Nature Study in Year 0 – Surviving Summer

WAR EAGLE CREEK ~ JULY 11, 2018

Hi friends! Today I want to share how our family has been making nature walks happen in these sweltering, muggy, dog days of summer….or should I say, how my HUSBAND has been making nature walks happen…because let’s be honest here, the times we’ve managed to venture out and explore any new place this summer have been motivated by him. As much as I’m committed to getting my girls out and as much as I love and need to be outside myself, this summer heat has about done me in! I’m so thankful that Charlie loves to teach our daughters about nature and that he sees the value in getting outside and discovering new things.

Our first family nature walk happened on July 11th. We went to a place not too far from our house that none of us had ever visited before. We were the only ones there, and we went later in the day to avoid some of the heat. It was truly a beautiful place! Full disclosure: this creek was adjacent to a cow pasture, and we dodged evidence of said cows on our short walk to the water. Our noses told us that cows did, in fact, frequent the area. Don’t let the pictures fool you…we were in farm country and we knew it!

We set up some camp chairs, Charlie broke out his fishing pole, and the girls set off to find some treasures. I brought my camera and snapped a few shots in between corralling Merryn and making sure she didn’t walk too far into the creek. The dried-up part of the creek bed was full of driftwood, interesting rocks, and baby frogs (toads?). It was hard to tell if our new friends were frogs or toads, so if you have any tips on identifying babies to share, please pass them along!

Molly dammed up a few areas for her amphibious friends in futile hopes of keeping them caught;  she then decided to draw them in the small notebook she brought from home. Merryn delighted in wading into the cool water of the creek. Charlie caught a fish or two. I listened to a bullfrog’s echoing call bounce off the surrounding cliffs and watched my family soak up the last bit of sunlight. Even with the cow smell all around us (you get used to it after a while), it was pretty magical.

“We are all meant to be naturalists, each in his own degree, and it is inexcusable to live in a world so full of the marvels of plant and animal life and to care for none of these things.”

~ Charlotte Mason ~

Year 0, Day 1: What Our “Kindergarten” Year Looks Like

Hello Friends!

Today officially marks our unofficial start to homeschooling. I have planned for months in anticipation of this day, and I woke up this morning with a bit of the nerves I used to feel each year on the first day of school. I’m excited to share with you how our morning went, as well as why I chose the things we will be using throughout this school year.

I chose to start today because I will be giving birth in early October. Each Charlotte Mason term is twelve weeks, so starting today gives me exactly that amount of time before baby girl comes along. I also chose to start in July this time around because I plan on taking October, November, and December off in order to settle in and adjust to life with three kids and also because – fourth trimester! If all goes well, we will pick back up in January and finish out Molly’s Kindergarten year in June.

Because Molly’s birthday is in November, she technically wouldn’t start public school Kindergarten until next year, right before she would turn six. By that time, however, I plan on starting Year 1 with her, which will include a much more structured time of learning with documentation and more subjects added in. I don’t want to spring that much on her, going from carefree, unscheduled days to full blown school all at once. This year is meant to ease both of us into a routine of sorts, without the pressure of knowing it’s “for real.”

So here’s what we did today:

We woke up, got dressed, ate breakfast, and read a story from the Jesus Storybook Bible while we ate. My younger daughter, Merryn, was with us for this part. We have been implementing a bible verse memory system from Simply Charlotte Mason since May of this year, and it is working beautifully so far! Each morning we practice the current verse until Molly knows it by heart, and we also review one or two previously learned verses so they stay fresh in her mind. Today we also listened to this month’s hymn, Great is Thy Faithfulness, while we ate.

Molly took care of some of her morning chores (feeding the dog, wiping off the table) while I unloaded the dishwasher, cleaned up the kitchen, and took the trash out. The girls then played in the living room while I finished up and began gathering our materials for the day.

Molly asked to go outside, so we spent about 30 minutes riding bikes on our newly-paved driveway. I’m struggling this summer to get outside as much as I know we need to be, because my heat tolerance is almost non-existent right now. I took some cute pics of the girls, and then we headed back inside to cool off.

Merryn went down for her morning nap around 9:35, and Molly and I got started. Today we began studying a new artist, John Constable. We looked at his photo, read a small excerpt about his life, and looked at the first painting, “Boat-Building Near Flatford Mill.”

My favorite part of our morning was the math lesson we did. We are using Right Start Math, Level A this year. Some of the lessons will be super easy for Molly, but because she has never formally had any kind of math lessons yet, I wanted to start from the beginning. We will most likely only complete half of this book by June because I only planned two math lessons a week. Today’s lesson was subitizing amounts up to 3, and Molly was engaged the entire time.

