Gift Suggestions for a CM Holiday – Nature

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We have created a few lists to help you get your Christmas (or Hanukkah, or Birthday, or any other gift giving day) shopping done and to help you in your quest for the things that with help you create and atmosphere, a discipline, and a life of education. It may seem a bit early, but we know many moms shop early so that job is done and they can enjoy the Advent season without the pressure of buying gifts.  If you’re a last minute shopper, bookmark this list and it will be waiting for you in December.  These are all items we have and love, or would like to have.  Most are not affiliate links and we are not sponsored by any companies.  We do however have a few Amazon affiliate links mixed in, which means your cost remains the same but we get a few cents for sending you there and it helps us with stocking stuffers for our combined nine children.

The Nature List

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John Muir Laws’ favorite binoculars.


I’ve been using this pocket watercolor set for years.  I love that I can refill it with different hues or better grade paint as I improve (though, for my level of skill, this is really great quality!) and it is so small that I can take it anywhere.

These water brushes have made all the difference for us! It used to seem so difficult to paint in the field, but now we can open our paints and begin with these brushes that hold a reservoir of water.

Wildflowers Poster

This beautiful wildflowers poster would be a lovely addition to any room in the house, and there are also versions for bugs, herbs, leaves, birds, and many others.  If you can’t fit a full poster, check out the nature cards.

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How about a pretty pouch for paints and pencils?

How about some rubber boots that won’t break the bank, but will keep you both fashionable and dry?  Then you can step right into the creek with your kids or trudge through mud without flinching.  This is one of my favorite investments – now the kids don’t get all the fun! (Amy seconds the recommendation on these boots! They have held up better than any other boot brand we have tried and purchasing in black means they can be passed down from one kid to the next!)

My kids loved getting these 7-in-1 outdoor tools as stocking stuffers one Christmas. It features a whistle, compass, thermometer, led light, magnifier, viewfinder, lanyard and storage chamber.

We have used many different types of Nature Journals over the years, but have settled on these as our favorites. They feel good in your hands, are small enough to carry on a hike or on vacation, come in different colors which is nice for a big family!  (We’ve also used this one and this one,, if you are looking for a hard back edition.

One of the best purchases we’ve made are designated nature bags for each child to carry their own supplies when on a hike. With this many kids, it would be hard for mom to carry everyone’s water, paints, journals, etc.! Having everyone in charge of their own possessions is just one less impediment to getting outside!!! These are ultralight and durable and from the 2,000+ reviews and all the added videos and pictures, you can see how awesome they are.  A great gift was for each kid to get one of these in a different color.

 

This hummingbird feeder brought our family so much joy last summer.  I can’t even sing its praises highly enough.  Hummingbirds came right up to the window all day long!  They are amazing to watch.

If you aren’t in an area that hummingbirds frequent, what about a feeder for birds that do come to your area?  We love this window feeder to see them up close, but be warned that they won’t come right away.  We set up a few other feeders within two or three feet of this one (they were mounted on a pole) so that they would be bribed to come nearby and eventually be brave enough to jump to the window feeder.

 

Want to turn your iPhone camera to take amazing close up shots?  The easy macro allows you to take amazing shots of bugs, flowers, leaves, and all sorts of other nature!  Here are a few examples:

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Getting Outside: The Outdoor Life Series

Problem: “But they get Dirty!”

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Okay, you take your kids outside and they have a blast rolling down a hill, exploring a creek, and making mud pies. You love that the hours flew so quickly and everyone had so much fun until…you get home.

You have a pile of muddy shoes, muddy jeans, and muddy kids!

It’s enough to make you stay home next time. Or should it?

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  1. Did you know that dirt is good for your children’s health? Studies show that dirt builds your child’s immune system. *

 

  1. Did you know that dirt is good for your child’s emotional well-being? Studies now show that direct contact with soil improves mood and reduce anxiety. Another study showed that there is good bacteria in dirt which activate neurons in the brain to release serotonin, much in the same manner as anti-depressants and exercise. *

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  1. Did you know that this kind of play builds children who are “vital and vigorous, full of living interests, available and serviceable? ” How does Mason suggest we do this? Facilitating our children’s relationship with nature.

