Nature Study Resources to Foster Curiosity

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YOU can teach science!

When I began homeschooling twenty-six years ago, one of the topics I felt least prepared to teach was science. What if I couldn’t teach my children what they were supposed to learn? What if I missed something important?  It didn’t matter that I completed a Teaching Science to Young Children course in college and taught science to preschoolers for several years. I still didn’t feel prepared to teach science to my children.

My thinking didn’t seem to make sense. I was “an educator”. The fact is I thought myself into a circle of concerns and questions.

Then came a realization.

Children LOVE being outdoors and they LOVE to ask questions—two factors providing a great foundation from which to work.

Maybe I could teach science?

Years later, I know I can. It’s not about me coming up with great plans and fancy curriculum.

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It’s about me fostering the curiosity and providing engaging resources; being available to listen to ideas and help process information.

The same is true today as I embark on another year with a handful of learners, preschool through high school.  

Perhaps you face the same doubts and similar questions.  

You are not alone.

Your learners may be at different ages and stages. You may live in the city.

Again, you are not alone.

YOU can teach science!

Starting Points

  • Find out what your children want to learn, what interests them. Start there.

  • If there are no hints, start with animals. Most children love animals, of some type.

  • Add real experiences.  Many can be found around your home or community.

  • Provide a field guide or two for found treasures.

  • Gather a pile of inviting non-fiction and picture books.

Need a few leads? Here are some of our favorites.

Non-Fiction Books

Blooms and Plants

From Seed to Plant, Gail Gibbons

How a Seed Grows, Helene J. Jordan

Planting a Rainbow, Lois Ehlert

Stems and Roots, David M. Schwartz

The Carrot Seed, Ruth Krauss

The Tiny Seed, Eric Carle

Tops and Bottoms, Janet Stevens

Insects and Crawlies

About Arachnids: A Guide for Children, Cathyrn Sill

About Insects: A Guide for Children, Cathryn Sill

Ant Cities, Arthur Dorros

Are You A Grasshopper? Judy Allen

Bugs Are Insects, Anne Rockwell

The Ant and the Grasshopper, Amy Lowry Poole

The Honey Makers, Gail Gibbons

Tadpoles and Frogs

About Amphibians: A Guide for Children, Cathryn Sill

Frogs, Gail Gibbons

Frogs and Polliwogs, Dorothy Childs Hogner

From Tadpole to Frog, Wendy Pfeffer

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Beaches

About Crustaceans: A Guide for Children, Cathryn Sill

A House for Hermit Crab, Eric Carle

Gulls, Gulls, Gulls, Gail Gibbons

Sea Shells, Crabs, and Sea Stars, Christiane Kump Tibbitts

What Lives in A Shell?, Kathleen Weidner Zoehfeld

Fins

About Fish: A Guide for Children, Cathryn Sill

Feathered Friends

All About Birds, Cathryn Sill

About Hummingbirds: A Guide for Children, Cathryn Sill

Counting is for the Birds, Frank Mazzola, Jr.

Furry Critters

All About Mammals, Cathryn Sill

 

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Blog Posts

Blog post: Vintage Science Books for the WIN!

Use what is available in the backyard, at the park or beach front, on the porch or pond’s edge—wherever you happen to be.

Porch Science  https://www.cherylbastian.com/blog/2017/5/31/porch-science

Citizen Science https://www.cherylbastian.com/blog/2017/10/22/citizen-science-get-real-with-learning

Puddle Fun https://www.cherylbastian.com/blog/2016/10/4/children-learn-from-puddles

Field Guides and Resources

A Handbook of Nature Study, Anna Botsford Comstock

Florida’s Fabulous Series

                Florida’s Fabulous Waterbirds: Their Stories, Winston Williams

                Florida’s Fabulous Land Birds: Their Stories, Winston Williams

Florida’s Fabulous Reptiles and Amphibians: Snakes, Lizards, Alligators, Frogs and Turtles, Winston Williams

Take-Along Guides

                Caterpillars, Bugs, and Butterflies, Mel Boring

                Birds, Nests, and Eggs, Mel Boring

                Trees, Leaves, and Bark, Diane Burns

Peterson Field Guides  http://www.houghtonmifflinbooks.com/peterson/

Peterson Field Guide to Reptiles and Amphibians of Eastern and Central North America, Fourth Edition, Powell, Conant, and Collins

