Helping our children delight in the discovery of nature is one of our most important responsibilities as parents. Homeschooling offers the perfect opportunity to take learning into nature far more often. Here are eight ideas to inspire you...
By Grace Koelma | Founder of The Mulberry Journal
“We have such a brief opportunity to pass on to our children our love for this Earth, and to tell our stories. These are the moments when the world is made whole. In my children's memories, the adventures we've had together in nature will always exist.”
I often contemplate the words of Richard Louv, author of Last Child Left in the Woods and coiner of the term 'nature-deficit'. There is no denial that our children face an uphill battle when it comes to spending time unplugged and unfettered by the alluring and incessant technology of our modern world. And yet, once we discover the rejuvenating and necessary power of nature for the soul, mind and body, we can't help but share our love of the earth with our children.
While it's unrealistic and ultimately unhelpful to completely cut our children off from all technology (and what does that even mean? Isn't an oven or a microwave technology too? What about the car you drive? But I digress!) many parents are resisting the pull towards swipe-able screens and glowing devices in favour of a pared-back, 'old-school' focus on spending time in nature. Nature in all its forms...
Homeschooling parents are among those leading the charge, with terms like nature play and earthschooling popping up more and more frequently. So, if you're feeling a pull towards nature here are a few ideas on how to incorporate more nature study and focus into your homeschool.
8 ways to invite nature into your homeschool
Most often, these groups meet outdoors and often visit national parks or reserves. You can find out about local groups by searching for location-specific Facebook pages, or check out our (by no means comprehensive) Australian co-op directory here.
Nature Guides are a handy resource when venturing out into nature. Giving your kids a sense of purpose and sense of adventure in the form of a 'nature spotting checklist' can help keep them involved and motivated.
You can purchase fantastic nature guides from Brave Grown Home and print them off at home, like this gorgeously illustrated backyard birds set. Each Guide includes beautiful watercolour illustrations on easy-to-print posters, information cards full of fascinating facts, and smaller three-part cards for the littlest learners. The cards also tie in with the Charlotte Mason philosophy of nature journalling.
Tip: Laminate the identification cards so they withstand dirt and water while you're out in nature, and last longer.
The peace and quiet of nature provides the perfect setting for practicing mindfulness and meditation with your children. Mindfulness is something that can be modelled to kids at a surprisingly young age, and even very small children can learn to sit still and just 'be'.
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Pack your paints and paper before you head out so you're ready to capture the beauty of nature in paintings, sketches or mixed media. If your kids lack artistic confidence or haven't yet found a passion, we can highly recommend Artventure's online lessons as a great resource to start with.
Issue 3 of Mulberry Magazine also features a wonderful step-by-step nature journalling tutorial to get you started.
Starting a Cabinet of Curiosities or Wunderkammer is a great way to motivate your kids to head out into nature and observe, delight and forage (where appropriate) curiosities to take home and display. For more inspiration, check out our article where three homeschooling mums share how they started their Cabinets of Curiosity in Mulberry Magazine Issue 7.
Tip: Remember to check the rules in the area first (national parks often have limits on what you can remove).
When the weather turns cold or icy, it can be tempting to put off outdoor adventuring until the warmer season begin again. But exploring nature with your children in the wet, mud and snow is vital. Many studies show that the winter months spent indoors can impact mood negatively, and getting outside in the fresh air is a mood-booster and improves the body's energy, vitality and immune system. It also 'toughens kids up', so they are not afraid of a little bit of rain or cold.
Observing the cycle of nature through different seasons, especially how many of the plants and animals hibernate or adapt to survive harsh conditions is a fascinating aspect of nature study that shouldn't be missed!
Remember, there's no such thing as inappropriate weather, only inappropriate clothing!
While nature reserves and national parks are wonderful wildernesses to explore, they can often be a considerable drive or hike away. For quicker nature trips, don't forget about botanical gardens, private estates and greenhouses in your area. Observing finely cultivated plants and topiary is a wonderful aspect of nature study, too.
Tip: When visiting a private estate or botanic garden ask at the information desk whether they have a nature or botanical guide you can use that is specific to that garden.
A subscription to National Geographic’s Little Kids magazine is an affordable starting point for the 3-5-year-old set and audiences of all ages will be mesmerised by film series like Planet Earth with its stunning visuals and insightful commentary.
Global Guardian Project’s Learning Capsules are perfect for older children needing a mix of hands-on activities and informative content.
Tip: YouTube is a great resource for nature documentaries. Check out these fantastic tips on curating a YouTube playlist for your children here.
