when she describes the outdoor life of children. It is something she believed was essential in the child's development generally, and more specifically in their encounters with the the natural world.

On page 44 of Volume 1, she speaks of the need for children to be let alone for much of their time outside, in order,

"to take in what they can of the beauty of earth and heavens; for of the evils of modern education few are worse than this - that the perpetual cackle of his elders leaves the poor child not a moment of time, nor an inch of pace, wherein to wonder - and grow." 

I think that wonder is a foundational posture for education. For me, wonder encompasses receptivity, humility, and curiosity.

In a sense, it is a child's natural, God-given disposition to the world. It can be crushed, or it can be cultivated. It is part of the atmosphere of education, and it is a powerful tool indeed. Wonder opens us up to new observations, new encounters, and new ideas.

A case study for wonder can be found on pages 53-54. Mason quotes Leigh Hunt when speaking about the child's study of flowers, and I think the section is worth re-quoting here:

'"Suppose," says Leigh Hunt, "suppose flowers themselves were new! Suppose they had just come into the world, a sweet reward for some new goodness . . . Imagine what we should feel when we saw the first lateral stem bearing off from the main one, and putting forth a leaf. How we should watch the leaf gradually unfolding its little graceful hand; then another, then another; then the main stalk rising and producing more; then one of them giving indications of the astonishing novelty - a bud! then this mysterious bud gradually unfolding like the leaf, amazing us, enchanting us, almost alarming us with delight, as if we knew not what enchantment were to ensue, till at length, in all its fairy beauty, and odorous voluptuousness, and mysterious elaboration of tender and living sculpture, shines forth the blushing flower."'

"The flowers, it is true, are not new; but the children are; and it is the fault of their elders if every new flower they come upon is not to them a ... mystery of beauty to be watched from day to day with unspeakable awe and delight.' [...] All this is stale knowledge to older people, but one of the secrets of the educator is to present nothing as stale knowledge, but to put himself in the position of the child, and wonder and admire with him; for every common miracle which the child sees with his own eyes make of him for the moment another Newton."



Ah, here is a secret of educators - to wonder alongside the child. To encounter the thing together, as though for the first time. Not to dampen the experience with our own superiority or over-familiarity. Our approach is catching. If we have grown cold to these common miracles, our children may shrug them off as unworthy of their attention and affection.

But if we are willing to stoop down just a little, to make ourselves just a little smaller, perhaps we can again be captured by the grandness of God's world. We are His creatures, after all. Perhaps we can pray for our own spirit of wonder to be renewed. I don't think we ever grow out of this need for receptivity, humility, and curiosity. Moms need wonder too.

I can't think of any better way to share a sense of wonder with our children than to explore and enjoy nature together. And with this shared wonder, there's a good chance a shared joy will spring up as well. If we're missing that sense of delight in our lives, perhaps a trip to the woods or the river or even just the backyard is in order. Go with an open heart. Go and marvel at the softness of emerging buds, the music of the water, or the colours of the sky. Step back. Take it all in with the children. Wonder - and grow.


~ Lindsey

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Outdoor Life Challenge: Week 3 Log



We seem to be having a slowly revolving bout of sickness in the house. Two more kids affected this week. It makes it much more difficult to be outside. Still, we are trying!

Goals

1. Time Outside Together

I didn't record daily times this week. There's been a lot of other things going on around the house and with school too. I find it really hard to relax and enjoy time outside when I know there are things inside that really need my attention. It's disheartening to come back in to a mess. With housework, it's so easy to fall behind, and so hard to catch back up! It's probably time for a good spring cleaning,  to clear the space both physical and mental.

Our best day out was Friday. We all went out after lunch, with the baby bundled up in stroller. We walked around the property and into our little woods a little way, but it was too muddy to bring the stroller on the path. We had an enjoyable time inspecting trees for buds (the Manitoba maple's buds are out!), checking on the saplings we planted a couple years ago, and noticing the different kinds of new green growth peeking out of the ground. I know green will win over brown in the end, and I'm longing for that day!