Nature-Related Picture Books

A Nest is Noisy, Dianna Hutts Aston

Miss Rumphius, Barbara Cooney

One Morning in Maine, Robert McCloskey

Owl Moon, Jane Yolen

Roxaboxen, Alice McLerran

Snowflake Bentley, Jacqueline Briggs Martin

The Raft, Jim LaMarche

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Nature-Related Drawing Books for Sketchers and Creatives

Draw 50 Birds: The Step-by-Step Way to Draw Chickadees, Peacocks, Toucans, Mallards, and Many More of Our Feathered Friends, Lee J. Ames

Draw 50 Flowers, Trees, and Other Plants: The Step-by-Step Way to Draw Orchids, Weeping Willows, Prickly Pears, Pineapples, and Many More..., Lee J. Ames

How to Draw Flowers (Dover How to Draw), Barbara Soloff Levy

Supplies and Materials

Brock Magiscope https://www.cherylbastian.com/blog/2016/4/22/owl-pellets-and-a-magiscope-simple-discovery-science

Carolina Biological Supply Company  https://www.carolina.com/ (owl pellets)

Educational Innovators https://www.teachersource.com/ (dolomite samples and owl pellets)

 Nature Gift Store https://www.nature-gifts.com/  (ant farms and live ants, butterflies)

 

We live in a suburban area. Though we have a backyard and a neighborhood to explore, we have to plan and be intentional about visiting state parks, ponds and streams, or the beach. When we travel we look for opportunities which are not typical or available in our area.

We’ve enjoyed

  • Bird sanctuaries

  • Rainforest exhibits

  • Arboretums

  • Nature preserves

  • State and national parks

  • Factories and manufacturing plants

  • Museums and displays

  • State and county fairs

 

YOU can teach science!

And, in doing so, you will not only keep your child’s natural curiosity alive, but you will open doors for other discipline areas like math and writing.

There could have a WHOLE podcast on nature-related study. In fact, there is! Check out this conversation I had with Jenni and Jody over at From Cradle to Calling.




When Curriculum Looks Different

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People often ask what we use for curriculum.

The short answer? We use anything which will help our children learn what it is they are trying to learn. And, if it involves real life, even better.

Sometimes our curriculum looks traditional, like a math textbook.

Other times our curriculum is a stack of Living Books.

A few months ago, my middle schooler initiated a flower bed renovation project. She wanted a flower garden to call her own, a place she could eventually grow cut flowers. A few visits to the clearance section of the local garden shop and she had rescued several very nice—but wilting—flowers (aka curriculum). With a little research in a field guide and a how-to online tutorial (more curriculum), the plants were thriving.

Today we added a few more resources to the curriculum—a collection of solar garden lights. Before placing them in the bed, we experimented with them in a dark room. So fun! The littlest learners were enthralled!

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“Flashlights without batteries!” one shouted.

Curriculum incorporates all that a learner uses to learn the content of a specific subject. Though we are often tempted to stay within the means of what we know or have experienced as curriculum, in real-life the definition of curriculum broadens to include any materials used to foster a student’s understanding.

The possibilities are endless.

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Consider broadening your sense of what curriculum includes. Maybe it’s

When learning is real, relational and intentional it's remembered! 

Every. Moment. Matters.

Ant Study

Our ants arrived!

It felt like Christmas complete with shouts of hooray and looks of wonder. 

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"Look at them move!"

"How will we get them out of the tube?"

"Let's read the directions!"

Questions. Comments. Ideas. 

Just a week before the ants arrived, we found the ant farm on clearance. Thrilled, the children marveled at the box as I I reminisced about the ant farm my older children experienced years prior. In fact, I had been praying I would find an ant habitat for study.  

Ant farms make learning come alive. 

In the process of getting the habitat set up and becoming acquainted with our new little friends, science intertwined with oral reading (reading the instructions and ant information), reading comprehension (following directions), math (setting a timer to measure duration and measuring water amount), as well as an experiential lesson in patience.


Put the ants in the refrigerator for ten minutes.

 

So much learning in a tiny vial of ants. 

Ants in the fridge, we watched as the timer counted down. When 10 appeared on the screen, we all instinctively began counting down.  10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, , 3, 2, 1...

