Rich literature and 'living books' play a large role in the schooling of those who lean toward (or follow whole-heartedly) a Charlotte-Mason type education.
Short lessons, a gentle introduction to formal schooling, and the intentional formation of good habits are also key points Charlotte Mason's teachings.
Another major element in a Charlotte Mason education is nature study, which is just what it sounds like - the study of nature. Nature study often includes keeping a notebook with your own sketches and descriptions of what you have observed.
As I have read different approaches and suggestions for all these methods in general and nature study in particular, I have felt a certain amount of skepticism. Even though I have agreed with the ideals, I have to admit I have doubted them actually "working" in our day-to-day life. There are many things I have pictured myself introducing, but I often imagine them to turning out to be a flop.
But, our journey is still young, and so am I, so I have remained optimistic, even if cautiously so, that we could implement some of these ideas in our own home.
And today my optimism received a giant boost.
For several months now we have had a bird-feeder just outside our window, placed where we can watch the birds eat while we do. It has been something the whole family has enjoyed.
It has been natural for us to want to identify the birds we see, and little by little that has led to us learning more and more about them.
Yesterday, after fresh seed was out, Dale and I watched a cardinal hopping on the window-sill, and wondered if the birdie sounds we could hear were coming from him.
So we looked it up, and found an online treasure-trove of information, including sound clips! That was so much fun we had to look up the other birds we've seen at our feeder and in our yard.
Northern Cardinal calling to an invading squirrel.And then this morning, Dale picked up a spiral notebook and some colored pencils and started drawing birds.
On his own.
It was all his idea.
Now my job, as I see it, is to encourage him without taking over and making it mine, or turning it into a chore. I figure as long as we both pursue it as an interest, a hobby, something fun we all share as a family it has a very low risk of turning into "school-work". And yet, we can all learn so much!
And if all the Nature-study advocates were right about this, maybe there are other methods and ideals that aren't so far-fetched either.
By the way... that "treasure-trove" of a website can be found here. I love how you are given a good bit of information without being overwhelmed with it. The layout is also very easy to use - just enter the bird you are looking for in the search box on the upper-right, and then use the tabs under the bird's picture to read about it, listen to it, or watch video clips.