Sunday, September 30, 2007

A Sample Week: Year One Week Two

This is not the official Ambleside Online reading list. I have taken a good deal of liberty with arranging, rearranging, deleting, and adding. For the AO list, please visit the Ambleside Online homepage. Also, some of the books are really for Punkin :)

Our schedule this week will still not include all of our subjects, but we will be getting closer to the full schedule. This week we will be adding the following: daily penmanship (copywork), recitation/memory work, math, drill & dance, phonics and reading with Shug, brushwork, Spanish & ASL, and handicrafts. Sounds like a lot, doesn't it? Most of these "new" subjects are not everyday, though. Also, remember, those CM lessons are short! :) Here we go...

Monday (A.M.):

I still want to try to start lessons by 8:00am! - yeah, right. Little Dude was up several times again last night... definitely teething. I heard the alarm, but I turned it off and rolled over. We started lessons after 9:30am. Our latest morning yet. BUT, we did get everything but poetry done. No biggie, we aren't on a poetry schedule anyway. We'll just read some tomorrow :)

Bible* - Genesis 12:1-6

20 minutes of chores after breakfast* - actually more like 30 minutes today

Copywork* - Shug practiced d,b,and r and SweetP wrote the first verse of Psalm 150

Recitation* - Psalm 150:1-3

Took a 45 minute break outside around 10:45am. The rain stopped and it was nice out, even though it was cloudy. Found the largest stinkbug I've ever seen. He was on the trunk of one of the plum trees. Put him in a magnifying container and SweetP drew him for her nature notebook. Also found an unidentified cocoon on the sugar maple. Orbette (our "pet" orb weaver garden spider) made the most perfect web this morning. All our cold-blooded friends were moving a bit slowly this a.m.

Math* - 2 pages from FFrogs. Also, talked about sets and different set combinations totaling 6.

Drill and Dance* - What great fun! Reviewed "Forward and Back" and how to "swing" a partner. Dancing the Bastringue.

Took a 30 minute walk around the neighborhood after lunch and before nap. Girls were able to get fairly close to a Killdeer. He screeched so loudly when he flew away. Everyone jumped :) Picked fuzzy grasses, queen anne's lace. Empty lots have their advantages :)

Read Milne at lunchtime* - this was before nap, Eeyore lost his tail

Mother Goose rhymes before nap* - this was after nap

Monday (P.M.):

Among the Forest People - Chapt. 2* - great book, excellent narrations today...often in a British accent, lol. Must be from The Secret Garden and B. Potter :) Or maybe I tend to read Milne with a touch of an accent???

Livingstone biography - Chapt. 2* - Shug joined in this week

Phonics Pathways* - ummmm, not sure what we're going to do with phonics this year. I tried to figure out where Shug was in the PP book (in terms of reading skill) and she's at the end. I don't want to begin spelling with her yet, though. She's only 5. Maybe we'll just read together until I notice trouble words. Need to think more about this...

Brushwork* Used tube paints in primary colors. Explored mixing to get secondary colors: purple, green, orange. SweetP even came up with a really lovely brown by mixing purple with some green.

Poetry - Missed this today.

3 more books for Punkin - May not get these in today. Plan on playing outside most of the evening. It's bee-u-ti-ful out there right now! :)

Tuesday (A.M.):

I still want to try to start lessons by 8:00am! This is getting funny. We did not start by 8am. When is it considered giving up and when is it considered adjusting to reality???

Bible* read from Vos Bible storybook about Abraham leaving home

20 minutes of chores after breakfast* more or less

Copywork (from Phonics Pathways)* Gave SweetP 6 words for her copywork. She will copy them again on Thursday and will have them for dictation on Friday.

Spanish/ASL* Lyric Language CD - "Roll on, Roll on, Pretty River!" We rock out in the van to this song :)

Folk song "Turkey in the Straw" - Had a great time listening to this in the van with my sis. We went up mom & dad's house today, so we made the most of the van time. We listened to this song several times, but also listened to other folk songs. "Shenandoah" has been a favorite since early this summer.

Little House in the Big Woods at lunchtime* read this to Joy in the p.m. while Sam read Damon & Pythias to the older two.