What are your strategies for getting your kids outside and enjoying nature? Tell us in the comments below.
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Grace is the Editor of The Mulberry Journal and when she's not reading submissions, divides her time between hanging out with her simultaneously delightful and headstrong 2-year-old, running multiple ventures, writing and travelling full time with her little family. You can follow her travels at @darelist.family.
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To support meaningful engagement in STEM subjects for students, Samsung is giving kids the unique chance to submit their invention and see it created by a team of experts. More on the competition below.
By Grace Koelma | Founder of The Mulberry Journal
Australia’s STEM skill gap has been a national priority for some time now. While there are a number of elements at play, more often than not, we get so caught up in the politics of STEM, that we forget those that at the centre of the issue - the students.
The reality is maths and science can be boring, difficult, and for many students, there is no clear connection between these subjects and their dream jobs. As a result, only 16 per cent of students are entering higher education in STEM fields. To support the pursuit of STEM subjects among young people, Samsung is hosting a pretty fantastic competition this November.
Samsung Australia has launched Make My Idea - a national competition which calls for students across Australia (12 years and older) to submit their innovative invention ideas to go into the chance to win a number of exciting prizes, including having their idea developed into a prototype model.
Prizes up for grabs include
Deadline for entries: Wednesday 22nd November 2017. Entrants must be aged 12 or older.
The winner will be announced LIVE on the 29th November via the Samsung YouTube channel at 4:30pm AEST.
Do you know a young inventor who should enter this competition? Share it with them.
Grace is the Editor of The Mulberry Journal and when she's not reading submissions, divides her time between hanging out with her simultaneously delightful and headstrong 2-year-old, running multiple ventures, writing and travelling full time with her little family. You can follow her travels at @darelist.family.
So you know about homeschooling, worldschooling and unschooling. Maybe you've heard of hackschooling or gamification... So what on earth is gameschooling? Cat Timms has the ultimate (and we mean MEGA!) guide for you AND a bonus download!
Words and images by Cat Timms | LightHeart Photography
Gameschooling is a term whose origin cannot be traced, but it has been around for a while. It has been more recently popularised into homeschool culture by absolute legend and lovely lady, Caitlin Fitzpatrick Curley, educational psychologist and homeschooling mama of gifted kiddos, of My Little Poppies fame, who also created the international Facebook group Gameschool Community. Her blog is a literal treasure trove and is referred to several times.
In the homeschool community, gameschooling means to use tabletop gaming (board games and card games) in an intentional way, as part of your personal homeschool culture and educational philosophy. Rather than playing games occasionally just for fun, gameschooling families see them as essential to their homeschool daily or weekly for a variety of reasons (including fun!).
Let’s talk about the why, how, what and troubleshoot some issues.
Further reading on the why of gameschooling:
This is asked ALL THE TIME in the gameschool groups and there isn’t a simple answer to that question, because everyone homeschools differently. If you believe in teaching and curriculums, then games will supplement that and add some fun. If you unschool, then you might research games you think your kids might like, then show them the ones that fit your budget etc and see if they’re interested, and games would be the most formal thing you do, probably.
We personally are secular and eclectic here. We do very little formal work, only in English and Maths, and we do a lot of excursions (field trips), workshops, classes and play dates. I encourage my kids to be open and interested in everything. We try a lot, and what doesn’t work for us we leave but we try not to say no to things for no reason, particularly if they’re new.
This adventurous spirit carries into gaming. We’ll try any game! We play 2-4 games a day. I usually choose one for an educational purpose and the rest are child-led. They often suggest we play a game, then choose one themselves. They’re at very different gaming levels currently which is challenging, and I have a whole section for you toddler mamas coming up, don’t worry!
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Choose the time you play games carefully, particularly when learning new games.
While “Family Game Night” is great in theory, maybe it needs to be at breakfast because tired children do not the best gamers make. We do play games after dinner, but only ones the kids know really well, plus they’re experienced gamers now. We often play games around mealtimes.
Because we don’t have a schedule, I’m not super helpful here. I know that homeschool mamas who do have a school schedule do things like:
In essence, do what works for you and your family situation. There’s no right or wrong way.
Oh, brother. The dreaded question. This gets posted multiple times a day in the gameschool group. The answer is “infinity times infinity, pass the coffee/wine/chocolate.” Seriously. It’s not a bad question; it’s a great question! It’s just that there are a million answers. We could be here all day. Let’s start the beginning:
I suggest joining the groups and following pages on Facebook to learn and get ideas. I’ll also link to the blogs for those not on Facebook (Don't have Facebook? HOW DO YOU LIVE?! Kidding, it is useful for groups though!).
