Category Archives: Charlotte Mason
I recently attended the 2009 Homeschool Conference in the lower mainland of our province. This was their second year however, in a new venue, and even though there was less to take home (vendors brought less merchandise due to space constraints), there were still a few goodies to find. That said, I think I’ll be making the trip to BCHEC conference in Kelowna next year. However, I digress – so back to my finds.
My youngest daughter is a birding (and owl) enthusiast, so when I saw this little package labeled Owl Puke, I couldn’t resist. The kit comes with a dissecting tray, a nifty little book, and a sterilized owl pellet. The fun starts when you get to carefully take apart a most disgusting intriguing little owl pellet and look for the remnants of the sorry little rodent creature who fatefully became this owl’s lunch. What kid wouldn’t love that? Okay, so I wouldn’t touch it, but I didn’t let on. I have, inadvertently passed on some of my own fears to my children in the past, so I carefully concealed my disgust and put on my best enthusiastic face. It seemed to work – in fact, she couldn’t wait to get started.
Taking apart owl puke, however, takes time and patience to carefully extract teeny tiny little bones, then sort and clean them. But the fun doesn’t stop there. No, after sorting out the sorry remains in this owl’s lunchbox, the kids can reconstruct the skeletons, and then identify the ill fated victim. For your scientific pleasure, I have included a diagram of the skeletal system of a friendly rodent in your neighborhood. Just print it off, then have the kids glue the bones right on top, or mimic the shape on their own piece of construction paper.
If you wish to conduct this experiment on your own, it’s advised that you acquire only sterilized owl pellets as unsterilized pellets can contain nasty germs. Sterilized pellets can be ordered online at www.hawkquest.org. Needless to say, if you have a young owl or birding enthusiast in your household, I can highly recommend this little kit, it scores high on the Yuck -O-Meter, is suitable for grades 2 – 12, takes more than one afternoon to complete, and is educational money well spent!
Writing is easy. All you do is stare at a blank sheet of paper until drops of blood form on your forehead. – Gene Fowler
The last few weeks of our homeschool have been focused on how to write a formal essay. We follow a loose Classical/Charlotte Mason homeschool philosophy, and are transitioning from copywork and dictation exercises to more formal outlining and essay writing. Though we will be doing much more of this more formal style of writing next year, the opportunity came up to attend a writer’s camp through the DL school we are enrolled with. The camp was conducted in a small group atmosphere, and provided an opportunity for each of the kids to brainstorm their ideas together.
I don’t generally insist on formal writing exercises with my kids (they write naturally, why make it feel like drudgery?), but over the years, I have gently introduced them to different styles and methods of writing. As they get older, there is a need for more intermediate writing skills. One of my children is a natural creative writer, but seems to dislike formal writing for information exercises. My other child seems to be the opposite, being somewhat displeased with having learn the formalities of creative writing, but managed to write longer paragraphs than her older sister when it came to essay writing. This is often the way it goes, no? Sigh….
What I discovered during this little writing camp though, was an essay writing method that was easy for the kids to learn and follow along with. In fact, it is a method that seems to work well with children as young as 4th grade! Because the method was shared at a writing camp, I searched the web to try and find a replication of this method in order to share with you. You can take a look here, and here – they are very similar. I would also recommend conducting a little writing camp of your own. Using the steps in the above mentioned web sites, a small group of 6 kids would probably work really well with ages between 10 & 12, or grades 4-6. Once set up, try to pick topics the kids are passionate, or somewhat knowledgable about, this kick starts their creativity and can inspire them to dig deeper into their research. Most importantly, don’t forget to communicate to your kids the purpose of a persuasive essay: to persuade their audience to accept their idea or point of view.
The finished essay can then be typed, or handwritten, or if you wish (as my kids did), cut and pasted onto poster board complete with drawings. Schedule the final week of your writing camp to be a presentation week – the kids can present and read aloud their reports, and encourage one another. If time allows provide some snacks and time for play afterwards. Don’t know what to do with a giant poster board when you get home? Before you recycle, take a photo of the project, and either burn it to a disc, or print the photo and keep for your homeschool records. This way, you can keep the project and do away with the clutter!
In the interim, I’ll leave you with this:
You write to communicate to the hearts and minds of others what’s burning inside you. And we edit to let the fire show through the smoke. – Arthur Polotnik
Well, this whole new enthusiasm thing seems to be contagious! Today we went for another nature walk, but this time our group of young botonists grew from two to seven! This time we ventured a little further from home, to a local city park. We were on the hunt for birds, but the kids were so enthusiastic that this new kind of exploring knew no limits. With sketch books in hand the kids seemed to have inherent abilities to spot things often overlooked and unseen by the unobservant eye. There seemed to be a lot of attention drawn to plants, fungus and trees.
Stones were lifted, ferns overturned, moss inspected and a few unusual lichens were discovered. Lichens are rather interesting to observe as they are neither plant; nor a distinct fungus, but a kind of blend of fungus, alga, and sometimes a type of bacteria. Each is dependent on the other for survival and together they form this very unique organism that thrives in our BC rain forests.
If you are considering making nature walks a regular part of your homeschool journey, I’d highly recommend taking along a few field guides to help out your young botanists in their discoveries. I have a variety of field guides that we own on insects, flowers, trees, and birds. The Lone Pine and Usborne field guides are great for children, but if you have older students you may want to look for something a little more in depth. The library is a good place to “try before you buy” so to speak. I recently ordered the Hand Book of Nature Study. This book was originally published in 1911 and is very thorough – after all plants haven’t changed much in the last hundred years. It is available to view online, but it’s a little tedious trying to make an 800+ page online book usable in reality, but don’t let me sway you – have a look. This gem of a book can be overwhelming without understanding the purpose of the thing. This little quote sums it up:
“The chief aim of this volume is to encourage investigation rather than to give information.” – Handbook of Nature Study
I recently found a blog featuring this very book and who’s purpose is dedicated to encourage those interested in using it. Once our book arrives I hope to participate in the weekly Outdoor Hour Challenge featured on this blog. In the interim, I will leave you with this quote:
Nature observation is enhanced by sketching what is seen: “To look at it is something, but its spirit will not come at once; you must look long enough, with a child’s forgetfulness of time. Gazing for long, though, becomes tedious; you begin to think of the dinner-hour. But to draw it is to caress it; all the difference between staring at a kitten and stroking it; between watching a game and playing it. That is why it is worth learning to draw.” [from this Parents’ Review article]
After continuing on, my youngest daughter spotted a male and female duck doing what appeared to be a little house keeping. She was eager to draw her findings right there on the bridge. Later on that evening, after dinner was said and done, the girls were happy to complete their nature drawings which later transpired into an art activity that the three of us enjoyed together.
Overall, a little walk that took less than 30 minutes, turned out to be a unique, diversified, and entertaining learning experience – one that I can’t wait to do again.