2. Eat Outside

Between sickness and weather, we didn't get to do this.


3. Nature Journalling

Oh dear, this week is not looking good! We were going to do nature journalling on Friday afternoon. But then Micah had some time off and the kids went out with him. No journalling, but still time outside, and with Dad, so that was all good.


4. Default Outdoor Play

Oh, maybe when we don't have to put on hats and mitts this will be easier! At least for me! It will take some time to make this a habit.


5. My Own Nature Education

I've read a little more through Volume 1. I love what Charlotte Mason says about wonder. I plan to do a little post on that soon.




In many ways this week feels like a failure. I think I was out with the kids twice? But we're not giving up anyhow! Spring seems sluggish, yet we press on . . .




~ Lindsey

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Outdoor Life Challenge: Week 2 Log



I am posting this a week late. Last week I was still under the weather, and then we had Easter weekend and a birthday on top of that! Whew! This week has been a catch up week in many ways.

I didn't record our time everyday, and now looking back things are a bit of a blur. The kids went out every morning by themselves. I think I got out a few times with them, and they stayed out for longer when I came back in. The weather has still been up and down.

Goals


1. Time Outside Together


The kids are helping me out with this by asking me when I'm coming out with them! It's a good thing, especially on days when I don't "feel" like going out. Or when the weather is less than "fine."

One day when I wasn't feeling great at all, I went out and lay on the little hill in our front yard while the kids played. It was windy, but the sun was out. We tried a session of "Sight-Seeing." I called the kids over and said we would play a little game. I told them to go down to the big stump by the river and find out everything they could about it. I told them they could look, listen, touch it, smell it, and even taste it. "TASTE IT?" they said. "Yep!" I laughed, pretty sure there wasn't anything poisonous growing on it. "You can lick it if you want." Well, they thought that was grand, and off they went. They spent a few minutes down there, then ran back to report. My 5 year old wasn't interesting in telling me anything (no big deal), but my almost 7 year old gave me quite a detailed report about how the new branches were growing out of the stump, the condition of the buds, the exposed roots, and that there was a white fungus that was both squishy and firm growing near the ground. (Ok, maybe there was a poisonous fungus, but they had the good sense not to lick that part of the stump!) I was quite impressed with her little "narration."


2. Eat Outside


One morning we took our snack and Morning Time out to the sunny front porch. We read the Bible and our poetry outside. I hope to do this more when the weather improves. It's just a few steps from our dining room where we normally have our Morning Time.


3. Nature Journalling


I did one entry this week. We've been learning how to spot the difference between a raven and a crow. I have no problem if they're side by side, but sometimes from a distance it's hard to tell. I can almost always tell the voice of a raven though. It's part of the soundtrack of my northern upbringing. We have more crows than ravens around here. One day a few months back I was out for a walk, and I heard the distinctive and rather comical croak of a raven in a tree right above me. It made smile, because they have such an interesting vocabulary!


4. Default Outdoor Play


This is still a work in progress. One day the kids brought a bunch of toys out to the front porch, which is not exactly what I have in mind by outdoor play, but it still got them in the fresh air and sunshine, so that was good!

5. My Own Nature Education


I didn't have the energy for reading of any kind this week. But I do feel more solid in my raven vs. crow characteristics. I find it very satisfying to know these things. I can't help but feeling like the birds are my friends somehow, and I like to know about them!




~ Lindsey

Friday, April 7, 2017

Outdoor Life Challenge: Week 1 Log



I'm writing this on the first truly warm spring day! It's +16!!! I feel giddy! Maybe the winter will finally end!

Here's a log of our outdoor time this week.