In addition to those homeschool blogs and pages, US families are going to find Amazon VERY useful! For the rest of us, it can be expensive and they don’t always ship to us. I do buy from there occasionally though. Board Game Geek is a great website for researching on, and serious gamers keep lists there. I’m yet to venture into it but I often check there for reviews and information.
There are so many games to choose from. I know, it’s overwhelming. I would probably just head to Target or a good games shop and pick one. I haven’t yet mentioned the dreaded M word because that is what people think of when we talk about games. We do have a copy of *whispers* Monopoly somewhere I think, but we don’t play it. Because it’s not well designed and very boring; there are no interesting choices or strategies, and its very luck based. Outraged? Sorry. Check out this YouTube to understand more.
If you love Monopoly then your mind will be blown when you play a well-designed tabletop game! Gamers often talk about “gateway games”. These are the simpler but still well-designed tabletop that use game mechanisms that the bigger games do, have a high replayability factor, and are a great way to start games culture in your family if you are looking beyond the purely educational.
Here are some of my favourite gateway games:
All of those games are ones that the adults here really enjoy, so won’t bore you quickly. I could list 10 more, but I’m going to leave that list there. There are a million games lists you can Google. If you’re only looking for educational games that you can slot into subject areas for your kids then check out this ultimate games list. It’s comprehensive and well laid out, and we own many of the games on it.
Phew, that’ll do?! That’s not an exhaustive list, either. This article explains the different types of games in a succinct way and might be useful too.
Most games include age recommendations which is a rough guide. Game makers need to be careful; if they put the starting age too young, then they won’t be bought for older children, and if the age is too high, people will think it’s too hard. Most gameschoolers take age recommendations with A CUP of salt. My 7-year-old can play games that say 13-years-old + but he is a weak reader. If there was a big reading component he wouldn’t be able to play. He also enjoys plenty of games that I’d put in the “Early Childhood” category.
If your 8-year-old child is new to games then they will find Dragonwood challenging at first, as it’s not a luck game; it’s a strategy game with interesting choices. But my 4-year-old can play with assistance because she’s been playing games since she was a toddler.
A little section just for us Aussies. G’day, mates! (sorry, that’s for the rest of the world who think we talk like that, lol).
1. I have yet to find an Australian gameschooler who blogs about gameschooling so that’s why there isn’t one listed here. If you are one, then yay! Let us know. People keep saying I should start one but I have two part time jobs already so I just can’t. You can always find me on IG at @ahumanattempt and in Gameschooling Australia.
2. It’s really difficult to find games about Australia that aren’t caricatures of Australia, and sometimes a bit racist in my opinion. They seem designed for the tourist rather than Australians. If you know of one, PLEASE let us know! There are a few printables floating about, none of which are great, so making my own game about the Australian states is on my to do list. It’s listed right after “Learn about the Australian states.”
3. There are some great Aussie sites to know about, and support if you can! If you have more to add to this list, let us know!
This one's for the nerds like me! Well, in a nutshell, gamification means applying game principles to something (for example, turning a maths sheet into a game) and game-based learning, means using a game that already exists to learn something (like the game Sushi Go to practice addition). Both ideas are useful in homeschooling, but that’s an article on its own! For further reading I suggest:
Many of these articles refer to online or digital gaming which has evolved from tabletop gaming. All of these, and the ‘why’ list, should be great fodder for anyone who wants to argue against game playing, or allocating funds to buy games
“I’ve checked out the lists and blogs and now there are 3 games that I want. How do you narrow it down?”
Particularly when you’re on a budget, this can be important. What I do is search the game title and read what I find in the following places:
After all that, I will have an idea whether I think we’ll like it or not. Yeah, it takes some time, but all research does! I’m looking for interesting choices and replayability here, but if you’re looking for something purely educational then it should be simpler to figure out whether it will help with the thing you need. I only buy those types of games if I really need them, and think I can resell them; I am far more likely to find a free printable or make up my own.
“My partner doesn’t want me to spend money on games.”
Send them this article; there is a TONNE of good info linked here. This is a commonly asked problem by mamas in homeschool groups. In my house, if one partner doesn’t want to do the reading and learn about the issue to then have an informed discussion, then the other gets to go ahead using their best judgement. Teamwork makes the dream work, and that means trusting each other too. I am not going to learn about looking after the cars, so hubs just does what he thinks is best there. He is not going to get highly educated about homeschooling, so I’m boss of that. I make a lot of games, and only buy ones I think we’ll really love. I also sell games as I need too, to fund new ones.
