Monday, April 20, 2009

Slow and steady...

As I read and learn about different methods and philosophies in an effort to educate myself so I can better educate my children, I often find myself agreeing with those who are fans of Charlotte Mason.

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.  


Linda Jacobs said...

And I'm so impressed with your progress in home schooling! You are tip-toeing in and not overwhelming Dale with too much structure. I have a feeling he's learning much more than any kindergartener!

And his drawings are great!

Kara said...

This is wonderful. I love nature journals. Dale is doing great! We love watching our birds and since I plan on homeschooling next year (shhh, I haven't told the girls school yet:) ) we will have to do this! Thanks for the sight.

Michelle said...

I love the birdie sounds! Soooo going to use that next week with my first graders, and then with my princesses this summer.

Admittedly, I am a formal school teacher. However, during the summer, I like to do my version of homeschool with the girls. The way we do it is this...the older two pick whatever they are interested in. Last 2 summers have been animals, but I am not stuck on that. Then, we check out books, go online and research, take a trip (outside and to the zoo or wherever might be needed). They can make whatever they want as a final project, and usually get about 2 or 3 weeks to finish it. Rachel likes to do posters and podcasts. Lauren likes to make comic strips!

I am excited to see what Emilee wants to learn about this summer, and how we will go about doing that. I am thinking that maybe that nature journal would be excellent for her!! Now we just need a bird feeder... :-) Thanks for the good ideas.

Smockity Frocks said...

Have you seen the Charlotte Mason giveaway?

Kimberly said...

We LOVE having the birdfeeder right outside the "breakfast" table! Micah and I watch the birdies almost more than we eat. He is fascinated when they come in groups!

Jennifer said...

Dale's birdie sketches are adorable! Homeschooling is so rewarding.....enjoy!

Nigel's Mom said...

Your post makes me want to learn more about Charlotte Mason. I have long held to the tenant that most everything worth knowing can be learned from nature.