She continues,

“There are, what I may call, dynamic relations to be established. He must stand and walk and run and jump with ease and grace. He must skate and swim and ride and drive, dance and row and sail a boat. He should be able to make free with his mother earth and to do whatever the principle of gravitation will allow. This is an elemental relationship for the lack of which nothing compensates.” Volume 3 p. 80

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  1. Did you know that this kind of play builds confidence and mastery?

Another elemental relationship, which every child should be taught and encouraged to set up, is that of power over material. Every child makes sand castles, mud-pies, paper boats, and he or she should go on to work in clay, wood, brass, iron, leather, dress-stuffs, food-stuffs, furnishing-stuffs. He should be able to make with his hands and should take delight in making.” Volume 3 p. 80.

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What we need are clothes and shoes we don’t mind getting dirty and a plan for when we get home.

  • Where do muddy shoes go?
  • Where do muddy clothes go?
  • Where do muddy kids go?
  • Where do water bottles go?
  • Where do nature journals go?

 

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This post is part of our “Getting outside: An Outdoor Life Series”.

 

 

Getting Outside: An Outdoor Life Series

Problem: Getting Mom Outside!

This week we are beginning a new series to encourage us in our pursuit of an “outdoor life.” I thought there was no better place to start then on motivating us as mothers to go outside! In the future, we hope to cover a range of topics on why we should spend time in nature, what to do when we are there and solutions to some of the things that keep us inside. So to begin, 6 reasons for Moms to go outside.

“I make a point, says a judicious mother, of sending my children out, weather permitting, for an hour in the winter, and two hours a day in the summer months. That is well; but it is not enough. In the first place, do not send them; if it is anyway possible, take them; for, although the children should be left much to themselves, there is a great deal to be done and a great deal to be prevented during these long hours in the open air. And long hours they should be; not two, but four, five, or six hours they should have on every tolerably fine day, from April till October. Impossible! Says an overwrought mother who sees her way to no more for her children than a daily hour or so on the pavements of the neighbouring London squares. Let me repeat, that I venture to suggest, not what is practicable in any household, but what seems to me absolutely best for the children; and that, in the faith that mothers work wonders once they are convinced that wonders are demanded of them.” P. 43-44

Do you struggle to get outside with your children? We want them to grow in fortitude but we ourselves complain of the heat, the cold, the bugs! There are also so many other things we could be doing: laundry, catching up on email, cleaning, napping, making dinner…we might even drum up work rather than get outside—“I know that drawer has been messy since we moved into the house, but now is the moment to tackle it!”

Why should we do it?

1. My children love it when I do. They are happy if I just park myself nearby in a chair with a book or my bullet journal. They stop by to show me discoveries and there are lots of “Hey mom, watch this!”

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Our boys showing-off!

2. Getting outside for a small chunk of time daily and for big chunk of time weekly forces (or inspires!) me to work diligently and efficiently. As Mason says, “mothers work wonders once they are convinced that wonders are demanded of them.” So to get outside, I may have to prep dinner during lunch or get it in the crockpot in the morning. I might need to get up early to answer emails before the day gets going. I know I can’t spend time dawdling on facebook and pinterest. I must remember to get the laundry going and change it over right away, (rather than letting it sit in the washing machine for hours!), so it is done before our afternoon out-of-doors. Nicole Williams at Sabbath Mood Homeschool has a very inspiring post along these lines.

3. We must remember how good it is for us. Yes, we have a million things to do, but moms are people too and the fresh air and the natural world are good for us, body and soul. I often complain that I am stressed or tired, but then don’t take the time to rest, when given the opportunity. Being outside gives my body a chance to relax and my brain a chance to sort itself out. Just be sure to keep your phone in your bag, so you’re not tempted to check email or the app that temps you most! The more we do it, the more we see the fruit of it.