Monday

It was sunny, but with a strong north wind, it was a rather miserable day to be outside! Nevertheless, we made an effort. It was way too windy for the baby, so I went out with the older two while she was napping. First we discovered buds starting to open on our big old Manitoba Maple beside the house. We walked down to the river to check out some other trees. The little Sugar Maple's buds were still tightly closed. The kids noticed that underneath the half-frozen hillocks of last fall's long grass there was new green grass growing! They were pretty excited. I was in and out for a bit, checking on the baby, putting supper in the oven, taking the mail inside. When the wind got to be too much, we sat on the sunny side of the house where it was sheltered. The kids wanted to do a rainbow scavenger hunt, so we tried to find a few colours along the side of the house. The most interesting find was a red ladybug. :)

Kids: 30 min in the morning
All together: 60 min in the afternoon


Tuesday

Another chilly day. We went out for about 40 min after lunch, and headed out again later while the baby was sleeping. This time, we got to talking with our neighbour, and invited her in for fresh banana bread! So while our outdoor time was cut a little short, being outside gave us opportunity for a much-welcomed visit.

Kids: 30 min in the morning
All together: 60 min in the afternoon


Wednesday

Wednesday afternoons we go into town for gymnastics. By the time that was over and we had gone grocery shopping and run errands, it was almost supper time! So we didn't get out together. I'm thinking I'll have to be creative on Wednesdays if we're going to be outside much, at least in the afternoons.

Kids: 30 min in the morning


Thursday

We had a field trip to a local museum! We left the house first thing in the morning. The kids were pretty tired when our tour was finished after lunch. But we decided to take the scenic route home to get a view of the ocean, and stopped at a lookout for a few minutes where they scrambled on a big rock while I drank my coffee. :) When we got home, everyone needed naps! (We are also still recovering from sickness around here, so I've been noticing the kids are a little extra tired.)

All together: 15 min or so


Friday

I thought today was going to be a write-off. I woke up this morning with a sore throat, headache, and general aches. It was raining. It was a Magic School Bus sort of morning... But then the sun actually came out this afternoon, and when I looked at the thermometer, that's when I noticed the amazing warm temperature! So I rounded up the kids to at least send them out. It was so enticing though once I felt the warmth, so I brought a blanket to the bench on the back deck, and there I lay, still feeling sick but also happy! The kids, on the other hand, have been running and laughing and discovering all the things that they left out last fall. They've got their bikes out, and are now digging around the sandbox, which is basically a giant mud puddle! And after my little nap, I'm typing this log up from the backyard. I'm not really sure how long we've been out here... maybe an hour? I could have laid on the couch, but I'm glad I came out!

All together: 90 minutes and counting


Goals

1. Spend a portion of our day together outside
While we didn't do this every day, we did it more days than I would have, had I not been challenging myself! I probably wouldn't have stopped for an outdoor break on Thursday, or made the effort to go out myself on Friday.

2. Have a snack or lunch outside
We had our afternoon snack outside on Friday!

3. Nature journaling 
I made an entry, but the kids didn't. (Between our field trip day and a sick day for myself, we didn't get to do all the things I had planned on this week.) I drew the tree across the road from our house. I don't know what kind of tree it is! I'm starting with observing the shape of the branches (a good winter activity) and the nature of the bark.

4. Make outdoor play our default play
On Friday, I had hope that we might actually be able to move in this direction!

5. Continue my own nature education
I got some books out of the library on fish. I read up on getting a fish for a pet. I'm also curious about the tree I drew in my nature journal. I might have to wait till the leaves come out to be able to identify it!


Lessons Learned:


  • It's much easier to get outside when we are actually home! (Unless we are going somewhere for the purpose of being outside, which we didn't get to this week. But with a field trip already, I didn't want to add another outing.) 
  • Being outside opens us up to interact with our community. 
  • Even though we didn't get outside together every day this week, we still made progress, and that's the main thing. There's the ideal, and then there's real life. Just because they don't match, it doesn't mean I give up the ideal, or that we failed. We're moving in the right direction!


I'll leave you with this piece of wisdom from my 6 year old:

"When you get told to go outside, you don't want to go outside, but then when you get out there you start having fun, and then you want to be outside!"



Yes, that's exactly it.




