{Learning at Home} Keep it Simple!

Learning from Home | School Closures & Quarantine | The Open Home

Along with the rest of the world, many families on island are now faced with the prospect of possible school closures in the face of the COVID-19 (Coronavirus) world wide pandemic.

Now if you do find yourself stuck at home with your kids during this time, firstly do not panic, all will be well, you will survive and may even find that your child’s learning will thrive during this time, even if you do get a little cabin fever along the way.

Now remember that during this time at home your child’s education will still be the responsibility of their school and if living in Guernsey, the Education Department and I’m sure they will be providing you with ideas and resources that can support your child’s learning from home.

Also remember that your kids are home for a good 6 weeks during the school summer holidays every year, often enjoying lots of free play and unstructured time and their education does not suffer because of it.

However, as a home educator I appreciate that you may be feeling daunted at the prospect of suddenly having your kids at home with you all day and somewhat overwhelmed by the thought of having to guide their learning during this time.

I therefore thought I would share a blog post or two over the coming weeks with a few ideas and resources you can draw on to help support your child’s learning at home should you find yourself in that position.

*Please note that my posts here will focus on learning with primary school aged children as that is the experience I have as a home educator.

So lets jump in and lets keep it simple.

10 simple things you can do to learn at home as a family:

 

1. Chores

Learning from Home | School Closures & Quarantine | The Open Home

I start here on purpose. Chances are if your family is now home for most of the day then you’re going to have a lot more mess and clearing up to do. To preserve your sanity and to help make time and space for enjoying this home learning experience then everyone needs to muck in to help keep this new learning environment at it’s best. Chores are an important part of family life as it is, enabling children to serve others and feel like contributing, needed members of the family. Plus life skills are just so important, I mean, who wants an 18 year old that can do long division and algebra but can’t even do a load of laundry!? Not me! So get them making their beds, emptying the dishwasher, folding laundry, sweeping the porch, setting the dinner table and contributing to family life.

 

2. Reading

Learning from Home | School Closures & Quarantine | The Open Home

I know, I know, you know this one! Of course reading! Whether it be read alouds as a family, older kids reading to the younger kids or your new readers doing individual reading practice with you, do it all! I’m sure your child’s school will provide you with reading lists to use at home, but if you find yourself with extra time on your hands then this is a great opportunity to get out those books you’ve meaning to read to your kids for some time. Perhaps there is a series you could work your way through, the Chronicles of Narnia, The Famous Five, Harry Potter, there are so many to choose from. Don’t have the books at home and can’t get to the library? No problem! Then just get an audio book subscription like Audible and listen along.

 

3. Writing

Learning from Home | School Closures & Quarantine | The Open Home

Writing does not have to be boring form filling, spelling tests and comprehension worksheets. I’m sure during isolation your kids will be missing school friends and family members so help them to stay connected whilst working on their writing at the same time by sending letters and postcards to friends. A simple postcard a day really will suffice. Gather them up at the end of the week and pop out for a quick stroll to the nearest postbox (if you’re not in official quarantine) and grab some much needed fresh air too. Perhaps stock up on postage stamps ahead of time.

 

4. Baking

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Missing all those sweet treats and coffee dates that made up part of your week? Well baking is a great way to eat cake whilst incorporating math skills in a hands on way. Stock up on ingredients now before school closures or quarantine hits and then once a week get your kids weighing ingredients, doubling recipes, halving the batter and setting the timer. Make a real party of it too, something to look forward to at the end of the school week or perhaps something to fill in the space where the kids are missing out on attending a group. Maths at it’s sweetest! (Pun intended)

 

5. Games

Learning from Home | School Closures & Quarantine | The Open Home

Most board games include some sort of math skills, whether it be basic counting, sequencing or even geometry. Great for turn taking, patience building and family bonding too. There are also card games and parlour games, whatever takes your fancy. Perhaps pick a game a day or even schedule a (screen free) games afternoon once a week.

 

6. Crafts

Learning from Home | School Closures & Quarantine | The Open Home

If you’re anything like us then you’ll still have boxes of unopened craft kits ready and waiting following Christmas. Whether it be candle making, soap making, sewing kits or simply painting and play dough, now is the time to do them all. Pull out the paints, open up the boxes and let them get messy and creative and enjoy the sensory experience. You could even start a hand made project ready for Father’s Day or even Christmas depending on how time consuming and technical it is.

