{Wild Challenge} Trees, Leaves & Seeds

Autumn seemed like the perfect time to tick off the Trees, Leaves & Seeds activity from the RSPB Wild Challenge as hunting for autumn leaves and seeds is a family favourite which we do every year.

We kicked things off in early autumn by collecting conkers and as the season progressed we found acorns, beech nuts, chestnuts and sycamore seeds too. All of which got recorded in their nature journals and put on display in our home.

We also collected leaves, identified them with our tree guides and then got crafty with them!

And then to finish things off we each picked out a tree in the park to return to and study throughout the year so as to record the seasonal changes.

Here is the photo evidence:

Have you been enjoying all the autumn leaves and seeds?

{Wild Challenge} Wild Camp Out!

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The girls completed another experience nature activity as part of their RSPB Wild Challenge. We actually did this one back in the summer, I’m just slow getting up on the blog!

We decided to have a wild camp out in our very own back garden, setting up camp in the afternoon, enjoying a barbecue together in the evening, followed by s’mores and a few camp fire stories as the sun set and then a spot of bat watching.

It was a real hit!

Unfortunately the girls missed the one and only bat I saw before having to go to sleep as they were quickly fading, but we promised to take them on another bat (and owl) hunt on another night.

Here is the photo evidence:

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When was the last time you went camping?

Homeschool Day in the Life (with a 7 year old, 5 year old and baby!)

Ever wondered what a homeschool day may look like? Well here is one of ours. No two days in the week ever look exactly the same but there is a general rhythm and flow to our days which you can check out {HERE}. You can also view our previous Day in the Life post from 2019 {HERE}.


5:50 – Baby Boy woke way too early today, but not as early as the previous day so progress! After spending over an hour keeping him quiet in the bedroom we got up at 7am, our usual time to start the day.

7:15 – I headed downstairs and got my workout done whilst the Husby got both Buzz and himself ready for the day. The girls also dressed before breakfast today, which isn’t always the case and then headed downstairs to colour at the table whilst they waited for breakfast.

8:00 – The Husby took care of breakfast today whilst I got myself showered and dressed and then gave Buzz some milk.

8:20 – The Husby then left for work whilst I ate breakfast and tackled chores with the girls. Laundry for Blossom and dishes for Bubbles.

8:45 – I settled Buzz in his cot for his morning nap and then the girls and I sat down for table time. Once Blossom was set up on a piece of work about Jewish festivals I sat down with 5 year old Bubbles to work on some phonics. After this Bubbles did some colouring whilst I helped Blossom with today’s maths lesson – multiplication.

9:25 – Buzz woke from his morning nap as we were finishing up at the table. The girls quickly cleared everything away whilst I got him changed and ready to head out and run some errands.

9:45 – We popped to a couple of shops to gather supplies for lunch and craft projects and Buzz even got to travel sat upright in the trolley for the first time!

10:45 – We were home within the hour and the girls busied themselves with a game whilst I fed their baby brother.

11:00 – We then moved onto our morning basket whilst all snuggled up on the sofa.

Today we covered:

  • Devotions

We read the next chapter in “The Lion Read & Know Bible“, read a biography from one of our devotionals, recorded some gratitudes in our gratitude journal and then said some prayers together.

  • Art Enrichment

Next up was our art enrichment slot and I started with our daily poem from “I Am the Seed“. I then read a poem by our current poet, T.S. Eliot.

  • Main Lesson

Today our main lesson was PSHE (Personal, Social, Health Education). We’re learning about the diversity of people within Britain and are currently learning about Judaism, hence Blossom’s earlier piece of work. We watched a few festival clips from Jumping Jerusalem and I read a chapter from our current read aloud, “Ella of All-of-a Kind Family“. This is the last book in the series about a Jewish family living in New York City at the turn of the 20th century. We really enjoy them.

12:00 – I changed and settled Buzz for his lunch time nap and then the girls and I had lunch.

12:45 – Buzz stirred early from his nap resulting in me spending 20 minutes resettling him so he wouldn’t be grumpy for the rest of the afternoon! During this time the girls busied themselves with colouring at the table.

13:10 – I try but don’t always succeed at having a quiet reading time after lunch, but today we managed to do it and I read some more from our current chapter book. There was then a fall out over the wobbel board which resulted in one daughter having a quiet colouring time in the dining room whilst the other had a quiet cuddle time with mummy.

14:30 – I woke Baby Boy from his nap and changed and fed him once again!

