Jesus' Precious Little Lambs

A Charlotte Mason Christian Home School: Preschool – 3rd Grade :)

Make the Most of Summer

Here are my top three ideas to help you make the most out of your summer: field trips, nature play, and reading (for mom). The freedom of summertime is a great time to take advantage of opportunities for real life learning experiences (fieldtrips), excursions and adventures in the outdoors (nature play), and 3 months of homeschooling for mom (reading). Before fall comes and we all have to get back to the grind of school and more rigid routines for a whole 9 months, let’s make the most of our summer!

Go on Field Trips

  • Museums (get free passes from the Contra Costa Library to over 40 places, including the zoo)
  • Fruit picking (cherries are ready now!)
  • Visit a dairy farm such as Organic Pastures Raw Milk in Fresno
  • Calaveras Big Trees State Park and Moaning Cavern
  • The Beach (Natural Bridge State Beach in Santa Cruz has nearby tide pools to explore)
  • Water Parks (Hap Magee Ranch Park in Danville, Sprayground in Pleasant Hill Park, Meadow Homes Spray Park in Concord, Blue Goose Park in Brentwood)
  • Roaring Camp Train Ride and The Mystery Spot (Santa Cruz)
  • Gilroy Gardens
  • Transit field trip (ride bart, take a trolley, stroll over a walking bridge)
  • Ardenwood Historic Farms
  • Monterey Bay Aquarium
  • Go to a children’s theatre performance and/or concert
  • Visit an Animal Shelter
  • Go to the Dump (Noah would love this)

Play in Nature

50 things kids should do before they are 11 ¾

The National Trust (UK) launched a campaign to encourage sofa-bound youth to venture out into the big outdoors, compiling a bucket-list of 50 things kids should do before they are 11 ¾.

The bucket list is can be found on the website www.50things.org.uk.

1. Climb a tree
2. Roll down a really big hill
3. Camp out in the wild
4. Build a den
5. Skim a stone
6. Run around in the rain
7. Fly a kite
8. Catch a fish with a net
9. Eat an apple straight from a tree
10. Play conkers
11. Throw some snow
12. Hunt for treasure on the beach
13. Make a mud pie
14. Dam a stream
15. Go sledging
16. Bury someone in the sand
17. Set up a snail race
18. Balance on a fallen tree
19. Swing on a rope swing
20. Make a mud slide
21. Eat blackberries growing in the wild
22. Take a look inside a tree
23. Visit an island
24. Feel like you’re flying in the wind
25. Make a grass trumpet
26. Hunt for fossils and bones
27. Watch the sun wake up
28. Climb a huge hill
29. Get behind a waterfall
30. Feed a bird from your hand
31. Hunt for bugs
32. Find some frogspawn
33. Catch a butterfly in a net
34. Track wild animals
35. Discover what’s in a pond
36. Call an owl
37. Check out the crazy creatures in a rock pool
38. Bring up a butterfly
39. Catch a crab
40. Go on a nature walk at night
41. Plant it, grow it, eat it
42. Go wild swimming
43. Go rafting
44. Light a fire without matches
45. Find your way with a map and compass
46. Try bouldering
47. Cook on a campfire
48. Try abseiling
49. Find a geocache
50. Canoe down a river

Read Some Good Books

Charlotte Mason’s 6 Volume Series

Homeschooling and parenting booklists (just check a bunch of books out from the library, peruse them all, and then select one that draws you in):

Christian Home Educators Association of California Booklist

Homeschool Association of California Booklist

The Old Schoolhouse Magazine (free online)

Also, don’t forget you can do some online audio learning through CHEA convention workshops:

Christian Home Educators Association of California Workshops

The more that you read,
the more things you will know.
The more that you learn,
the more places you’ll go.
~ Dr. Seuss

For some motivation to get reading, please read or re-read my post Calling All Parents to Read!

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So what are you doing this summer?
Any suggestions to add to our list?
We would love to hear what your plans and field trip ideas are!

I wish you a blissful summer!

Family Camping Trip on Mount Diablo

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Juniper Trail Hike

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Our Yearbooks Arrived!

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Sharpie Tye Dye T-Shirts Were Really Fun to Make!

