5 Tips For Winter Nature Study

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Lichen: a simple slow-growing plant which typically forms a low crust-like, leaf-like, or branching growth on rocks, walls, and trees

An observant child should be put in the way of things worth observing – Charlotte Mason

Winter can be the most challenging time to get outside. In my early days of using the Charlotte Mason method we would revert to living nature study books in the warmth of my home more than heading out and observing it for ourselves. This was mainly due to my limited understanding of what was going on in nature in winter and my lazy, sluggish winter mode of not wanting to wrap babies up in a billion layers so they didn’t freeze whilst we hugged bare trees!!

Now, with slightly older children, warmer coats and a growing enthusiasm for the great outdoors I think winter nature study is becoming a favourite of mine.

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So, if you’re struggling to pull on your boots and head outside here are a few tips to get you mama’s motivated!

5 Tips For Winter Nature Study

  1. Check the weather and try plan ahead of time; if you can see a clear day coming cancel usual  ‘lessons’ and spend a good few hours roaming the countryside (with a flask of hot chocolate!).
  2. Wear the right clothes; there’s nothing more frustrating than your 5-year-old crying 10 minutes into the walk “I’m cold, I can’t feel my toes”. I highly recommend layers, hats & gloves and definitely a couple of pairs of wool socks.
  3. Do your research before you go so you know what to look for; beauty isn’t so obvious in winter but it’s definitely there. It’s a good idea to give your children a ‘heads up’ of what you’re looking out for as well as their own general observations.
  4. Take photos so you can sketch later – it’s hard to draw when your hands are cold! I print out pictures of our snaps the next day for the children to re-live and sketch in their journals.
  5. Visit places where you might visit in the spring/summer so your children can observe and appreciate the seasonal differences. I tend to go to 2 or 3 places over and over again so we can closely observe the change in seasons, learn the familiar trees and flowers and also the children get to learn the routes!

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5 Things To Look For In Winter

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  1. Moss, fungus and lichen – so beautiful, colourful and textured; often hidden so dig deep in the woods.
  2. Nibbled nuts and pinecones; signs of birds and squirrels enjoying their winter diet. Observe which trees you found them under.
  3. Space; when there are no leaves on the trees, woods and forests always seem much bigger; you can see the sky and through the trees for miles ahead.
  4. Tree shapes. Again, when the trees are bare you can clearly see their shape and structure – simple outline pencil sketches of these are a great way to journal this winter observation.
  5. Sound. Stand still and quiet in the middle of the woods or countryside area and count how many different sounds you can hear. It’s quite a discipline for little children but worth the try!

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Sunshine is delicious, rain is refreshing, wind braces us up, snow is exhilarating, there is really no such things as bad weather, only different kinds of good weather – John Ruskin

January – A Winter Walk

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It is infinitely well worth the mother’s while to take some pains every day to secure, in the first place, that her children spend hours daily amongst rural and natural objects; and, in the second place, to infuse into them, or rather, to cherish in them, the love of investigation – Charlotte Mason

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January is here, with eyes that keenly glow, A frost-mailed warrior striding a shadowy steed of snow –  Edgar Fawcett

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January is the quietest month in the garden, but just because it looks quiet doesn’t mean that nothing is happening.  The soil, open to the sky, absorbs the pure rainfall while microorganisms convert tilled-under fodder into usable nutrients for the next crop of plants.  The feasting earthworms tunnel along, aerating the soil and preparing it to welcome the seeds and bare roots to come –  Rosalie Muller Wright

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Bare branches of each tree
on this chilly January morn
look so cold so forlorn.
Gray skies dip ever so low
left from yesterday’s dusting of snow.
Yet in the heart of each tree
waiting for each who wait to see
new life as warm sun and breeze will blow,
like magic, unlock springs sap to flow,
buds, new leaves, then blooms will grow
–  Nelda Hartmann

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Let them once get in touch with nature and a habit is formed which will be a source of delight and habit through life – Charlotte Mason

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All content on this website including but not limited to photographic work is protected under copyright laws. Copyright © 2016, Leah Boden, Leahboden.com

5 Ways Charlotte Mason Has Impacted My Life #themasoneffect

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We should always have something worthwhile to think about, that we may not let our minds dwell upon unworthy matters – Charlotte Mason

My interest in the life and works of Charlotte Mason stems from early on in my research before embarking on actually teaching our children at home.

