We Are All Meant to Be Naturalists

We Are All Meant to Be Naturalists

Teach your children to notice the little details in nature. They will astound you with their powers of observation. They will ask questions that you don’t know the answer to, but you can find those answers together. This is the best, most natural kind of learning. Learning that sticks because they own it.

I took the above picture in my front yard. It was a very insignificant weed that hadn’t bloomed yet. Somehow it caught my eye. I leaned down and studied it. I realized that there was beauty here. I got my phone and took several pictures. When I saw the pictures, I was amazed at the beauty and intricacy in this weed that didn’t belong. That was here today and gone tomorrow just like the Bible talks about in Matthew 6:30.

This sort of discovery would be a perfect lead-in to an extemporaneous lesson about Matthew 6:30-33.

“If God gives such attention to the appearance of wildflowers—most of which are never even seen—don’t you think he’ll attend to you, take pride in you, do his best for you? What I’m trying to do here is to get you to relax, to not be so preoccupied with getting, so you can respond to God’s giving. People who don’t know God and the way he works fuss over these things, but you know both God and how he works. Steep your life in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. Don’t worry about missing out. You’ll find all your everyday human concerns will be met.”
Matthew 6:30-33 (The Message

I think this illustrates the importance of enabling our children to get out in nature often and encouraging them to explore, discover, observe, study, gather specimens, ask questions, use a magnifying glass, and make their own connections with nature and nature’s Creator.

Jesus Taught From Nature

Jesus used parables based on farming and nature to explain how the Kingdom of God works. We can use these same kinds of examples and “parables” to teach our children not only scientific facts but life lessons.

Consider the lilies… and the wildflowers and the weeds. And the birds and the butterflies and the trees. And even the rabbits, the squirrels and the guinea pigs!

God wants us to take care of the Earth. He gave us the responsibility of tending and guarding and keeping it when He told Adam to tend and keep it.

He loves His Creation. And He loves people, the crown of His Creation. We should be teaching our children to love and take care of His Creation.

I think that’s why Charlotte Mason said that we are all meant to be naturalists and to care about the marvels of Creation.

So go out and observe, cultivate, nurture, and take care of the Creation you encounter. You will honor God who made it, and your children will get to know Him and will be more in awe of Him than ever. His works are truly marvelous.

Teach your children to marvel and appreciate the beauty and majesty of Nature.

Bad Homeschool Day? Stop and Pray

Bad Homeschool Day? Stop and Pray

School’s out for lots of us. But we still have our kids with us every day just like we do during the school year. So the chance of a bad day may just increase with the change in routine.

Whether you school all year round or take a break in the summer, this is good advice, and I guarantee it will help.

This advice will actually help any day, any time. When things are not going well, either because of your own mood or other people’s behavior, stop and pray. You might need to reset your thinking. Or you might need to count to ten before speaking to your child. Or you may need to ask the Lord, “What should I do here”?

Your response could make all the difference in the world to your child or whoever you’re with. If you lash out in anger and impatience because of immature behavior or defiance, you will lose their trust, respect, and desire to listen to you.

When you consult the Lord about what to do or say, you are much more likely to act wisely and lovingly. He may tell you to take a break, switch activities, go outside, leave the house, or just hug and have a nice, calm talk with the child or children who are having a bad day.

The way that we respond is modeling for our children how to handle disagreements and conflict. And it is good to set the example of praying about everything. Even in the midst of a highly emotional altercation, if we can pause and grab the hand of the one we are at odds with and start praying, the atmosphere will change.

We can de-escalate a charged situation, and transform the mood to one of love and affection. Then we can do whatever is appropriate for the situation. We can go back to the activity that had been interrupted, or we can do something completely different.

This is a good method to use in any matter that you are unsure how to handle. Stop and ask the Lord, “What are You doing here?” Wait and listen to what He says to you. Then do it!

A while ago, I was having a hard time with my two youngest daughters. They were not obeying whenever I told them to do anything. I calmed myself down … uh hum… then I called them into my room. I prayed with them and told them I loved them.