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A Letter From Our Operation Christmas Child Arrived Just in Time for Our Last Day of School!

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At the Nature Park with Our Brave Friend Landon

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Nature is for Kids!

Ahhhhh nature, I love it. Remember my post Backyard Naturalists, and how I encouraged you to transform your backyard into a nature oriented play space? And the awesome “Parents guide to nature play” link in that post? Well, summer has proved to be a return to this all important subject of getting kids into nature, and what we as as a family can do to make sure our children are taking in the wild blue yonder and all the earth below. I just know you want the same for your kiddos!

I feel camping is one of the best ways to get children out into the various habitats of nature– the beach, the rivers, the mountains, the forest, the desert. No toys, no play structures, to entertain and distract, just days in the wilderness to become intimately acquainted with the splendor of creation. We went camping recently actually on Mount Diablo, and when we woke up to a chilly foggy morning, it was awe inspiring. The refrain from an old hymn rang out in my spirit, “Praise the Lord! Praise the Lord! Let the earth hear His voice. Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, let the people rejoice. O come to the Father through Jesus the Son, and give Him the glory, great things He has done.” It was wonderful to be sitting in the midst an uncommon and astounding moment as the fog rolled through the trees. We were moved to express our worship and met together for a morning family devotion. We read a few chapters from the book of Psalms that declare the splendor of creation while we experientially beheld the same all around us on the mountain.

You can see a few pictures of our camping trip and other nature experiences below……BUT this post is really dedicated to sharing what’s firing up our passion to seek out more nature experiences for our children. From breathtaking beaches to amazing mountains to sprawling arboretums–the reasons for these summer excursions have all stemmed from the inspiring words of Charlotte Mason. My post Meet Miss Mason will fill you in on the important background info on this amazing educator from the past.

Time in Nature is the Appropriate Education for Young Children

The first thing that really moved me towards a foundational understanding of the critical role of nature observation in a child’s education was when I read a sample of the book “The Early Years: A Charlotte Mason Preschool Handbook”, sold at SimplyCharlotteMason.com. I was dumbfounded by my lack of true understanding and conviction for keeping the preschool years mostly free of academics, and my still fairly non-committal stance towards the value of young children playing in nature. It wasn’t until I read some of the genius of Charlotte Mason’s words in “The Early Years” that I realized I am actually damaging my son’s future ability to be a good learner by treating academics as the focus, as opposed to treating time (out in nature) learning to be a keen observer as the focus. Before sampling the book, I was thinking, oh that will be a no brainer book I won’t need to buy–I know about the preschool years–and I wasn’t even going to take a peek until some future day when all kinds of time fell on my hands. After reading the large sample provided at SCM.com, I now know its not a fluff book at all! I need to get the book so that I can break my addiction to “school” my preschooler. I need to get the book so that I can reassess the learning methods and environment at Jesus’ Precious Little Lambs. I would consider getting it for yourself as well in order to make the most out of your little one’s young years!

I pulled out some of the information from “The Early Years” book to share with you in hopes that you also may find your family driven to seek out more time in nature. This is what Charlotte Mason has to say about how young children learn in nature:

“My object is to show that the chief function of the child—his business in  the world during the first six or seven years of his life—is to find out all he can,  about whatever comes under his notice, by means of his five senses; that he has an  insatiable appetite for knowledge got in this way; and that, therefore, the endeavour  of his parents should be to put him in the way of making acquaintance freely with  Nature and natural objects” (Vol. 1, p. 96).
 
“A great deal has been said lately about the danger of overpressure, of requiring  too much mental work from a child of tender years. The danger exists; but lies, not in giving the child too much, but in giving him the wrong thing to do, the sort of  work for which the present state of his mental development does not fit him. Who expects a boy in petticoats to lift half a hundredweight? But give the child work  that Nature intended for him, and the quantity he can get through with ease is  practically unlimited. Whoever saw a child tired of seeing, of examining in his own  way, unfamiliar things? This is the sort of mental nourishment for which he has an  unbounded appetite, because it is that food of the mind on which, for the present,  he is meant to grow” (Vol. 1, pp. 66, 67).
 