 

7. Gardening

Learning from Home | School Closures & Quarantine | The Open Home

Gardening is such a great way to teach a variety of subjects. Maths is involved as you count out seedlings, writing as you label pots, natural history as you identify flowers and nature sciences as you discuss the benefits of composting and mulching. If you find yourself stuck at home and getting cabin fever then get out in the garden as much as possible if you have one. Weed, plant, identify birds, make a bug hotel and get your hands dirty all in a good way.

 

8. Music Practice

Learning from Home | School Closures & Quarantine | The Open Home

If your child is already learning a musical instrument then they now have plenty of time and no excuse not to be practicing it, possibly even twice a day! By the time they go back to music lessons and school orchestras they’ll be able to impress their teachers with their self directed progress.

 

9. Screen Time

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There are math apps and language learning apps, yoga videos, nature documentaries, as well as the usual computer games and TV shows that kids just love. Identify the apps that will aid your learning and then slot them into your daily and weekly rhythm in a way that is predictable and clear, making screens work for you and not against you. Perhaps you’ll allocate 15 minutes for a math app every day after lunch, a yoga video twice a week and a movie on the weekend. Whatever works for your sanity and your kids learning.

And remember screen time has it’s place in learning, but don’t allow it to be a crutch. I say this from experience when I advise that you use it wisely and sparingly and set the boundaries of it’s use from the get go. Poor behaviour, lack of attention and sensory meltdowns tend to come part and parcel with too much screen time and not enough time outdoors.

 

10. Free Play

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Last but by no means least don’t underestimate the importance of free play. More and more schools are adding free play time into their schedules and rightly so, it’s a great opportunity for children to express themselves, practice new skills and process what they’ve been learning in the classroom, not to mention de-stress. The chances are if you’re feeling worried by the current health pandemic then your kids are too, however much you’ve tried to protect them from the constant news updates and daily conversations that are hard to avoid. At times like this up the free play accordingly, they’re gonna need it.

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So yes, I know, simple things that deep down you already knew, but as Julie Bogart says in her excellent book The Brave Learner, “everything can be taught through anything” and sometimes we just need reminding of that.

And remember, just because your child is home from school doesn’t mean you need to recreate school at home. Free yourself from that notion right now and embrace the freedom and creativity that comes with learning from home.

In my next post I will share with your some of the free online resources I use on a regular basis to aid my daughters’ education at home. I’m sure you’ll find them useful too, but in the meantime you may find it helpful to read about our homeschool rhythm and see what a day in the life looks like for us.

Got questions about learning from home with your kids? Ask away in the comments below!

{Wild Challenge} Signs of Spring

RSPB Wild Challenge | Signs of Spring | The Open Home

This year we’ve decided to take on the RSPB Wild Challenge as a family and we’re currently working towards our Bronze Award. For each award you need to complete three “Experience Nature” activities and three “Help Nature” activities. We started with an experience nature activity looking for signs of spring in our beloved weekly nature spot, Candie Gardens.

We spied new buds, admired spring bulbs, sniffed sweet blossoms, counted petals, compared leaves, listened to bird song and hunted for bugs and frogs.

Here’s our photo evidence:

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What are your favourite signs of spring?

 

 

Homeschool Day in the Life (with a 6 & 4 year old)

Day in the Life 2019 | The Open Home

Following on from my post last week about our homeschool rhythm I thought I’d unpack that a little further with a day in the life post that will hopefully help you to see how that rhythm flows in practice as well as give you a glimpse into what home educating young children can look like.

This day in the life is from a Wednesday earlier this month. Lets jump straight in.


Day in the Life 2019 | The Open Home

7:10 – Today’s wake up call from Bubbles felt a little earlier than usual but it was in fact a pretty average time for her. I quickly snuck into the girls room where Bubbles had already made a spot in her bed for me, morning cuddles are a regular thing for us and it gives Blossom a bit more time to wake up.

