Last year I was so blessed to go to the Charlotte Mason Institute’s 2016 Conference. It was an amazing 4 days of immersions and workshops, friends and fellow CM mamas, and learning and growing. (if you have a chance, you should go to one. They now have 2 full conferences a year: CMI East and CMI West. This is where my online video CM group met – and we’ve been reading her volumes and discussing them together for about 2 years now. They are all great ladies – and what a fabulous support group! But I digress…)
The keynote speaker was John Muir Laws (aka Jack Laws), noted naturalist, artist, author, and educator. His presentations were fabulous – especially since he had taken the time to read Charlotte Mason’s works. It was neat to see and hear how modern science is proving the things that Miss Mason said about training our brains and how important nature study is, even today.
(John Muir Laws at lunch with my group! 🙂 )
I invited him to eat lunch with us one day and we had a fun time learning how to dry brush in the field. He’s lots of fun…and his ideas on involving people in nature and in recording what they see are inspirational and motivating.
CMI usually has pre-Conference reading book lists and so Jack’s new book was on the list. I actually resisted it for a few months – it is $35.00 after all, and I already have tons of field guides and lots of reference books on Nature Study. I finally bought it for the family for Christmas. It is AMAZING! It also is not what I thought it was, either. This book could easily replace several others on my shelf. It has so much stuff in it!
We have been using the drawing instruction section once a week as our “Drawing Lessons” for about 10-15 minutes. Then the next time we are drawing in our Nature Journals I encourage the kids to remember what we have practiced in our drawing lessons. So far it has worked really well.
If you don’t have the money to spend on his book, he encouraged us to look at his website – a lot of stuff in the book is available there. Birds, animals, landscapes, insects, flowers, plants, trees, etc. are located within the archives. It’s a great way to add practical drawing lessons to our lessons.
When I first started homeschooling, I used 3-ring notebook pages for my girls to record their school assignments on. It didn’t take long to decide that was a mess – the notebooks were huge and took up so much space on the table, they wore out quickly, they took up a ton of space on the book shelf, and worst of all, the papers would tear out and be messy.
On the suggestion of a friend on the SCM forum, I decided to try using composition notebooks instead. They cost less than a $1, they are compact, they are small, they do not weigh a lot, and little hands can easily maneuver them about. I also made the executive decision that there were not going to be as many notebooks, so I combined history, geography, and science in one book since often it is hard to separate them. My younger girls officially started “real” school in 2014-2015, and I made them their own notebooks. We filled in the last pages of them last month, and what an unexpected treasure they were.
These are the actual notebooks. They span from August 2014 to March 2017. School years are separated by sticky tabs.
These are a couple of the science entries:
Some History entries:
I finally started dividing pages for multiple entries as well:
We also have separate notebooks for their Bible Studies:
As I was filing them away in their portfolios, my husband and I spent some time looking through them. It was particularly gratifying to me as we did because my youngest daughter kept looking over our shoulders, explaining what each page and drawing meant. I learned several things that night:
- We are doing work and progressing, even if it doesn’t feel like it in the day-to-day trenches.
- That knowledge was a very great blessing to me as I have struggled with my health at the beginning of this school year. (I am doing much better now. Still have issues, but I can function again!)
- Narration works. It doesn’t have to be elaborate, it doesn’t always have to be “pretty” and “perfect.” Drawing, writing, speaking, acting: it all adds up and makes incredible differences in the ability to remember things.
- The kids love to see and think about the things that they know. What a great refresher course for them, too!
These are wonderful, encouraging, helpful articles written by Karen Glass. The first one was March 20th 2017, and the others since then. I have read them all and enjoyed them, pondered them, and even re-read portions of them. Then today I saw them linked together on an AO forum thread and realized that many of you would enjoy them too, so I am posting them here as well. I appreciate Karen Glass’ contribution to the Charlotte Mason community, and especially to my attempts at self-education. She has such depth and breadth to her knowledge!
http://www.karenglass.net/the-quote-and-the-context/ “I really do invite you to see for yourself what principles and practices Charlotte Mason considered vital—indispensable—in order to make her philosophy work. But I’ll give you a hint—there aren’t that many of them, and none of them are as specific as “have school in the morning” or “do this for history.”
http://www.karenglass.net/some-practices…es-part-1/ “Do you know which of the 20 principles are the “new ones,” that CM added later in her life, after many, many years of experience?”
http://www.karenglass.net/some-practices…es-part-2/ “Because education is the science of relations, all the relationships in this relational method of education matter—the relationship between you and your children, and between your children as brothers and sisters, and between each child and the lovely enticing knowledge that is there for him to find in math, science, literature, art, music, and more. Bearing in mind each and every day, as a teacher, that “Education is the science of relations” will keep us mindful of what we are doing.”
http://www.karenglass.net/some-practices…es-part-3/ “We’re looking at the practices that Charlotte Mason considered important enough to make into principles. Basically, these are the practices that define what is and what is not “a Charlotte Mason education.” If your educational efforts line up with these educational practices, you can feel confident that you are giving your students a “CM” education.”
http://www.karenglass.net/some-practices…es-part-4/ “Remember that education is the science of relations? Well, narration is a relationship-building exercise. That is its very reason for existence—to create an emotional tie between a learner and knowledge.
“Beauty is everywhere – in white clouds against the blue, in the gray bole of the beech, the play of a kitten, the lovely flight and beautiful coloring of birds, in the hills and valleys and the streams, in the wind-flower and the blossom of the bloom. What we call Nature is all Beauty and delight, and the person who watches Nature closely and knows her well, like the poet Wordsworth, for example, has his Beauty Sense always active, always bringing him joy.”
~ Charlotte Mason (Vol. 4, pp. 41, 42)
There is a book called Keeping a Nature Journal by Claire Walker Leslie and Charles E. Roth that has been much touted as an essential nature study book for homeschooling mothers who aren’t sure about how to DO nature journals in a Charlotte Mason Education. (You know – the moms who need to know everything about how to do something “right” before ever attempt to actually try it. 😉 ) A friend of mine gave it to me a couple of years ago and I have been reading it off and on since.
This book contains many suggestions of ways to Nature Journal: what to include, how often to go out, how to record what you see, and more. There are many chapters full of actual samples of different types of journals – by layout, topic, area, seasons, weather, and more. It also includes a few tips on how to draw different things in your journals – with some basic ideas of how to get more practice before going outdoors. One way the author gets time to draw in her nature journal when she is busy is by collecting a few objects while out on a walk – a seedpod, leaves, a feather – and taking them home to save for a time when she can sit for a few minutes to draw. It is in this act that she finds time to slow down, concentrate, then think and relax.
The book also has a section called Teaching Journaling to Groups of All Ages and gives specific tips on how to interest adults, children, school groups and more in starting and maintaining a nature journal.
We as teachers and mothers make Nature Study so hard when we think we have to find the pristine, untouched nature around us – and that paralyzes those of us in cities. How are we to do that realistically?? I was struck by Claire Walker Leslie’s comment about including human structures in our drawings – we are part of nature and the habitat. When viewed this way, we can let go and enjoy ourselves in the moment. And that is the beauty of it all – learning and living!