Natural Nature Learning

by Deborah Taylor-Hough

Our family hasn’t been blessed with acres of property off in the country for our children to frolic to their hearts content. But a small city lot and many local parks have offered us tremendous opportunities for outdoor learning activities.

PARKS

To make up for the lack of open natural space in our neighborhood, we go to various local parks at least two to three times per week. We don’t go to the parks for the play equipment but for the exposure to a more natural setting. We are about half-an-hour driving time from Puget Sound so we often frequent parks with direct beach access. Continue reading

An Autumn Poem …

I used to read this poem out loud to my kids each Fall when they were little… I love how it flows when read aloud. Honestly, the kids probably don’t even remember this poem. But I do. ūüôā
.
WHEN THE FROST IS ON THE PUNKIN
by James Whitcomb Riley (1849-1916)
.
When the frost is on the punkin and the fodder’s in the shock,
And you hear the kyouck and gobble of the struttin’ turkey-cock,
And the clackin’ of the guineys, and the cluckin’ of the hens,
And the rooster’s hallylooyer as he tiptoes on the fence;
O, it’s then’s the times a feller is a-feelin’ at his best,
With the risin’ sun to greet him from a night of peaceful rest,
As he leaves the house, bareheaded, and goes out to feed the stock,
When the frost is on the punkin and the fodder’s in the shock.
.
They’s something kindo’ harty-like about the atmusfere
When the heat of summer’s over and the coolin’ fall is here–
Of course we miss the flowers, and the blossums on the trees,
And the mumble of the hummin’-birds and buzzin’ of the bees;
But the air’s so appetizin’; and the landscape through the haze
Of a crisp and sunny morning of the airly autumn days
Is a pictur’ that no painter has the colorin’ to mock–
When the frost is on the punkin and the fodder’s in the shock.
.
The husky, rusty russel of the tossels of the corn,
And the raspin’ of the tangled leaves, as golden as the morn;
The stubble in the furries–kindo’ lonesome-like, but still
A-preachin’ sermuns to us of the barns they growed to fill;
The strawstack in the medder, and the reaper in the shed;
The hosses in theyr stalls below–the clover over-head!–
O, it sets my hart a-clickin’ like the tickin’ of a clock,
When the frost is on the punkin and the fodder’s in the shock!
.
Then your apples all is gethered, and the ones a feller keeps
Is poured around the celler-floor in red and yeller heaps;
And your cider-makin’ ‘s over, and your wimmern-folks is through
With their mince and apple-butter, and theyr souse and saussage, too! …
I don’t know how to tell it–but ef sich a thing could be
As the Angels wantin’ boardin’, and they’d call around on me–
I’d want to ‘commodate ’em–all the whole-indurin’ flock–
When the frost is on the punkin and the fodder’s in the shock!
.
According to Dictionary.com, fodder is: ‚Äúcoarse food for livestock, composed of entire plants, including leaves, stalks, and grain, of such forages as corn and sorghum.‚ÄĚ And a ‚Äúfodder shock‚ÄĚ is in the photo above, or at this link for a more modern version (Amish field): http://www.flickr.com/photos/cindy47452/60826148/

Free Nature Study Resource

I was on the REI website recently  and stumbled upon this interesting item called the Family Adventure Program. It has a free downloadable journal for keeping track of outings and other outdoor activities.

There’s also some¬†information on the webpage about family-friendly hikes in the local area, some free bonus activities you can download, and if your child is age 5-12, she can receive a certificate of completion and a free prize.

http://www.rei.com/family-adventure

Just thought I’d pass on the info in case anyone’s interested. Very unschooling and Charlotte Mason friendly. My kids are too old for this¬†now (23,¬†20 & 15), but we all would’ve LOVED this resource when they were younger!

¬†I love REI and even¬†used to work there … ūüėé

Nature Study for City Dwellers

Even in the city, children should get their knowledge of nature first hand and get into the habit of being in touch with nature. Here are some simple nature/science ideas for city (and rural) families to share together:

 1) Press and mount flowers on cardboard. Write the names of the flowers, and where and when you found them. I recently saw a photo-album used to store pressed flowers. Having a field guide to identify flowers and flowering trees is very helpful.

 2) Keep a nature calendar. A calendar devoted to nature observation could be kept with simple entries on when the leaves first fell or the fruit tree in your yard first ripened for the year.

 3) Leaf identification. Children should know the leaves of their neighborhood. For example they can begin to notice that some leaves are heart shaped, some are divided, and some fall off in the winter.

