I love living in the country. The natural world is a constant companion, the view from every window a delight to the eyes. I rejoice when I see our animals frisking in the pasture as spring comes in with its gentle breezes and sunshine. But one of my favorite times to be out is on a clear night. Praise wells up inside me as I look up and see the heavens declaring the glory of God. Tears came to my eyes last night as I was walking by the pond to lock up the chickens. I noticed the reflection of a sliver of moon in the water. Looking up, I was awed by a spectacular display of the stars.
There is nothing that can compare with time spent outdoors reveling in the creative power of God. Sometimes we want to dig deeper and study more about these heavenly bodies we are observing. Here is a list for all ages.
One of my favorite science series for younger children is the Let's-Read-and-Find-Out series. These are excellent in explaining concepts in a way that children understand without dumbing down. There are several titles to teach about the heavens. All of these titles are authored by Franklyn Branley. Many have been reprinted or can be found inexpensively.
Author Dava Sobol has gained a great deal of respect for her science titles for older students. The Planets and A More Perfect Heaven are two titles that have been highly esteemed.
A study of astronomy would not be complete without including biographies of great men and women who brought their knowledge to the forefront. People like Aristotle, Ptolemy, Copernicus, Brahe, Kepler, Galileo, Newton, Halley and others offer great knowledge and inspiration.
A word about evolution... Often Christian parents are hesitant to delve deeply into books which may come to different conclusions as to the origin of the universe. There are organizations such as Answers in Genesis which have given us a wonderful gift of a Biblical perspective. I love what Jan Bloom says when reviewing science authors who may not view these topics through a creationist's lens. No one, absolutely no one can rob God of His glory. He is our All in All. Read with discernment. The heavens do indeed declare the glory of God.
We give him little text-books, mere compendiums of facts, which he is to learn off and say and produce at an examination; or we give him various knowledge in the form of warm diluents, prepared by his teacher with perhaps some grains of living thought to the gallon. And all the time we have books, books teaming with ideas fresh from the minds of thinkers upon every subject to which we can wish to introduce children.
I wrote this story for you, but when I began it I had not realized that girls grow quicker than books. As a result you are already too old for fairy tales, and by the time it is printed and bound you will be older still. But some day you will be old enough to start reading fairy tales again. You can then take it down from some upper shelf, dust it, and tell me what you think of it. I shall probably be too deaf to hear, and too old to understand a word you say, but I shall still be
Ahhh, Spring. You can feel it in the air. Yes, we just got rid of inches of snow and ice and the landscape is brown and yucky. But my peepers are singing their hearts out and I know it's coming. I have an almost a desperate longing for Spring this year. After my recent diagnosis with a life-threatening allergy to the cold in which I had two dangerous episodes, I have spent the last few weeks inside the house. I'm dying to get out and revel in nature.
Our nature study has been very minimal this winter. I plan to remedy that in the weeks to come. Nature study is crucial to, not only our spirit, but to our academics as well. Charlotte Mason recommended nature study and living books for science in the early years (actually all grades implemented these in addition to more formal study.) The importance of nature study cannot be overemphasized. It lays the foundation for all other study. (Notice I did not say for all other "science" study. ALL subjects benefit from consistent nature study.) Living books play an important role in supplementing this important habit.
Below are some tips if you're new to nature study and resources that might help.
1. Nature study can be planned or spontaneous. You can have certain things you are looking for when you go out or just be surprised. Sometimes we are studying a particular topic and we go out to observe that, recording observations in our nature journal, looking things up in living books, field guides or even an app. But we always have our eyes open for things to see. Barb at the Handbook of Nature Study site has a plethora of ideas and helps for you.
2. Invite nature to come to you. Hang a bird feeder, build a bat house, plant a garden, etc.
3. Keep a nature journal. This should be a joy, not drudgery. You should keep one as well as your child, but allow him to do his own work. You may give suggestions but ultimately the work should be your child's. Keeping a Nature Journal by Clare Walker Leslie gives excellent instruction. The Country Diary of an Edwardian Lady offers inspiration (as long as you don't compare and become discouraged! It's gorgeous!)