"ZERO! Get the ants!"

"Look at them! They are still."

"They must be sleeping. Time to take them out and put them in!"

Then I worked fast. (Hint: Ants wake up FAST! Be ready to move quickly.)

Once in their new home, the ants got to work. My children were enthralled. 

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The children sat, watching progress, for at least thirty minutes. As they observed, they asked questions. 

  • Is that ant dead or sleeping? 
  • What is that ant doing with the sand?
  • Why are they piling the sand at the top? 
  • Why do they crawl over one another? 
  • I wonder what they will do while we are sleeping? 
  • Did that ant die already?
  • Do we have a queen? 
  • What does a queen look like? 

Our ant study was just beginning! 


Extended ant learning study for all ages

Read a good book. Experiences help children understand written material and fuel further learning. If a child becomes interested in a topic, place books related to the interest in the home: on end tables, night stands, or book shelves. If a study pops up spontaneously, plan a visit to the library and help the learner find the section containing books about the interest. Some of the ant books we read:

   Fiction

  • One Hundred Hungry Ants, Elinor J. Pinczes
  • The Ant and the Grasshopper, Amy Lowry Poole

   Non-fiction

  • Are You an Ant, Judy Allen
  • Ant Cities, Arthur Dorros
  • The Life and Times of the Ant, Charles Micucci

Observe ants in their natural habitat. Take learning outdoors. Look for ants. Spend time watching their activities. Take pictures and make your own ant study book or journal. 

Make a sketch. Sketching integrates another learning modality into the experience. In an ant study, learners can go outside and observe real ants, sketching what they see. This will likely lead to wanting to know more about ant anatomy and environments. Add your sketch to your ant study journal. 

Learn and label body parts. Watching the ants made my children curious about the ant's body. From their questions, we researched and learned ant anatomy, drawing and labeling each major part (head, thorax, abdomen) as well as the more specific parts (mandible, antennae, compound eye, legs). Enchanted Learning offers a diagram of the anatomy and ant information.Life Studies site has a page devoted to ant study. Another great addition to an ant study journal. 

Study the lifecycle. Every living creature has a lifecycle. Ants are no different. In fact, one of my children asked if there were eggs in the vial. Enchanted Learning helped us here, too. 

Take a closer look. Magnifying glasses are great tools for looking at live ants. However, the Magiscope is a great way to take an even closer look. Do so with a few dead ants. Otherwise, you may get stung or they may crawl away from the stage. 

Have an older learner, perhaps middle and high schooler? Research myrmecology and entomology. How are these branches of science related? Who are the leading scientists in these areas and what contributions did they make to the field? How did their works impact science and the general population? If opportunities are available--perhaps through a local pest control service, zoo, or college campus--consider interviewing a myrmecologist or entomologist. We discovered how one scientist is studying ants and bees

Helpful sites

Arizona State University School of Life Science, Ask a Biologist page. 

Harvard Forest

Life Studies

We bought our ants through Life Studies

Ready to learn about ants? The process can be one of the most rewarding and remembered events of childhood learning. If you decide to introduce learners to this amazing creature, tell us about your experiences, or leave helpful resources your found, in the comments. 

 

 

 

 

Most Popular Posts of 2016

2016 is marked as significant.

Why? Because every moment of our days mattered--the triumphs and the trials. We lived and learned together being intentional about using what was real and relational--from cradle to shingle--toddler to adult. Thank you for walking that journey alongside us! We are grateful for you, our readers! 

As a recap of our year together, I compiled our top 15 posts of 2016. ENJOY! 

 

The Many Possibilities of High School Success

Just as there are many potential pathways to successfully completing high school--the end result of helping a young adult develop his or her divinely-created strengths and giftings--there are also many different avenues to the young adult's future; the years beyond the turning of the tassel.

If you enjoyed this post, you might also be encouraged by Real-Life for High School Credit: Care and Concerns for the Elderly.


Preschooling, Naturally

Preschool is foundational for life and learning. In fact, it is during the preschool years that little learners master foundational skills which serve as a base for later learning. More importantly, attitudes and temperaments toward learning are set during the preschool and early elementary years.