The last thing we did was not really a Charlotte Mason thing, but it’s something I selfishly want to build into our weeks – a time of journalling. Molly got to draw a picture of whatever she wanted, and I wrote underneath exactly what she drew. This will be something I try to incorporate maybe once or twice a week, as Molly wants to. She eagerly participated today!

Our total time spent “doing school” this morning was roughly 30 minutes. For a first day, it went relatively smoothly, which I am thankful for. A day or two ago, Molly and I were talking in the car about starting school, and she asked me if she was going to be doing a lot of hard work. Now, I’m not sure where she picked up the idea that school is hard, but I reassured her that our school was going to be easy and fun. When we finished up today I asked her if she felt like it had been hard work or easy fun, and she happily replied, “Easy fun!”

No young child should be made to do “hard work” when it comes to school and learning. I’ll leave you with this quote from Charlotte Mason herself:

Give your child a single valuable idea, and you have done more for his education than if you had laid upon his mind the burden of bushels of information.

 

Until Next Time,

Emily

…and so it begins…

 

I sit here almost paralyzed with the weight of what I’m about to do. What started as a whisper grew into an idea and has now become an actual thing…a reality. I am starting a homeschooling blog; specifically, a blog to chronicle my family’s journey as we attempt to apply the educational philosophies of Charlotte Mason to our home and life.

So here it is: my first blog post. To be honest, it’s really not my first blog post ever; I have curated at least two blogs before this one and I have contributed to other blogs in the past. But this feels different. This feels like I’m about to bare the deepest part of my soul to a bunch of people who could easily find fault or critique not only my decision to homeschool, but the way I’ve decided to put that decision into practice. And for a people-pleaser like me, the thought of negative feedback makes my heart jump into my throat just a little. But here’s the thing: I can’t not do this, even if I catch a little flack here and there. The passion I feel for Charlotte Mason’s methods is enough to propel me forward and put myself out there in hopes of inspiring other moms to create an atmosphere of beauty and peace and life in their own home, whether they homeschool or not.

First things first. In keeping with a brand-spanking-new blog, I should probably tell you something about myself, so you know where I’m coming from. The most important thing you need to know about me is I am a follower of Jesus. He is my Savior and the wellspring of my entire life. I have been married for thirteen years to basically my polar opposite. I am a former elementary teacher and currently a stay-at-home-mom to two (almost three) adorable, hot-mess daughters. My oldest is almost five years old, and my youngest is almost a year and a half. Come October, I will be giving birth to our third girl and my husband will be fervently sending up prayers for sanity!

Since Molly was born in 2013, I toyed with the idea of one day homeschooling her. I knew in my heart that after teaching so many other children, I needed to at least try to teach my own, but I had no clue how I was going to actually make it happen. For the seven years I taught, I was exposed to all sorts of curriculum and methodology, but I never heard the name Charlotte Mason until a homeschooling friend told me about her. Once I read up on her and learned exactly what she believed about children and how they learn, I felt like God was confirming that not only was I definitely supposed to homeschool, but I was meant to follow Mason’s example. 

That was in the Spring of 2017. In the months since then, I have devoured books about Charlotte Mason, read blogs, followed drool-worthy CM Instagram accounts, scoured Pinterest, and basically rehashed what I learned about her methods to my husband so many times that we had to nix the potential name Charlotte for our baby…it was just too overused!  I am in NO WAY an expert on educating my children according to her ideology, but everything I know about her so far lines up with my core beliefs about God, children, and my responsibility as a mother to weave the education of my girls into the very fabric of their daily lives. 

That’s where I’m at today. I’m starting with a little knowledge, a ton of passion, and a firm conviction that this path of teaching my kids at home is the one my Heavenly Father has laid before me. As I embark on this journey, I plan to share it all here – the good, the bad, and the not-so-beautiful parts of homeschooling the Charlotte Mason way. I can’t promise super short posts – I tend to be a teensy bit wordy. You will not always be exposed to airbrushed pics that have been perfectly edited – although I am hoping to include interesting images with each contribution to this blog. What I can offer is a real, unfiltered glimpse into this family’s imperfect attempt to build an atmosphere, a discipline, and ultimately a life that honors God and points our children to His ways through their education. Join me, won’t you?

‘Til Next Time,

Emily

“Our aim in education is to give a full life. We owe it to them to initiate an immense number of interests. Life should be all living, and not merely a tedious passing of time; not all doing or all feeling or all thinking – the strain would be too great – but, all living; that is to say, we should be in touch wherever we go, whatever we hear, whatever we see, with some manner of vital interest.”

– Charlotte Mason