I often still feel in the early stages of discovery but have now been implementing her methods in our homeschooling days for 8 years. My interest isn’t purely to aid my ‘teaching’, I am fascinated by a woman who influenced the face of education in a time where children were ‘seen and not heard’, were physically punished for poor spelling and did not have the freedom to express their informed opinions or feelings about a particular text or subject. Charlotte’s work and life was ‘for the children’s sake’; she believed and fought for the plain fact that ‘children are born persons’ and wanted to give them all an opportunity to create a life long love for learning,  enjoy good ‘living’ books and an appreciation of God’s creation.

In 2012 I took a bit of a pilgrimage up to the Lake District (Ambleside) to visit her old stomping ground (she was actually nearly fifty when she moved to Ambleside, in 1891 and formed the House of Education, a training school for governesses and others working with young children) and her gravestone; I was saddened to see the buildings unloved and more or less abandoned over the years but glad they remained standing to tell some of the tale of her life and work. Her incredible legacy has and continues to impact so many of us across the globe.

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‘Scale How’ – Charlotte Mason’s ‘House of Education’ from 1894

My learning about her life and implementing her educational methods in my home have made a huge impact on many area’s of my life; here are 5 for starters!

Reignited my love of books

Let their books be living books, the best that can be found in liberal supply and variety – Charlotte Mason

I’ve always been a reader, albeit a bit of a lazy one, but I’ve always loved and thrived on self-education (I wasn’t home educated). Over the past few years my love of reading, learning and getting lost in real, ‘living’ books has been rekindled and has enriched my life incredibly. I’m a true believer in modeling for our children what we’re labouring to implement in their lives; if you want readers, be a reader!

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The plaque on the front of Scale How

Habits are worth the work

“Let children alone… the education of habit is successful in so far as it enables the mother to let her children alone, not teasing them with perpetual commands and directions – a running fire of Do and Don’t ; but letting them go their own way and grow, having first secured that they will go the right way and grow to fruitful purpose.”
― Charlotte M. Mason

Don’t skip this bit! I know habit-forming can be laborious, tedious and time-consuming but it is SO worth it. It’s incredible how doing the same thing every day, learning a simple skill (i.e. attention) can massively impact your family life and your personal life.

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A building known as ‘the beehive’ used for Miss Mason’s students to practice teaching in!

Every day nature study – brought it to life

Let them once get in touch with nature and a habit is formed which will be a source of delight and habit through life – Charlotte Mason

My childhood was full of nature walks and adventures in the Yorkshire countryside; my foraging mother would collect treasures, smell trees, point out flowers and admire God’s beauty like no one I’ve ever seen before. I’m so thankful for that heritage but it didn’t come to life in me until I started home educating my children and brought nature study into our regular rhythm. I have now become my mother (smile), only ten times ‘worse’ – and I love it!

I’ve learnt to trust the learning ability of a child

“Self-education is the only possible education; the rest is mere veneer laid on the surface of a child’s nature.”
― Charlotte M. Mason

This is a whole blog post in itself (I will do it), I never fully realised the full learning potential of a child if you just give them room to grow, discover, observe and breathe in this big beautiful world that we live in. With each child I have been ‘braver’ to not have every moment scheduled and schooled, to allow plenty of room and trust the ways of a child and Charlotte’s method. I’ve had incredible ‘results’ from my brave ways (wink) and thriving children who I thank God for everyday!

