Nature Walk


I love birds, I am always looking for them.  This week, I looked out my window and noticed a great deal of activity over at the basil bush in the garden.  I looked longer and spied the bright yellow flash of the American Goldfinch.  We've have mostly boring birds here in the heart of Orange County...the bright yellow goldfinches are an exciting visitor.  Look very closely at the center of the photo and then gaze downwards, you will see a few.


I think the secret to bird-watching with kids, is to call their attention to the interesting visitors they just don't notice.  To my busy kids, the birds fluttering in the gardens just register in their busy brains as "birds" if asked, they would probably guess they are sparrows.  I like to call them over, ask them to watch for a bit and then tell them about what we are seeing. If I am not sure which bird we are looking at, we will go grab a handy bird guide. When I get really stumped, even with the bird guide (sometimes birds all look alike!) then I run over and ask our bird-expert next-door.  (my golden neighbor, whom I  adore)


We have had some beautiful, warm weather lately here in So. California, so we headed to a favorite, wild-ish park near by.  The kids and dog romped, played and explored. I kept a look -out for birds and took photos.

I love this bridge, such scope for childhood imagination :)


Here is a typical view of our river beds, here in So. California.  They are almost always dry.  A big rain storm with a full river bed is an exciting treat.  Just thought I'd share this view with those of you living in other States with freely running water.  The thought of running, bubbling, babbling brooks and rivers makes us a little giddy. ...Something to be dreamed of.

a few of our favorite birding books here at {Home}:

Mom School

I've gone back to school, sort of..I call it "mom-school".
Here is my new study- RosettaStone French. I have been saying for many moons that I would like to study French again, and I have to thank Sky for finally getting me going with it. He studied a little Spanish with RosettaStone, and then decided he was interested in learning French with me.
Somehow, that makes all the difference.

I took 2 years of French in high school, so far the RosettaStone has been a refresher course for me.
for the pronunciation part. Oh boy... I realize now that my French teachers let us get away with consistent, dreadful pronunciation. RosettaStone has brilliant units where you hear a pronounced word and then you have to speak into your headset and repeat it. It is very effective. I am learning quick to listen to the small change in pronoun or consonant ending to figure out a change in verb...instead of the dreadful "ment" we high-schoolers tacked onto the end of the verb. Which, I was surprised to don't hear in real French. Ahem.

I have to tell you all, the simple word "garcon" is kicking my arse. (pardon my uh, French) Every-time it comes up, I have to try like 15 times before I can say it passable. I am beginning to cringe when I see it come up. It's pretty humbling, since it was one of the first words I learned in high school. I thought about going across the street and asking our neighbor, the real French chef extraordinaire (...look, more French, I am soo talented!) to help me with that one, sorry, horrible word...but then I imagined facing him and trying to say that word correctly over and over for like 20 minutes, and I just couldn't put him or I through that...

All of this to say, that Mother Culture is always important, but I think doubly important when you are a homeschool mom. As teacher to our own children, we are apt to get lost in the job of homeschool mom, forgetting that we need to feed our souls, too. A new language, a new hobby, a challenging book- all are pursuits we should continually cultivate. -If not all, then pick at least one.

"I think it is a definite gain to the whole family when mother is able to take a little time to pursue her own interests,..."I have no time for these simple pleasures," is the mournful cry. Yes, there isn't time for all of them. Think seasonally. One interest per season, coupled with thirty minues of reading a day, may be all that is needed to keep up the Mouther Culture... Billy Graham said, "Mothers should cultivate their souls, that in turn they may cultivate the souls of their children."
-A Charlotte Mason Companion by Karen Andreola, pg.350

History Narration- The war of Troy

The Charlotte Mason philosophy of homeschooling is known to most people for two shining areas; nature study and narration. Most simply put, narration is the practice of 'telling back' what one has learned. In the old days, I believe it was called 'reciting' a lesson. We practice a form or narration when we are excited about a book we have just finished, or a movie we have just watched, and we tell someone all about it.