“Seriously though, we are on a tight budget.”
Honestly, most homeschoolers are. Everyone’s version of tight is different, and everyone’s priorities are different. We too are on a tight-ish budget. We don’t spend any money at all on curriculums (ever) so I spend on books, games, workshops, classes instead. Tabletop games are not just a homeschool thing; they contribute to family culture too. So if you occasionally have a family day or meal out or trip to the movies, you can consider a good tabletop game in the same category but it’s reusable, and you should be able to sell it for around half what you paid when the time comes. Here are some other ideas:
“I want to make my own games. Help.”
You can make your own games very cheaply, and indeed I make TONNES of them. You can buy books that have things to photocopy and make, or get free printables from all over the internet. You can attempt to replicate popular games, particularly using game pieces and boards from games you’ve bought cheaply secondhand (this is where op shops/goodwill are handy). Remember that challenging your kids to make their own game is a great activity too.
There are links all over the place here – this is an ULTIMATE guide after all – so read back but here is yet another collection of links to get you started:
“My kid doesn’t find games fun. We have meltdowns over rules/winning/losing. It just won’t work for us.”
Ah, yes. I understand. I know a few kids including my nephew and son who have worked through game rage. I’d argue that these children may need to play games more than anyone else! Games are a great way to learn to handle and reframe ‘failure’, practice gracious winning and losing, handling disappointment, trying again etc. Not all things will work for all families, and you may want to use a few of these ideas in concert, but here are some things to consider:
“My kids fight. We can’t play games together.”
Yeah this is a hard one! Caitlin has written a brilliant article at My Little Poppies that I cannot improve upon. She has a list of great ideas, and one I will emphasize is snacks. Lol! Seriously though. Eating a clean food (like plain popcorn, because you don’t want to get your game pieces super dirty) while playing is a great way to keep a game moving along and everyone calm. Read her entire article here. I’ll also add that we regularly play games 1:1 here. Like at least once a week with each child.
“I have a toddler who can’t play but wants to, and ends up wrecking the game in their earnest efforts.”
Mmm, also tricky! I have a few suggestions for this one that have worked here. Firstly, it’s always a good idea to play at nap time, but that isn’t always possible, particularly if mama is pinned under said toddler!
Honestly, game playing with small kids around, particularly if you have a couple of them is not going to be easy, so only attempt when you have some patience available. You may decide to wait until everyone is older, and that’s ok, too. Chloe used to grab and throw all the pieces and think she was hilarious, *all the eyerolls*. We just waited her out and now it’s great. It’s a short season, mama, hang in there.
I trust you’re thoroughly overwhelmed and now have hours of reading ahead to check out all those links. If there is something I haven’t covered here, then please let us know. Have any other suggestion, comment, game recommendation, get in touch! I’d love to hear from you.
This is probably our longest post ever (!!), so if you want to grab a copy to keep and refer back to, Cat Timms has kindly offered a free eBook download for Mulberry readers. Yeah, she's pretty awesome 😉 Thanks Cat! Pop in your email below and we'll send it over to you.
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If Science is a subject that's leaving you a little bewildered or overwhelmed, or you have children who 'don't like science', this homeschooling mum's refreshing take on slow science will have you hooked.
By Samantha Matalone Cook | samanthamatalonecook.com
The thing about science is that you have to let kids learn to love it through experience and experiment before you can ask them to be a scientist. To really understand it.
Think about Leonardo DaVinci, watching and sketching his birds over and over again, contemplating flight. Sometimes science is about observation, patience, and beauty. Sometimes science is about time and intimacy. Slow science.
There are two examples of slow science in the photo below. The hyacinth bulb on the right is seasonal. We set it in a glass vase in early January and have watched its roots slowly tumble down into the water and green leaves shoot upwards.
We waited in anticipation as tiny purple buds formed and then finally opened to grace us with glorious fragrance. Now the flowers are wilting, and another shoot has appeared. Will we get one more show? We hope and watch. And when the bulb has done all it can, we will tuck it away to be planted or brought out again to see if we can coax another bloom next year. So much in such little time.