Poems to Read to the Very Young before nap* read outside while Joy rested on a cushiony lounge chair in Mom & Dad's backyard. Also sang nursery rhymes to her :) She eventually moved inside, but still never napped. Not a good away from home napper.

Tuesday (P.M.):

Reading with Shug - still trying to figure out what we're doing. I gave her some copywork this morning from PP.

Aesop - The Boy Who Cried Wolf (CBOV)* Read it on porch steps with the two oldest. Very strong narrations.

George Washington - D'Aulaire, 3 pgs.* The girls really like this book :) Read it in the swing in parents' backyard. Nana narrated, too :)

Poetry* from Poems to Read to the Very Young today instead of the usual book

Handicrafts - didn't happen. Decided to let the girls ride bikes all afternoon instead.

Damon & Pythias - w/ Sam*

3 more books for Punkin - didn't happen. She rode her bike a lot today and after we left Mom & Dad's we took Sissy home and wound up having dinner at Heather & Brian's house. It was getting close to bedtime by the time we were home. I did read all of the poetry book this afternoon, though, and a good bit of Little House to her. She's doing well with it. She likes the pages with the pictures best, but she's listening intently. Somehow the first chapter always seems strange with a very little one. Gutting deer and hanging them in trees and all that. I think it bothers them less than I think it will, though ;) Maybe, just maybe we can start lessons by 8am tomorrow. I'm going to bed now!

Wednesday (A.M.):

I still want to try to start lessons by 8:00am! - Now I'm laughing.

I was feeling OLD this morning, and I really needed to go slowly. I made spelt muffins and sent the girls out to play before 9am. They played for quite a while this morning. I thought of you, Amanda, and wondered if any of my neighbors were tsk tsking about the children being out ;) If I get reported, I have my proof! We really, truly did all of school today :) SweetP had a captive grasshopper for a bit and later came to me with grasshopper "scat" on the end of a dried shaft of panicum grass. "Look, Mama!" We did Bible and reading outside, then came in for copywork.

Bible* Luke 2:1-20

20 minutes of chores after breakfast*

Copywork* Shug did a review page from A Reason for Handwriting Book K and SweetP copied Psalm 150:1

Recitation* Getting Psalm 150:1-3 down fairly well

Math* Great math day. Did 2 pages of Funtastic Frogs, but the best part was combining different sets of frogs to total five. I would say something like, "Make five using three sets of frogs". Then SweetP would have to decide how to show five with three sets. She got excited when she came up with the answer. A set of 2 blue frogs, a set of 2 green frogs, and 1 red frog. Then we would say the math sentence - "2 plus 2 plus 1 makes 5". She made 5 in 4 different ways. We also discussed the meaning of "empty set".

Drill & Dancing* short today. We learned how to circle right and circle left and also how to curtsey :)

Milne at lunchtime* Piglet met up with a heffalump - one of my favorites

Mother Goose rhymes before nap* I recited some and sang some as I cleaned up after lunch, no book

*read The Seasons of Arnold's Appletree before nap

Wednesday (P.M.):

Reading w/ Shug * This was actually in the morning today. Decided to listen to Shug read through the first 3 chapters of Genesis over the next few weeks, about 10 verses at a time. When she came to a word she didn't know this morning, I wrote that word on a plain white index card. After the lesson, we put the index cards into a letter envelope on which I wrote "Kindergarten Sight Words". She ate it up :) Her sight words today, from Genesis 1:1-9, were "void" and "expanse". I noted that she could not sound out "void". Tomorrow, we'll be doing the Phonics Pathways lesson that covers "oi" words and words with the same sound. We'll go back to Genesis on Friday. We'll see how this works. She loves the idea.

George Washington - D'Aulaire, 3 pgs.* Getting exciting - French forts in the Ohio wilderness!

The Secret Garden - Chapt. 21*

Lapharp* Most of our time was spent tuning the things! They aren't perfect, but at least the songs are recognizable now. We'll get to a song or two later in the week. Each of the older girls played random little tunes for a bit while I laid Punkin down for nap.

