When I first started homeschooling, I devoured print and online materials about teaching styles, approaches to education at home, and curriculum. Along the way, I came across the philosophy of Charlotte Mason and soon thereafter, The Well-Trained Mind by Susan Wise Bauer and Jessie Bauer. I was immediately drawn to the style of Charlotte Mason – her blend of practices includes narration and copywork, nature study, fine arts, languages, real-life applications, and a Literature based curriculum instead of textbooks. I knew this was how I wanted to educate my children. When I discovered The Well-Trained Mind, I suddenly had a plan – a road map that would lead us along our homeschooling journey.
I spent hours devising our Master Plan. Planning. Listing the subjects and skills I wanted my children to be exposed to and eventually master. I began a list of curriculum and books that I would use as resources. I noted programs and certification opportunities that I wanted my children to take advantage of as we progressed (Junior Ranger Programs, Scouts, 4H, Roots & Shoots, etc.).
One of the most exciting components of the Well-Trained Mind was the 4-year cycle. To me, this was the perfect way to approach science and history. It provided me with an open-ended calendar or planning template. I thereafter created a cycle for nature study as well. Keeping in mind that I wanted to be flexible – allowing the children’s interests and questions direct us in our studies. History
Our history study is going slowly – we explore each culture / country as it is introduced in The Story of the World extensively before we move on to the next chapter. Life has also gotten into the way. We have frequently neglected history, set aside our study of the ancients as we have focused on other subjects. We are renewing focus this week. I hope to finish the text by June – assuming that we’ll go faster as the book revisits regions.
Though I am fastidious about taking advantage of teachable moments and imparting nature knowledge to the kiddos as opportunities present themselves, I haven’t been approaching nature study in any organized manner whatsoever. I need to do better. I can do better.
We’ve spent most of this school year focusing on life sciences. Throughout the summer, we focused on plants. In the fall, we began an extensive look at the animal kingdom beginning with vertebrate animals and most recently invertebrates. In doing so, we have integrated ecology studies learning about forest ecosystems and most recently, ocean ecosystems: open ocean (sunlight, twilight & midnight zones), coral reefs, kelp forests, rocky shores, sandy beaches and estuaries(eel beds, mudflats & salt marshes).
Over the past month or so, the kiddos have been asking more and more questions about the earth. What are the names of the planets? How are rocks made? How does a volcano erupt? What happened to the dinosaurs? What is it like on the other planets? Do animals live on other planets? Their interest and curiousity about geology has grown. Last week Sweetie asked me, “When are we going to learn about the earth? I am tired of animals.”
I had originally intended on spending the winter and spring on the human body and additional ecology studies. However, I can not delay their interest any longer. I need to take advantage of their passion and follow their direction. I feel strongly this is just what Charlotte Mason would have advised. Allowing the children’s interests to direct our learning. We’re thereby going to jump to earth sciences with the new year. I’ll keep you posted of developments as we proceed.