7:30 – Bubbles couldn’t possibly wait for breakfast any longer so we girls headed downstairs in our pyjamas to start the day. I prepared breakfast whilst the girls squabbled over some random nonsense which continued on and off over breakfast. Apologies were necessary from both sides and bad attitudes looked set to persist.

8:20 – The Husby left for work whilst we got on with our morning chores. Blossom emptied the washing machine and sorted the laundry into piles whilst Bubbles helped me to unload the dishwasher.

8:40 – We finally finished chores and started table time but Blossom, who was still in a grump following the earlier squabbles was now feeling reluctant to do her maths. Rather than battle it out and force her to work under duress I suggested she complete just the one page of maths today instead of the usual two and that seemed to help.

Day in the Life 2019 | The Open Home

(On a side note, we’re currently using Oxford International Primary Maths, just in case you’re interested. It’s the only workbook and curriculum we are currently using in our homeschool and it’s working well for Blossom who considers herself “a maths whizz”).

After maths Blossom moved on to her copy work (writing practice) which today was simply a list of words, but some days it’s a line from a poem, hymn or scripture we’re learning. 

Day in the Life 2019 | The Open Home

Whilst Blossom got on with her work Bubbles chose to play with the mathlink cubes for her table time activity and was busy laying them out and counting them with me, declaring “this is good mathing!”

Once Blossom finished her copy work she too joined in with the hands on maths and started to play with the math sticks, as we call them, making up her own sums.

9:20 – Once the essentials were done it was time for my workout. The girls headed upstairs to get dressed and then busied themselves playing for a bit before joining me in the lounge (Bubbles still in her pyjamas!) whilst I finished my exercise.

Day in the Life 2019 | The Open Home

10:00 – I usually head straight upstairs to shower and dress after my workout but as the girls were both still grumpy and on the verge of another fall out I suggested we do our morning basket straight away which they were eager to do.

We did our morning basket snuggled up on the sofa in the lounge and today we covered:

  • Devotions

We read the next chapter in The Jesus Storybook Bible (which we’re really enjoying), looked up a verse and song for our advent devotions, recorded some gratitudes in our gratitude journal and then said a short prayer.

  • Art Enrichment

Next up was our art enrichment slot which, as always I started with a poem. This term we’ve been familiarising ourselves with the work of A.A. Milne and today we read “The Old Sailor” from “Now We Are Six“.

Next up was composer study. This term we’ve been studying the work of Tchaikovsky, starting with his ballets, first Swan Lake, then Sleeping Beauty and today we started The Nutcracker. We watched a short youtube video of The Royal Opera House’s “The Waltz of the Snowflakes” discussing the music and story as we watched. The girls remarked that the snow must be getting heavier as the music was getting faster.

  • Main Lesson

On Wednesdays our main lesson is usually history but we wrapped up our stone age studies last week ready to focus on advent readings and activities throughout December. So today we continued reading “How Winston Delivered Christmas”  and also read today’s advent picture book, “Babushka.”

Day in the Life 2019 | The Open Home

10:45 – I finally had the opportunity to get showered and dressed now that morning basket was over and the girls’ grumpy attitudes were gone. The snuggles and books seemed to do the trick and they then played happily together downstairs whilst I got myself ready upstairs.

11:30 – Most days of the week we head out mid to late morning for an outing or group, but not on a Wednesday. Wednesday is our catch up day and the day we have more time to work on crafts. With all the earlier squabbling we were running a little later this morning though and there was no longer time left to fit in the craft I had planned to do before lunch.

Instead I got on with some laundry and prepped lunch whilst the girls continued to play happily in the lounge, singing the Twelve Days of Christmas together as they did!

12:00 – I finally managed to convince Bubbles to actually get dressed in time for lunch and she kindly told us a “silly stone age story” whilst we ate.

Day in the Life 2019 | The Open Home

12:20 – After lunch we quickly tidied up the lounge together and then snuggled up once more for our current read aloud, “Holly & Ivy” The girls are loving this book and would happily sit for me to finish the whole thing but today I cut it short so we could fit in that craft we didn’t get round to earlier.

12:45 – Time for some painting! As a neat freak I tend to steer away from messy crafts, but both the girls love to create and Bubbles in particular loves the sensory process of painting so I’m making a real effort to include it more often.