“For the first five or six years of his life, everything, especially everything in  action, is an object of intelligent curiosity to the child—the street or the field is a  panorama of delight, the shepherd’s dog, the baker’s cart, the man with the barrow,  are full of vivid interest. He has a thousand questions to ask, he wants to know  about everything; he has, in fact, an inordinate appetite for knowledge. We soon  cure all that: we occupy him with books instead of things; we evoke other desires  in place of the desire to know; and we succeed in bringing up the unobservant  man (and more unobservant woman) who discerns no difference between an elm,  a poplar and a lime tree, and misses very much of the joy of living” (Vol. 2, pp.  181, 182).
 
“And this is the process the child should continue for the first few years of his  life. Now is the storing time which should be spent in laying up images of things  familiar. By-and-by he will have to conceive of things he has never seen: how can he  do it except by comparison with things he has seen and knows? By-and-by he will  be called upon to reflect, understand, reason; what material will he have, unless he  has a magazine of facts to go upon? The child who has been made to observe how  high in the heavens the sun is at noon on a summer’s day, how low at noon on a  day in mid-winter, is able to conceive of the great heat of the tropics under a vertical  sun, and to understand that the climate of a place depends greatly upon the mean  height the sun reaches above the horizon” (Vol. 1, p. 66).

Every natural object is part of a whole network of more objects and scientific concepts, so one discovery will lead to more.

 “Now take up a natural object, it does not matter what, and you are studying  one of a group, a member of a series; whatever knowledge you get about it is so  much towards the science which includes all of its kind. Break off an elder twig in  the spring; you notice a ring of wood round a centre of pith, and there you have  at a glance a distinguishing character of a great division of the vegetable world.  You pick up a pebble. Its edges are perfectly smooth and rounded: why? you ask.  It is water-worn, weather-worn. And that little pebble brings you face to face with  disintegration, the force to which, more than to any other, we owe the aspects of the  world which we call picturesque—glen, ravine, valley, hill. It is not necessary that  the child should be told anything about disintegration or dicotyledon, only that he  should observe the wood and pith in the hazel twig, the pleasant roundness of the  pebble; by-and-by he will learn the bearing of the facts with which he is already  familiar—a very different thing from learning the reason why of facts which have  never come under his notice” (Vol. 1, p. 70).

“Now, consider what a culpable waste of intellectual energy it is to shut up a child,blessed with this inordinate capacity for seeing and knowing,within the four walls of a house.” –Charlotte Mason

Nature Study is the Foundation of Science

Its scary to feel like the “dull” person she is describing could be me or you, unobservant to the differences between a poplar, an elm, an oak; worse yet, uninterested in the differences. Do you hear me gulping? What did school do to us? And even more sobering, is this the kind of unobservant child we want to parent through our book focused homes and preschools??

Nature study, i.e. first hand experiences, is the foundation of observation skills upon which all other “book studies”, i.e. second hand experiences, must be built upon. Its ludicrous to study the Rainforest, or anything learned second hand from a book, when a child has no awareness of what is even in his own backyard (firsthand knowledge). It is first hand knowledge that even makes second hand knowledge accessible to a child in the first place. Children who have no sensory experience on which to “hang” concepts will struggle to understand higher level science.

We also have to be so careful that God’s creation is not reduced to something commonplace due to our general ignorance. Another reason Nature Study is so important–worship out of a knowing heart and mind is so much deeper! Charlotte Mason said that science should increase and feed our wonder and delight in the world around us. It should spark our admiration, both at the wonder of creation and the skill and wisdom of the Creator. It should put us on a first name basis, so to speak, with the natural world, which means we must know the names of the inhabitants and their surroundings, and it should introduce us to the laws that order our universe as well as the methods used to make scientific discoveries.

Charlotte Mason wanted students to have a broad base in topics such as botany, astronomy, and physiology, although her curriculum for the younger grades used mostly books on animals and other natural science, in addition to their own observations and collections. Most importantly, science was to be taught as something wonderful in itself, beginning with a sense of reverence for God’s world, rather than starting by tearing things apart. Science should lead to a knowledge of the properties of substances and of the forces in the world around us. This must be first-hand knowledge of the things and forces; not simply knowing about them. It must be obtained by personal experience. Collecting tadpoles, watching butterflies, skipping stones, seeing plants sprout from seeds are sensory experience on which to “hang” higher level science concepts. Charlotte Mason thought that a child’s foundation of first-hand experience should naturally lead to scientific methods of thinking, accurate observation, careful comparison of results, and the formulation of general principles. It should introduce children to a world of absorbing interests that will enlist their sympathy or arouse their enthusiasm, a world of mystery that fascinates with promise of discovery and fuller knowledge, a world of wonder and beauty that we cannot explain, but in which we walk reverently with uncovered head.

