Monday, September 17, 2012

Teaching Through Nature

When I set out to homeschool the children, I had visions of school at home.  The mimic of school type learning at the kitchen table was what I envisioned for my two young scholars.  We would study grammar, arithmetic, spelling, history, and science.  Lessons would be orderly and exemplary.  We couldn't be farther from my vision at this point in our homeschooling!

That is not to say, we don't learn the above curriculum.  It is that we learn the curriculum in a round about way many days of the week and over the weekend.  It is amazing what they retain from our round about way of learning.

Over the weekend, we went camping.  The children love going out and exploring the river.  Nature is vital to our studies.  The children question the world around them and it allows for the impromptu learning moments that really stick with them.

A beautiful place for a classroom!

Egee loves to pan for gold.  Panning holds Little Man's attention for a short while.  It is tedious and monotonous work that doesn't offer a quick reward for a six-year-old boy.   However, they both can teach another person how to pan.  They both understand the concept quite well, and Egee is better at it than I.  She is constantly giving me advise on how to better my panning technique.

Egee and Hubby panning
Other patrons of the campground have given the children tidbits of information to help in their panning.  Egee files all this away in her head and spews forth various bits and pieces during our trips.  I am amazed at her knowledge.  She really is into rocks and minerals.  Something that I never really had an interest.  I now find myself looking for material to expand her knowledge and learn more myself. 
Heading to the river

Showing the sand Little Man scooped for her.

Looking for gold
Little Man at the moment is more interested in picking up rocks and tossing them into the water.  He likes to categorize his rocks by color and size.  He understands that gold is heavy and the best chance at finding any is to dig into the sandy river bottom.  He shovels and fills pans for us.  He scouts out areas that look to have black sand.  This is his element - rocks, sand, water, and the ability to dig holes!
Scouting out the 'right' spot to dig up sand for sister.

Looking for the perfect rock to throw.
When we are out camping we walk a lot and the children ride their bikes.  As we walk, we talk about all sorts of things.  How to spot poison ivy, what kinds of trees are around us, how the river has shifted over time, identifying the various types of insects, and other miscellaneous topics.  These are things that our ancestors taught their children.  Things that have been pushed aside in schools today.  Many children hardly set foot outside to learn about their surroundings.  They only learn from the textbooks and never get their hands dirty in the real world.  That is not how we learn!

 Riding bikes

Playing Uno - great way for Little Man to learn.  We reviewed basic number in Spanish along with our colors.

I have read numerous books to children about life during the Revolutionary Period, Slavery, Pre-Civil War and Civil War.  Most of the books we read are centered around children.  Egee thought it strange that most of the children never attended school.  Little Man did not (he has never attended public school).  He pointed out the children learned at home just like they do!  He loved hearing about Davy Crockett and Daniel Boone and wants to learn the way they did.  Most of the children were taught reading and writing and computation.  However, they also were taught skills essential to living.  Skills we are slowly losing or have lost as a general population.  What will happen if we must one day revert to a lifestyle of one hundred plus years ago?  Children need nature and nature needs children.  We must create good stewards that will pass the information on to the next generation.

Learning to tend the campfire.

Camping has allowed us to take our learning to another level without even realizing it!  It has opened many doors for discussions of various topics.  I hope my children will become good stewards for our natural world.