On the left is a biosphere. A biosphere is a contained, self-sustaining little ecosystem. This particular one is about three years old, and is seasonal in another way. We watch as the plant life blooms and then dies back. We watch as the shrimp grow, have babies, and die. We watch as the tiny snails clean the sides of the glass. The pond muck full of microscopic creatures we added to the bottom gently pillows and billows around the shells that serve as shelter and a calcium source.
There have been times where everything in the jar has died back to the point where we thought our biosphere was a goner, and then we have been delighted by its amazing and awesome comeback. I have lost count of the times I have found one or more of my kids simply staring into the jar and studying this little world.
Slow science isn’t just about observation, and it’s not about holding a child back from rigorous exploration either. The photo below is from a MEL Science Kit, which one of my boys is really into at the moment. Almost every time a kid says they want to learn about Chemistry, they are not asking to study the Periodic Table (which is cool but not where I would start).
Usually, they are looking for reactions, excitement, a visual and kinesthetic experience. While these experiments may seem more interactive and complex in some ways, they still fit the slow science model.
My son is the kind of kid who, when allowed to set his own pace, will dive deep and take his time to really understand a subject, topic or skill. Forced, arbitrary schedules have an opposite effect.
We work through the experiments, savoring each one. We watch the videos on the app, look at three-dimensional models of molecules, and let each success and failure lead us down a merry path into the beauty and curiosity of chemical reactions. This eventually did spark an interest for my son in the periodic table, and he decided to learn more by creating his own card deck of all the elements.
In every one of these cases, science is allowed to speak for itself. I may point out my observations, and my kids may share their questions or thoughts, but the wonder that develops is authentic and personal.
Because they were given the space and experiences to fall in love with science and create an identity around being a scientist, each one of my kids continues to pursue science deeply and with great focus.
Right now, we are all (or just some) fascinated with Chemistry, Physics, Volcanology, and Entomology. Whether it was one of these examples or our regular visits to science museums or into nature, each one of my kids have found the magic for themselves.
As my kids like to say, 'magic is just science we don't understand yet.'
In more structured environments, slow science is still possible. Filling the environment with rich, touchable scenes is a great way to start. Because one has less time to let curiosity unfold in a classroom or formal curriculum led environment, I would also set out examples of the next unit well ahead of time so the kids can develop a relationship with the subject and begin to form their observations and questions. This doesn’t take away from the unit they are on, and in fact can prompt the kids to make connections between subjects that result in a very natural and rich segue.
This post was originally featured on samanthamatalonecook.com and has been republished here with permission.
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Samantha Matalone Cook
Samantha is a homeschooling mum of three with over two decades of experience in education, program development, and the arts. She has a BA in Humanities, emphasizing Medieval Culture and Archaeology, and an MAt from the George Washington Graduate School of Education and Human Development, specializing in Museum Education. Samantha is an active member, speaker, and advocate of STEM in the hacker/maker and home/unschooling communities. Her website is: samanthamatalonecook.com
We often hear that YouTube is an amazing resource for learning, but how do you find and curate topical videos that are age-appropriate for your kids? This article has some excellent tips.
By Natalie Goodacre | homeschoolmummy.com
YouTube is amazing, there is literally a video on there for any subject you want to know about. But it is a minefield when you are a parent. We've all been there when children are inquisitive about something so you look for a video, click on it, only to find that a) it's massively inappropriate or b) it has an overly long advert that again, is massively inappropriate.
I can be a pretty old fashioned parent (by today's modern standards) and even though my children have a Kindle fire each, they can only play on it using the kids mode. Which on a side note is amazing - well done Amazon! This means that I control which apps are on there, and YouTube is not one of them. They did have the kids version of YouTube on there for a time, but again I questioned some of the video content so deleted it.
How many times does a 7 year old need to watch a doll pooing on a potty? Is a cartoon of a man watching ladies in a hot tub really appropriate? That was the one that made me delete YouTube kids. YouTube need to get better at screening these things for the kids version. Or maybe I'm a prude who's way behind the times!?!
Anyway I digress... I still really value YouTube as an educational tool. So to bypass the awkward video mishaps I set up playlists on my account. I only add videos that I have prewatched, and this also allows me to ensure that they aren't too long, uninspiring or just plain random.
I'm not a total bore and include some funny videos in there too, and we dance to music videos (Rhianna is a total No No!).
1. First you will need a YouTube account if you don't already have one.
2. Next search for the topic you want, I searched for Pig Facts.
3. Next, click on a video. Whilst watching the video click on the plus icon in the top right hand corner (circled below) or the 'add to' icon underneath:
4. Then it will come up 'Add to Playlist' at the bottom of the screen.
Click on this, then select the playlist you would like the video to be added to.