If you enjoyed this post, you might also be encouraged by "Let Me Do It!" Helping Little Learners Become Independent


5 Comments I Don't Regret

Words are remembered, taken with us through our days. This is true for us and it is true for our children and young adults.

If you found this post helpful, you might also enjoy Legacy: Learning Alongside


The Possibilities of Elective Credits - Part II

When I wrote the first edition (who remembers that first spiral-bound resource?) Celebrate High School I included a sample list of potential course titles--both core and elective. When I published my extensive revision in 2015, I expanded my list based on our experience and the experience of those with whom we work.

If the information in this post was helpful, you might want to continue on and read Part III.


32 Ways to Learn from Real and Relational 

Some of my children love making lapbooks, others prefer unit studies. Still others learn best when we incorporate field trips into our days. And, our middle and high school young adults? They have learned at co-ops, through online courses, and with personal independent study. 

If you are being intentional about keeping learning real and relational, you might also be encouraged by the practical life lessons (and history!) in this post-- Living History: 30 Questions that Bring History to Life


8 Skills Children Practice in Puddles

There was much to learn in the puddles. Each learner carried a small fish net, sand bucket or shovel. They were off on an adventure.

Rainy days are natural wonders which intrique little learners. If rain is falling at your house and you are waiting for a safe pause in weather, try this indoor art activity--Torn Paper Rainbows


Grades...In High School

"How do I give grades in high school?"

If designing a transcript is your next step, this post may be helpful--Transcript Matters


Using 4-H for High School Course Content

"Our high school learner is very active in 4-H. Can we use any of what the student is doing toward high school credit?" 

If you have middle school learners and are wondering how you can help them manage time, organize belongings, and pursue interests, this post--Magnificent, Make-A-Difference Middle School--might be helpful. 


Preschooling, Intentionally

Learning is the natural outcome of everyday living, especially for little learners. With a few intentional questions here and a purposeful explanation there, preschoolers can learn naturally from walking alongside older siblings and significant adults. Through everyday experiences, preschoolers gain a jump start to mastering foundational cognitive, social, emotional, physical, and spiritual life skills.  By the time the young learner blows out six candles on the birthday cake, significant progress toward mastery of foundational skills has likely been made.

If you are seeking ways to help your little learners do what they can, 3 Things They Can DO on Their Own, might be helpful. 


Living Books and Independent Studies

An interest evolved into an independent study, a year-long learning adventure. 

Science--especially animal science--is particularly interesting to little learners. If you have little learners with a zest for all things living, check out the book list in Vintage Science Readers for the WIN! 


Nature Adventures Made EASY- A Glimpse into Part of Our Day

Ten minutes later, peering out the bedroom window to check on the adventure, my heart smiled--three little learners discovering, wondering together. Co-laboring in learning. 

Looking for a way to learn math outdoors, in nature, where children crave? Check out Math Adventures!


Using Living Books in High School for Credit

We have used several approaches to formulating classes based on strengths, interests and the future plans of the young adult.

Interested in earning credit for writing college essays? This post--High School Made Simple: College Essays for Credit--might offer some insight. 


SIMPLE Prepositions for Little Learners

Keeping early learning active and fun!

Picture books can encourage learning. Read Aloud to Foster Counting Skills lists some of our favorite math picture books. 


Intentional Cursive Handwriting

Oh yes, there is good reason to teach cursive, teaching correct strokes and rotations. Proper letter formation does make composition easier. However, once initial instruction is complete and letters are formed properly, practice begins. Practice.

Interested in hands-on, real-life, spelling activities? This post--What About Spelling?--has lots of practical ideas. 


Helping Learners Foster Strengths and Interests

A trip to the electronics store. I was hoping to go alone. You know, time to enjoy quiet; time to think without questions. After all, it is ONLY the electronics store. 

If this post made you curious about interest-based learning, The Benefits of Interests: Motivating Learners, may answer a few more questions. 

Want to know more about how your days can be intentional, real, and relational? Click below to sign up for the Celebrate Simple Newsletter. 

Vintage Science Readers for the WIN!

There is something to be said about tried and true. That's one reason our family enjoys older books.

This week we rediscovered Follett Beginning Science Books. 

Three learners, Kindergarten to middle school, have been glued to content as I read aloud Frogs and Toads by Charles A. Schoenknecht. During our time together, I heard "I never knew that." and "That's so interesting!" more times than I can count. YAY!

