At the beginning of the school year I made a few goals for our first homeschooling experience. It’s a unique opportunity and something I don’t want to squander. At the same time, it took a while to set a realistic pace for myself as an educator. We aren’t following a set curriculum right now, but we have an overarching idea of how we want this experience to be. I also check back in with our state standards frequently. It’s not required, and it’s not something I use to model our day. I just want to have an idea of the things she should be able to do if she ever does go back to traditional school. I don’t want her to be behind in anything just because I didn’t pay attention.
So our goals for home learning with the kids are: fostering free creative expression, recognizing different methods of storytelling, computer and internet literacy, and above all enmeshing our lives in nature and science.
A firm grasp on natural history is probably my biggest goal for my kids. I believe that if you make natural history an important part of your lives and discussions, kids instinctively build a base of knowledge, point of view, and understanding. It’s a value system.
If my kids grow up and can recognize plants and habitats by name, build a fire or identify wild foods, collect and purify water, build a shelter or track an animal, I will consider that a huge educational success. I want them to be able to enter a forest and know what plants and fungi to avoid, what will sustain them, and what these species mean for the forest. I think these skills are important for them in the future world, far more than most things kids are traditionally learning. Most of all, I just want them to feel a connection to nature and empathy for it.
I hope we can live in the forest one day and they can learn a piece of land intimately. For now, we just spend as much time as we can outside in woods, wetlands, beaches, creeks, etc. I bring field guides and binoculars and if it feels right we take time together to learn new plants and animals. I’m constantly pointing things out. This was my job and passion for almost my whole life before I had children. I’m actually trained for very little other than teaching kids about the forest and it’s deeply important to me. Thankfully, they love it. They are both so comfortable outside and curious about what they find. Fern is making big connections and has found her own voice in conservation.
Here are a few things we’ve been working on over the last couple of weeks. These are all indoor projects because the rain came back, but we have a lot to do and enjoy each other’s company inside.
Fern is such a curious person and is always thinking of things to make and do. It can be tricky to keep things around the house for her to discover and encourage her boredom. She comes up with this stuff and I go with it. Sometimes she’ll come find me and ask something like, “Want to play Heads or Tails?” Yes, you smart child. Yes, I do.
She’s really into gemstones, rocks, and minerals. She made a book of rocks and we looked at light through a bunch of rocks we have at home.
A funny math problem. (I should add that we aren’t actually teaching math with worksheets. This was just for fun.)
American Girls indeed.
We bought a Gerber Daisy at the grocery store and Fern made this notebook to document its growth. She actually said, “Can we measure it every day and write it down in the book?!” Yep. We can.
Fern is practicing handwriting by playing and pausing a Lego Elves song on her iPad. I remember taping all my favorite songs off the radio just so I could play and pause them to write down the lyrics. One time in third or fourth grade I paid a girl at daycare for her handwritten sheet of the lyrics to a little song called “Ice Ice Baby.” So to this day I only know the lyrics as she wrote them. They are not correct!
Anyway, I like to suggest little writing projects instead of doing worksheets for handwriting.
She’s also been really interested in the idea of Scouts. It all started from the comic series “Lumberjanes,” which she deeply loves. We’re looking into a lot of the scouting organizations around town and I hope we can find one that works for our family. [Ed. Since this posting we’ve signed up for a scouts group! We can’t wait.] For now, Fern made a paper sash with paper badges. Though since I took these photos she’s inherited her dad’s old boy scout sash and has been wearing it proudly.
We are really into our microscope lately. Fern got a little kit plus a set of extra slides for Christmas last year from her grandparents and she’s always been into it. Recently she’s been asking to look at it every day. She’s also been drawing the things she sees in a Field Notes notebook — a true victory.
She wants to show her friends her favorite slide (Dog Stomach) and is always looking at new things she finds around the house; paper, dandelions, hair, etc. She’s looked at grass, hydra, mushrooms, and even a sticker from Easter. I thought it was incredible to see the dots of color. I wasn’t expecting it and Fern totally didn’t get it at first. We looked up a little information on color theory but I’m interested in learning more so I can convey it better.