Handicrafts - Nope, guess we'll start next week. We'll be sewing :)

3 more books to Punkin*

Thursday (A.M.):

I still want to try to start lessons by 8:00am! - This is getting embarrassing. Good for my pride, I guess ;)

Bible* read from Vos story Bible

20 minutes of chores after breakfast* did about an hour of housework upstairs w/ the children

Copywork (from Phonics Pathways)* Shug copied "moist" (5x) and "point" (1x), SweetP copied her phonics word list again

Spanish/ASL* reviewed colors and numbers, began shapes - circulo, rectangulo, diamante, and triangulo

Cursive w/ SweetP* on dry erase board, writing our last name

Little House in the Big Woods at lunchtime* moved to evening while Sam does "A Laconic Answer"

A Child's Garden of Verses before nap* with all 3 girls

Thursday (P.M.):

Reading with Shug* did page 172 in PP, "oi" words

George Washington - D'Aulaire, 3 pgs.*

Paddle to the Sea, 2 pgs.* we did one page, that's what AO recommends. The three pages I did last week were enough to get the story sufficiently underway. Today, with three narrations and some mapwork, one page was enough. We have a large laminated map of the U.S. on a bulletin board and we are following Paddle along with blue pushpins :)

Brushwork - ditched it for a nap for Mama and some after nap time outside

A Laconic Answer - w/ Sam*

3 more books for Punkin*

Friday (A.M.):

I still want to try to start lessons by 8:00am! - I'm going to quit writing this ;]

Bible* Psalm 150

20 minutes of chores after breakfast*

Dictation, SweetP only (then, cat, cap, rock, kiss, kill, sock - starting easy), Shug copied "point" 4x


Math* adding 3 sets to make 5 or 6. Wrote and discussed "plus" sign. I placed 3 sets of frog counters on the floor and SweetP wrote the math sentence on a dry erase board. For example, "3 + 2 + 1 is 6". She did three sentences that way. Showed how the order of the sets does not change the total number, "2 + 1 + 3" is also 6. Then, I wrote a math sentence or two and SweetP placed the sets of frogs out.

Drill & Dance - no dice today. Mama's working on a headache. I'm glad we finished what we did.

Milne at lunchtime - no Milne, but we read Oxcart Man and Red Leaf, Yellow Leaf

The Little Red Hen at lunchtime*

Friday (P.M.):

Reading with Shug* she read Gen 1:9-19, stumbled a bit on "seasons". We talked about words where "s" is pronounced like "z". Wrote these words on dry erase board for her to read. Added "seasons" to her sight word envelope.

Geography (continents mapwork)* SweetP took off on this while the 2 other girls napped and I fed Little Dude his peas. We have a blackline dry erase map of the world. I gave her the words "Africa", "Indian Ocean", and "Atlantic Ocean" so she could copy them onto their proper places on the map in dry erase marker. Baby was still chowing away, so SweetP kept asking me how to spell different continents. By the time I finished feeding Dude his babyfood, SweetP had labelled, Africa, Antarctica, Atlantic Ocean, Indian Ocean, Greenland (made sure she knows this isn't a continent), North and South America, and Asia. This sort of thing is right up her alley. She loved it :)

Handicrafts - did brushwork instead

The Secret Garden - Chapt. 22*

3 more books for Punkin*

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Music Appreciation

With all of the material to cover each day, how can a family make time for the "extras" like art and music appreciation? It seems to me that the best way to make sure the children are regularly exposed to the arts is to find a way to seamlessly weave these subjects into the day. This is especially easy when it comes to music - just play it on a CD! If we can just remember to play the music, there are great gains in just listening to it. There may be occasional conversations about instruments, movements, etc., but they are not necessary for young children to genuinely benefit from the music. Simply enjoying Strauss while we do a few chores or eat breakfast is enough to introduce great music to our children.

It should come as no surprise that, as with the other subjects, Charlotte Mason urges the very best quality for our children. Our modern minds immediately jump to defend our preferences and we ask who can judge what is really quality. My reply would be that time is the best judge of quality. Music that has lasted the test of time and has been continually considered excellent most likely is excellent. With this view in mind, classical and folk music will take center stage in our listening choices for Year One. Hymns, of course, also qualify as quality music. We often listen to hymns in the van and Sam memorizes a new hymn each month with the children during bedtime devotions. I'd like to play hymns more regularly in the house during the day. I'll have to move some hymn CDs inside :)

Although I played around some with the idea of a "composer for each term" during this last year, I admit that it seemed more contrived than I liked for my everyone-six-and-under crew. I'm willing to give it a go, however. Above all, for this age group, the music is about beauty and big ideas. We may get to some of the details of the composer's lives, but if, at the end of the term, I can say that the children have grown to love classical music more, I will consider our term's "study" a success.