Charlotte Mason said science as typically taught “causes history to expire, poetry to die unborn, and religion to faint.”

Many people know little of the natural world because they never take time to observe it. Once our senses are on the alert, though, nature yields treasure after treasure. Every child has an innate interest in nature, but it is the parents’ responsibility to encourage it. Otherwise it will be lost as the child matures into adulthood. According to Charlotte Mason, both mother and child should be able to identify crops growing in their area, common plants, wildflowers, trees (from bark and leaves), insects, and other animals. To that, we will undoubtedly need to study and have reference books on hand.

If you feel serious about educating your child to be an observant person, as I do, consider a homeschool education course developed by Charlotte Mason. Read on to find out how you would actually do Nature Study with your children.

Delving Deeper: How to Do Nature Study

Developing a Nature Study with your kids, pointers for contemplation (Squidoo.com):

Nature Walks

exploring nature with your children

How do you conduct a nature walk? What are you supposed to do during the time outdoors?

What do the children do?

The children are to be “let alone, left to themselves a great deal to take in what they can of the beauty of earth and heavens.” Give them time and space to wonder, grow, watch, see, hear, and touch. During the nature walk, they may sketch and record their observations. In addition they may want to collect small natural treasures in a bag to take home for further study.

If they would like it, the children may take along magnifying glasses, binoculars, nets, and containers for viewing up close and catching small creatures. But don’t encumber them with too many things. Let them be free to explore with open hands most of the time.

What does the parent do?
Miss Mason warned mothers of talking too much during the nature walk. She said that the less spoken the better. Although talk between mother and child is a precious thing, the goal of the nature study is to allow the child to converse directly with Mother Nature. So don’t get in the way with too much active teaching. What is the mother to say during a nature walk? She can direct attention with a “Look at that!” She can name what is being viewed, “That’s a poplar tree.” She can make very brief descriptive comments to direct the children’s attention, “It’s just starting to bud. I see many small, bright green shoots.” And probably most importantly, she should simply voice her admiration in a verbal prayer of praise directly to God, “Father, thank You for this lovely tree bursting forth with new life!”

Charlotte Mason’s Thoughts on Children and the Outdoors

I strongly suggest that you read Charlotte Mason’s original words regarding daily walks outdoors, nature walks, and nature journals. The best place to start is with Home Education. The sections linked below are from Volume 1, Part II titled Out-Of-Door Life For The Children. The effort is worth it!

Out-Of-Door Life For The Children 1st portion
Out-Of-Door Life For The Children 2nd Portion

Last Child In the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder

My friend Emily recommended this title by Richard Louv here on the blog, and apparently after doing a little research, I found out it is a must-read incredible book for anyone contemplating nature study.

Handbook of Nature Study

Charlotte Mason said of field guides, “The mother cannot devote herself too much to this kind of reading, not only that she may read tit-bits to her children about matters they have come across, but that she may be able to answer their queries and direct their observations.”

The Handbook of Nature Study is the classic book Charlotte Mason recommended as a nature study resource. Because this book is in the public domain, it is also available as a free online text. This is “the” CM homeschoolers book from which all Nature Study can rely upon.

The Handbook of Nature Study Blog

If you need inspiration and support in beginning your nature study, be sure to visit The Handbook of Nature Study Blog by an experienced homeschool mom. This blog is specifically designed to help homeschoolers implement Charlotte Mason’s nature study ideas and The Handbook of Nature Study into their regular practice. Each week she posts an Outdoor Hour Challenge for families to complete as they have time. She suggest pages to read in the Handbook of Nature Study and then some simple suggestions for you to complete in a few minutes outdoors with your children. (This is great if you are challenged for time. However, Charlotte actually recommended children spend 4-6 hours outdoors everyday in fair weather! I know–a challenge for any modern family.)