Today they painted some colourful skies (a moonlit one for Bubbles and a sunrise for Blossom). Next week they’ll add some black pieces of card to the picture to make some stone circle silhouettes.

Day in the Life 2019 | The Open Home

13:30 – The girls usually join their grandparents for a playdate on their farm on a Wednesday afternoon but they were poorly this week so the girls joined me on a couple of errands instead for part of their afternoon activity.

First we popped into my office at work so I could collect a few things to work on from home and then we headed to Waitrose to stock up on a few groceries.

15:00 – Once home I prepared the girls a snack and allowed them a mid week movie in leu of their playdate so I could get some work done at the kitchen table. Brother Bear was chosen, one of the movies I recently introduced to help bring prehistoric history to life.

16:30 – The Husby returned from work and thankfully got on with making dinner so I could continue my work at the table.

17:30 – The girls had an early dinner together today and then joined the Husby in the lounge to read books and play whilst I snuck upstairs for a hot bath.

18:30 – Tired and grumpy yet again, Bubbles trudged up the stairs and we started her bedtime routine early whilst Blossom hid in my bedroom, unwinding from the day and getting herself changed for bed.

Day in the Life 2019 | The Open Home

19:00 – Bubbles is tucked up early tonight with no bedtime call backs. I folded laundry with Blossom in my bedroom and then we did her reading practice together using The Complete Book of First Experiences from Usborne. I then read her a bedtime story from our beloved Milly-Molly-Mandy before tucking her up in bed around 19:45.

20:00 – The Husby and I finally sat down to dinner together and then chilled out in front of the TV to watch The Big Bang Theory for the zillionth time. Tomorrow is his day off so Wednesday is effectively our Friday night so we have that weekend feeling, so much so that I ended up falling asleep on the sofa before retreating to bed early.


So that’s what our homeschool rhythm looks like in practice.

What does your (home) school day look like?

Our Homeschool Rhythm

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I’m a big believer in routine. We’re all creatures of habit in many ways and when it comes to children I believe that they tend to thrive on routine as most crave the predictability and security that a routine offers.

When it comes to home educating many families find success in having a routine, a predictable rhythm to their day and week that allows their homeschool to flow more easily. We certainly do.

Now I’m not talking about a schedule here where every aspect of the homeschool day is slotted into a timetable where maths has to start at 10am, followed by a break at 10:30 and history at 11:00.

This may work for some but when one of the blessings of home educating is greater freedom, a rigid schedule can miss out on some of the flexibility and spontaneous joy that home educating can bring.

So below you will see what our daily homeschool rhythm looks like. Our school day starts at a different time every day and occasionally we swap elements around if need be but in general, this is the flow of our day.

 

STARTING THE DAY

Our Homeschool Rhythm | The Open Home

Thankfully my girls are not early risers and Bubbles generally only squarks for me around 7:15 (sometimes even 7:45) but the day generally starts with us heading down to breakfast in our pyjamas around 7:30 once I’ve managed to wake up a little.

I love the idea of being all dressed and ready to start the day before we head down for breakfast, but Bubbles tends to wake up “starving” most days and I’ve learnt that battling to dress a hangry 4 year old is not always worth the fall out.

CHORES

Our Homeschool Rhythm | The Open Home

Every day straight after breakfast we do our morning chores. Blossom empties the washing machine and hangs the laundry and Bubbles empties the dishwasher with my help.

TABLE TIME

Our Homeschool Rhythm | The Open Home

Once the chores are done we jump straight into our table time work (sometimes still in our pjs). This typically starts anywhere between 8:30 and 9:15. This is the slot where we get our copy work (writing practice) and maths out of the way, sometimes some picture narrations and nature journaling too.

Table time is really for my 6 year old who is now doing some formal lessons, but my 4 year old likes to feel part of things even if she isn’t yet required to do the work so for her table time involves any fine motor activity of her choice; colouring, beading, stamping, octons, hammer board, etc

At present Table Time lasts no longer than 30 minutes.

WORKOUT

Our Homeschool Rhythm | The Open Home

Now that our table time work is out of the way and the essentials of the day done the girls (are supposed to) get dressed and then have some free play time whilst I fit in my 30 minute workout, shower and get myself (and then sometimes my 4 year old) dressed for the day.