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The front door of Scale How – the beginnings of a great adventure for many young wannabe educators

Mother culture – exploring my own learning and creativity

“If mothers could learn to do for themselves what they do for their children when these are overdone, we should have happier households. Let the mother go out to play!”
― Charlotte M. Mason

With the combination of Charlotte Mason, Brene Brown and now Elizabeth Gilbert, I’m finally loving my creative self, believing in her and leaning into her. So much of motherhood is time given over to those in our households; loving, nurturing, feeding, nursing and guiding but I’ve learnt to realise that I am at my best from a place of rest! I need to renergise, read, write, walk, gaze at beauty and fill my soul in order for me to pour into the people in my life.

So mama’s – let’s go out to play!

How has the life and works of Charlotte Mason impacted your life?

Nature Study – 3 Top Tips For Beginners!

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There is no season such delight can bring as summer, autumn, winter and spring – William Browne

One of the greatest delights in using the Charlotte Mason method is her emphasis on nature study; there’s nothing greater than seeing your children caught in awe and wonder by God’s beautiful creation. Not only does regular nature study lay a foundation for the study of science but it enriches a child’s life. Charlotte states that when children are outdoors interacting with nature it in fact increases their intellect and makes them a more interesting person, I agree!

“Consider, too, what an unequalled mental training the child-naturalist is getting for any study or calling under the sun — the powers of attention, of discrimination, of patient pursuit, growing with his growth, what will they not fit him for?”

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We can easily get overwhelmed when beginning our homeschooling journey as to where to start and what to do; take a breather mama and go for a walk. It all starts here.

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Here are three tips that might help you get on your way:

  1.  Walk the walk

Whether it’s your garden, your great aunt’s yard, the local park or the forest your house overlooks (sigh) do the same walk every week. The repetitive pattern of seeing the same trees, flowers, fields week after week may seem monotonous here in words but in reality it’s a beautiful journey that you commit to and get excited about with each season. Every time you walk those paths you see new things, identify new species, collect treasures along the way and eventually you’ll be naming trees, plants and birds as you pass them (as will your children). We have a ‘green space’ about 5 minutes walk from our house; we’ve been told that it may have been an old Victorian landscaped garden as there are such a variety of trees, but I’m yet to do my research! My husband walks our dog there every day, often with the children and we take an intentional nature walk there every week. It has taken years of observation, touch, smell and sight to learn only a handful of the trees and plants on that walk but we could walk you round and name many species along the way! Of course we walk in and visit many other places throughout the year; woods, castle gardens, lakes and seas but our neighbourhood green space is in the regular peaceful rhythm of our home educating days.

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2. Don’t sweat the sketch

There is seemingly so much emphasis on nature journals, sketching ‘what you see’ and recording your botanical findings but be kind to yourself and allow you and your young learners to grow with the process. Take photo’s and upload them when you get home to look through together and talk about what you saw, jot down basic sights and smells in a normal week to view diary, print out pictures, find species in books to copy if it makes it less stressful for your students! You will learn to find your rhythm and form of expression with your children in order to record your nature findings but there’s no rush to become the Edwardian Lady, really!

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 3. It starts with you!

I’m sorry to say, but as with most of my home educating or parenting ‘wisdom’ it really does start with us! We have to cultivate a love of being outdoors, appreciating God’s creation, reading and researching ourselves in order to inspire our children. There are so many beautiful books, illustrated poetry anthologies and prospective botanical besties out there waiting for your cry for HELP!! You know as well as I do that our children see through our ‘fake’ interest; if we love it and show passion for it, it becomes infectious. If it doesn’t come natural to you, find another family to walk and learn with; we’re all in this together!

To be interested in the changing seasons is a happier state of mind than to be hopelessly in love with spring – George Santayana

 

Over the next few weeks I plan to share more around our personal out working of the Charlotte Mason method with regular updates on our nature study , use of living books and daily rhythms. Please feel free to ask your questions here in the comments, over on my Facebook page or via Instagram.

If you’re using the Charlotte Mason method here in the UK, I host a Facebook group, please head over and request to join here.

 

 

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