Wednesday, October 29, 2014

A few fall pics

I just love fall.  Last weekend we went and took some pictures of the girls.  As you can tell these were not professionally done.  Just me (my non-photographer self) and my (non-professional) camera.  But, like Jared said, pictures are pictures.  Whether they look professional or not, they will still capture the beauty and (hopefully) innocence of my children while they're still so little bitty :)

These were taken where everyone else takes pictures around here:  around the White River in Cotter.

Besties forever I hope :)

The girls were really good.  They (Addy) didn't whine or complain while we shuffled them around, making them sit still and cross your legs, Addy, and put your shoulder down, Izzy, and smile, smile, I said smile!

Like I said, they were great, except when they were climbing along the rocks because I wanted them to sit on a particular one and I was deathly afraid they would fall.  You know how dads are when they're (supposed to be) helping the little ones...ahem.

Anyway, a lot of the pictures turned out decent (see all of the above), and a lot of them did. not.  Including the ones in which the girls risked their little lives to sit on the one rock jutting out over the water.  :(

Hope you liked them!

Saturday, October 11, 2014

The importance of an out-of-doors life

As I mentioned in a previous post, outside time is very important for children - especially for those under the age of six since they are not officially in "school" yet.  And life spent in the outdoors is pretty much considered their school.

The importance of an out-of-doors life

(Info taken from Charlotte Mason's "Home Education" and Anna Botsford Comstock's "Handbook of Nature Study.")

A child's first 6 years of life should be spent outside, preferably 4-6 hours in warm weather and 2-3 hours in cold.  This provides for a low-key and low-stress existence - not only for the kids, but also for the mom (which I've found to be very true).

The child's work before the age of 6 is to watch and observe the world around him and to make connections in his mind.  A child's mind is designed to observe and learn from seeing all that he can and doing all that he can in his own environment.

During this time, masterly inactivity is the optimal way to allow children to spend their time.  Masterly inactivity is simply letting the child(ren) alone to collect experiences and make his/her own connections, rather than the parent force-feeding information that is not interesting to the child.  Masterly inactivity is something the parent does - finding a balance of intervening and letting kids work things out in their own minds.

Tiny mushrooms.

Weird bug.

Ant hills.

Pine needles to play with.

Addy just had to pick the biggest branch and drag it around.

And more mushrooms.
A child may not seem to be gaining much from what looks like doing nothing because he hasn't learned the words or the way to articulate and express everything he sees and is finding out.  However, those experiences are developing his mind.

Also, a love for nature will most likely come at this age.

Exploring under a rock in our yard.
A child's mind is much better off becoming familiar with the ways of nature.  Nature is always changing, always new, and there is always something interesting to show.

God reminds us of His love in nature :)

We were watching the crawfish run around in the water.

Ladybug of course.

A child who is familiar with the ways of nature is developing a scientific mind and learning the laws of nature that may make him more patient and kind as an adult.

We found a butterfly (it wasn't dead) on the path.  It wouldn't fly away, though, so we watched it forever.

We had to be very gentle with it.

It was really pretty.

Addy thought it was the coolest thing ever.  
And, an added bonus to us parents, a child impassioned with nature will have enough to excite him without having to get into mischief.

They had a big time collecting sticks... make a pretend bonfire.  

What the out-of-doors life looks like

There should be a plan when taking children outdoors.
"They must be kept in a joyous temper all the time, or they will miss some of the strengthening and refreshing held in charge for them by the blessed air.  They must be let alone, left to themselves a great deal, to take what they can of the beauty of the earth and heavens."
A small amount of guidance from mom (or whomever) is needed to keep the day fresh and interesting.

During outdoor time is when a mother trains the child to be observant, holding them a few moments longer to gaze at and observe the details of a spider's web or a flower or a frog.

We had a pet frog for a couple of days.  He was living in our small garden in our front yard.  You can barely see him in the corner in this picture.

Here's a closeup.
There should be no storybooks while the children are playing and exploring outside - the outdoors provides the entertainment.

Here are a few exercises and/or lessons that could be done, provided the child also has plenty of time for masterly inactivity:
  • Children could be sent on a sight-seeing adventure:  "Who can see the most, tell the most, about that hill, creek, hedge, etc, over there?"  The responses are turned into lessons about precision and narration as they are encouraged to give more detail and accuracy.
  • Children could be directed to look at a view, then close their eyes and describe what they saw in words.  The mother should do this as well to model.
  • Children should be familiar with the plant life in their community - what grows where, where to find specific wildflowers, etc.  They should know what the plant life looks like from collecting and drawing them.  A good idea is to pick out 6 trees and watch them change throughout the seasons.
  • Children could keep a calendar of nature events to know what to look for the following year - "the first oak leaf, first tadpole, first ripe blackberries," etc.
  • Children can keep a nature journal and illustrate it with paints.  They can write about interesting things that they see in nature - "three squirrels in a larch tree, a jay flying across such a field, a snail eating a cabbage leaf," etc.
  • Children should be watchful observers of the wildlife around them.  They should spend enough time watching bees, tadpoles, ants, squirrels, birds, etc, to learn something of their habits.  This could be kept in their nature journal.

Right now, since neither of my girls are school age yet, it's all about just getting outside - no formal nature study yet.  We make it a point to get outside everyday, and we do pretty good staying out for several hours throughout the day.

Sometimes I ask them to tell me a couple of neat things they found.  Then, if we feel like it, we'll look up a few pictures on the internet to investigate something further.

I actually, somewhat, began a sort-of nature study (can you sense my hesitancy in even calling it "nature study"?  It's not official and I don't really know what I'm doing.).  I had the girls help me pick out 6 trees in our neighborhood to watch throughout the seasons.  The first day I took a picture of each tree and had Izzy look at them and tell me something about them - we mostly talked about how they were still very full and just barely changing colors.

Then one day, while the kids were outside playing, I picked a leaf off of our maple tree (one of the trees we picked), grabbed some blank paper and colored pencils, and proceeded to draw the leaf and write a little about the tree for that day.  (I also noted how we kept seeing monarch butterflies flying by - in a southward direction.  I've noticed so many of them the past few days.  We were at the park the other day and counted at least 20 flying over us.  Monarch migration?)

Anyway, this prompted Izzy to pick out a few leaves and draw them later that afternoon.  Success!

We don't always have to go on a walk or go somewhere to find cool stuff outside.  We've actually found plenty in our backyard.  Last week we found Phasmatodea crawling around on our house.

What's that?

You don't know what a Phasmatodea is?

Me either, until I looked up a walkingstick online.  Phasmatodea is its scientific name.  Here it is climbing around on our roses.  We sat there and just watched it for like 10 minutes.  Pretty sure he (or she) knew we were watching him (or her).

We also have a pet spider - some sort of Argiope species - that has built a humongous web by our roses in the front yard.  We usually check on him when we go outside and he's always catching bugs.  

Poor grasshopper :(  I would rather the spider catch the lingering mosquitoes.

Have fun outside!