~ Lindsey







Monday, April 3, 2017

A Basic Method for Time Outdoors

I've been sketching out my own notes as I go through Charlotte Mason's "Out-of-Door Life" section of Home Education. My temptation is to highlight or quote everything! But I'm trying to give myself a broad outline.

As it seems to me, there is a basic method introduced in the beginning of the section, into which the rest of the information fits.

After demonstrating the need for a robust outdoor life, and these MANY hours outdoors, Charlotte goes on to say that a method is needed.

The GOAL is that "every hour should be delightful." Sounds good to me!

WHY is a method needed? Why not just turn them loose? Well, without a method, the mother will be taxed and the children will get bored. She says "there is a great deal to be done and a great deal to be prevented." Again, there's the art of the mother's purposeful presence at work.

A few things to remember:

  • The children must be kept in a joyous temper all the time
  • The children must be let alone and left to themselves a great deal to make connections for themselves
  • This is also the mother's opportunity for training and "dropping seeds of truth"
  • An hour or two of vigorous play for muscular development
  • "Last, and truly least, a lesson or two must be got in."


With that in mind, she presents a framework for time outside together.

The Wild Scamper




Upon arrival at your destination (be it backyard or field trip), send the children “to let off their spirits in a wild scamper, with cry, halloo, and hullaballoo, and any extravagance that comes into their young heads” (p.45).

In other words, let the kids let off some steam and explore, and just "be kids" in the great outdoors.


Sight-Seeing or The Exploring Expedition



After a sufficient scamper, call the children back. Then, “while wits are fresh and eyes keen” send them on an “exploring expedition” (p. 45).

This should be done "in the spirit of a game, but with the carefulness of a lesson."

Basically, you send them off to find out everything they can about a particular spot or object, such as a hillside, stream, or tree. Then call the children the back and have them tell you their observations. With a few questions, you draw out all you can about what the children have observed. 

"By degrees children learn discriminatingly every feature of landscapes with which they are familiar." 

"This is all play to the children, but the mother is doing invaluable work" (p. 46).

Educational uses of Sight-Seeing:
1. It trains the powers of observation and expression 
2. It increases their vocabulary and range of ideas by giving them names and uses of things in nature
3. It trains them in truthful habits by making them careful to observe and then state exactly what they saw
4. It gives "a delightful possession for old age." Things really seen in the first place can be really remembered in years to come. 


Picture-Painting




In Picture-Painting we take mental photographs of a landscape. Have the children look at a landscape, then shut their eyes and see if they can picture it in their mind's eye. See if they can describe the picture before them, in as much detail as possible. If it's still blurry, have them look again, and try to describe again. 

This effort of recalling and reproducing can be mentally fatiguing, so this should be done "now and then." (What would this mean? A few times a week?)

The goal is "seeing fully and in detail." Mason says it's worthwhile for children to know a bit of landscape by heart. They will also be storing up a mental gallery of images which they can recall for later enjoyment.

This reminds me very much of Wordsworth's famous poem, "I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud."


I gazed - and gazed - but little thought
What wealth the show to me had brought:

For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye 

Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.



Charlotte goes on to say that in the course of Sight-Seeing and Picture-Painting, opportunities will occur to make the children familiar with a host of things, including
  • Field crops and farm life
  • Field flowers and the life history of plants
  • Trees
  • Seasons
  • Living Creatures

There's more to say about each of these areas, which I will come back to in later posts. 

 A Lesson or Two

I haven't read up to this point yet! More to come.

Vigorous Play

I'm not quite sure where the hour or two for vigorous play comes in Mason's outline. Perhaps this will become more clear as I read on. 



Putting It Into Practice:

This week, I'd like to try out some of these basics. First, to let us all loose for a little while, then have everyone come back for Sight-Seeing. I think "Exploring Expedition" sounds a little more lively, so that's what we'll call it! If that goes well, we'll try at least one round of Picture-Painting. 