15:00 – We worked on a craft project to go towards the girls’ Rainbow badges, decoupaging some milk cartons with left over fabric scraps and turning them into little flower pots to give away. The pots actually turned out pretty well so we were all rather pleased!

15:45 – The girls were now free to play which involved yet more colouring, some time in the garden and playing with toys in the lounge as well as a snack time.

16:45 – The Husby returned from work and we got caught up with chatting, so much so that I was late for Baby Boy’s nap!

17:10 – After a failed attempt to settle an overtired Buzz in his cot for his afternoon cat nap he ended up snoozing on me for 20 minutes.

18:00 – Next up was dinner followed by audio books and sing alongs for the girls, our favourite before bed wind down, which often entertains Baby Boy too.

19:30 – Bedtime for all the kiddos. The Husby tackled the girls and I saw to the Boy.

20:30 – The Husby and I finally got to sit down together for a couple of hours before milk duties called again!


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

What does your homeschool day look like?

{Wild Challenge} Wild Flower Foray

Wild Challenge | Wild Flower Foray | The Open Home

The girls have completed the Wild Flower Foray challenge as part of their bronze award with the RSPB Wild Challenge.

We visited Bluebell Woods and the orchid fields near L’eree and also completed 3 nature walks in different locations of the island; one by the sea, one on the cliffs and one in the countryside to see where had the most flowers. It was a close call and I thought the cliffs would win out but it was in fact the countryside that had the most wild flowers in the end with an impressive 27 different blooms spotted!

Here is the photo evidence:

Wild Challenge | Wild Flower Foray | The Open HomeWild Challenge | Wild Flower Foray | The Open HomeWild Challenge | Wild Flower Foray | The Open HomeWild Challenge | Wild Flower Foray | The Open HomeWild Challenge | Wild Flower Foray | The Open Home

Wild Challenge | Wild Flower Foray | The Open Home

Our favourite wild flowers are fox gloves, daisies, sea pinks and primroses.

What are your favourite wild flowers?

{Home Ed} Implementing a Charlotte Mason Education

Implementing a Charlotte Mason Education | The Open Home

So in my last post on home education I introduced you to Charlotte who developed a theory of education that continues to be used by thousands of home educators worldwide today, including myself.

I also did my best to summarise, in one short paragraph, what the Charlotte Mason philosophy means to me and today I’d like to unpack that a little further, to help you see what a Charlotte Mason education looks like in practice and how you can implement the philosophy in your own home.

Now it’s important to remember that Charlotte created an educational philosophy not a curriculum (although she did create some of these for use in the PNEU schools). You can find some modern day curriculums out there based on Charlotte Mason’s principles, but these are not needed to create a Charlotte Mason inspired homeschool, you simply need to implement her methods in your home.

So what are her methods I hear you ask?

Well below is by no means an exhaustive list of Charlotte Mason’s methods, but they are perhaps the most recognisable aspects of a Charlotte Mason education and the ones that in particular drew me to her philosophy of education.

For each point I’ll try to explain how we are currently implementing each method in our home, not that this is the one and only way to do so, but just so you can glean ideas and get a better picture of what this could look like in your home.

 

10 Ways to Implement a Charlotte Mason Education:

 

1. Delayed Academics

Implementing a Charlotte Mason Education | The Open Home

“In this time of extraordinary pressure, educational and social, perhaps a mother’s first duty to her children is to secure for them a quiet growing time, a full six years of passive receptive life…” (Vol. 1, p. 44)

Charlotte believed the early years of learning should be “a quiet growing time” for children and formal lessons, including learning to read and write should wait until the child is around 6 years old. Families providing a Charlotte Mason education are often interested in protecting childhood, using the early years to develop useful life skills and to connect with their child through play.

In our home Blossom, only started to regularly practice reading, writing and maths at age 6 once she started the equivalent of Year 2. Before this I considered her to be in the early years of education and did not require her to sit still to practice such things. She had learnt phonics at age 5 and would attempt to sounds things out and write things off her own initiative, but not at my request.

 

2. Habit Training.

Implementing a Charlotte Mason Education | The Open Home

“What you would have the man become, that you must train the child to be.”  (Vol. 2, p. 15)

Charlotte Mason encouraged parents to instruct their children in the formation of good habits and positive character traits. Now it’s never too late to work on instilling good habits in our children, but the early years of education, before the introduction of formal lessons is a great time to focus on habit formation, leading to smoother and easier school days in the years that are to follow.

Now in our home a big part of habit training in the early years has focused on encouraging the girls to gain independence in activities of daily living like washing, dressing, feeding and toileting and encouraging them to take part in household chores. These life skills are important and definitely part of habit training, but they aren’t what habit training is all about.