In fact, I am still learning. I didn't know that frogs pull in their eyes to help swallow caught insects--which they ingest WHOLE! Fascinating!

There's more I love about this series--at least the ones we have managed to find. Large font, simple text packed with content, invited my budding reader to give independent reading a try. I mean-- interesting content, large font, hardcover--she was excited!  

"It's a real book and I want to read it!"

She is motivated to become a more fluent reader and will learn science in the process.

That's a WIN!

I will add, these gems are difficult to find--published by Follett Publishing Company in the 1960s--but well worth the hunt. In fact, we have more coming this week! And, my learners can't wait.

In case you've been intrigued to find one to find out if your learners will be enjoy this series, here is a list to help your quest. Consider starting with a title of interest. For example, my learners are more interested in the animal titles, hence our beginning point. 

  • Air by Edna Mitchell Preston      
  • Animals without Backbones by Robert E. Pfadt   
  • Ants by Charles A. Schoenknecht            
  • Beavers by F. Dorothy Wood     
  • Birds by Isabel B. Wasson             
  • Birds That Hunt by Willard Luce
  • Butterflies by Jeanne S. Brouillette          
  • Climate by Julian May   
  • Comets and Meteors by Isaac Asimov           
  • Deer by John Feilen       
  • Electricity by Edward Victor        
  • Friction by Edward Victor             
  • Frogs and Toads by Charles A. Schoenknecht     
  • Galaxies by Isaac Asimov             
  • Grasshoppers by Robert E. Pfadt              
  • Heat by Edward Victor  
  • Hummingbirds by Betty John     
  • Insects by Jeanne S. Brouillette
  • Light by Isaac Asimov    
  • Machines by Edward Victor        
  • Magnets by Edward Victor          
  • Mammals by Esther K. Meeks   
  • Molecules and Atoms by Edward Victor
  • The Moon by Isaac Asimov         
  • Moths by Jeanne S. Brouillette  
  • Plants with Seeds by F. Dorothy Wood  
  • Robins by Edwin A. Mason           
  • Rocks and Minerals by Lou Page
  • Snakes by Esther K. Meeks         
  • Soil by Richard Cromer  
  • The Solar System by Isaac Asimov           
  • Sound by Charles D. Neal            
  • Space by Marian Tellander          
  • Spiders by Ramona Stewart Dupre          
  • Squirrels by John Feilen               
  • The Sun by Isaac Asimov              
  • Trees by George Sullivan             
  • Tropical Fish by Loren P. Woods               
  • Weather by Julian May
  • Whales by Val Gendron               
  • Your Wonderful Brain by Mary Jane Keene  

Reading and science? Yes, please. And that's a WIN! WIN! 

Nature Adventures Made EASY- A Glimpse Into Part of Our Day

"I'm going on a nature adventure!"

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Those words were heard before the front door slammed shut and excitement ran to the backyard.

Ten minutes later, peering out the bedroom window to check on the adventure, my heart smiled--three little learners discovering, wondering together. Co-laboring in learning. 

I walked back to the living room  to listen to an older learner read aloud. 

Within thirty minutes the front door swung open, the metal doorknob placing a ding in the drywall. 

"Took at these amazing finds, Mom! These specimens are the best we've ever found!"

A HUGE beetle. A lizard skeleton. A small pine cone.

"Can I get the Magiscope!"

And, while they were outside, one decided to start working through My Nature Adventures



We observed, marveled at the wonders they had found! What amazing details we saw with the scope! We drew pictures in My Nature Adventures.

Then, I asked questions about their adventures. Observation, recall, and analysis are important skills for math, language, and science skills development. 

  • What was the first insect you saw?
  • Were the insects on certain plants?
  • Were all the leaves in the pile the same?
  • What colors were the birds you saw? 
  • What were the birds doing?
  • When some birds flew away, how many were left?
  • What did each person contribute to the adventure?

There you have it. A glimpse into our day, into the nature adventures our family enjoyed. Interestingly, most of it was unplanned. Yet, my intentional listening, attentiveness, and questions were essential. 