Narration is a very effective tool for the homeschool mom. It can be very effective for teaching a child how to summarize, and I believe it leads a child naturally and gently towards writing less painful to learn to first 'tell' all about a subject, using well-chosen words, grammar and flow. The children also unconsciously grab onto the original author's well-chosen words, and add these pieces of higher vocabulary to their own store-house of knowledge.
The best reason to have your children narrate, I believe, is that is the best way to have your children "own" the material. Having someone learn something, and learn it well enough to then present it to someone be able to take the knowledge and teach someone else- that equals mastery. Learning material and being able to tell it back, makes the material forever their own.

I am actually more of a worksheet girl myself, it must fit into my own personal learning style- or maybe it's my own personal teaching style-best. But, a girl just can't find a worksheet for every book you read to your kids..and if you could, it would be expensive, and maybe a little tedious after a while...

I love narration, because I can read a book on history..and then, wham-o...ask for a narration! It's done! Ta-dah!

We just finished up "The Trojan Horse" by Catherine Storr. I broke it into 2 readings, there were just so many characters and events happening I thought the littles would get a little lost in it all.

The first half, I had the kids draw a scene from our reading, and then I had them write 2 or 3 sentences describing what happened. Much groaning and sighing followed. They thought it was too much laborious writing. For the second half, I asked for a drawing, and then took each child to the computer separately, so they could dictate their narration to me. I get much longer and detailed content that way.

Here is Amie's narration from today. She is 7 and in first grade:

The war of Troy
By Amie

Achilles didn’t want to be in the war, and his friend went to go fight for him, dressed up in his armor. His best friend was killed, Achilles killed the soldier, got on a chariot and dragged the dead soldier around the city 3 times. An arrow got his foot and Achilles died. Odysseus had a plan, he told the Trojans that they were leaving. The Trojans saw a giant horse statue, they brought it into the city. They had to cut the door, because the horse was too big to fit inside. The horse got inside and everybody decorated it and had a party. Queen Helen knew that something was wrong about the giant horse statue. All the soldiers of Troy were inside the houses sleeping, every person was sleeping and the belly of the horse opened and Greek soldiers came out. The Greek soldiers opened the gates and let the army inside. They fought. They made the people of Troy slaves. They took Helen home.

The End.

Homeschool = TIME

We homeschool for many different reasons. No homework, was not actually on the original list..but it has been an unexpected blessing. I am sitting here, blogging, while 5 kids play on the floor around me. They are not sitting at the table working on homework, but playing with the playmobil sets that live permanently (it seems) in my front room. Another blessing is the reality of 5 kids, ages 13 down to 6, -playing with each other.

"Another attraction of Charlotte's [Mason] philosophy is that her schools never gave homework to students under the age of thirteen. When a child follows her method, there is no need for homework in the elementary years, because the child immediately deals with the literature at hand and proves his mastery by narrating at the time of the reading....
...Instead of homework, my children enjoy cozy evenings with good books and parental attention."
-A Charlotte Mason Companion by Karen Andreola,pg.15

Unexpected bursts of creativity are another bonus blessings. The first photo is of a fairy house Meg and Josie built in a neighbor's garden. The second photo above, the girls took a few mornings ago when we had some unexpected fog roll in. The things they think up usually surprise me. I am really glad that their childhood is cushioned with lots of free time to be creative.

Why I love homeschooling

Sunday night ponderings and CM links

Photo of Sky, Meg and Josie with friends up in Eastern Washington, overlooking the Kamiak Butte. I think, or on the Kamiak Butte, not sure. I don't actually know what a Butte just looks like a neat landscape photo of lots of snow to me...and cold.