Over the course of Charlotte’s six volumes on education she mentioned 60+ different habits, some physical habits, some mental habits, others moral and religious. There’s a lot to work on!

In our home I am using the Laying Down the Rails resources from Simply Charlotte Mason to guide me through habit training as well as Habits for the Early Years from My Little Robins.

 

3. Living Books

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“Children must have books, living books, the best are not too good for them; anything less than the best is not good enough.” (Vol. 2, p. 279)

Charlotte believed in reading children rich literature as opposed to dry textbooks and the dumbed down “twaddle” that so many of the modern day children’s books have become.  Books should spark the imagination and connect with the soul, not merely entertain. As C.S. Lewis said “No book is really worth reading at the age of ten which is not equally – and often far more – worth reading at the age of fifty and beyond.” I think Charlotte would have agreed.

In our home this involves reading a lot of classic children’s literature like Peter Rabbit, Winnie the Pooh, Milly-Molly-Mandy and The Adventures of the Little Wooden Horse and avoiding the gaudily illustrated stories about underpants and bogeys that seem to be the focus of much of children’s literature these days. As with all things though the 80/20 Principle does apply. I do let my girls bring home books from the library at times that aren’t particularly to my taste, but I do not keep such stories on our bookshelves at home.

 

4. Nature Study

Implementing a Charlotte Mason Education | The Open Home

“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.” (Vol. 1, p. 71)

Charlotte advocated for ample amounts of time outdoors, particularly in the early years of education before formal lessons start. Children receiving a Charlotte Mason education often spend hours outdoors everyday, go on regular nature walks, keep nature journals and become familiar with the natural flora and fauna of their local landscape.

In our home this looks like attending a weekly nature explorers group with other home ed families, taking a weekly nature walk through the same public garden so that we can familiarise ourselves with this specific nature spot, completing a phenology wheel and calendar of firsts in our nature journals and dedicating time during our Monday morning book basket to learn more about natural history.

 

5. Art Enrichment

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“The mind feeds on ideas, and therefore a child should have a generous curriculum.” (Vol. 6, p. 111)

Charlotte believed in spreading a liberal feast of ideas before the child. She wasn’t just concerned with educating the mind, but educating the whole child. Children receiving a Charlotte Mason education fill their hearts and minds with the beauty and wisdom of hymns and folksongs, they memorise poetry and scripture and also study the works of great artists and composers.

In our home we implement this by having a poet, artist and composer whose work we study for the term as well as familiarising ourselves with a new hymn every month or so. Practically we do this by including an art enrichment slot in our morning book basket everyday. On Monday we do hymn study, on Tuesday picture study, on Wednesday composer study and then on Thursday we review one of our old hymns. As for poems we read a few every day during our morning basket and try to memorise a couple of our favourites over the term.

 

6. Short Lessons.

Home Ed | Implementing Charlotte Mason | The Open Home

“… the lessons are short, seldom more than twenty minutes in length for children under eight.” (Vol. 1, p. 142)

Once a child is ready for formal lessons these lessons are kept short so as to engage the child and keep them fully attentive. A child may have lessons in reading, writing, maths, literature, history, picture study and poetry all in one day, but no lesson is more than 20 minutes long for a new student and some last only 5 minutes or so.

In our home our Table Time work, which includes copy work (writing practice) and maths for my 7 year old only takes about 30 minutes for the two subjects. Our morning book basket, which consists of our daily devotions (bible reading, prayers and gratitude journal), art enrichment as mentioned above and then our main lesson (either history, geography, natural history or PSHE) is all done within an hour. The short lessons means all our formal school work is currently done within an hour and a half every morning a little longer if we add in craft projects to accompany our main lesson.

 

7. Narration

Home Ed | Implementing Charlotte Mason | The Open Home

“Narrating is not the work of a parrot, but of absorbing into oneself the beautiful thought from the book, making it one’s own and then giving it forth again with just that little touch that come’s from one’s own mind.” (The Story of Charlotte Mason, p. 125)

Charlotte recognised that children naturally narrate or “tell back” stories from their day so she used this as a key tool in their education. Once a child is receiving formal lessons from around age 6 they can then be asked to narrate orally (and creatively) and then around age 10 they can begin to write their narrations. Narration has the double benefit of enabling the child to express and process what they’ve learnt from a lesson without the need of having to fill in a dry comprehensive worksheet.