Nature Journals

Charlotte Mason encouraged all students to document their nature studies in a nature notebook. The nature notebook, or diary or journal if you like, should be taken outdoors with you on the nature walk so that you can make field sketches on the spot. Also write descriptions of what you see, hear, and feel to supplement the drawings. Of course, you’ll want to document basic information such as date, time, weather conditions, and location. CM suggested using calendars to mark the “firsts:” the first tadpole, the first ripe blackberries, etc. This calendar could be part of the nature journal. Other ideas for nature journals include poetry (either self-composed or copied), leaf or bark rubbings, photographs, hand drawn maps, and even pamphlets found at botanical gardens or museums. This is so personal to you and your style–there is no wrong way to do it.

Mom, you can have your own nature journal too! What a great way to model for your children what you are expecting of them.

This is what a Notebook teaching moment looks like. A sneaky homeschool mom will take advantage of her children’s nature “finds” by occasionally turning them into a lesson of sorts. Working alongside your children and filling out your own Notebook will provide your children with an inspiring example. Allow them to tell about their “finds.” Then see how well you, and they, can draw a picture that resembles the real thing. When the drawing is complete, encourage the children to record their descriptions or “tellings” on the opposite page of the Notebook. During the busy drawing time, I usually keep a nature handbook and field guide open on my lap under the table. I glance down at information that I put into my own words, casually sharing with the children as if I am an uncommonly knowledgeable mother! (Karen Andreola, Practical Homeschooling)

We are trying to help our children develop a spirit of joy and praise, admiring God’s work in creation. Try to avoid criticism unless it is to give helpful suggestions. These Notebooks, in the words of 19th century naturalist Anna Botsford Comstock, “of whatever quality, are precious beyond price to their owners. And why not? For they represent what cannot be bought or sold–personal experience in the happy word of out-of-doors.”

The nature journal’s depth should reflect the age of the child. (The following are general guidelines; You know your child best; tailor your requirements accordingly.)
Young children (5-7) draw what they see; you can write what they narrate orally for descriptions
Middle children (8-10) draw what they see, label their drawings and write their own descriptions.
Older children (11 and up) the above tasks are done in more detail and with more skill; in addition, they look up and document scientific information about the plant or creature and write the Latin name.

A beautiful example of a nature diary: The Country Diary of an Edwardian Lady.

Purchasing this book could serve as a source of inspiration if you like her style of nature notebooking.

“All the information your children are gathering in their nature study lessons, and the habits of observation they are acquiring, will form an excellent foundation for their future scientific education. In the meantime let your children consider the lilies of the field and the fowls of the air.” –Karen Andreola

Exploring Habitats in Nature

Making Our Backyard Into a Nature Play Space

Our Camping Trip on Mount Diablo

 Nature Play While Camping Can Be Very Dirty : D

Noah Had SO Much Fun at the Beach (Half Moon Bay)

Standing In the Hole We Dug

 
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5/22/12 Butterflies

We are happy to have a new friend, Gabby, joining us at Little Lambs for the last two weeks of school! She gave me a hug when I met her for the first time the other day, and has hugged me every time she comes in or out my door since. 🙂 Although she strongly dislikes bugs, which happens to be our current preschool theme, she is fitting right in anyway. After easing her in with a little exposure, today she handled plastic bugs, and calmly ate lunch on the patio while bugs buzzed around her–two things intolerable just yesterday. I also appreciated how Gabby enthusiastically chimed in with all the other kids on a choral read aloud of The Very Hungry Caterpillar during circle today. She is very bright and all the kids enjoy playing with her!

It was a bittersweet today saying goodbye to the butterflies that we have been raising. The kids (and I!) have been able to witness the lifecycle of butterflies for the very first time. After ordering caterpillars from Insect Lore, we watched them grow, form chrysalis’, and emerge as Painted Lady butterflies–all in only two weeks time. Today the kids climbed into a play tent to get face to face with their butterflies before letting them fly away. As one by one, each butterfly escaped, we sent them off with a heartfelt salute, “Goodbye, butterfly!” I loved seeing Noah gently hold the butterflies in his little hands like it was perfectly natural. Noah apparently has no fear of any type of bug; though he has been stung before, he tried to pick up a bumblebee today. Anyway, Miss Cherie and I just had to climb in the tent too; we admit that we always want to experience everything the kids do. We joke that we do homeschooling half for the kid inside ourselves, but in all seriousness, as we teach, I think we are learning even more than our children are.