Keeping a regular time for this music seems to help me play it consistently. A habit of playing a CD every morning while I make breakfast, for instance, is an easy way to make sure that quality music is a part of each day. Even if we don't get around to it every day, though, a couple of days a week is better than none and probably enough to make a positive impression on the children. Beyond a regular listening time, we will also use our term's music for some of our drill & dance days (that's just fancy PNEU lingo for dancing up some exercise in the family room).

Beyond listening to CDs, we also hope to establish a bit of a family tradition by attending several philharmonic concerts together each year. The Dayton Philharmonic Orchestra has some great, informal "teaching" performances on Thursday and Friday nights that are reasonably priced and appropriate for preschool and up. Special nights like these can be a great way to show the children how much we enjoy beautiful music, besides just being a really nice way to spend an evening together. We have used the fall season's performance schedule to choose our composers for the term (we'll being focusing in on two composers from now until December). We plan to attend a concert in November with the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra performing Mozart's Piano Concerto No. 23 in A Major and Mahler's Symphony No. 7 in E Minor. So, Mozart and Mahler it is!

Apart from the set composer study schedule, Classics for Kids is a really neat radio program and website that offers a little more in-depth music study than just listening alone. There is a weekly show available as well as a backlist of previous airings. Worth looking into. Also, the Classical Kids Series of CDs has won award after award. We own the Vivaldi CD (purposefully a little spooky in parts - I could do without all that, but overall okay for children old enough to handle it) and hope to buy the Mozart disc soon. I haven't heard this one, yet, so I cannot vouch for it personally, but these CDs seem to be favorites with lots of homeschooling families. I didn't realize it before tonight, but apparently there are theatrical tours of these productions, too! That sounds like something I want to look into :)

*edited to say that Mozart's Magnificent Voyage wasn't really our cup of tea. We checked it out from the library, but we will not be buying it. Just wanted to say that ;)

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Example Week: Year One Week One

**Just wanted to clarify that we NEVER got started with lessons by 8:00 AM. Eventually, I gave up on even having this as a goal :) Didn't want anyone to think that we actually did that. It seemed like a good idea, but reality set in rather quickly ;)**

This is not the official Ambleside Online reading list. I have taken a good deal of liberty with arranging, rearranging, deleting, and adding. For the AO list, please visit the Ambleside Online homepage.

Our schedule this week will not include all of our subjects. We are using this week to ease back in to a school day routine. All of the readings will include narration. I'd really like to be able to work with Shug some this week with her drawing and I also want to work with watercolors once this week. Shug has also started making her circles clockwise - need to fix that :) Punkin will be learning about seasons and we'll introduce a shortened version of our preschool Apple theme for her. Some of my goals are not directly related to the curriculum, but instead relate more to family life and running the household. Prayer is always good :) Here are our hopes for the coming week:

Do 20 mins. of chores after breakfast each day

Begin Lessons at 8:00am each day


Before we even got going this morning, SweetP asked, "Mama, what's 'the fall of Rome'?" Checked my facts in an encyclopedia and we discussed it for a few minutes (Yay for books in the house - I wouldn't have come up with Germanic Barbarians on my own, lol.)

Began lessons at around 9:15am - we'll try again for 8 tomorrow ;)

We did 20 minutes of morning chores after breakfast*


I made my bed

Among the Forest People - Chapt. 1* (love it!!)

Livingstone - Chapt. 1* (lion attack, intense, SweetP only. Looked at Africa on the globe. Found the Atlantic Ocean, Indian Ocean, Equator, and Victoria Falls)

Poetry* (favorite was "Somewhere" by Walter de la Mare)

A.A. Milne (kindergarten)* ("We Are Introduced to Winnie-the-Pooh and Some Bees, and the Stories Begin" - somehow Pooh just feels restful. I like that.)

