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.


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


200+ Summertime Boredom Busters for Kids

by Deborah Taylor-Hough

Since we try not to use the phrase “I’m bored!” in our home, I usually don’t hear my kids complaining about being bored during those long days at home during the summer months.But I have to admit that we’re still an incredibly normal family. Even without the “b-word” in their vocabulary, there are still those times when my three children just seem to be at a total loss for something constructive to do. Continue reading

Taking Your Homeschool Outside

by Geoffrey Moore

Like anything else in your life, your homeschool can be in a rut. You wake up every morning, crack the same books and do the same lesson plans. After a few months of this, both you and your kids are yawning and dreading sledging through the drudgery.

The good news is that you have the power to change this! You don’t have to do school-at-home. Do you have an outdoor fire pit or other fun area you can gather? Put down the plan book and break away from the textbook rut.

Here are a few tips to get you started. Continue reading

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:  Catherine Levison’s books can be browsed at:

Frugal Family Field Trips

Family field trips are a simple, fun, and fairly inexpensive educational enrichment activity you can enjoy regularly with your children.

Here are some quick ideas to get you started:

  1. Many manufacturing plants offer free tours to families or small groups, and any free samples given out make great souvenirs when on vacation. Call ahead to find out about tour availability.
  2. Field trips to local attractions such as zoos or aquariums can be expensive, but purchasing an annual family pass pays for itself in just a couple trips. Knowing you can come back again and again, frees your family to thoroughly enjoy themselves without feeling the need to hurry and see everything in one day to get your money’s worth out of the admission price. Return to the same site whenever you want a family outing, and then buy a pass to a different educational attraction next year.
  3. If your family enjoys attending live performances, check for free concerts, plays and other cultural events in local parks during the summer months.
  4. You can also contact college or community performance groups (drama, ballet, orchestra, etc.) to see if they’ll allow you to watch them rehearse for free.
  5. Many local theater groups need volunteer ushers for their live performances. Volunteering in this manner is an excellent way for the older members of your family to gain free admission to a wide variety of cultural events, plus it provides a useful service to the local arts community.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Deborah Taylor-Hough is a full-time mother of three, free-lance writer, and author of several bestselling books including, Frozen Assets: How to cook for a day and eat Visit Debi online at:

Homeschool Coping Strategies

Catherine Levison, author and speaker, shares some of her favorite tips for coping with the daily challenges of home education.

One Possible Cure for “Super-Mom Syndrome”

When motherhood or home schooling is getting you down, stop and simplify. So often when we have a problem, we try to attack it with a monumental overhaul of the entire situation. Charlotte Mason taught quite a bit on the formation of good habits, and her emphasis was on implementing only one new habit or idea at a time.

To apply this to our homes and schools, we shouldn’t write a big list of things we want changed all at once and then post it prominently on the living room wall. Success in changing habits depends on setting one small goal at a time and achieving it.

For further ideas on simplifying your life, subscribe to the free twice-a-month email newsletter, Simple Times. The purpose of Simple Times is to provide inspiration, encouragement, motivation and practical help for those who (for whatever reasons) are choosing to simplify their lives. Topics covered include saving money for regular family expenses (food, clothing, utilities, etc.); saving time and energy through easier housekeeping and cooking techniques; defining simplicity and it’s meaning in the lives of people pursuing a simpler lifestyle; and more.

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womanreadingReading for Refreshment

Enjoy some quiet time reading books that restore you and at the same time inspire you with constructive ideas. One suggestion for this is Victorian Family Celebrations also known as Mrs. Sharp’s Traditions.  In the pages of this book, you’ll find encouragement, inspiration, and some concrete ideas on how to raise a family and enjoy spending time together. Because home school families spend a lot of time together, I think we can all benefit from fresh ideas.

There are many books that moms find refreshing. For many, it’s the Bible, poetry, fiction or even a magazine. We home schooling parents read so much research type of writing and have to spend time in the education catalogs that sometimes we have to make ourselves stop and read something for the simple pleasure of reading. I have found the answer for me is poetry. The reason it’s refreshing is you put in as much effort as you want. When all your reading has been for studying, it feels good to read words that simply have beauty and rhythm. You can work you brain if you want when reading poetry, or you can just relax and enjoy it.

Menu Planning

Menu planning can save valuable time. And what, my friend, is more valuable to the home schooling mother than time?

I sit down with my children when we are all very, very hungry and we brainstorm about breakfast, lunch and dinner. We make a huge list of meals we like — the more, the better. The list can be kept in a computer file, added to from time to time, and referred to whenever you’re sitting down to plan menus or needing a batch of fresh ideas.

Years ago, I made a master grocery list, and the funny thing is, people always wanted a copy. The best way to make one is to think of how your grocery store is laid out and group your regular purchases accordingly. Most trips I make to the store start with me hitting “print” for the list and using a yellow highlighter to mark what I need.

Many families benefit from freezer cooking and it has become very well known. For further information on cooking ahead for the freezer, I recommend reading the book Frozen Assets: How to Cook for a Day and Eat for a Month (SourceBooks).

Also, be sure to visit the following web-page: Frozen Assets Home Page

Homeschooling with Preschoolers

1) Even preschoolers are subject to habits. They can be trained over time to play quietly while everyone else studies.

2) Try having a school box exactly like the other children with your preschooler’s name on it. Stock it with safety scissors, crayons, color books, lacing cards, quiet toys, etc.

3) Preschoolers often want to work in the same book as the older sister or brother. That problem is easily solved by giving young children used up workbooks. None of my little kids have cared that they were already written in, it’s the appearance of looking important enough to “do” school like the big kids that matters.

4) Waiting until your preshooler’s nap time is one solution that worked for me. We couldn’t get the whole school day accomplished in that short time but we could save the most important subjects for then.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Catherine Levison is the author of three Charlotte Mason-related homeschooling books: A Charlotte Mason Education: A How-to Manual, the sequel More Charlotte Mason Education, and her newest book A Literary Education: An Annotated Book List. Visit Catherine online at: