This is our Nature Table for September, complete with St. Michael and the dragon.
We often collect things on our Nature Walks and add them to our Nature Table. Sea glass, spruce cones, sticks, bundles of dried grass, rose hips, leaves, seeds, bark, and interesting rocks (and uninteresting rocks) have all been carefully placed on our display scene at one time or another. Also included in our little tableau are things that I have sewn, crafted, or collected, such as the toadstools, pumpkins, apples, and little figures here. I have also started painting Catholic Saint peg dolls, and put these up to correspond with that saint’s feast day. At the end of every month, I unceremoniously dump the found natural items in the yard and switch out any others that need replaced with the next month’s treasures.
Once a week or so, I try to have us do a “natural art” activity that incorporates items we have found on our Nature Walks. Yesterday, we walked around our area of base searching for pretty leaves. It has been a dry fall (for here) and we just got our first frosts this week, so the selection wasn’t abundant, but we snipped some multicolored samples and headed home.
Then, we melted paraffin in an old pie tin over a pot of boiling water. Carefully, the girls and I each dipped leaves in the paraffin and set them on a sheet of parchment paper to cool. This should keep them preserved and colorful for a few weeks, at least. I made a little leaf hanging, and then tied leaves onto some yarn to form a garland for the mantle place. At first, I couldn’t find the pie tin so we used a Longaberger pie plate covered in aluminum foil but that was taking forever to melt the wax in. Cheap, heat conductive aluminum is best for sure.
Rachel had an absolute blast doing this craft, and Allison didn’t complain the entirety of our walk despite her insistence on not wearing leggings under her dress. Patrick camped out on my back in the carrier while we dipped, and lunch was served only 30 minutes late. So, all in all, a successful nature + art experience!
We try to go on a Nature Walk around base (we live on a military installation) at least once per week. It continues to amaze me how much there is to see so close to home! Sometimes we just wander; sometimes we head to a particular little field or copse of trees. Sometimes I have no goal other than to be outside; sometimes I have a specific tree or plant or view I want to show the kids.
The first Nature Walk we ever did was about a year ago, to this same stand of trees. I remember being terrified. Rachel and I walked, and I pushed Allison in the stroller…and there we were. With 45 minutes before we needed to go home. And I thought, “Oh, my goodness. What am I DOING???? What are we going to do for 45 minutes? Stand around and look at tree bark????”
Well, we walked the few steps up into the spruce grove, and the girls had a great time. On later trips, we would bring digging toys and buckets, but for this first visit, we had nothing with us but willingness to explore. The girls swung on the rope swing, and dug in the dirt with sticks, and balanced on the roots, and Rachel climbed the cottonwood tree that guards the entrance. We picked rose hips and pretty grasses.
I’m telling you: I only managed to drag them away with the promise of grilled cheese for lunch.
Not all Nature Walks go that well. Some are just awful–it’s rainy and windy and I had zero patience getting everyone out the door. But most are good, and some are fantastic. It is amazing what there is to see when you have the wondering eyes of a child to guide you.
Our first week of homeschooling was met with glorious weather. Today was not so glorious. But we still made it out for some rainy day play at a nearby playground. I’m so glad my kids are pretty weatherproof. Patrick hung out in the carrier, and then fell asleep, rain suit and all. Though I will admit, he wasn’t too gung ho at the beginning.
Our island is small. Small enough that there no homeschool co op groups. But large enough that there are quite a few homeschoolers, and we are blessed to be friends with many of these amazing families.
In an effort to burn excess kid energy, talk with other adults, have Rachel realize she isn’t the only homeschooler on the planet, and spend more time outside, I have started a weekly Nature Group for the homeschoolers here. I led a more fast paced hiking group last year (until pregnancy complications stopped that) but I wanted something slower and more open ended. It’s more like a Nature Stroll. Or a Nature Stop-and-taste-the-rose-hips sort of event.
For our first outing, we started out walking, then standing at the view point and looking at what we thought were whales but turned out to be rocks, then playing on the old cannon, then meandering down a trail while the kids darted off to climb bunkers. We ended at a grove of spruce trees that just begged to be climbed, too. Nature Walk turned into Nature Play and it was exactly what I hoped for them all.
Today was out first official day of homeschooling. R had her first day of Kindergarten! It was, surprisingly, an absolutely delightful day. Picture perfect. I couldn’t have scripted it better myself.
We are following the Mater Amabilis program, which is a free online week-by-week plan for a Catholic Charlotte Mason education. It looked so incredibly overwhelming, but everyone said “just do it and see” and so far, it looks perfect for us.
Today’s schedule consisted of Morning Time, Handwriting (cursive), Math (connect the dots and write out dates 1 – 7 in our blank September calendar), Nature Walk/Recess (where we serendipitously met up with another homeschooling family in our neighborhood), picnic lunch on the porch, Phonics (sing ABC song, identify magnet letters, clap syllables), Spanish (pick out a few pictures from the Spanish word book for Mommy to stumble over the pronunciation of), Rest Time, Literature (Peter Rabbit), and Glow (an extracurricular Praise and Worship chorus run by another homeschooling mom at a church in town). All interspersed with coloring, playing, picking sugar snap peas, laughing at Patrick, negotiating with Allison, and just generally having a wonderful day. It was idyllic. And I’m putting it all up here because of that–because I know there will be many, many days that are far, far from idyllic, and I will need to remember this golden day and how amazing this homeschooling life can be.