We read Wordsworth's poem last week, and talked about how he "gazed and gazed," and was thus able to remember the scene in his "inward eye." So I will encourage them to "gaze and gaze" just like him, and see what we can see. :) 


Happy  Outdoorsing! 


~ Lindsey



Sunday, April 2, 2017

The Outdoor Life Challenge Begins!

Yes, April is here, and with it the beginning of my Outdoor Life Challenge!



(In case you missed the original post, click here to read my initial thoughts on the challenge.)

And yes, it was snowing here today. And there's more in the forecast for tomorrow. Not exactly how I was hoping to begin April, but we will forge ahead anyway!

Here's a recap of my goals for the next three months:

1. Spend a portion of our day together outside



I'm going to start by trying to do this in the afternoons. I'm liking our current morning routine, and since it's taken a lot of effort to create consistent mornings over this year, I don't really want to mess with that. The kids do usually go outside for between 30 minutes to 1 hour before we begin our morning lessons. They go out and play while I put the baby down for her nap, do a few of my chores, or finishing getting ready for our lessons. I will add this to the kids' total tally for the day, though it won't count for my time.

I'm still working out how to structure our afternoons to go out together, especially with this tricky early spring weather. It's not quite "fine" enough to be eating outside, or for the baby to be crawling around yet. I think I'm going to keep the baby's nap time the same for now, at least on most days. The other thing I need to work out is how to schedule in the kids' quiet time, which is my daily sanity saver!! This usually happens during the baby's nap as well, which is around 1:30-2:30. We also have a read-aloud time that usually happens after quiet time, which is a highlight of our day. I can anticipate eventually moving that to our front porch once the weather warms up, but for now we might need to keep that indoors. I have a feeling things will be shifting around a lot as the weather changes over the next few months.

I'm also going to start small. My humble goal, at least here in the beginning of chilly April, is to go out with the kids for one hour in the afternoon. I hope it's doable enough to get some momentum going! And maybe we'll surprise ourselves with more, who knows!

In addition, I want to plan one "full" afternoon outside a week, whenever possible. (This may be a trip to the pond down the road, or a hike/bike ride once the trails are clear of snow. I'm also waiting on some new inner tubes for my stroller. We have a great backyard, but I'd like to try going just a little further afield if we can.)

2. Have a snack or lunch outside on fine weather days


Hmm, we'll see about this! The temperature range for the next week is between -3 and +4 celsius. Maybe we'll try a snack this week! I do have a little picnic table outside that is great for snacks and small meals. It's currently in a mud/slush puddle. Again, things should shift as spring becomes warmer.

3. Dust off the nature journals and make regular entries




We did this last week! It was great. Our goal will be at least one entry a week. Eventually I hope to move some of the actual journaling outside, but for now we may need to bring some nature inside for drawing purposes, or draw from our guide books.

4. Make outdoor play our default play




I know this will become easier as the sun gets warmer and beckons us out. I can see this being a challenge at the beginning. A lot of outdoor play this time of year means an awful lot of mud too. Besides finding some more splash pants, I think I will have to designate a set of "mud clothes" for each child that can be permanently stained "island red."

5. Continue my own nature education


What are these?

Right now I'm reading through "The Out-of-Doors Life for the Children" section of Mason's Home Education (volume 1 in the pink set).

Our "special study" area for nature study this term (following Ambleside Online's schedule) is fish. I'll have to read up on this in my Handbook of Nature Study. I must say, I don't know a lot about fish at the moment. I'm sure that will change by the end of June!




A few more things. . . 


  • Every day I will keep a tally of the kids' total time outside, and our time outside together. I'll post this at the end of each week, hopefully with a bit of a recap of our time outside. 
  • Once a week I will try to post a few thoughts from my reading in Home Education
  • I want to pay special attention to what sparks joy in our time outside! I hope to capture at least one moment a week, whether in words or in a photo, that I can share. Joy is a big part of why I'm taking on this challenge. :) 

If you'd like to join in this challenge and share your own outdoor journey, please chime in in the comments, or link to any blog posts you may have! I'm not tech-savvy enough to have hashtags and link parties and all that, but perhaps we can encourage each other in some small way. 