5 books for Punkin* (6 if you count the one SweetP read to her)

Work on counterclockwise circles w/ Shug* (also "o", "a" on the dry erase board)

An Island Story - Chapt. 1 (Sam in P.M.)* (with 2 oldest girls - Hubby even listened to a narration from SweetP)

Well, we got everything on the list read and narrated today, but not without a few eventful moments. The actual "school" part went fine, but everything was against us getting outside today. LOL, more later... ;) Thanks for your prayers and encouragement! We're feeling a bit better, btw. Little Dude is still the worst off - gunky nose, poor guy.


Began lessons around 9:00am - a little improvement, *sigh*. We were ready at 8:30, but baby peed on himself.

Girls did 20 minutes of chores after breakfast, but I bathed Dude & fed him, washed his sheets- did chores later


Aesop: Hercules and the Wagoner* (discussed why the moral isn't truthful. A better choice might be "Do thine own part faithfully." from the hymn 'If Thou But Suffer God to Guide Thee' - old PCA days, lol)

I dusted and vacuumed the living room after Aesop/ older girls played in family room/ Punkin helped me dust

Just So Stories: Whale* (Vocab "astute", "infinite", "sagacity"- Shug got SO excited when it mentioned Albion)

I put new sheets on Dude's mattress before his nap, then I broke the crib - literally. *sigh, again*

Poetry* (favorite was "The Secret Cavern" by Margaret Widdemer)

D'Aulaire's George Washington: 2 pgs.* (discussed slavery a bit)

Work on counterclockwise circles w/ Shug* (also "o", "a", and "d" on the dry erase board)

5 books for Punkin*

50 Famous Stories - Sword of Damocles* (Sam in P.M.) (Sam wrote out "Dionysius" and "Damocles" on the dry erase board beforehand. SweetP had a hard time narrating this one. Sam more or less discussed it with them afterward. Concepts a bit abstract, it seems.)

I feel like I ran a marathon and I never did get around to making my bed today. Little Dude still not shaking this cold :( Joy asked me today if Aunt Sissy was coming soon. Hopefully, we'll see her at the end of the week :)


Began lessons by 9:15am. I chose to let the children sleep in a bit because I wanted to have breakfast alone with Sam. He left for NYC today. I also chose to hold off on most of our lessons until the 2 youngest were down for nap. Not sure yet if that was a good idea or not.

We did not do chores right after breakfast. Instead, because there was a lull in the rain, we went for a nature walk around the neighborhood. Incorporated map study by drawing a little map of the corner and a dozen or so trees that are there.

We did chores after our (rather lengthy) walk*


Parables From Nature - Faith*

Little House in the Big Woods - half of Chapt. 1 (Joy's first time!)*

Poetry (didn't get to this today)

D'Aulaire's George Washington: 2 pgs.*

A.A. Milne (kindergarten): ("Pooh Goes Visiting and Gets Into a Tight Place")*

5 books for Punkin*

Drawing with Shug (Draw-Write-Now Book 1)*

Also, older 2 girls played the card game "War" together in the afternoon (greater than, less than)*

Added in copywork (Shug copied o,a,d,g again and SweetP copied "Praise the LORD!"*

Began memorizing Psalm 150*

Folksongs and dancing/exercise in family room for about 20 minutes ("Turkey in the Straw" is a fave)

I made a big mistake today with SweetP's narration of Parables of Nature. She has been narrating so fluidly and with such great detail that I thought she might be able to narrate once at the end of the reading. I turned out to be entirely too much for her to narrate in one fell swoop, and she became flustered and overwhelmed. Poor thing. It was foolish of me, really. I know I'm not *supposed* to read twice, but I felt that I had to give her another chance since the mistake had been my own. I'm also not *supposed* to ask a beginning narrator to narrate an entire reading at once. I'm also not *supposed* to do lessons in the afternoon. That whole lesson was a big CM failure.

On the bright side, though, I did get a chance to explain again why we even do narrations at all. I emphasized how narrations help SweetP fix the story in her mind and are really part of the learning process - not just a test of what she remembers. I wanted to ease any sense of pressure she may have been feeling. Testing, as such, is a nasty process - I saw a glimpse today of how a test-oriented misunderstanding of narration could take the focus off of the material and onto the "performance". Lord willing, we dealt sufficiently with the issue this afternoon. Her next narration (of the D'Aulaire book) was lively and detailed again. Phew. Thank you, Lord, for covering over my mistakes.