We had the bible school boys over tonight, (called the Full-time training) they have been on winter break- it was nice to have the house full again. They just finished their first week of the term, it's called the "pre-training week" and is a really intense week-from before sun-up to late in the evening every day. I don't really know the reason behind the week, but I gather it might be a sort of encouragement that if you can make it through the first grueling week, you will feel like you can survive the rest of the term. The very cool part of the week is the continual feasting they have on God's word, and we got to enjoy some of the over-flow of what they learned this week...they were so stuffed with the week that it just sort of 'oozed' out of them, and we enjoyed what they shared with us tonight. That is the blessing to us of hosting the boys over for dinner, we get to feast on the richness they enjoy during the week.

We served in Children's meeting today. Mostly it just seems like we survive somehow... The ages are 1st and 2nd grade, and they just seem to run us a little ragged. Tho, we are short on help most weeks, we are supposed to get more help next time we serve, which is every 4 weeks.

here is a little homeschool link love-

First, a blog I just found- Pockets of the Future, very interesting account of going back to living off the land...something I feel like I would like to do- and yet on cold winter days I realize what a wimp I am and know I probably would be miserable! But, this blog is very fascinating, educational and well-written. It is also a Charlotte Mason homeschooling style blog. I found her post on reading Farmer boy very thought-provoking and enjoyable...go read it.

and here, more Charlotte Mason subject- conference speakers to listen to over at
Childlight more thing to get to when I have a chance... The subject "training the intellect through literature" looks very, interesting. Let me know how you liked them if you listen to any...

Frozen- some link fun

This looked like a lot of fun...

watch the video, it is really well done, and a fun prank...

Dawn over at By Sun and Candlelight did a post on her bird feeders, it was inspirational- they are very much into bird watching at their house, and she gives some tips on how to attract birds to your yard. Makes me itch to go fill up our feeders, which I have sadly neglected.

I found this post on Tips for using the Handbook of Nature Study... Which is a book I have, ( a really neat old copy of) but I don't get it out very often. This Handbook is a Charlotte Mason favorite, go check out this post and blogsite, it may inspire you to get your handbook out, or at least inspire you to go for a nature walk.

Finds to share

I know that organizing, planning and out with the old, in with the new is on all of our minds right are a few good things I stumbled on recently:

A mom's planner for 2008-
It's called "A year of Masterly Inactivity with Charlotte Mason" put out by the folks at Simply Charlotte Mason.
The term "Masterly Inactivity" was used by Charlotte Mason in her writings, an explanation of what it means is found in the sample pages of this planner, along with quotes from Miss Mason sprinkled throughout.
You can download a free sample for January here*

The Simply Charlotte Mason site is a treat, go there to find copy books, spelling curriculum and helpful homeschool tips. Also hosted there is a great record keeping system called the
CM Organizer.

My next find is this Mom's calendar, called The all for one, one for all Family planner by
Susan Branch. Basically, it shows a month when opened to display both top and bottom page, the month is laid out in grids, with spaces for 5 family members. It's pretty handy for keeping track of activities and appointments- I fit our family by sharing a space for mom and dad.

My last find is this very interesting homeschool site called Courageous Beings...I just found it and haven't had a chance to explore, but it looks very out of the box and delight-driven. I popped over to peek after a mom shared about doing history with one of their programs in a Bill and Ted's excellent adventure style- each week jamming into a phonebooth to step out into the era of history to be explored. Does this say co-op opportunity to you?!!
(Gracefulmom, stop me!!!!!....I like my TOG, I like my TOG...)

I saw a link titled "magical moments with mom" on the site, it all looks very interesting.
Go on over and visit.

Spring Hunt continued

Here are a few more photos from our Spring Scavenger hunt, our first finds are *here*.
Our other finds, captured here, are:

*shade of green

*shade of green

*spring mud (with moss)

I had no welcome,
no fancy tea laid on,
so tired inside
that simply raising my arms
seemed too huge a thing.
But Madame Equinox
simply arrived,
put on the kettle,
and blew her breath
through my house,
making herself at home
as if she knew
how much I wished
for an end to cold bitter,
dusting the last leaves
of a forgotten fall
with pollen confetti,
to leave her card,
the sort of RSVP
I can never ignore.

©2007, Lisa Shields
go **here** to read the entire poem