Happy Outdoorsing! 




~ Lindsey


Saturday, April 1, 2017

Winter Nature Journaling from The Burgess Bird Book for Children

We've been slowly reading through The Burgess Bird Book for Children. I think we started last spring when the birds began to return! We often read it during our afternoon snack time. I think we're about halfway through. (We're not reading it according to any schedule, as you can see.) Last week we decided to pull out our neglected nature journals and draw a few birds from recent chapters. We used Peterson's field guide to draw from.




On a side note, this was the first time Arden understood that the pictures in the field guide were actually painted by Roger Tory Peterson. I think she thought they were photographs. She was amazed! I think it inspired her.

"Twitter"


Arden chose the purple martin ("Twitter," the largest of the swallow family), and I chose the barn swallow ("Forktail," with his distinctive tail). We used watercolours. Arden did her drawing and colour mixing very carefully, and was quite pleased with how it turned out.

"Forktail"

This is something we both enjoy doing, and I'm hoping we can do more regularly this spring!

A busy day of living and learning together



~lg

Saturday, March 25, 2017

One Whole Year!

One year ago this little beam of joy entered our lives . . .



. . . and we are still rejoicing! Happy, happy birthday Ivy!


~lg

Monday, March 20, 2017

My Grand (Unrealistic?) Charlotte Mason Outdoor Life Challenge!

The more I've been reading Charlotte Mason on "The Out-of-Door Life for the Children," the more I've been thinking.


March branches

This emphasis on outdoor life and nature study was one of the major attractions of the Charlotte Mason method for me in the first place. I've always loved nature. (Well, maybe not the bugs, as those of you who know me well can attest to!) I've known its power in my own life, both as a child in the wilds of the Northwest Territories, and as an adult now in Prince Edward Island. I'm convinced of the need for our family to be more connected with the natural world, and this not only from Charlotte Mason, but from others. I've seen the crippling effects of what Richard Louv calls "Nature Deficit Disorder," and I do not want this for my kids.

And I've been thinking, what would I look back on and wish we had done more of this year? More math? More narration? More read-alouds? (All good things, yes.) What element of a CM education would I kick myself most for not fully trying to implement?

I keep coming back to this: outdoor life.

Yes, that involves "nature study," but it's so much more than that. Mason's vision goes way beyond a once-a-week nature walk. (And yes, I'll admit, there are weeks we haven't even done that. Many weeks. Try most of the winter!) I don't want to get the guilt train going for anyone. But when I think about what I really want for our family, and what I'm really willing to put some effort into, it's outdoor life.

Ah, the wonder of spring... coming soon to a backyard near you.

Much as I love nature, I also have bookworm tendencies. Bookworms like cozy fires, in my experience, and warm mugs of coffee. Indoor inertia can set in all too easily. It's nice in here, after all, with our blankets and books, and coffee and books, and computers and books...

But I know there's more! And I want more! How much more?

Well, that's actually a scary question, because I know Charlotte Mason's answer. Gulp.

Let me quote:

"'I make a point,' says a judicious mother, 'of sending my children out, weather permitting, for an hour in the winter, and two hours a day in the summer months.' That is well; but it is not enough. In the first place, do not send them; if it is anyway possible, take them; for, although the children should be left much to themselves, there is a great deal to be done and great deal to be prevented during these long hours in the open air. And long hours they should be; not two, but four, five, or six hours they should have on every tolerably fine day, from April till October. 'Impossible!' says an over-wrought mother who sees her way to no more for her children that a daily hour or so on the pavements of the neighbouring London squares."

Impossible! says an over-wrought mother with a baby who needs a nap, and kids who need clean underwear (again!), and a family that needs supper on time, and errands to run in town, and Facebook to check . . . not to mention Canadian "spring."

