Wednesday, January 15, 2014

What's Changed In Our Homeschool This Year! (Part 2 of 3)

Yes, that's right - I'm actually finishing a series that I started. Be still, my heart!

Part 1 recorded the fact that we are - for now! - done with phonics!

In Part 2, we are also saying goodbye.... to nature walks.

Goodbye, Nature Walks!

Okay, that sounded terrible. Who wants to say goodbye to nature walks? (Other than me, because I'm a terrible mother.)

I'd better explain.

The Charlotte Mason style of education (read more here) places great emphasis on getting kids outside. The gold standard for a classical Charlotte Mason education is four hours of outside time per day. While we don't usually make it to that level (though we often come close!), I am in complete agreement that keeping kids outside - for lots of time, every day - is an absolute must, both for education and for soul-development. (See our ongoing outdoor challenge here!)

However, Charlotte Mason education aficionados also often add formal nature walks onto the four-hours-outside bit. This is done through scrapbooking one's nature collections (see our first efforts here) or nature-notebooking (writing down observations and drawings in a dedicated nature notebook). This is where we ran into trouble.

First of all, I knew that nature notebooking was - for now - out. Our 7yo is, like many boys, a very reluctant writer. The number of times that he has picked up a pencil or crayon voluntarily in his entire life can probably be counted on one hand. (I'm exaggerating - but only a bit.) I knew that handing him a notebook and telling him to draw and write nature observations would be something akin to torture. For me. And it wouldn't have been very fun for him, either.

Thus, as linked above, I tried scrapbooking - requiring a certain number of nature "things" to be collected, pasted on a notebooking sheet, and described. Well, it had its moments, but it pretty much fell under the category of drudgery. The 7yo did only the bare minimum to keep me happy (or rather, to keep me from losing my temper), and his interest in "nature" was approaching zero. He preferred to pick up bits of trash rather than "being one with nature" or anything along those lines.

Additionally, having formal nature walks quickly became another source of stress. Not only was it yet-another-thing to put on the to-do list, it was yet-another-thing that I hadn't gotten done yet and which was stressing me out because I hadn't completed it!

Lots of stress, no fun, little-to-no benefit. This was a no-brainer.

Thus, farewell to nature walks. Or rather, farewell to formal nature walks with item-collections and notebooking pages.

From now on, we'll still be taking the kids for plenty of walks. We'll be going on plenty of outings, and field trips, and picnics, and all the extras. We love to get the family outside. And we'll definitely be talking about the things that we see (bird nests, insects, whatever). But I won't be requiring collections. We won't be writing about what we see. And notebooking pages? Uh-uh.

They were fun - in a way. But they totally stole our joy and put another layer of to-do stress in our lives that was not necessary.

I'll have to leave nature notebooks for the homeschooling-families-who-have-everything-together (and that's definitely not us).

As for us, we're going for a walk. With NO nature notebooks!*

Is there anyone else out there for whom formal nature walks have been a flop? Please, do me a favor and tell me I'm not alone!

* I should note that this decision is totally open to change in the future. If, at some point, formal nature walks and nature notebooks become a positive thing for our family - which is entirely possible - then I am very open to reintroducing them at that point. The moral of the story is simply to do what works for your family - not to feel stress over trying to live up to what other families do, especially when it concerns something that is non-beneficial or destructive to your family now. Moral ended.

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