An Interest-Led Nature Study

Sometimes technology serves our natural learning process nicely. On a perfect summer day, we spent a full afternoon in a relaxed interest led study of our nature pal exchange , and I’d like to share!imageI made a Pinterest board of nature photos of Hawaii in the area of our naturepal family. I laid out all of the nature bits sent to us, with a relatable book, pencils, magnifying glass, and journal.imageBased on questions they had about the nature book our pals made,  we watched a Youtube video of making Poi, from Kalo.image

imageOur nature pal gave us a gorgeous Ku Kui necklace. We wanted to know what a ku kui nut was and how to make a necklace, we searched far and wide on Youtube and Pinterest.imageThe girls favorite thing to do was open the bottle of Hawaiian salt and taste it (which I was reluctant to at first for some reason, but you gotta keep it breezy (link) and I’m so glad I did). We talked about the taste and continued tasting as we watched a video of the Hawaiian salt factory that makes this specific kind of salt, found only on the island our nature pals live on. imageWe used our Pinterest photos to identify which parts of Hawaii our sea glass was probably from (again their doing not mine)!imageWe watched a tutorial video our nature pal sent us on how to make music with the river rocks they gave  us. imageWe spent a lot of time feeling the soft sand sample, dropping shells into it, shaking it up to see how it mixed.imageBased on a photo from our Pinterest board we imagined baby sea turtles popping their hard out of the sand. This was a particular fascination with the girls.

We looked at the book that I set out. We talked about what constitutes and island, observed the map, and Fin made a map of her own.  imageThe girls rounded out the study with imaginative play adding critters to the beach sene.imageFor our next session I added a bucket of water and critters to let them go wild with imaginative play. I held them off from dumping the sand and shells, to preserve it for closer study. But now it’s time to let them explore on their own terms. Through play! image

And that’s that!

For more on Inquiry-led learning click here!

May we do all things to connect with and learn from each other ✨

How does “Inquiry led” work?

Many educational philosophers, like Charlotte Mason or Reggio’s Loris Malaguzzi, agree that Inquiry led learning is best!image“Stand aside for a while and leave room for learning, observe carefully what children do, and then, if you have understand well, perhaps teaching will be different from before.” Loris Malaguzzi
The term is thrown around a lot in the homeschool world. What does it mean? How do you do it? Is it that we leave children to their own devices? Hoping something wonderful will arise? I think not. imageHow can we “put them in the way of things to observe while still being “inquiry led”?imageHere’s what I find to be the best way to have authentic inquiry led experiences.

Environment:
The environment of your home should invite the child to initiate their own ideas. Art supplies, building materials, nature bits etc. should be in a place open to their disposal. image(Our homeschool room: a nature pal exchange project we studied for weeks on our dining room table)image(Instead of toys we have invitations to play supported with related books! These shelves revolve every week or every 2 weeks!)

Some children like low tables that offer the the opportunity to iniate/direct their own projects. Whether art, construction, or nature study, their workspace should be accessible- giving them full permission to explore.image(Fin decided to paint barn animals and pulled out her materials)image(A self-led art project, I just provided support when asked)image(Our moveable art-cart fully assessable to them)

Display their finished and unfinished work (preferably in a low place at their eye level) This reminds them of projects they want to revise and adapt, and it shows them their work is important. image(A display of finished and unfinished beetle and dinosaur work in our art studio)image(Our ever-growing cicada collection on display. Many musings and questions arise!)

Add relevant books, maps, brochures to their work spaces. They can seek their own questions and answers.image(Our nature table with supportive books)image(The girls decided the type of cactus we were painting for our nature pal was a prickly pear, thanks to our supportive books)image(A book or cityscapes to support our drawing, building, making of an animal city)

Carve out time: to be in and near their workspace. Life can still be inquiry led with set project time. This is a time where screens are put away, and mom/teacher is there to offer assistance to the child’s ideas.
image(Our project time is normally after our morning basket when we are fresh each day)
For more on environment check out 30 days to transform your play!