What did I pray? I prayed that they would know how much I love them and that they would understand that I have to help them obey the Word, so that they will be blessed, and the family will operate smoothly. The Word says that children are to obey their parents and honor their father and mother. I prayed that God would help them to do that. Things were much better after that. They started obeying, and they seemed happier and more affectionate than before.

If you have a Bad Homeschool Day, Stop and Pray! Or any other time that you are uncertain what to do, stop and pray and find out what God would have you do. Most likely, He will turn something that was going in a bad direction into a blessed and beneficial experience for all involved.

My Best Advice about Homeschooling

Here is My Best Advice About Homeschooling.

Relax and make yourself at HOME!

It’s called HOMEschooling for a reason. You are at home. Your children are at home. Now the question is, what do you do with each other?

I started out homeschooling like most of us do. I did what I remembered from my school experience. Shawn was my guinea pig. I started him with a preschool magazine from Sesame Street. We had fun with the activities and enjoyed spending focused time together.

As he got older, I went to homeschool conferences and learned about the different curriculum and about styles and best practices of seasoned homeschoolers.

I had an advantage in that I had the privilege of being an assessor for other homeschoolers, since I had a teaching certificate in the state of Ohio. I was able to see what lots of other homeschoolers were doing before I officially started homeschooling myself!

I got a feel for the different types of curriculum and the ways that moms were conducting their homeschools. I observed the emotional state of the moms who were very structured and anxious about doing everything just right. I felt the need to put them at ease, and encourage them to ease up on their expectations of their children and themselves.

I met a few who were more relaxed and seemed to enjoy spending time with their children and were sincerely thrilled with the chance to learn right along with them.

That relaxed, laid-back style appealed to me. I heard the delight these moms expressed in their homeschool experience and saw how calm and peaceful they seemed. They were not stressed out about whether they were doing enough or if their kids were doing well enough to get a good review from me as their assessor.

But I still felt like I should make Shawn do some “school work” every day. I worried about not doing enough. I pushed and cajoled him. I used curriculum that I thought was engaging, and I was excited about working with him, but he was not excited about working with me. He was a reluctant learner and a late reader.

Many days I would get exasperated at him for his attitude, and I would call his dad at work. He would always tell Shawn to just do his work, and then he could do whatever he wanted. We spent several years in that tug of war, and I was continually being a tattletale to his dad.

One day, Shawn made a decision to just get his work done as soon as I told him to do it, and then he would get to go outside or play his games or whatever. Life got a lot more enjoyable.

But then the game changer was when I started reading aloud a really good, engaging, classic book called “Tarzan“. Shawn was entranced! He loved the story so much that he was always anxious to sit down to let me read to him. We interacted about what was happening in the story, and he told me that he now realized that reading was fun. He said he could imagine what was happening and what the characters looked like, and he loved using his imagination like that. He decided that he wanted to learn how to read.

Phew! What a relief! He was already 8 or 9 years old. I realized that the best thing we did for school was reading aloud. He learned from the great stories I read to him. I chose books from the Sonlight curriculum, which is literature-based.

I also read other booklists, and the titles I saw repeated often, I made sure to get from the library. Those stories were often historical fiction or stories from another country and culture and historical era. The stories were by wonderful authors who used rich vocabulary, were exceptional at creating memorable characters who developed during the telling of the story. We got caught up in the story and sometimes spent hours reading.

As I had more and more children, I started to understand that I could not micromanage so many different learners. I had 6 children ages 10 and under. Then we added 4 more babies later on. So reading aloud with all of the children together became our main modus operandi for homeschooling every day. I bought a few supplemental books for phonics, vocabulary, grammar, handwriting and math. But those things were done on their own, and I checked them from time to time.

Learning mostly came from the things that they were interested in, projects they worked on, subjects they wanted to learn more about, and I got library books for them on that subject, (now they research a lot on the internet), field trips, nature walks, discussions, and life experiences.

We learned together naturally at home. We took what life gave us and turned most of that into learning experiences. So if you want to keep on homeschooling over the long haul, you need to make it sustainable. You all need to enjoy it as much as possible. And make it as easy and effective as you can by making it real, natural, simple, and relaxed. This is my best advice about homeschooling.