This was last April at the beach. Oh boy, we look cold!

WHAT?!? Charlotte, are you kidding me? FOUR TO SIX HOURS?!? You have no idea what my life is like.

{Insert firm but kind British voice here}

"Let me repeat, that I venture to suggest, not what is practicable in any household, but what seems to me absolutely best for the children; and that, in the faith that mothers work wonders once they are convinced that wonders are demanded of them."

***

To be honest, if this was just a "Charlotte Mason thing," or me wanting to uphold the purity of some hundred year old method, it would probably not be enough to get me in the business of wonder working. But, like I said, it's not just Charlotte Mason. She's just one more voice encouraging me in the direction I think we need to go.

Let me say that I am quite interested in Charlotte Mason's particular method of living the outdoor life and educating the children in nature study. I feel like I want to give it my best shot, her way, and see what comes of it. However, I make no promises. (FOUR TO SIX HOURS?!?)

And I am actually rather hesitant to put myself out there (here) and announce to my half dozen readers my grand plan of nature study. BUT, I'm doing it in the hopes of some accountability, if only for myself.

So, this is what I'm thinking. Our next, and final, term of this our inaugural year of formal lessons begins in April, which also just so happens to coincide with that whole "April to October" guideline of Ms. Mason's. (Weather differences between the UK and Canada aside. At least we have the "tolerably fine day" clause to fall back on. Phew.)

We are going to begin our very own "Charlotte Mason Outdoor Life Challenge" from April till June. Yay! 

(Just so you know, I am literally making this up as I type.)

Looking ahead to June green. . . 

The Challenge will include the following goals:


1. Spend a portion of our day outside together. 


(Note, I did not say spend 4-6 hours outside every day! At least not at first!) Part of this will be for free play, and part of it for learning, or "nature study," gradually implementing more of Charlotte Mason's methods as we go.

2. Have a snack or lunch outside on fine weather days. 


This is one way Ms. Mason suggested upping the outdoor hours and increasing joy in our lives as a family. As long as the scary bugs stay away, I should be ok...

3. Dust off the nature journals and make regular entries. 


We haven't made many entries since last fall. I make no commitment to dry-brushing or any particular technique. Only to developing the habit of regularly recording our observations. (I would love to learn, but I also know that my learning curve has its limits! Slow and steady wins the race, to quote a tortoise.)

4. Make outdoor play our default play. 


I have a hunch that going out to play will reduce the amount of tidying needed in the house! Bonus! As well as providing the kids (and myself) with the many benefits of outdoor play, of course.

5. Continue my own nature education. 


I will continue reading through Ms. Mason's thoughts on the subject, as well as choosing one nature study book that I will read for my own insight and enjoyment during this term. (In addition to the kids' lesson books.)

June! It will come!

Don't worry, there will be more details to come on just how I plan to go about doing this. (I am still very much thinking about just how I plan to go about doing this!)


What I really want to know is, are there any other homeschool moms out there that want to do this with me?!? It doesn't have to look exactly like my challenge! Your goals may be different! But does anyone else want to have more of an outdoor life to finish off the school year? If so, comment below! We can do this. :)

(And if all I end up doing is talking to myself over here, I'm totally ok with that too. Right? Yes.)

~lg






"Take Them!" The Mother's Presence in the Child's Outdoor Life



There is much to be said about the mother's role in outdoor life. From the first few sections of the chapter "Out-Of-Door Life for the Children," I've noted several things that have stood out to me about the mother's presence. 

To begin, mothers should not be content only to send their children outside. When at all possible, they should take them. 


"In the first place, do not send them; 
if it is anyway possible, take them. . ." (p. 43)*

The Mother's Presence Is Purposeful


Once outside, the mother plays a key role in the child's experience of nature. Her presence is necessary, but it must not get in the way of the children forming their own relations with the natural world. 