Lay a Feast:
The first way I lay a feast of ideas each and everyday is through stories. We begin our day in the reading nest. We read good books, and the children have a pocket full of ideas to start their day. image“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.” Charlotte Mason
Lay out art, sensory, nature, storytelling, etc. provocations! I typically set out one or 2 a day. image

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image*This is an ongoing beetle investigation that sparked from our love of The Beetle Book by Steve Jenkins. The interest has been over the entire year, we loop back to the book every so often since it’s in our reading nest. We’ve made our own laminated, illustrated, and authored beetle book. We’ve made and painted clay beetles. We’ve revised and added to our beetle book when new information comes our way: like dung beetles we found in an elephant book. The girls identify types of beetles in Jan Brett books, and love to find them in real life. It’s been a lovely inquiry.(For provocation ideas click around other places here and check out twoodaloo).

Let it go! Where ever they want.

This was an epic potion making session in the mud kitchen. Vinegar, baking soda, cornstarch, glitter and more! Outside is a great place to let loose and LET THEM PLAY! You wont regret it. The hose is our friend.
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imageThis can be hard, and even takes practice. But we are here to offer books, questions, and guidance for their ideas, not to impart our own. Most of the time the girls do something completely contrary to the intention I set out. And it’s always awesome. Their ideas go much deeper than mine. And when an idea is their own, they pursue it intensely (much more so than if they are pursuing my idea to please me.) image
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image*Fin was suddenly interested in letters when she found a small brochure in our wax crayon box. She wanted badly to make her own “map”, as she called it. She picked out her materials, I printed a sheet of letters and she got to work. The interest continues often. When we come home from trips we bring maps and brochures with us. Here is a map of Canada she insisted on drawing! Can you see the long bridge, small grid-like streets of downtown, island shape, and compass? I laid  out invitations and extended the interest by bringing home maps, but do you think she would work as passionately if I sat her down for a letter worksheet or geography lecture?

What children dig for becomes his own possession.” Charlotte Mason

Answer questions with questions: “I don’t know, what do you think?” “Hmm, Where do you think we could find out?” The thought process matters much more than correct answersimage
image*Fin continues to revise her airplane, asking for assistance and for ways to solve her problems. She could solve most of them on her own with a little questioning of my own (like hmm, that doesn’t work what if we try?) She takes on the role of an engineer, asking and answering the hard questions of how to make her structure sound. I offered pen and paper to document her work. She wasn’t interested in that so I sat down next to her and drew my own to show her how important I thought her work was. She sat down next to me and decided to draw her own.

Leave your feast out: rearrange and add to it to spark new interest. Sit down and explore yourself, see if they join you. imageBe Breezy: This is a hard one. But our children know when we are forceful, even under the surface. Truly let your littles explore the materials how they decide. Relax and let it get a little messy.image*Fin made her own gift for a friend. A tiger! She picked out all of her materials and executed it with little assistance. If I had taken control it might look more like a tiger, but what would that accomplish? A finer finished project is not valuable in comparison to the important self-initiated, self-regulated work of a growing/capable girl.

Try again! Not all the provocations I set out spark an interest. Either rearrange it for the next day or try a new one! The point is to offer. And HAVE FUN!

May we do all things in to connect with and learn from each other ✨

Finding our Rhythm

I’m often asked by other mamas “how do you do it?” or “where do you find the time to do art projects? I have laundry piling up!” It’s a common concern with homeschooling. How to get it all done. The truth is you don’t! No one gets it ALL done. Time is our most valuable asset and must be guarded. We must create a life that reflects what we value and let the rest go. imageWe follow a rhythm vs. a schedule. Life is fluid and ever-changing. Schedules are not. We follow a basic flow each day and week. Meals, naps, and bedtime happen around the same time which anchors our day and my sanity. We typically go to the library on Wednesday mornings and have a nature co-op on Thursday. But what happens around these times is an exciting ebb and flow, slowing and rushing as our family needs!imageI’d like to share our rhythm with you while encouraging you to find what works for your family! Isn’t that the beauty of homeschool?! The freedom to find and do what works for your family culture? I’d also like to point out that we value slow and meaningful living. We try to keep margin in our life so that we can dig deep into the things we ARE doing. This is what works for US!imageAre you ready for it…

Read. Project. Play.

It’s that simple! That’s the pulse of our day!