5. Once you've done this a message will pop up saying the video was added. You can then go into your library and see the playlist you've created (see my Pig one below):
And Voila! A simple way to use YouTube videos to enhance your learning without the awkward random stuff that usually pops up. And you need not worry about this taking up too much of your time - I usually make my playlists in bed at night!
How do you use YouTube in your homeschool planning? Share with us in the comments below.
This post was originally featured on homeschoolmummy.com and has been republished here with permission.
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Natalie is a a homeschooling mummy to two gorgeous girls aged 7 & 5, from Lincoln, England. She's passionate about learning through play and inquiry based learning and spends her days with her daughters baking, hanging in trees and using their imaginations during hours of play. She blogs at homeschoolmummy.com and is on Instagram @homeschoolmummy.
When we see a child breaking or disassembling a toy, our first instinct can be to rush in and take it off them. But what they're doing could be far more valuable in developing logic, problem-solving and fine motor skills.
By Chelsee Richardson | @ozriches
My son loves to tinker.
For as long as I can remember he has preferred to play with real items, appliances and tools or toys which he could take apart. As a toddler, he would pull the food processor out, put it together and take it apart many times.
I remember the first remote control boat I bought for him when he was 3. After a few days of playing with it, he pulled it apart. I was frustrated that he had wrecked his toy, but in the process he had discovered something wonderful:
Toys were even more interesting on the inside.
During his toddler years, my husband and I quickly concluded that our children would take a self-directed pathway instead of school. I started to view his wrecked toys differently. This was something he was driven to do. An interest. No longer did I see a wrecked toy but an idea, question or investigation he had.
I started to supply him with toys and appliances from the op shop or given to us by friends, specifically so he could pull them apart. We provided him with tools and encouraged him to use them.
I realised that the more I responded to him with attention and support, the more he would tinker. He started to take motors, gears, propellers, speakers and battery packs from broken toys and appliances and craft up a whole new toy such as a plane, helicopter or dump truck.
One day while at the markets my son went to purchase a toy sail boat, when the stall owner told him it was broken my son replied, “well that’s ok I can fix it.”
He knew this wasn’t an issue he couldn’t overcome.
You see my son displays some remarkable abilities for a 6-year-old. He can focus and hold his attention for extended periods of time. He's curious and intrinsically motivated to take problems and either solve them or develop his own ideas. He works through frustrations, setbacks and mistakes. He is creative and innovative by using old things in new ways.
These skills are highly valued in the work place and society at large but are we fostering these critical skills in our children? Do we encourage meaningful work? Every day our actions toward our children show otherwise.
We have our own agenda, and we push it throughout our children’s entire childhood.
Had my family taken a more authoritarian parenting and schooling route, my son would no longer be working on what he loves. We may have punished him for pulling his toys apart. Perhaps we wouldn’t have paid attention, nor provided him with the materials, space and time to tinker. We may have put the tools away exclaiming them to be dangerous.
And so by now he would have spent several years at school with his attention diverted elsewhere, doing work someone else deemed more important. Then after school between homework and chores, his love for mechanics and engineering may have been forgotten, not valued and in the end, left behind.
He simply may not be the same little boy.
I can hear the questions. We want a balanced education for our children too. We don’t want to see them struggle in other areas. But when we mentally check off the things our kids are ‘good’ at to focus on the things they are ‘bad’ at are we diverting our children away from their true talents and strengths? Are we leading them to believe their skills and strengths are not of value? If children’s interests get pushed to the side, we may never know what they are capable of.
I occasionally hear remarks about how talented he is. But to be honest, I think he is a little boy supported to do what he loves.
I believe all children can do remarkable things if we support their strengths and interests.
When I think about this route we may have taken, the one society told us we should, I can’t help but wonder how many children have to leave their loves and ultimately themselves behind. Their talents and strengths lost when they could have brought meaning to their lives. And perhaps revolutionary ideas to our world.
After 12 years of forced learning, we expect children to know what they want to do with their lives. Perhaps they left it behind in kindergarten.
Chelsee is a mother to a pigeon pair. About to embark on a nomadic travelling journey around Australia, she is dedicated to building her family culture around self-directed learning. Her interests are as diverse as her children’s and any day can look like an array of gumnuts, LED’s, Hiragana and roller skating. She's on Instagram as @ozriches
A homeschooling mama from Canada shares how she and her children immersed themselves in caring for eggs and watching them hatch into chicks.