Our favorite non-fiction, field guide type books:

  • Birds, Nests, & Eggs, Mel Boring (Take Along Guides)
  • Caterpillars. Bugs, & Butterflies, Mel Boring (Take Along Guides)
  • Trees, Leaves & Bark, Mel Boring (Take Along Guides)
  • Florida's Fabulous Birds: Land Birds, Winston Williams (Florida's Fabulous Series)
  • Florida's Favorite Insects, Thomas Emmel (Florida's Fabulous Series) 

Nature books we enjoy reading after our adventures: 

  • From Tadpole to Frog, Wendy Pfeffer (Read and Let's Find Out Science)
  • From Caterpillar to Butterfly, Deborah Heilgman (Read and Let's Find Out Science)
  • A Nest Full of Eggs, Priscilla Belz Jenkins (Read and Let's Find Out Science)

The above three Read and Let's Find Out Science books are included in the Math and Science Adventure Combo Kit in our store

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More of our favorites: 

  • Waiting for Wings, Lois Ehlert
  • Counting is for the Birds, Frank Mazzola (an absolute favorite and great for math!)
  • Why Do Leaves Change Color? Betsy Maestro (Read and Let's Find Out Science)
  • Pets from the Pond, Margaret Waring Buck
  • In the Woods and Fields, Margaret Waring Buck
  • Small Pets from Woods and Fields, Margaret Waring Buck

Margaret Waring Buck books are some of the most fascinating nature books in our collection. They are vintage books published in the late 1950s; most by Abbington Press. The line drawings are done with intriguing details. Well worth the hunt to find. 

What might your children engage in today? Might it be an outdoor learning adventure or an indoor building project? 

Adventures await. 

My Nature Adventures
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My Nature Adventures invites your child outdoors to discover elements of creation which innately capture attention, engage thinking, and cultivate questions. 

 

 

 

8 Skills Children Practice in Puddles

Rain poured.

Five years ago. One solid week of on and off rain. Our learners caught cabin fever. Petty arguments found themselves frequent visitors to play and learning time. My children and I needed outside time, desperately. When thunder and lightening pushed away, I announced it was time to find the raincoats.

Out we went!

There was much to learn in the puddles. Each learner carried a small fish net, sand bucket or shovel. They were off on an adventure.

Catch. Look in the puddle when the water is still. Do you see insects? Do you see any tadpoles? If there are tadpoles, try to catch some in a container. Once home, place in a larger container or fish bowl and observe over the next week or ten days. What happens to the tadpoles?  Draw pictures of each change. This is an amazing first lesson about life cycles. 

Jump. Who doesn't love to jump in puddles? Puddle jumping allows little learners to learn about the properties of water. If the weather is particularly rainy or cold, a raincoat will help keep little learner warm during his or her discoveries. Experiment with stomping. How does the force of stomping effect water displacement?  These experiences build physical skills while placing important files in the brain for later science learning. 

Listen. Listen to the rain drops hit the water. Listen to the rain patter on the house roof. How does the sound of rain change? Once inside, make a rain stick. Find a paper roll. Cover one end with wax paper. Measure (another great skill for littles) 1/4 cup of rice. Pour into the tube. Cover the other end to keep rice contained. Decorate. Shake. Try to replicated the sound of rain. While making music, chant Rain, Rain, Go Away or sing The Eensy Weensy Spider. Differentiating sound, replicating sound, and moving to music are important to auditory and physical development. 

Measure. Take measuring cups and spoons out to the puddle. Experiment with measuring. How many 1/2 cups can be poured into 1 cup? How many tablespoons can fit in a 1/4 cup? If you have a balance scale, compare the weight of 1 cup of water to 1 cup of mud. Compare 1 cup of wet leaves to 1 cup of broken sticks. Measuring and comparing are important math skills for little learners. 

Sink and Float. Collect objects. One by one, choose an object and guess whether the object will sink or float. If the object sinks, place it on one pile. If it floats, place it on another. This is a great activity for children to experiment with making predictions.

Write. Use a stick to write numbers, letters, or words in soft mud surrounding the puddle. For littlest learners, begin with writing the first letter of the child's first name. From the first letter, move to the whole name. 

Count objects. Are there object floating on the puddle's surface? Are there objects around the puddle? Count objects. Are there more objects in the puddle or on the edge? 

Evaporate. After rain, puddles disappear. However, evaporation happens at different rates. Be sure to go back outside to check on the puddles. Are they still there? How are they different each time you return.