Sometimes there is time for them to squeeze in some yoga practice whilst I get ready and then sometimes I have to skip my workout all together if we’ve had a slow start to the day or have to be out of the house especially quickly.

MORNING BASKET

Our Homeschool Rhythm | The Open Home

Once we’re all dressed and ready for the day we start our morning book basket, usually around 10:00 – 10:30 depending on whether we’re heading out or not.

Each morning basket consists of devotions, art enrichment and a main lesson:

  • Devotions

Right now our devotions include a Bible reading, our gratitude journal and a prayer.

  • Art Enrichment

Every day I kick start our art enrichment section by reading a poem. We look at a poet each term and try to get familiar with their style. We then follow up poetry with either hymn study, picture study or composer study. Like with poetry, when it comes to picture study and composer study we focus on one artist/composer per term to really familiarise ourselves with their work. As for hymn study, we study 1 hymn per month and again the aim here is familiarity not word perfection.

  • Main Lesson

Now we have a 6 year old in the house we’ve introduced a few more subjects to our week so our morning basket now includes one main lesson per day; natural history on a Monday, PSHE on Tuesday, history on Wednesday and geography on Thursday.

These lessons often involve read alouds, picture books, the occasional video and of course, lots of discussion.

MORNING ACTIVITY

Our Homeschool Rhythm | The Open Home

This is where things differ a little as most of the week we head out on an outing or to a group after our morning basket but twice a week we stay home.

So on Mondays we attend our Nature Explorers group, on Tuesdays we have a play date, on Wednesday we do catch up and crafts at home, on Thursdays we tend to tackle house or gardening projects, on Fridays we visit the library and then on Saturday it’s swimming lessons, followed by church on Sundays.

LUNCH

Our Homeschool Rhythm | The Open Home

Always an important one. As I don’t have to prep for school lunches the night before I don’t, unless I know we’ll be out and about for lunch the next day. Generally I just serve leftovers or prep sandwiches as and when we’re hungry, usually around 12:00.

READ ALOUD

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After lunch we read a chapter or two of our current read aloud and on the rare occasion that we had to skip morning basket to rush out we add it on to this space here.

AFTERNOON ACTIVITY

Our Homeschool Rhythm | The Open Home

In true Charlotte Mason fashion I try to get all the school work in the formal sense out of the way in the morning so that the afternoons can be for more leisurely activities and lots of free play.

So on Monday we have our Poetry Tea Time, on Tuesday we try to bake, on Wednesday the girls visit their grandparents for a playdate on the farm, on Thursday we have a family outing and on Friday the girls attend their Rainbows group. Saturday and Sunday aren’t school days in our home so those afternoons are generally just for rest and play.

DINNER & BED

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Dinner is usually somewhere between 17:30 and 18:00 and after dinner we head up to bed. I try to have my 4 year old down by 19:30 and then Blossom can read to me in peace before being tucked up in bed around 20:00.

We used to attempt reading practice during table time but it proved difficult with a chatty 4 year old around so we needed to find a consistent one-to-one slot in the day and bedtime won out.

EVENINGS

Books Lately | The Open Home

Once the girls are all settled in bed my evenings then consist of a small amount of prep for the next school day followed by my own down time.

Thankfully my termly lesson planning and hours prep on the weekend make the world of difference enabling me to do very little planning in the evenings for the next day.

I then aim to head up to bed around 22:30.

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So there you have it, our daily rhythm. Nothing too rigid, just a general flow to our days that helps make our learning all the more intentional and enjoyable. In my next post I’ll try to unpack this rhythm a little more for you and will share how a school day looks in more detail.

Do you prefer to have a rhythm to your day?

 

 

{Autumn Nature Study}

Autumn Nature Study 2019 | The Open Home

“Why be indoors when you can rightly be without.” – Charlotte Mason

The autumn started with such promise, our conker hoard was large this year, but October proved to be the wettest October for many a decade and the rain persisted well into autumn making nature walks increasingly difficult.

We still gathered and explored where we could and diligently kept an eye on our beloved ginkgo tree to be sure not to miss it in all its autumn glory.

We learnt a lot about seasonal weather and bird migration this autumn and have also signed up to the RSPB Wild Challenge and are looking forward to working towards our bronze award in the new year.

