Wednesday, March 13, 2019

February Nature Study Plans

I am presenting our plan for February Nature Study in retrospect, so you can see what we actually did, and not just what I hoped to do. :)

Getting Outside

February is cold here, and I don't even try to spend hours outside everyday! Though I do make a point of getting the kids out at least once a day (if they're not sick). We've had a fair amount of snow, and that makes it easier. Snow is fun! They've been sledding down our little front hill and building various forts. They are spending an average of half an hour outside mid-morning, and some afternoons they go out to play again. I confess to letting our  morning school schedule slide on days we've had a good snowfall and they want to stay out. I figure an hour outside on a winter's day is just as good for them as anything else on the schedule! Some days I'll make up the time in the afternoon while the littlest one has her nap.

I personally have not done a stellar job of "taking them out." I probably make it out 2-4 times a week right now, usually for 10-15 minutes. Once a week I am making an effort to go out for longer to play with them, lay in the snow, or walk around the yard making observations. I'm not scheduling that in, because it really is weather dependent.

Nature Journal

This month I determined to get myself in the habit of daily nature journalling. I've been studying up a little bit on Charlotte Mason's method of nature study and journalling. Right now I am focusing more on keeping a written diary of observations and occurrences. Jotting something down is easy! Drawing or painting takes a bit more time and thought, which means I often don't get around to it.

Perhaps it's ambitious to try to implement this in the middle of winter, when we have fewer opportunities for extended outdoor time, but I figure, why not give it a try?! I planned 2 things to help us all get into the habit of more regular journaling.

1. Bird feeder

I bought more birdseed! So easy yet so rewarding. The bird feeder is right outside our dining room window. I had the kids make a page for February Birds, and they have been writing down every bird we see this month, whether at the feeder or elsewhere in our travels. It's making us more attentive to the birds in general. I keep the binoculars and the bird book handy beside the window.

2. February Moon Chart

Our "special studies" this term is astronomy. I saw an idea somewhere about keeping a moon chart, and thought that would be a great way to observe the night sky and also have something to enter daily. We made a calendar-like grid spread over 2 pages, one box for each day. Most days we are looking outside after supper. Somedays we actually go out to look, and some days we are just looking out a window. In each box, the kids are recording their observations, including:

  • The shape of the moon (drawn)
  • Location of the moon (direction it is rising, or which window we see it from)
  • Other notes about weather and temperature 
If there is no moon, or it's overcast, we're recording that too. If we miss a day, we simply write "unobserved" and pick up where we left off. Some evenings the kids make their entries then and there. Other days we've left it till the next morning. (To be honest, there have been days when I've only remembered about the moon after they are all ready for or even in bed. Those days I've got them up to look out the window, then we record in the morning. It doesn't have to be perfect to be valuable!) 

I'm not sure what we'll do for March to keep things going on an almost daily basis. Any ideas?!?! 

Special Studies: Astronomy

We are using two books right now to go along with our astronomy theme. (We generally follow AmblesideOnline's nature study schedule.) We are focusing mainly on the moon and stars, though we are also getting an overview of space in general and our place in the universe.

Exploring the Night Sky by Terence Dickinson

Scheduled once a week. While this book is slightly dated (Pluto is still a planet, for example), we've been enjoying it. We're not attempting to do the whole book. We average a page or two a day, skipping around where I see fit. 

Find the Constellations (2nd Ed.) by H. A. Rey 

Scheduled once a week. We are moving more slowly than I had anticipated (quite a few sick days this month!), but it's still good. This is the one the kids ask for. The layout is simple. I had envisioned the kids drawing the constellations right into their nature journals, but for some reason they were resistant to that. 

So instead, we've done a few other things. We've made the constellations by poking holes with needles into a piece of black construction paper. That was fun! The kids also asked for a special book to put their astronomy related things in. I had some basic exercise books, so I gave them each one of those. They've been drawing some of the constellations in there, and other things from the books. I'm not really requiring anything in particular, but just letting them put in what interests them.

We'll keep going with astronomy as a special study till the end of March. 

Nature in Community

So far this term we've gotten together twice with another homeschooling family to do some activities related to our special study. (They are following the AO schedule as well.) We picked a few out of this book:

It was a lot of fun to get the kids together and share in our astronomy study. I loved when they were all sitting around the table after our activities drawing and writing in their nature journals. Seeing others' nature journals inspires them in new ways too!

All in all, February was a good month for nature study. The kids got sick toward the end of the month, and some of this fell to the wayside. Many days of the moon journal were missed. But we picked up where we left off. It doesn't have to be perfect to be worthwhile, I tell myself, when things don't go as planned.

Nature study is doable, and fun, even in February!

~ Lindsey

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