Saturday, August 31, 2013

Nature study is fun, easy, & can be done anywhere!

Sometimes, I think that too many parents try to make Nature Study (ala Charlotte Mason) far too intimidating to themselves. I believe some of that intimidation is simply because the parents themselves are simply not very familiar with God's creation and have no idea what they are looking at.

When my first 2 children were born, we lived in an apartment. In the city. On a busy road. In an area of town, that by the time my 2nd child came along, I no longer felt comfortable taking walks with the children by myself anymore. So, we improvised. We were lucky to have a small balcony. Before the babies started coming, we already had planters that we hung on the railing. We just added more things up on that railing in in containers in the corner. We watched ants, bees, moths, spiders, & the occassional butterfly. We put a very small inflatable pool on the patio along with a 1"x2" plastic container of sand on that small balcony. There was not much room for me out there (seriously - it was a pretty small balcony!) and often, I actually sat on the carpet right by the door or on the bit ledge that one stepped over to get to the balcony and watched the little ones play and learn. There was a light mounted on the building right by our balcony, so it always attracted bugs - which attracted spiders. I think the most memorable thing for all of us was watching the newly hatched spiders float off on their bit of web in great bunches (no, you don't want to be outside when this happens - ack!). We found dead bugs in the pool and before I tossed them over the side, we looked at them. I got a bug id book and we learned what a few of them were. It was fun, it was very basic, but they were only 1 & 3 when we moved to a different, ground level apartment with a tiny bit of yard out in suburbia.

So, I say all that to say that yes, you can start nature study when they are old enough to toddle around. It does not have to be in depth. It does not need worksheets. It is not hard.

Fast forward a decade and I am doing this again with the other 2 children that God blessed us with. They are, for the moment, 2 & 4. 

On this lazy Saturday morning (before chores kick in), I was drinking my coffee & eating a bit of oatmeal while reading my emails, checking the Ambleside Online forum, & scrolling through facebook. My computer desk is a corner of the kitchen/dining area right by the patio window/door area. I love that I can be almost outside while I do that.  Because of that, I often see things out of the corner of my eye and can call the children over to look quickly if needed. And today, that resulted in this post on Facebook a little while ago and then turned into this post:

"CM Nature study.....from our patio window's: Today, G3 & I had the chance to watch a pair of mourning doves work their way around our patio & the flower beds. We talked about their feather colors, their spots, how they bobbed their heads back and forth as they walked. We watched them grabbing bugs & such off the ground. Well, until M3 ran over and yelled, "A BIRD!" and banged on the window, lol! But, then we got to watch 3 chipmunks being all kinds of silly on our patio, the flowerbed & the fence by the flowerbed. They were hilarious in their antics and we all had a good time watching them. And to think that we studied nature through the glass...."
Oh, in a little bit, we will will have lunch (already?!) and I will toss all 4 children outside and they will run like little wild things. But, I know, later after they have burned off some of that energy, M3 will bring me a bug of some kind (that little girl has NO fear of bugs, lol!). G3 will come tell me about some birds he has seen. M2 will go with him to see what he has found and if she knows, she will tell him what plant/bug/bird/creature that it is. If not, I will come look and see. Most times I know, but sometimes, we have to go look it up. And that is okay. Sometimes, the little ones draw a picture of what they have seen. Sometimes not. I don't push it because I want them to enjoy it. When they are older, I will encourage them to draw in their journals. Until worries.

Remember to keep it simple. It is simple when they are so young. 

Thursday, August 15, 2013

A visit from a Monarch! Hurray!

 Apparently, Monarch Butterflies have had a rough year and they have been few and far between in Wisconsin. 

We grow Milkweed outside our back patio door so that we have every chance to see them. We have dear friends who purposefully grow milkweed along the side of their garage for the same purpose. They even go out and watch for recently hatched caterpillars and bring them (along with leaves) into a cage for safe keeping so they can eventually cocoon and become butterflies to help the population along. 

Today, after waiting all summer long - we finally had a visitor to our milkweed patch. Each year, this is a much waited for day - because it means that we will have a chance to watch the amazing metamorphosis.

Our little friend spent about 15 minutes with us before moving on.

 It visited the newest milkweed plant along with the big, mature plants.

 It took a rest on my begonia (which is, thankfully, recovering from the few short, very hot weeks of summer and then a major drenching.).

It visited the unknown plants in my planter on the back step.

Laying eggs! Notice the abdomen curved down below the wings at the leaf!

It even obliged us by posing prettily on the top of the fence!

 A side view.

A close up. She is actually laying an egg here, but my position doesn't allow you to see it.  I will post the egg picture after my camera battery recharges!
Bye-bye butterfly! We now await the emerging of your young so we can watch them grow into full grow caterpillars, make their chrysalis (one of the most beautiful ones out there, in my opinion) and then emerge to join you.

Edited to add in the picture of the Monarch egg. It is that whitish green dot on the leaf.