David’s Butterflies

Goodbye Butterflies

Butterfly Handler

Our Turn!

Caterpillar Snack

Ants on a Log

Gabby Making Buggy Play Dough Prints

Tayler and Her Mamama (grandma) Making a Butterfly

Noah Painting a Lady Bug Rock for our Garden

A Dragonfly Alighted On Our Garden Cross

“d” is for dragonfly is the letter of the week

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5/1 & 5/3 Joy is a Fruit

As all of nature is coming alive this spring, our joy is blossoming as well! In Little Lambs we are focusing on JOY this month, a fruit of the Holy Spirit. Fruit picking season happens to be just around the corner, and cherries are actually already here! For little ones, spiritual concepts like fruit of the Spirit are more tangible after spending a day at a U pick farm, or tending some backyard fruit trees all season long. Even I understand spiritual things more through tangible analogies, so it works for big people too. We can take our cue from Jesus, using everyday items (like fruit trees) as He did constantly, and teach our own children hard to grasp spiritual concepts. Turn everyday experiences into a holy moment by praying for the sight to see common things turned spiritual. I hope that something from our Little Lambs lesson this week will help you to explain the fruit of the Spirit to your little one.

Joy is a fruit of the Holy Spirit

Can something dead make fruit? Can that wood table over there make fruit? No! Trees make fruit because they are alive. Joy comes out of life, the life of God He put inside you. Joy appears as a growth. Without Jesus people are not alive inside and cannot make fruit like joy.

Do trees start out with fruit right away? No! It takes time. You will surely grow in the fruit of the Spirit as you stay planted in God. The Bible says joy comes as a result of faith, and faith comes by hearing the Word of God.  (Romans 10:17 & John 15:11) So read, read, read your Bible and pray, pray, pray, pray so that you will grow.

Does fruit need to be cared for? Yes! It must be watched and tended. Don’t let one cold night, insects, or worms spoil your fruit. Don’t let one angry, grumpy, selfish person, or a difficult night take YOUR joy fruit away.

Do trees only make fruit once? No! Fruit grows again and again, fruit makes more fruit. In a similar way, when Christians tell others about Jesus, Christians help others become Christians. There is no greater joy than this.

 What makes YOU happy (smile, laugh)? …….We all want to be happy, don’t we? But joy is better than happiness.

Happiness is short lasting. Apart from the Holy Spirit, you may find some happiness, but not joy. Joy comes from the inside from things like faith in Jesus; happiness comes from things on the outside and outside things always change. The happiness of receiving a new toy fades away, the happiness of keeping things all for ourselves doesn’t last long, friends cannot always keep us happy, money can buy us things that make us happy only for a little while.

Holy Spirit joy lasts and lasts…..even when I have to clean up, when I don’t get my own way, when my friend gets what I want, when someone is unkind to me…..because no one and nothing can take my Jesus away. Joy comes from the inside.

Lasting Joy comes from things like:

  • having faith in God (opposite of faith is fear and worry. you aren’t joyful when you are worried)
  • knowing you have done the right thing before God
  • doing something for someone else (thinking about what someone else needs, giving up and giving away)
  • knowing what God wants you to do with your life
  • feeling so close to Jesus (sharing thoughts and feelings, worship)
  • sharing your life with other Christians in friendship
  • hearing the words of God and understanding (like a light going on inside)
  • and bringing someone to Christ!

Noah’s First Cherry Picking

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Backyard Naturalists

While I seem to be on the topic of making children into naturalists lately, I want to share a great little guide I found containing ideas for making your backyard a place for nature play. Simple things that don’t cost much money, but ideas that don’t always cross our commercially brainwashed minds. Too many of our suburbia yards are simply a block of grass and cement, too prisitine, too sterile for accomodating a true experience with nature. Growing up on a unkempt 3/4 acre property provided me all the best childhood memories of exploration, freedom, invention, and wild fun that I wouldn’t trade for anything. I am determined for my children to have equally life forming experiences with nature even if we do have a small yard.