¬†4) Give children a pocket compass, a magnifying glass and possibly a microscope. We like using the magnifying glass better. Buy the best magnifying glass or microscope you can afford and check it at the store — they seem to vary in how they focus.

5) Learn about the wind. A weather vane mounted on the housetop or porch railing is not only a decorative object but also a learning tool. Charlotte Mason said to teach children to notice winds. Tell the children that the wind is named by what direction it comes from; for example, if someone is a Mexican because they were born in Mexico, they don’t become a Canadian when they visit Canada.

6) Even children in the city can observe natural animal life. City dwellers can try to feed and observe city birds such as sparrows. Children can place a caterpillar in a box with a netting over it and watch it spin. Keeping an ant farm is fun and educational.

7) Swamps and ponds are an excellent resource for science learning. Have children go to the pond, gather some frogs’ eggs, and place them in a large glass jar. After the tadpoles begin to form legs, take them back and release them at the pond.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:¬† Catherine Levison is a popular speaker to parenting and educational audiences throughout the¬†United States¬†and Canada. She’s the mother of five, a grandmother, and the author of the book, A Charlotte Mason Education: A How-To Manual, the sequel, More Charlotte Mason Education, and A Literary Education. Catherine resides with her family in the Seattle/Tacoma area. Visit Catherine online at: CharlotteMasonEducation.com¬† Catherine Levison’s books can be browsed at:

Nature Notebooks

Copyright (c) Deborah Taylor-Hough. Used with permission. All rights reserved. http://www.simplemom.com


Nature Notebooks (also called Nature Diaries and Nature Journals) are essentially artist sketchbooks where the children can draw whatever natural items strike their fancy.

The more options you offer the child, the more likely they’ll find one or more ideas that spark their interest. The Nature Notebooks should be voluntary, by the way–not an assignment or a plea from the parent (“Now, draw the pretty bird for Mommy, honey. . . .”).

  1. Information from first-hand observation the child has done themselves (not things they’ve learned from “teaching” or in the classroom).
  2. Drawings of leaves, flowers, birds, insects or anything else discovered by the child in it’s natural setting.
  3. Labels for their drawings—both English and Latin names if applicable.
  4. Notations on where the object was found.
  5. Notations about the temperature or weather conditions, dates, etc.
  6. Life cycles of plants. Draw the bare tree in Winter; the Spring buds; the Summer blooms; the Fall colors and seed pods. Or in a backyard garden you could draw a seed; draw the sprouting seedling; draw the full grown plant; draw the stem, leaves, flower, etc.; draw the fruit, vegetable or flower; draw the new seeds for starting the cycle again.
  7. Draw and describe an ant hill or a bee’s nest.
  8. Take out a hand-held high-power magnifying glass and draw the intricate details of a bee’s wing, or whatever else might be fascinating viewed through a magnifying lens.
  9. Science experiments the child has actually performed. Set-up, observations, results, etc.
  10. Pressing and mounting leaves or dried flowers.
  11. Samples of different types of leaves: divided, heart-shaped, fluted, needles, etc.
  12. Samples or drawings of different types of seeds: nuts; seed pods; seeds that fall to the ground; seeds that float through the air; etc.
  13. Parts of the flower: petal, sepal, stamen, etc.
  14. Sketches of animal tracks.
  15. Sketches of the lifecycles of animals. Caterpillar to cocoon (or chrysalis) to moth (or butterfly); or egg to tadpole to frog (or salamander).
  16. Nature-related poems or quotes. The poems can be ones found during the child’s reading time, or poems composed by the child.

For an outstanding example of a fully developed Nature Diary, take a look at the beautiful book The Country Diary of an Edwardian Lady, 1906. This book was out-of-print for a number of years, but recently became available once again.

I also highly recommend the book, Keeping a Nature Journal: Discover a whole new way of seeing the world around you, by Clare Walker Leslie and Charles E. Roth. The book is written and illustrated by science educators who use Nature Journals as their primary way of teaching people to learn about nature firsthand. A beautiful book! It totally changed the way we approached Nature Journals — the first day we looked at the book, my oldest daughter and I spent two hours at the local beaver pond sketching red-winged blackbirds, Canada geese, rough-skinned newts, turtles, and wildflowers.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Deborah Taylor-Hough (author, freelance writer, and longtime homeschooling mom of three) is the editor of The Charlotte Mason Monthly and Simple Times e-newsletters. She’s also the author of A Simple Choice: A Practical Guide to Saving Your Time, Money and Sanity; Frugal Living for Dummies; and the popular¬†Frozen Assets cookbook series. Visit Debi online at: http://thesimplemom.wordpress.com/