Read

We wake up each morning, prepare breakfast together, and gather in our reading nest, or on a picnic blanket with our morning basket. Both girls pray for our day, we recite a memory verse. I read a Psalm. We are reading through the gospels, starting in Matthew. I read a small paragraph (until the subject changes). We have a small memory board where we recall what the story was about and draw out an illustration together. imageThis is THE most important part of our day. Being in the word together each morning, sharing in the mind of Christ.
The girls then take turns choosing which picture book we read next! Right now or reading nest is full of Jan Brett books and we are LOVING them! I keep clipboards, paper, and markers in our basket. The girls typically sketch away while I read, oh and eat breakfast of course!imageWhen our bellies and minds are full of yummy food and good ideas we clean up and work on a project!

Project

Project time varies and changes! Sometimes we do something I set out the night before (play dough and nature parts, observational drawing, a hand craft etc.) Sometimes the girls have an idea they want to see pursue from the feast of ideas we absorbed in our reading time.
Essentially, project time is relaxed but intentional hands on work! It’s a time where they know I will sit along side them an assist them in pursing their own ventures. The girls drive the motivation and direction of their project! I simply offer my time!image imageimageThe product is second to the process. This is a time to create, discover, make mistakes, and critically think!imageWhen their a bit older, I’d like the project to be on-going process with revisions, bunny trails and depth. Weeks and months of spiraling discoveries!

Play

After we wrap up a project (and clean up of course, because I’m type A😆) it’s free play! Contrary to all the schooly ideas we have engrained in our minds, this is actually the most important part of our day. Yes they need a hefty diet of good books and yes crafting together is of merit, but much is lacking if unmediated play isn’t to follow. This is when their little minds test limits, expand ideas, and self regulate ON THEIR OWN TERMS!imageI stay in an earshot but distinctively make myself unavailable so they can work through problems on their own. I grab a book or a load of laundry and get out of the way of the very important work of play.
imageDramatic play comes to life. imageNegotiation and compromise take place.imageConfidence and self assuredness amplify.imageResearch swells.imageAutonomy grows.

Little people get to be who they are.imageIt’s beautiful.
SO that’s it! That’s our rhythm. We eat lunch and nap and start the whole process over again in one form or another.
What’s yours?

May we do all things to connect with and learn from each other ✨

What’s A Morning Basket

One question I get asked most on our homeschooling journey is “What’s a morning basket?” It’s encouraging to have other mothers in my life seeking a literacy rich homelife, and lovely habits.

“The mother who takes good care to endow her children with good habits secures for herself smooth and easy days”- Charlotte Mason
I love sharing what works for us. This post is for all those mamas.imageA morning basket is a basket full of books to start the day with important and rich ideas.

“A morning in which a child receives no new idea is a morning wasted”- Charlotte Mason

What’s In the basket:
The bible,remember board, good good books, markers and clipboards, and handwork!imageWe use a basket so that we can sit at the table, or in the reading nest, or have a picnic, or take it to the park etc!

Here’s what we do:
We pray (the girls do to) and we open our bible to a psalm. Right now the girls read a portion of Psalm 119 with me!  They have memorized it over the weeks I’ve read it out loud. We recite our memory verse (which changes every couple of weeks). Sometimes we recite all of our memory verses to keep them fresh. And then I read a small paragraph in the gospel of Matthew (I think we will do Genesis when we finish Matthew).
We use our remember board to draw and recall together what we read in Matthew, and what it means. The girls love to draw Jesus. This is the sweetest and most important part of our day. This is where the girls learn of their need for a Savior.the humming room homeschool art travel music and cooking ideas-8The girls then take turns choosing which book we read next. I typically have a specific author or literary style in our basket (currently, Jan Brett), a few of their unrelated favorites, and non-fiction books that correlate with their interests (currently butteries, the human body, and cicadas)imageI keep clipboards and markers in the basket for the girls to sketch while I read. Observational drawings, authoring and illustrating of their own stories is a fantastic result, but mostly they like to keep their hands busy. I keep small blocks and handwork for my smallest one too!imageThere is no time set for morning basket, it always comes to an end organically. Everyday is different!imageThat’s it! That’s whats in a morning basket. I’d love to hear what’s in yours! For more on how to build your family culture around books click here!

May we do all things to connect with and learn from each other ✨