4. Don't forget things that are "common." I love what Sonya Shafer of Simply Charlotte Mason says. "The dandelions are not new, but the children are new." Help them to appreciate what they see in their everyday world.
5. Look up. There's lots of nature in the sky, day and night, and it often changes every few seconds.
6. Living books can play various roles. If you are studying specific topics, seek out books about those topics. Or if you are out and see something unexpected, find books about that. Don't let the books drive the study, though, and feel like you have to read about every single thing or record every single thing in a nature notebook unless your child really wants to. Sometimes a little goes a long way. Some of my favorite science/nature authors and series are Jim Arnosky, Robert McClung, Millicent Selsam, Edwin Way Teale, Margaret Waring Buck, Let's-Read-and-Find-Out series, and Discover Nature series to name a few.
7. Keep a calendar of firsts. These can be simple or fancy, but the easiest thing to do is get a plain ol' calendar and record all the "firsts" you notice...the first bud on a tree, the first peeper frogs, the first snowfall, the first frost, the first hummingbird, etc. It may not be the first one, but it's the first one you saw. Children love this and they are always looking to find things to add to their calendar. Then the following year, they make another one and can compare from year to year. They may notice that the hummingbirds came earlier this year than last or the first frost was later. They begin to look for their favorites with anticipation and it will open their eyes to notice everything around them.
Never before in history have people spent so much time inside detached from nature. We are paying a hefty price for our neglect. Spending time outside creates a sense of wonder and awe for our God. Open your eyes and SEE.
We have arrived at an exciting milestone in our read-aloud journey. This is day 100 of our Reading Streak! We began on Thanksgiving Day with the goal of reading aloud every single day until the end of the year. We continued through the New Year and have arrived at day 100!
As I wrote previously, we already have a family culture of reading aloud almost every single day. When books are your constant companions, it makes sense that reading aloud would be a priority. But there has been something about setting a goal such as this that has made us more intentional. We find ourselves laying aside less important (to us) activities that might crowd out read-aloud time, coming together and sharing a book. It's a beautiful thing.
We spent two weeks in February snowed in so those days were easy read-aloud days in front of a roaring fire. No busyness to interfere. We did have one close call, though. We were finally able to dig ourselves out of snow and ice to do some much needed errands, a birthday celebration that was waylaid and a make-up violin lesson.
That evening the boys were going to spend the night with Grandma but I had assured them that we would read before they went. Well, in the frenzied pace of the day, we forgot. After the boys were safely delivered to Grandma's, I remembered in a panic! I grabbed the phone, explained to my mother what had happened and told her I needed both boys on two different phones! She was doubtful and said, "They won't want to stop what they're doing just to read. They're playing." "GET THE BOYS!!" I said. What transpired in the next few seconds cracked me up and warmed my heart. I heard my mom tell the boys that Momma was on the phone and she wanted them on separate phones so she could read to them. I heard a flurry of activity as Marcus screamed, "OH NO! We forgot to read! Daniel, get the other phone! WE FORGOT TO READ!!!" Daniel shuffled around crying, "Where is it?!? Where is it?!" Marcus shoved the phone into his hands imploring him to hurry! Finally we all settled down to a read-aloud time thanks to Alexander Graham Bell.
Keep in mind these boys are 11years old and one of them is two inches taller than I am. Needless to say I was thrilled...and my mom was shocked. Books bind us together. In a culture of individualism, books are part of what make us...US.
We will continue on with our Streak as long as it lasts and I may post about special milestones, but I wanted to share the impact this simple goal had made in our reading and our family.
Here are the books we've shared as read-alouds over the last 100 days.
When you sell a man a book, you don't sell him just twelve ounces of paper and ink and glue - you sell him a whole new life. Love and friendship and humor and ships at sea by night - there's all heaven and earth in a book, a real book I mean.