Studying the Seasons
© Beverley Paine, 2011
"I am thinking for next year doing something like the four terms divided into/aligning closely with the four seasons. Now I am all inspired but have NO idea where to start. Does anyone have any links to Homeschooling based on the seasons for dummies?"
I admire the Steiner/Waldorf focus on the seasons for lots of reasons but didn't find out about the different ways Steiner education promotes this such as a seasonal book display and changing nature table, or the brilliant nature journal idea promoted by the Charlotte Mason approach to home education, until my children were in their teens. With our personal focus on life-long natural learning our focus on learning about the seasons was very basic: we simply spent a lot of time outside.
As a young mum I discovered that the easiest and quickest way to inspire activities related to the season is to get outside and experience them fully! Only by doing this will we and our children begin to notice the big and little changes that mark the progress of the seasons. There is SO much to learn - almost too much to focus on, so start simple and small. Start with a daily walk along the same path - do this for a year. You'll be amazed at how, as the weeks pass, you'll notice your children pointing things out to you and asking questions that you've never noticed or thought of before. Because children see so much more than we do and are way more curious! :-)
Camera's (and phone cameras make this so much easier) add another dimension to your walk. If you snap photos of what you see you can upload them to a blog. Ask your children if they'd like to write something about their walk. If they aren't keen writers, you type what they say. They might draw some pictures - photo those and upload them too. Or they might start a nature collection (kids love to collect things!) Talk about what is and isn't appropriate to collect and why (from ethical, environmental and safety points of view). As well as close up photos take photos of the landscape and distant views as well as the sky and weather. Notice the position of the sun in the sky and how that changes.
If you live in an urban area notice the changes in how people behave and the different tasks that each day, week and season brings. Say hello to people you see, start conversations if that is appropriate.
Okay, we've covered (without thinking about it): Health/Physical Development, Technology (photography, information technology), English (writing, listening, speaking, communicating), Science (biology, meteorology). and Society and Environment.
Going for a daily walk will also clear the mind, make it receptive to creative thoughts, energise the body, and provide ideas and materials for activities. It will also help our children build a sense of place and belonging to their environment and community.
We don't really need to bring a lot of activities into our children's lives to help them learn: we simply need to tune into what is already there, what is important to keep them healthy and safe now and into the future.
Another brilliant way of focusing on the seasons is gardening. This doesn't have to be done on a large scale. Children love playing in large overgrown gardens full of nooks and crannies and wonderful places that inspire the imagination, but they also enjoy working on child-size projects which only take an hour or two over a few days to create such as miniature succulent or moss gardens, growing bulbs in bottles, carrot tops in pots or saucers, beans or peas up bamboo tripods, creating simple worm farms, etc. Children may feel overwhelmed with large gardening projects so make sure you work with the children, encouraging them to help you by giving them developmentally appropriate responsibilities and choices. Give them their own patch of garden - my father did this when I was four and I've gardened ever since, albeit in small and not so successful ways for a couple of decades...
Going for a walk and gardening every day naturally develops an understanding of the seasons and how it impacts on our lives and everything else in the environment. Add to this exposure to resources such as books and documentaries and your children will grow up like mine - respectful of the environment and appreciative of all living things. Our country lifestyle made it easy to connect with nature - the result of a deliberate choice we made before our children were born. But if, for whatever reason, we'd found ourselves living in the suburbs I am convinced we would have done our best to get outside every day!
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