Read. Once inside, place wet clothes in the laundry and redress in dry. Choose a few rainy read-alouds while sipping on hot chocolate. 

Some of our favorite rainy reads have been: 

  • From Tadpole to Frog, Wendy Pfeffer (one of three books available in the Math Adventures Math and Science Combo Kit)
  • Frogs, Gail Gibbons
  • Why Frogs are Wet, Judy Hawes
  • Ducks Don't Get Wet, Augusta Goldin
  • Peter Spier's Rain, Peter Spiers
  • Weather Words and What They Mean, Gail Gibbons
  • Down Comes the Rain, Franklyn M. Branley and James Graham Hale
  • Clouds, Ann Rockwell
  • Feel the Winds, Arthur Dorros
  • Flash, Crash, Rumble, Roll, Franklyn M. Branley
  • Weather Forecasting, Gail Gibbons
  • Follow the Water from Brook to Ocean, Arthur Dorros

As long as it is safe to go outside, rainy, puddle-filled days can provide memorable learning moments.

It's intentional, real, and relational. And, it matters!

Want to learn more? This Psychology Today article offers further explanation about what really happens when little learners play in the rain. Fascinating!

Using 4-H for High School Course Content

"Our high school learner is very active in 4-H. Can we use any of what the student is doing toward high school credit?" 

I love out-of-the-box thinkers! 

When I started homeschooling twenty-three years ago, 4-H was a well-known, popular option for home educators. Homeschooling families gathered at the extension office to glean curriculum for nutrition, citizenship, animal sciences, aviation, and more. Families loved the 4-H intentionality toward hands-on, experiential learning. 

Today, Mike and I walk with families--Kindergarten through high school--on the home education journey. Several use 4-H materials. 

This question was very appropriate as this particular family purposed to work with the interest of the learner. 

How does this family consider awarding credit?

  • Consider state statutes in regards to high school. States vary in regards to graduation and credit hour requirements for home educated students. Parents are responsible to determine what is required per their state statute.
  • Consider activities. Some families prefer to keep digital documentation, perhaps a bullet point list of experiences, projects, presentations, awards and the like or a spreadsheet log. Alongside each experience, the parent (or student) can record study, learning, or preparation hours for that activity. See the sample spreadsheet below for a student's work toward Filmmaking.
  • Consider documentation. One of the advantages of completing 4-H work is the paperwork and documentation required. This paper trail can be saved right along with the work samples in the student's portfolio, should this be required by state statute. If the young adult chooses to apply to a university which requires course descriptions, the completed work samples will be extremely valuable. 
  • Consider credit. Each family determines how many hours will constitute a credit hour of work (unless otherwise determined by the home education statute in your state).  There really isn't an established right answer for this determination. We know families where 120 hours is required for one credit, others where as many as 200 hours are required per credit. Generally, each half credit would require half the number of hours. Once the hour requirement has been determined, parents and students can tally up total hours spent on the each discipline or course. If the student is short on learning hours, other activities or assignments can be added.
SAMPLE LOG with hours. NOT required, but helpful for some families. 

SAMPLE LOG with hours. NOT required, but helpful for some families. 

  • Consider intern or volunteer hours.  A great way to add learning hours is to gain personal experience through internship, apprenticeship, or volunteer hours. These hours can be logged on the spreadsheet of activities. For example, in the case of filmmaking, perhaps the young adult might spend a weekend filming content for a church video presentation. These hours could be added to the spreadsheet log. Universities and potential employers appreciate practical, hands-on learning in a field of interest. These hours are valuable.

Let's assume the learner has achieved the determined hours to earn credit, either a full one credit or a half credit. 

What's the next step?

Course titling. 

Titling a course is very important, essential, in fact. It is, in many cases, the first impression of content as well as student.

The title should be an accurate, concise representation of what was covered in the course. For example, Film Production is assumed to be different than Television Broadcasting or Film Techniques. Each will encompass different processes, media, and likely marketing and audience considerations.

Often parents ask, "Do I have to use the title given by the company or curriculum?"

The answer to that question depends on a variety of factors. 