By Krista Lii | @kristalii
Spring is in full swing over here now, and we’ve been keeping busy with lots of little projects! At our homeschool co-op, we’ve planted seedlings, and started building a living play structure out of willow shoots. At home we’ve made a temporary habitat for observing earthworms, and filled our bookshelves with beautiful spring stories. We’ve seen the frogs come out of hibernation, and the deers venture out of the woods to lick the salt off the roads.
It’s so nice to have warm weather again. And it’s like a brand new world out there. Things are coming back to life, and hey, so am I! The changing seasons inspire me. It never gets old.
It was sometime last month (in March), when I realized that spring was just around the corner. Suddenly, I was itching to start spring projects in our home.
So, when the idea of an egg hatch project came up, I jumped right in.
Back when I was in first grade, I remember the buzz of the other first grade class across the hall. They were doing an egg hatch project! How fun, I remember thinking. I so hoped that our class would do it too, but sadly we never got the chance!
Seeing as my kids are home with me, and that I can literally customize their education for them, I try to do lots of fun seasonal projects. Project based learning has always been fun for us. And I love to learn alongside my children.
I contacted a farm that provides chick hatches, and was excited to find out our expected hatch date would be March 31st. Just in time for Easter! It was perfect. What says springtime more than baby animals?
She delivered our beautiful eggs, which varied in shades of green, brown, and off-white, along with an incubator, egg turner, and some other supplies we’d need for when the chicks hatched.
In the meantime, we kept the incubator humidity high, and added water as needed. The egg turner was set up to slowly turn the eggs from side to side throughout the day.
The kids and I waited in anticipation. Our library visits consisted of us scouring the shelves for books about chickens, farms, oviparous animals, and spring in general. We even candled an egg every night to see the miraculous changes taking place inside. (This requires going into a dark room and holding a flashlight underneath the egg.)
And then one day, as we were sitting around the dining table eating lunch…
We heard a tiny peep! coming from inside the incubator.
Peep! Peep! Peep!
And more and more peeps as the day went on.
The next morning, we awoke to six chicks hopping around in the incubator! And the remaining chicks hatched throughout the day. We even managed to see a couple of them breaking out of their shells.
It was fascinating. My kids were eager to hold the chicks right away, but I told them that we’d have to let them dry off first and get used to their surroundings.
We set up a heat lamp and brooding box for them, filled with wood shavings, a water dish, and second dish filled with chick feed. My kids hovered there constantly! They observed in awe and treated these little animals with such kindness.
The farmer had told us that sometimes, even with the right conditions, there would be a few eggs that wouldn’t hatch. And she was right. She also told us that some chicks would start pecking their way out of the egg, and for whatever reason, might not be strong enough to finish.
We were keeping an eye on one egg in particular, as it had been an entire day since we first noticed the little beak popping out from inside, trying to peck away the eggshell. We had been instructed to help a chick out of it’s egg if it had been over 24 hours from the time a sizeable crack had formed. And so, ever-so-gently, we peeled away the eggshell and freed the chick. We gave him as warm bath, as advised in our manual, to help loosen the little egg shell bits that remained fixated to his fluff. Then, we put him back into the incubator to warm up.
We named him Peep.
Poor little Peep was weak from the start. He was smaller than the other chicks and he wasn’t quite as spritely.
One morning, my daughter sat glumly by the brooding box and I saw big fat tears falling as she cupped little Peep in her hands.
What’s wrong? I asked.
It’s Peep. He’s going to die. All the other chicks were running over top of him and he’s hurt, she replied.
My heart sank. I took a quick look, and it was clear that Peep was in some sort of distress. We immediately separated him from the other chicks, and placed him in his own, comfortable box with all the chick necessities. We made sure his box was nice and warm, and checked on him throughout the day.
Peep’s state was very upsetting to the kids. We were doing a bit more life learning with this project than I had expected! We talked about nature, and the circle of life. We talked about death and what happens. And little Peep died in peace.
They grieved over this poor little chick. They had not yet experienced loss. I made sure to answer all of their questions to the best of my abilities. They made peace with it over time.
Our egg hatch project was certainly one to remember. Lots of learning about life.
One warm evening, I took the kids outside for some photos with their fluffy friends. I simply needed to document the special love and care they had for their baby chicks. I hope they will always remember this special experience!
I wish we could. I’d love to have some backyard chickens, but my husband and I agreed that it’s not the right place or time for us right now. The chicks have moved up the street to our friend’s lovely homestead where they will be joining the chickens that live there already, as well as ducks, goats, sheep, cats, dogs, and a large pig named Petunia.