Here are some of the snapshots:

Autumn Nature Study 2019 | The Open Home
Golden sunshine on our first conker hunt of the season.
Autumn Nature Study 2019 | The Open Home
Sensory fun!
Autumn Nature Study 2019 | The Open Home
Bubbles’ first nature journal entry.
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The return of welly boot season.
Autumn Nature Study 2019 | The Open Home
Autumn nature walks in Cumbria.
Autumn Nature Study 2019 | The Open Home
Nature walk at Derwent Water, the home of Squirrel Nutkin.
Autumn Nature Study 2019 | The Open Home
Gruffalo spotting and squirrel hunting on our way up Orrest Head.
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A successful climb to the top of Orrest Head.
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Rambling in the Lake District.
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Wild and Free.
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Fabulous fungi.
Autumn Nature Study 2019 | The Open Home
Rock climbing our way to Rydal Cave.
Autumn Nature Study 2019 | The Open Home
Exploring Rydal Cave.
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Autumn views at Rydal Water.
Autumn Nature Study 2019 | The Open Home
Autumn crafts.
Autumn Nature Study 2019 | The Open Home
Nature walks with our fellow Nature Explorers.
Autumn Nature Study 2019 | The Open Home
Blossom’s bird migration work.
Autumn Nature Study 2019 | The Open Home
Ginkgo magic.
Autumn Nature Study 2019 | The Open Home
The simple joy of autumn leaves!

 

What did you enjoy most about nature this (wet and windy) Autumn?

{Spring Nature Study}

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“Why be indoors when you can rightly be without.” – Charlotte Mason

Spring never disappoints us. We appreciate every new bloom that comes through, every new bird that visits and every new addition down on the farm.

This spring we’ve learnt about the circle of life as we said goodbye to one pet goat and welcomed in another. We joined in Guernsey’s first BioBlitz and left with a new appreciation for moths and voles. We’ve seen improved skill through our nature journaling, started to dabble in some nature photography and even began work on our very own wildlife garden.

Here are some of the snapshots:

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Up close with the bees and bulbs.
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New arrivals down on the farm.
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Coastal walks and interesting nest sites.
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Rockpooling with Daddy at Chouet.
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Nature journaling first signs of spring.
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Watching the starlings fly overhead.
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Happy days down on the farm.
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Discovering new-to-us bays.
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Joining in the BioBlitz.
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The six-spot burnet moth in all it’s glory.
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My trusty nature backpack.
Nature Study Spring 2019 | The Open Home
Delicate egg discovery from the western parishes.

What did you enjoy most about nature this Spring?

{Winter Nature Study}

Winter Nature Study 2019 | The Open Home

“Why be indoors when you can rightly be without.” – Charlotte Mason

Winter can be a challenging season for exploring nature and if I’m honest my enthusiasm for it was lagging a little at the start of this year.

We persevered though and kept going outdoors and in the process discovered that beach combing and rock pooling really is the perfect nature activity for the cold winter months. Honestly, when the trees are bare, the birds are still south and the fields have few flowers, the sea shore makes for a wonderful playground.

We’re feeling ready for our spring nature study now though and have been excitedly searching for hints of spring since the start of the year!

Here are some of the snapshots:

Winter Nature Study 2019 | The Open Home
Pebble games on Fermain with our fellow Nature Explorers.
Winter Nature Study 2019 | The Open Home
Lots of sea anemones spotted at low tide on Chouet.
Winter Nature Study 2019 | The Open Home
First starfish discovered, also at Chouet.
Winter Nature Study 2019 | The Open Home
Rock climbing at Petit Bot.
Winter Nature Study 2019 | The Open Home
Hide & seek in the local park.
Winter Nature Study 2019 | The Open Home
We spotted our first daffodils back in mid January.
Winter Nature Study 2019 | The Open Home
A sensory scavenger hunt in our favourite park.
Winter Nature Study 2019 | The Open Home
Glorious winter sunshine.
Winter Nature Study 2019 | The Open Home
First signs of Spring.
Winter Nature Study 2019 | The Open Home
A new year and a new calendar of firsts.

What do you enjoy most about nature this Winter?