"They must be let alone, left to themselves a good deal, to take in what they can of the beauty of earth and heavens; for of the evils of modern education few are worse than this - that the perpetual cackle of his elders leaves the poor child not a moment of time, nor an inch of space, wherein to wonder - and grow. At the same time, here is the mother's opportunity to train the seeing eye, the hearing ear, and to drop seeds of truth into the open soul of the child, which shall germinate, blossom, and bear fruit, without further help or knowledge of hers." (p. 44)

There is a delicate balance to be struck here, and I suspect it is rather an art to be developed. 

On the one hand, leave them alone. On the other hand, take the opportunity to train and "drop seeds of truth." Part of the mother's role is to discern "the right moment" for these things (p. 47). She should not overpower the children with "perpetual cackle!" Neither should she ignore them. Her presence must be purposeful

One way I think about the relationship between mother, child, and nature, is that the mother is the one making the introduction between the child and nature. Nature is not in her power. Neither is the child. She helps facilitate the connection, and then steps back and lets the living world do its work with the child. Note how much of this happens "without further help or knowledge of hers." 

We are not present to control. We are present to connect. 


The Mother's Presence is Encouraging


Another aspect of the mother's role is to encourage an interest and love of the natural world, stemming from her own pleasure in it.

Charlotte Mason writes that, "every child has a natural interest in the living things about him which it is the business of his parents to encourage" (p. 58).

The parents' influence, one way or the other, is vital. She goes on to say, "few children are equal to holding their own in the face of public opinion; and if they see that the things which interest them are indifferent or disgusting to you, their pleasure in them vanishes, and that chapter of the book of Nature is closed to them" (p. 58).

Our enthusiasm for the natural world is catching! So is our indifference. Joy and wonder in the marvels of creation are part of the atmosphere of education, and the tone is set by us. Are we curious? Do we have a reverence for life? Do we take joy in the wide world around us? Do we prioritize our day to spend time outside?

Too often we moms have allowed the distractions and duties of life to sever our own connection with nature. We suffer because of this, but so do our children. If we don't make it a priority in our adult lives, our children may view it as something to be discarded as they get older. It is well worth it to rekindle this connection in our lives, for our sakes and theirs.


The Mother's Presence is Enlightening


Charlotte believed that mothers and teachers should know about nature!

"The mother cannot devote herself too much to this kind of reading, not only that she may be able to read tit-bits to her children about matters they have come across, but that she may be able to answer their queries and direct their observation. And not only the mother, but any woman, who is likely ever to spend an hour or two in the society of children should make herself mistress of this sort of information; the children will adore her for knowing what they want to know, and who knows but she may give its bent for life to some young mind destined to do great things for the world" (p. 65).

Not only is our enthusiasm for the natural world important, so is our knowledge of it. It doesn't mean we have to be experts, but it does mean we should be expanding our knowledge of the natural world.

The purpose of this knowledge is not so we can endlessly lecture our children about every bug, rock, and tree they encounter, but so that when they ask, or when the moment is right, we have those seeds of truth we can drop into their minds. We have names for things. We have a framework for understanding the world around us. We have a basic nature vocabulary we can begin to share with our children.

One thing I would like to do is develop my own booklist of nature reading. Besides reading to know about the topics the children will be studying, I want to read for my own interest and delight. Perhaps one book a term for me?


The Plan in Action:


~ Go out more with the children. The end goal would be to go with them "every tolerably fine day from April to October." (It's still March! Wet and windy weather prevails. But it will get better...) I'm not sure it's realistic to expect this of myself every day. I would have to work on rearranging our lives a bit more for that to happen. After all, sending them out is better than them not going at all. But I'd like to make a steady improvement in this area. And as the weather improves, I hope my track record will as well!

~ Go out and generally enjoy myself. I think if they see me delighting in our backyard wonders, that's an "atmosphere" that will catch on.

~ Make a booklist of nature books for me to read. Plan to start one at the beginning of April (when our next term begins).



* All quotes taken from Volume 1: Home Education of The Original Homeschooling Series by Charlotte Mason, The Charlotte Mason Research & Supply edition.

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