Every spring, I start racking my brain–what outdoor toys do I need to go buy that would really engage our kids outdoors this year?? Do I need to splurge on a big expensive plastic play structure? Do you start thinking this direction too as soon as the weather warms up? The thing is, I hate buying stuff that just becomes stuff sitting around unloved like too many backyard play structures, gimmicky outdoor “fun” equipment, and cobwebbed ride-ons I have noticed. So I have vacillated to the point that we have accumulated very few outdoor toys. But admittedly what sways me even more is that I almost hate toys in general, and especially the commercialism directed towards our children.  I agree with what Teaching the Trivium says, “Give the child plenty of time to explore and play. Do not buy ‘toystore’ toys – they are expensive and are usually forgotten after the newness wears off. Invest in real things. Garage sales and auctions are an unending source for things like sewing machines, small tools for working in the garden, hammers, nails, and things for building, some wooden blocks, and dress-up clothes. Buy tools for exploring (a good microscope, telescope, binoculars, etc), not toys for adoring. When your children are young, spend your money on the tools of exploration, and motivate them to learn how to use the tools and enjoy using the tools.”

Thankfully this spring, I feel that my perspective has shifted just enough to really believe that we can have more meaningful fun without buying lots more outdoor toys. A few things have certainly helped grow my perspecitve–getting hens and chicks, planting and tending a vegetable garden, and letting the kids just play in the dirt. Noah proudly holding up a grub that he found in our raised garden bed while preparing the soil for planting, insisting on a night time frog hunt with flashlights to find our resident croaker (and finding slugs instead), excitedly bringing a snail inside to see if this time it would come out of its shell for us (it did)–these are the formative experiences with nature that mean so much to children. In past years, the excitement over seeing hummingbirds and collecting ladybugs are some of my favorite memories with Noah. Nature fun can be never ending. Our future naturey backyard plans include keeping fish in the fountain, feeding the birds and the squirrels, and planting butterfly plants to study their lifecycle. So the more my mind wraps around building a “nature” centered yard rather than a “stuff” centered yard, the more non-toy ideas come, and I know these nature ideas will provide the basis for incredible learning experiences. Lets ask ourselves, why would we want our children learning about creation from a lifeless science textbook inside the 4 walls of a classroom when they could learn about it through the rich impressions of real life experience? Nothing beats the world as your classroom!!

May your backyard grow more wild this spring too!

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4/17/12 Gardening

Did you plant a garden yet this spring? Are you thinking about planting one someday with your children? Take a look at my fave books about gardening and check them out from the library!

Our Favorite Annual Springtime Read

Mortimer’s First Garden is one of my favorite children’s picture books. We have read it to Noah the last two springs at sunflower planting time. The book tied in soooo perfectly with our themes of faith like a seed and gardening at Little Lambs as well.

Publishers Weekly Review:

Mortimer can’t imagine that seeds have any use beyond the immediate gratification of being eaten, but when he sees the human family in his house plant a garden, he decides to use his last sunflower seed to give it a whirl himself. Convinced that the miracle won’t happen, tempted to dig up the seed and eat it, Mortimer hears the voice of God: Wait. Suddenly, even though he was drenched with rain, Mortimer felt warm and protected. With hard work and prayer, Mortimer produces a miracle sunflower and a bumper crop of seeds, which in turn prompts the book’s final teachable moment: And please, God, says a fat and contented Mortimer, I wouldn’t mind a friend to help me eat these. This book celebrates the miracle of springtime.

Gardening with Imagination– Create a Whimsical Garden with Your Little Naturalist

If you would like some fun inspiration for gardening with your children, take a look at Sharon Lovejoy’s books. From sunflower houses to toad cottages to fairy mailboxes, her books are full of incredibly whimsical gardening activities that would fire up the imagination of any child. Her books are about gardening from the heart and creating lasting gardening memories with your little ones. Also, take a look at her book written for gardening grandmothers and making visits with grandchildren a treasured time. It could be a great gift for mother’s day this year. If you would love for your mom to pull your children more into the love of gardening, take a look at Lovejoy’s wonder inspiring ideas written for grandparents to share with their grandchildren. The ideas are quite magical and really made me look forward to becoming a grandma someday myself!!

