Tuesday, March 31, 2009

A 4 Year Old's Nature Notebook

One of the advantages of homeschooling is that there are few boundaries for learning. We aren't stuck in a certain grade level curriculum and our 4 year old can participate in most things we do (at his own level of course). He, too, has created a nature notebook. Not because I told him he had to, but because he saw his sisters working on theirs and he wanted one, too. He has an interest in learning and I'm letting him go with it. (I LOVE this stuff!!!) Here are a couple of photographs of his nature notebook.

A leaf that he found and wanted to keep. I probably should have dated this page for him, but it was from sometime last summer AND before I realized he was calling this his nature notebook.

His pictures of the hailstorm the other day.

He dictated the following for me to write on his page:
"God showed His power with the lightning and thunder. God shows steep power with lightning and the thunder is loud."
I have to admit that I don't understand what "steep" power is, but somehow it makes sense to him.

This is just the front cover of his notebook.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Speaking of Nature Study.....

Speaking of Nature Study, take a look at the current national weather map. We are located in south central Pennsylvania. Whew! Just a short while ago, the sun was out and we had blue sky with big puffy clouds, then we could see the black clouds rolling in.

The rain started and we all sat on the front porch. The thunder and lightning got closer. Like any other child, DS4 startled at some thunder that was close. Very calmly, I explained that the thunder is just one of God's ways of reminding us of how powerful He is. You can see the look of awe cross his face.

The rain started and soon began coming down in sheets. Then we noticed the hail. Both of my girls grabbed their cameras to take pictures.

This was a flash flood right next to our front porch that we watched appear before our eyes.

These nature journal entries include photographs with captions and narrations of the event.

This was also a great opportunity for DS4 to participate in "school". He has a notebook that he "writes" in. I gave him a couple of pictures to tape in his book and he dictated the captions to me.
Side note:
When I was little, I remember sitting on a neighbors front porch during thunderstorms with my mom. Sweet, sweet memories for me.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Charlotte Mason Discussion Group - Nature Study

"...special Nature Study lessons aren't always necessary. As you know, young children will discover toads, butterflies, beetles, earthworms, robins, thistles, squirrels, mushrooms, berries, and run into thorn bushes on their own, without any prodding from us."
- Karen Andreola on Nature Study in A Charlotte Mason Companion (page 253)

I find the above quote to be most appropriate. We don't need any special expensive curriculum or textbooks in order for our children to learn about nature. They are naturally curious and if we were to force them indoors with a textbook to learn about such things, they would resist.

A nature notebook can be any kind of notebook. A book with blank pages (either lined or unlined) is great or if you prefer, your child can take a clipboard with some loose paper on it to record observations and put into a 3-ring binder.
How to Start
Take your children outside and tell them that they will sit still for 10 minutes (or 15 or 20 minutes - you decide what they can handle) and see what it is that God wants to show them. It could be a blade of grass or a cloud formation or a bird. Perhaps God is reminding them of a Bible verse or giving them a new poem to write. They should record this on their paper. They can draw pictures or write words. It should remain open ended to see what God has in mind for them during that time.

This could be done once or twice a week - again depending on what your kids can handle.

As your child creates new entries in his journal, he is creating a keepsake. Something that he should be able to look back through for years to come.
Got Nature?
Nature study can be done in the city as well. There are parks and zoos to visit. You could have a pet such as a cat or fish. Sowing potted plants is also another way to observe God's handiwork.

Finally, your own back yard can lend itself to the study of nature. Currently, our family lives in a neighborhood where we have 1/5 of an acre and we find plenty to observe here. We have a bird box attached to our deck that is visited by birds each year. We are able to lift the lid to look in at the eggs and watch as the birds hatch and grow. In the past, I have taken pictures of the birds in the nest every couple of days. We took the pictures and lined them up to see the changes that happened in such a short period of time. We also have tulip bulbs in our yard as well as Black-Eyed Suzies and maple trees.

Indoor Nature Study
What about those days when it is just no fun to go outside? Can we still do nature study?

One of my daughter's favorite things to do each month is a page on the Flower and Gem of the Month. A quick web search will help you to find this month's flower and gem. Try to find interesting information on each for the children to add to their pages. For example: February's gem of the month is the amethyst. We found out that Nubian Queens were fond of amethysts and legend has it that men gave women heart-shaped amethysts as a sign of affection in the Middle Ages. We were also able to go to Potomac Bead Company and buy a small amethyst for less than $1. We put it in a little plastic baggie and taped that to the page. Along with public domain pictures printed from the internet, you can find catalogs at jewelry stores in the mall that highlight the gem of the month to cut out and paste on a page. I like to find pictures of the gem before and after cutting and polishing.

For your flower of the month, it may be possible to find seeds of the flower to put in a baggie to tape on your page.

Other indoor nature studies could include animal studies.
This past year we have been learning about all sorts of owls. We have the common name and find the scientific name, the range, diet, and any other interesting facts and make a page with that information. After studying a few owls, we had the opportunity to go to our local state park to dissect owl pellets. Photographs from that experience can be included in a nature journal.

You don't have to study owls. You can study just about any animal you wish.
Books I recommend:

Sample Nature Notebook Pages

These are flowers from our yard...
...and flowers found on a trail at the local community park.

Notice the little baggie of REAL Amethysts on the February page. This was my daughter's favorite part because they are the REAL THING!!!

