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We spend an incredible amount of time outdoors, so it’s no surprise that I continually try to find ways to incorporate our adventure and exploration into our everyday school work. For the last year and a half, we have guided our home study around a fantastic curriculum called Exploring Nature With Children. It gives children the opportunity to fall in love and connect with nature through a variety of mediums. There are works of art work to look up, a themed poem and suggested reading supplements that you can add in order to explore the topics even further. It’s perfect when teaching a variety of ages because everything can be simplified or expanded as needed.
One of my favourite attributes of the Exploring Nature curriculum is the additional readings. These you can find your own, however having a list of titles and authors allows for an easy lesson when you’re having a rough week and could use a little extra support. Who doesn’t have one of those now and then, right?
Once a month we go to the library and take out the supplemental readings for the following few weeks. Most of the artwork we look up online, but occasionally we take out a book for further study.
We each started a Nature Journal which we keep in our adventure packs. We use this journal to document and draw different things that we learn about and examine each week. As a family that spends a lot of time in the bush, I found the nature journal was a light and compact way to continue learning on the go.
Last year, while hiking the mountain with fellow homeschool friends we started a nature journal game. The kids varied in age from 5 to 12, so we needed to find something flexible. We separated (in a meadow, where we could still control safety) and found something to draw. Afterwards we came back together, lay our sketches out and worked as a group to try and find the plants that others had done, using only the sketch as a hint. Then we discussed the plants we couldn’t identify, looked them up and labelled them all. When I look back through the last year of doodles, sketches and paintings that we’ve done in our books, those pages always make me smile.
I find this a very flexible curriculum, one that I can morph easily and change expectations based on age and ability of learner. Sometimes the journal entries take over and become the kids favourite part, other times they find a strong connection within the examination of the subject or the themed poem. No matter which part they connect with in any given week, it’s never dull and the boys always look forward to it.
Although we used this last year, I find we don’t learn enough in a single week of study that doing it again the following year is repetitive. Change it up, add more depth, a new set of eyes and get the family outside – that’s all it’s really about after all.
If this sounds like something you’d like to try, pop over to Lynn’s site http://www.raisinglittleshoots.com and download it from there. There is also a great Facebook page http://www.facebook.com/exploringnaturewithchildren with some of her stunning journal entries, a great community of like-minded adults and other Charlotte Mason style ideas to add to your week of study. I hope you enjoy this as much as we do!