We may not be able to keep chickens right now, but we will be able to see these chicks grow up at our homestead co-op every week (and hopefully in a few months, be able to take home some of the eggs they’ve been laying)!
Soon, I’m hoping we’ll have backyard chickens of our own. 😉 In the meantime, I’ll be doing plenty of reading on raising them.
This article originally appeared on kristaliiblog.wordpress.com and has been republished here with permission.
Have you ever raised chicks from egg hatching with your kids? Comment below.
Krista is a nature-loving, homeschooling mother of three living in a small town in Canada. You can find her playing in the local forest, exploring the world, photographing her family adventures, and writing her heart out on her blog.
Take a peek inside the homeschool habits of this family in Florida, and see the unique and creative ways they investigated the water cycle.
In this article
By Kristine Wilson | @creativeandgrowingkids
We are the Wilsons, a family of six who have been enjoying the homeschool life for the past ten years. My husband, Caleb is in federal law enforcement, and I spend my days learning at home with my three youngest, Marseille, 11, Dominic, 9, and Adeline, 6. My oldest, Whitney, who was homeschooled for 8 years, now attends high school.
We have an eclectic style of homeschooling with threads of Waldorf, Montessori and Charlotte Mason woven throughout. We especially love learning through hands-on activities and creative work.
Moving to southern Florida has really inspired us to get outside daily, and we have enjoyed spending that time studying nature. I love using nature studies as the vehicle for learning science, and this year we chose The Nature Anatomy book by Julia Rothman as the core structure of our science study.
The kids and I sit down every week and decide together how we would like to approach the next subject. We use our imagination, different books, online sites, and resources like Pinterest to put together hands-on activities for each subject.
I have found the benefits of hands-on learning to be wonderful for my children. It has made it possible to teach my children, with their mix of tactile, auditory, and visual learning styles, to find not only enjoyment in their studies, but the ability to retain the information that they have learned.
Through presenting the material with group reading, discussion, written narration, and hands-on activities, they have been able to learn through all their senses. Working together as a group also allows the children to foster their critical thinking, communication, and creativity skills as well.
I don’t delve too deep into each subject but touch upon it lightly so as to inspire my children to continue learning about the subject through a deeper personal study of their own.
One of our favourite studies this month was on the water cycle. The children gathered our main books and encyclopaedias, and we brainstormed ways to make the study as fun and informational as possible.
1. We started by flagging pages in the books that we wanted to read and discuss. We then proposed different ideas for hands-on activities.
First, they agreed to draw out and label the water cycle for our homeschool portfolios. My son had been wanting to add LEGO to our studies, so we thought that this was a perfect opportunity to make the cycle with LEGO. My daughters love to cook and create with food, so they thought a quiz on the water cycle with fun foods would be enjoyable.
We followed that up with a few Pinterest ideas such as making a cloud in a jar and chalking out an evaporating puddle.
2. How we used LEGO
We used a 10 x 10cm flat LEGO piece as our base for the water cycle activity. My kids used the LEGO pieces we had at home and built the water cycle according to the pages we had studied. I printed out the vocabulary water cycle words and arrows, and the kids placed them on the project where needed.
3. A delicious twist on the water cycle: representation with food
The kids brainstormed which fun foods would work for the aspects of the water cycle that they needed. After preparing the foods, they put together the water cycle and gave an oral presentation on the project. They chose to make a chocolate chip cookie mountain, jello lake, marshmallow clouds, raining color candies, and frosting for the snow, river, and water evaporation. They used extra colored candies for the greenery and sun as well.
4. Puddle evaporation experiment
For the puddle Evaporation experiment we poured out a bottle of water onto the warm pavement and drew a circle around it with chalk. We continued to draw outlines of the puddle as it evaporated.
5. Afterwards, we drew out and labelled the water cycle in our learning portfolio books.
This year has definitely been one of our best homeschooling years. Not only has it been really fun, but I feel adding a lot more hands-on activities has helped my children focus better, spark their curiosity about the world around them, and engage their love of learning more deeply.
Although every school year has its natural highs, lows, and challenges, homeschooling continues to be an ever- expanding and fulfilling opportunity that I am so grateful to be able to experience.
Kristine Wilson lives in Fort Lauderdale Florida. She has been homeschooling for 10 years. Kristine enjoys spending time with her family, being outside studying nature, and curling up inside with a great book. She's on Instagram as @creativeandgrowingkids