In light of this post's focus, 4-H is not a credit conferring entity. As such, a parent could use the title of the curriculum or the parent could--especially if significant content is added to the 4-H curriculum--choose a title which would more accurately define the course. For example, if 4-H  Filmmaking is used but the young adult also studies the history of filmmaking and changes in production technology, perhaps a better title would be History of Filmmaking or Historical Survey of Filmmaking. If the student completes Filmmaking and then completes an internship with the video production team at his or her church, perhaps Video and Film Production would be a better title. 

Need help with titling?

I have researched course titles online as well as read through local high school curriculum guides. Doing so has helped me understand the importance of accurate titling and has offered me guidelines. You could do the same by searching for course titles in an area of interest. In this case searching "high school film courses" or "high school film production courses" may render some title options. 

Back to the original question, 

"Can we use what a student is doing in 4-H toward high school credit?" 

YES! Indeed, 4-H can be a very beneficial learning tool and a young adult could potentially use completed content toward high school credit. 

Have you conferred high school credit to a learner using 4-H? Tell us what you did in the comments. 

If you need more detailed information about any of the topics--credit, course content, and titling--my book Celebrate High School has full sections dedicated to each. 

 

This blog post is intended to offer an example of personal experience. It is in no way intended to be legal advice and should not be taken as such. Parents own the sole responsibility for the training and education of their children. 

 

 

Living Books and Independent Studies

"Mom, do we have any nurse books?"

That question. 

An interest.

I started with what I knew. My knowledge of nursing minimal at best. 

A Florence Nightingale biography; I knew we had one in our biography section. I  eagerly motioned her over to the shelves. 

A week. She read; late into the evenings. I could tell she was engaged. She had accepted the author's invitation to walk hospital ward halls where Florence served, cared. My daughter experienced the Crimean War, through the pages of that biography.

The final evening, sprawled across the recliner, she closed the book and pulled it close to her chest. A sigh. I inquired. 

"I love that book! I know Florence. She persevered. She solved problems to help others. I know Florence."

My daughter had been invited into a life, into a life that mattered.  

"Do we have any other nurse books?"

That question.

An interest evolved into an independent study, a year-long learning adventure. 

I knew it would happen. I just didn't know exactly when or with which book. 

Stories have a way about beckoning us to places, meeting people we would never otherwise meet. While my daughter read the The Story of Florence Nightingale by Margaret Leighton, I heard a whisper, a quiet voice which suggested I build; build resources, other books related to nursing. In answering the call, I searched book lists. Bought used and asked knowledgeable people for ideas. All for a purpose. 

I found books. They were delivered to our door. My daughter read.

About three books into her reading, she started to recognize connections between these often heroic women. At dinner I heard about her ah-ha moments. My daughter commented, sharing stories of how one nurse inspired, trained, or mentored another. 

I was astounded by the understanding she was gaining, truly amazed!

My daughter's independent study began with one Living Book, a book about a real person who recognized a need, saw a problem and then found solutions. That one book led to an independent study, a study I didn't plan. My role was to foster her interest by finding resources--in this case books--and to be willing to listen--to process. There were many discussions, many summaries voluntarily shared because the learning intrigued and mattered. My daughter analyzed, compared, inferred, questioned.

Surprisingly, her independent study began with one book; an invitation into the life of one nurse.

One Living Book. One real story. An independent study.


What were the books?

In addition to The Story of Florence Nightingale by Margaret Leighton (a Signature series biography) the book which started the study, my daughter also enjoyed:

Great Women of Medicine by Ruth Fox Hume, a collective biography

Nurse Around the World: Alice Fitzgerald by Iris Noble, a Messner biography

The Story of Edith Cavell by Iris Vinton. a Signature series biography

First Woman Ambulance Surgeon: Emily Barringer by Iris Noble, borrowed from a friend who knew of my daughter's interest, also a Messner biography

Frontier Nurse: Mary Breckinridge by Katherine E. Wilkie

America's First Trained Nurse: Linda Richards by Rachel Baker, a Messner biography

Remember, some of these books are intended for older learners. My daughter was entering high school when she read these books. What one family deems appropriate may not be considered acceptable for another family. Parents should consider their family's guidelines for reading material, as well as the maturity of their reader, when offering titles for learning. 

 

This blog post is intended to offer an example of personal experience. It is in no way intended to be legal advice and should not be taken as such. Parents own the sole responsibility for the training and education of their children.