Gardening Day at Little Lambs

Tilling the Soil

Planting Peppers

Planting Corn

Planting Carrots

Two Pumpkins Planting a Giant Pumpkin

Smiles All Around for A Job Well Done

Tayler’s Play-doh Garden

Noah Fishing

David Playing the Letter “g” Guessing Game

Little Gardener, Faith, Studies Seeds

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4/12/12 Chickens

Apparently, I needed a personal reminder about mountain moving faith this week. In Little Lambs, we are teaching Matthew 17:20 which basically says that faith as small as a mustard seed can say to this mountain MOVE. Mountains are things like disappointment, irritation, frustration, sickness, and often accompanied by satan’s accusatory voice. (When I hear a voice in my mind that is accusing me or accusing others in my life, I can be sure that satan, “the accuser of the brethren”, is working against me and needs to be dealt with.) Matthew 17:20 says that the way mountains move is by SPEAKING directly to them…..not by mulling it over, not by talking it over with a confidant, not by feeling sorry for myself, not even through my typical prayer and devotional routines. I know this, so why did I forget this week (as per usual) what to do? Thankfully, a ray of hope dawned inside when the Holy Spirit reminded me of Matthew 17:20 and how much it has always worked for me. I finally knew what I was supposed to be doing. First, I recognized that there was a mountain–something negative had crept into my otherwise peaceful and happy mentality. Something was standing in the way, in between me and my peace. I think ‘something in the way’ is what Matthew 17:20 means by mountain. Second, I found a name for the mountain, so that I could speak to it by name. Third, I used an auditory voice and authoritatively spoke to that mountain, “Mountain of accusing voices move!”  In the spirit realm, I knew a mountain moved over because peace returned that same day. Thats the proof.

When we try to implore methods other than speaking, we become weary. Coping with mountains of hurt and hardship our way is like trying to travel around the mountain (longer and harder) or climb over the mountain (exhausting), but Jesus said that is not necessary, just tell it to move out of your way so you can forge ahead! Speaking to the problem is God’s way of setting you free. Christians let problems keep them out of commission for way too long because we don’t know, or we forget, how to use the powerful Word of God in our mouths like a weapon. God has given us the tools in His Word (Matthew 17:20 is a tool!) to move mountains aside so that we don’t have to skip a beat in His calling on our life.

Name whatever is bothering you, tell it to move out, and forge ahead for Him.

In Little Lambs today, we talked about mountain moving faith, and later I was blessed to see Tayler and Noah thrilled to build mountains in the mud. We also introduced our Little Lambs to the hens that Papa from Ontario brought us a few days ago. The hens laid some eggs seemingly on cue for the kids, the chicks in a nest art projects turned out adorable, and somehow Tayler and Noah’s muddy hands and shoes made me feel like these kids are really living the good life. I can’t thank God enough for these times!

In the Coop

Betsy and Buttercup

Our First Time Gathering Eggs

We Are Making a Mountain!

Baby Chicks In a Nest

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4/10/12 Chicks!

The kids have a couple of new playmates around the house. Avery and Amelia, our new 1 week old baby chicks, have added to the delightful brood underfoot in my kitchen. Raising chickens is my (very) small time farm dream come true–our home feeling more like a homestead, our children turning into naturalists. The best practical part about raising chickens for eggs is that they are as easy to tend to as a stray cat.

Naturally, we were excited to share our new chickies with Little Lambs! It was cute to see the children learning how to hold chicks for the very first time. Chicks and puddle jumping formed our homeschool curriculum of the day. Puddle jumping, curriculum? Yes, having fun is the foundation of a good curriculum for young children. And the more freedom a schooling situation can allow, the more opportunity for fun!!

Kitchen Brood

Amelia Practices Her Perching

Everyone Gets Acquainted with the Girls

David Tries to Hold Avery

Its Grandma Day at School

Jack and Owen, a Couple Neighborhood Boys Join Us

Picture Perfect

A Few of Our Chicks Themed Centers

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