This is a light day. Yay. I hope to add in some recitation, copywork, and something for our nature notebooks. Collected leaves yesterday, so we may try to identify those trees and press the leaves. Sissy is visiting, too, so it's nice that we don't have a full school schedule going. She'll probably read all of the books to Punkin ;)

Began schoolwork by 9:00am - maybe I should just give in :[

Did 20 minutes of chores after breakfast*

*Heather did come today and she read 3 books to Punkin. I love my sister. Also, my mom came down last night so I'd have another adult in the house with us. I love my Mom, too. See you tomorrow night, Mom!*

Bible* (John 9, helped illustrate concept of "faith", clarifying Parables of Nature a bit)

Poetry* (favorite was "Rathers" by Mary Austin - Shug just helped me remember the poet, lol)

D'Auliare's George Washington: 2 pgs.* (did 3 pages instead, really took time to enjoy the illustrations today)

5 books for Punkin*

Drawing with Shug (Draw-Write-Now Book 1)*

Read through Psalm 150:1,2 several times for memorization*

Copywork* (Shug worked on o,a,d and SweetP wrote "Praise the LORD in his sanctuary;")


Had "Aunt Sissy Time" instead of doing nature notebooks

Good, good day today. I think I'm starting to get a feel for what to do in the morning and what to save for the afternoon. Also, if we're going to do some work during naptime, I have to get the youngest two down by 1:15pm or so. Much later than that and the older two are too toasted to give much attention by the end of lessons. Good day today. We're getting there... I'm looking forward to tomorrow.


Finally! Today felt right :) *relieved sigh* Amanda asked me earlier this week, "Isn't this fun?!" and my honest reaction was, "No. It's exhausting." Today, though, we found a groove. Of course, now we have to add more into the picture for the beginning of next week, but at least we ended this week without Mama wondering if she'd completely lost her mind :)

We began "lessons" today at 9:45 am - and in a prairie. The morning was so beautiful, I decided to head for the great outdoors before we did anything else. We were moderately successful animal trackers - we located the tracks of one mature deer with a fawn. We were able to follow their walk for about 30 feet along the muddy trail. SweetP noted how they stayed to one side of the path and Shug found several spots that looked like deer had bedded there. Goldenrod, asters, and prairie coreopsis were everywhere - beautiful. We stayed at the arboretum for about 2 and 1/2 hours. Had lunch from Tim Hortons on the way home (I mentioned that just for P Steve).

All of our lessons were during naptime. SweetP and Shug did fine with that today and didn't seem too tired. We did not do any copywork. Honestly, the days that we did copywork this week were a "bonus"; I hadn't planned on officially beginning handwriting until next week. Mom is coming over again this evening to spend the night with us. Considering that Little Dude was up no less than four times last night (teething?), I'm very glad to have her with us :) I'm always glad for her visits, but this one is especially appreciated. Sam comes home late tomorrow afternoon. Yay.

Bible* (Exodus 25:1-8 describing the offerings for the building of the tabernacle - God's earthly sanctuary)

Recitiation* (Read aloud through Psalm 150:1,2 together twice. Talked about "Praise God in his sanctuary")

Paddle to the Sea - Chapt. 1* (We cheated. This was the very beginning of the book and the first chapter was ONE page long. I read the first three chapters (three pages total) just to get into the story a bit. The girls really, really enjoyed this book. SweetP narrated chapters 2 and 3. I'll try just reading one page next time, but I felt like it was worth it to get "into" the story a bit here at the beginning. Believe me, they are highly anticipating following along with Paddle on his adventures!)

Poetry* (Favorite was "For a Child" by Fannie Stearns Davis. Shug is really getting into the poems. She actually asked to take our poetry book up with her for rest time yesterday.)

A.A. Milne (kindergarten): ("Pooh and Piglet Go Hunting and Nearly Catch a Woozle". Punkin asked me if we were going to read about "catching the weasel". I told her we were and then she said that she didn't like that one. "My sisters like that one, but I don't like that one. May we please read a different one". Sure, honey ;) Woosels apparently unnerve more than just Pooh Bear.