In our home we are just starting out with oral narrations for my 7 year old and I have chosen to start with our art enrichment subjects of picture study and composer study. After studying a picture or listening to a piece of music I simply ask a question about what we’ve studied, questions like; How did that piece of music make you feel? What instruments could you hear? What do you think the people in this picture were feeling? What do you particularly like about this picture?

In time, we will start adding in narrations for our history, geography and nature read alouds too, making it 1-2 oral narrations per day. I have personally chosen not to do narrations for our literature read alouds as I want these books to simply be savoured and enjoyed as a family.

 

8. Copy work

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“A certain sense of possession and delight may be added… if children are allowed to choose for transcription their favourite verse in one poem or another.” (Vol. 1, p. 238)

Copy work is another of Charlotte’s methods introduced once formal lessons have begun around age 6, although Charlotte called it transcription. Copy work initially begins as a way of practicing letter formation and hand writing but in time, if done well, it is also a fabulous way of getting a child to slow down to take notice of spelling and grammar and also enables them to internalise words of great beauty.

For my 7 year old, who started copy work at the start of this academic year when 6 years old, I simply write out scripture verses, poems, or hymns that she’s enjoyed into a little handwriting exercise book and encourage her to copy it using her best handwriting. She started by writing just a short list of words back in the autumn term and now as we come to the end of the school year she will write out several lines and has also moved on to joined up (cursive) handwriting.

Now some people choose to buy handwriting curriculum to use for copy work, but I have to say I have found this simple approach to be highly sufficient not to mention cost effective. The improvement in my 7 year olds handwriting over this academic year with just a few minutes of writing practice every school day has been incredible.

 

9. Handicrafts

Implementing a Charlotte Mason Education | The Open Home

“The human hand is a wonderful and exquisite instrument to be used in a hundred movements exacting delicacy, direction and force; every such movement is a cause for joy as it leads to the pleasure of execution and the triumph of success.” (Vol. 6, p. 328) 

Children receiving a Charlotte Mason education are encouraged to learn meaningful arts and crafts and produce useful pieces of work, as opposed to throw away crafts that often come in a pack. Think knitting, sewing, pottery, woodwork, sculpting, baking and calligraphy, all things that make for great life long skills.

In our home this currently looks like embroidery and weaving which we aim to work on once a week, but it’s often more like once or twice a month. With their embroidery the girls will eventually be making some personalised bags as gifts and with their weaving they are due to start making a wall hanging to display in their newly decorated bedroom.

 

10. Free Afternoons

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There is “… satisfaction to do the day’s work in the day, and be free to enjoy the day’s leisure.” (Vol. 4, p. 173)

Charlotte advocated that children should have afternoons free from formal lessons, made possible by the short lessons mentioned above that ensured that school work was out of the way by lunch time. The afternoons aren’t a time to simply be idle but a time to be productive and learn in more hands on and practical ways.

Things like going on nature walks, music practice and lessons, working on handcrafts, serving in the community, pursuing hobbies and following their own interests.

In our home this looks like poetry tea time on a Monday, handcrafts or baking on a Tuesday, a play date on a Wednesday, nature walk on a Thursday and Girl Guiding on a Friday, all with lots of free play throw in.

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Home Ed | Implementing Charlotte Mason | The Open Home

So there you have it. Ten ways that you can implement a Charlotte Mason education in your own home.

Which of Charlotte’s methods appeal to you most?

{Wild Challenge} Feed the Birds

Wild Challenge | Feed the Birds | The Open Home

The girls have ticked off their first help nature activity as part of their RSPB Wild Challenge bronze award, meaning we’re now half way to achieving it! This time they got their hands sticky in an attempt to feed the birds.

We stocked up on nuts, bird seed, suet bites and meal worms and mixed it all together with some grated cheese, raisins and lard. We were able to create 7 yogurt pot sized bird feeders for hanging around the garden as well as a bird food cake to put in our ground feeder.

Our resident robin in particular is especially appreciating their efforts and the girls feel pleased they are helping nature right in their own back yard.

Here is the photo evidence:

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When was the last time you fed the birds?

{Wild Challenge} Bird Watching

RSPB Wild Challenge | Bird Watching | The Open Home

The girls have ticked off another experience nature activity as part of their RSPB Wild Challenge bronze award, this time by going bird watching. They made use of a break in the rainy weather a couple of weeks back and embarked on a Daddy expedition to the bird hides by vale pond taking with them their nature supplies complete with binoculars, camera, field guide, clipboards and of course, those all important snacks.

They managed to spot snipes and coots, herring gulls and ducks, great tits and pigeons, a robin, blackbird and plenty of crows.

Here is the photo evidence:

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When was the last time you went birdwatching?