This is a page I created for our owl studies. If you would like a blank copy, make your request by leaving a comment on this entry that includes your email address or you can email your request to homeschoolmarm@yahoo.com

Other resources for nature study:
  • Check out Harmony Art Mom's Outdoor Hour Challenges.
  • Tanglewood Curriculum has a very inexpensive Nature Notebook download that I have used for years.
  • Check your local state parks for summer classes. In Pennsylvania, your local park may develop a class if you call and request one. Codorus State Park has done this for us in the past.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

History Fair

Our homeschool group sponsored our first ever History Fair today. I think it's safe to say that it was a success and we will look forward to it again next year.

When I first mentioned "History Fair" to my kids, DD11 began right away with what she would do on the Underground Railroad. DD10 completed a project on the History of Ballet and DS4 did a project on Army Guys.

For DS4, all I really wanted to do was keep him busy one morning. I gave him a Military History magazine and told him to cut out all the army guys he could find. So he did and wanted to glue them on a backboard (like his sisters). Thus his project for the History Fair was born.

I planned and organized the event and right now am totally tired, but it was worth it. Here is the list of projects:
  • Pangea
  • Fossils
  • Renaissance Medicine
  • Colonial America
  • George Washington
  • The Oregon Trail
  • The Chisolm Trail
  • The Underground Railroad
  • Abraham Lincoln
  • Civil War
  • History of Recorded Music
  • History of Ballet
  • Army Guys

I think this list is pretty impressive for our first year!

Each project had a sheet where visitors could sign their name and write a comment. That part was a lot of fun for the kids to see how many signatures they could get. Members of our homeschool group donated baked goods and hot dogs for a bake sale. Each child who participated got a coupon for a free hot dog, bag of chips, drink and dessert. They loved it. The bake sale didn't earn a lot of money, we probably broke even, but again, that was worth it. Each child will also receive a certificate of participation (I forgot to bring them along with me) over the next week or so.

DD11 with her project on the Underground Railroad. She also wrote a short story that was a first person narrative for Harriet Tubman and she read that out loud.

DD10 and her History of Ballet display. What else would this child do?

DS4 sharing his Army Guy display with the girls who come to babysit him. (He adores them!)

Although I didn't get pictures of everyone, here are some that I did get.

The Oregon Trail

The Chisolm Trail

The History of Recorded Music

Abraham Lincoln

Colonial America


Civil War - How to load a weapon

Civil War - Flag Signals

Civil War - Bandaging with a corn husk demonstration

A dad taking a closer look.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Iditarod in the 21st Century

The Iditarod is well under way and we are having a blast with it as we watch our mushers and cheer for them and pray for them. Dee Dee Jonrowe and Jessie Royer are our favorites and we rejoice with each checkpoint they come to.
I had to pay for the subscription to the Iditarod Insider, but it is so worth it. We get to see new videos each day (usually there is at least one video of our chosen mushers). The video also gives us a chance to see the Alaskan wilderness. It is so vast and when the camera is zoomed in on a musher then pans out to a mountain range, I think it gives us a good feeling for how big it all is.

My girls each made a poster for their musher - totally unprompted. I noticed last night that dd11 had checkpoints written on her poster. When I asked her about it, she told me that she writes the checkpoints as Jessie Royer comes to each one.

This is Dee Dee Jonrowe with her team.

These pictures are from Sunday during the restart. It seemed like we waited for hours to get a glimpse of our mushers as they headed out on their journey.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Iditarod Begins Today

The Iditarod starts today!!!! We are so excited that some of our favorite mushers will be back again this year - Dee Dee Jonrowe (DD10 likes her because her dogs have pink harnesses) and Jessie Royer and Lance Mackey. These are becoming household names here.

We find the Iditarod fascinating each year as we always learn something new. We choose mushers to follow through the race. We log in to Iditarod.com and find out where they are and plot it on a map. We have a chart to write down the times they come to each checkpoint. Most importantly, we pray for our mushers.

There are lots of lesson and activities on the internet in relation to this race. You can find free materials on the offical Iditarod website as well as at about.com.

Over the next couple of days, I hope to post activities that we are completing concerning this race. In the meantime, you can check out my previous posts on this topic.

February 19, 2007 Iditarod

February 21, 2007 Connection

March 1, 2008 Iditarod

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Bee Hive

A dear friend of mine who recently pulled her children out of private school to homeschool, called me and invited us over to see a be hive in her back yard. I was thrilled to have the opportunity for a nature walk like this. There was a huge tree that was loaded with honeycomb and we found bees in it! We surmised that the bees were "sleeping" as we didn't see any movement from them and it was COLD!!! There were layers of honeycomb inside this tree that had been cut open.
As an added bonus, we were able to observe several tracks in the snow. Most were rabbit, but we also found birds, chipmunks, and dog.

Another added bonus is that last January, we went out searching for shelf mushrooms. All we found were itty bitty shelves. Today we found fantastic shelf mushrooms. The kids actually spotted them. We broke one off to bring home so we could take a closer look at it.
Note: The mushroom study came from the Outdoor Hour Challenge at Handbook of Nature Study, another excellent Charlotte Mason Resource.
Here are some pictures from our nature walk.

"Sleeping Bees"

Making entries into nature notebooks.

Taking a closer look