5 books for Punkin (we'll reach this point by tonight)

Watercolors* (Used tubed colors for the first time. Played around with adding more water and changed the shades of green from dark to light. Worked on brushdrawing ovals (tip from a Parent's Review article). Then, SweetP and I brushdrew (sounds funny) one of the leaves from our Wednesday nature walk. We'll add it to her nature notebook when it dries. We always take longer w/ watercolors than I mean to. It was a profitable lesson, though.

Animal Tracking :)* (SweetP also studied the introduction to our tracking field guide. She drew a picture of a white-tailed deer and assigned herself copywork. She was writing common tracking terms down when I came downstairs from laying the baby down. She's a crack up.)

Praise the Lord that our first week is under our belts! Part of me wishes everyone could be in kindergarten forever, but I think I'm just adjusting to the change. It will probably take a full three weeks to start hitting the groove on a regular basis. Thank you for your prayers, everyone!

Thursday, September 20, 2007

The Weekly Nature Walk

I know. Four to six hours a day outside sounds absolutely NUTSO to some of my dear blogging pals. That's okay :) You know what, though? I'm not going to go on and on about multiple hours outside tonight. I'm going to talk about one little half hour. Thirty minutes that comes around just once a week. A weekly nature walk. Educational. Fun. Outside.

For a weekly nature walk, you don't need an old quilt or a half dozen bottles of water. You don't need a 90 acre park nor do you need a travel potty (well, usually not). You may need a little sunscreen or herbal bug spray before you leave, but all you really cannot do without is - a slow pace and nature eyes. "Nature eyes" simply means eyes that are ready to see anything - to really observe it - and to see it with great attention.

The goal is to walk slowly around your own neighborhood for 30 minutes one day a week.

Look up and down, listen carefully. You may want to let each child take a brown paper bag along to collect natural treasures they find along the way. If your children turn out to be voracious little naturalists, you may want to buy a small plastic bin lined with a paper towel or a cardbox for them to empty their bags into after you return home. If your child picks up an acorn, take a moment and gently help him really see the acorn. Examine it. If you pop the top off, what does it look like? What part do you think a squirrel eats? What tree did it fall from? One acorn can easily lead to ten full minutes of observation and play beneath the oak tree. We learned late this summer that each type of oak produces an acorn with a characteristic shape. A red oak acorn looks differently than a burr oak acorn, for instance. SweetP has made a little game of learning to identify them. Shug and Punkin just knock them around with sticks :)

The key is to go slowly and to really exercise the skills of attention and observation.

Stop and watch the little flock of sparrows. Why do they keep flying over to that tree? Can you tell what kind of tree it is? What do they have in their mouths? There are even clouds above to watch and talk about and dandelions that your neighbor would gladly let the children pick. That's the third monarch butterfly you've seen flying in that direction. Where are they going? In what direction are they headed?

Now, if you have energetic little ones (as I have) it may be a good idea to allow an extra ten or fifteen minutes at the beginning of the walk for an all-out run. This, of course, is excellent exercise. We can count it in our school day as Phys. Ed.! :) Once they have run a bit, they'll be a little more inclined to go slowly and pay more attention. It's not something to pressure them about, only lead them gently to look more closely and for just a little longer. After a few weeks of practice, they will begin developing more of an interest in their findings and attention will naturally increase.

The point is to enjoy God Almighty and His creation - to "consider the lilies of the field and the birds of the air".

Even a short walk outdoors offers countless opportunities to marvel at the awesome (in the true sense of the word) creative imagination of our God. Maybe it would be well if we asked the Lord for eyes to truly see His creation when we go out with our children. It is all around us, but we know so little about it. It's so encouraging, though, that the more we learn the more we want to learn.

Isn't that what education is all about?



Check out this website dedicated to helping parents get

their children outdoors in nature for one hour a day.

AND... did you know that this week is Take A Child Outside Week?

Visit this website to learn more :)

*I feel that I should warn you of something inevitable. There is almost no getting around it. If your children have any interest at all in nature, you will have to identify at least one of the findings you bring home. Sometimes I tell the children before we even set out on a walk, "We will not be able to identify all of these leaves this afternoon, but I will be certain to set aside time next week to find out their names". I've been building up a collection of nature fieldguides to help me with our naming projects, but the internet works too :) My neighbor is constantly looking up this leaf and that bug on the internet with her daughter. There is no lack of information out there :) Happy nature walking!