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Camille the fire-master!

4. It’s important for mom to play too. There has been a lot of research and attention given to the need for adults to play: we stay younger, healthier when we do!

Here’s a few links: the psychological case for play and the importance of play in adulthood  and a TED Talk Play is more than fun!

5. On the other hand, there is more to outside time then play, as Mason says in the quote above, “for, although the children should be left much to themselves, there is a great deal to be done and a great deal to be prevented during these long hours in the open air.”

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This was the one of the few pictures of me outside that I could find on my computer!

And what is it we are to accomplish?

“…. here is the mother’s opportunity to train the seeing eye, the hearing ear, and to drop seeds of truth into the open soul of the child, which shall germinate, blossom, and bear fruit ….” Volume 1 p. 44-45

  1. This is our chance to learn all about nature for those nature lessons later in the week or down the road! I’ve had many moms tell me they can’t do nature study with their children because they don’t know nature themselves. While our children play, we can draw in our nature journals, work on identifying birds, trees, and plants, and bring along a nature lore book for ourselves.

So let’s do it this week! Schedule what time each day you’ll be going out for a short time and pick one day to dedicate a few hours for outdoor play. Come back and tell us how it went!

Also, we want to know what keeps you from getting outside? Are their any topics you’d like us to cover in this new series?

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Atmosphere in Our Home: Going Outdoors

“Never be within doors when you can rightly be without. Besides, the gain of an hour or two in the open air, there is this to be considered: meals taken al fresco are usually joyous… All the time, too, the children are storing up memories of a happy childhood. Fifty years hence they will see the shadows of the boughs making patterns on the white tablecloth; and sunshine, children’s laughter, hum of bees, and scent of flowers are being bottled up for after refreshment.” -Charlotte Mason, Vol. 2, p. 43

Our home extends outdoors each time we look out a window or step out our door and so the atmosphere of outdoor spaces is worth considering.  This is an area that can feel somewhat daunting, but needn’t be so.

Consider first, what words you would like to use to describe your outdoor space.  Would you like a calm, restful space to read and wander?  An adventurous space for romping, muddy play, and climbing trees?  A natural wonderland alive with bees, butterflies, grasshoppers, and pond life?

Next, think about the your outdoor spaces – do you have a few window boxes or a small deck space or acreage?  Is is usually hot and dry? Humid and temperate? Cool, with hard freezes?  Unlike our indoor spaces, where you can fill a room with a seashell motif even if you live nowhere near the coast, the outdoors demand our obedience to the realities of our climate.  Learn a bit about what is native to your area, so it is easier to grow and you are more likely to have success in your endeavors.

Then, start with something small and delightful.  Do you want birds singing at the window?

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This is pretty much why I got bird feeders.

Then get some feeders and start welcoming in some native bird species.  I’ve had great luck with finches, chickadees, cardinals, and hummingbirds!  What lives near you?

Do you want a place to gather for meals out of doors?  It can be as simple as finding a favorite quilt to use for afternoon snacks in the yard or as elaborate as finding just the right table and chairs for your deck space. Do what makes sense for your family and budget, but make sure you find it a delight to spend time there.

Is having a cozy spot to knit, have a glass of wine, or tell stories around a fire your first priority for your outdoor space?  It can be as easy as digging a hole and surrounding it with rocks, or as complicated as going to the local hardware store and finding just the right thing.  Just make sure to not to start fires near dry grasses or too close to home!

What about the winter time?  Many of us assume we should be outside less in winter because it is colder, but in some areas of the country it is the most beautiful time of the year.  In areas with snowstorms, it might be fun to arrange for building a mountain of snow in the yard somewhere as a personal sledding hill.  Better yet, do it in the front yard and entice the neighbor kids out of their homes!  Putting out suet bricks for cold weather birds is also a lovely way to have a flash of red (cardinals) amongst the white scenery.  Or, maybe maple sugaring is up your alley?  I’ve even had my eye on the idea of a backyard ice rink… but it isn’t cold enough where I live.

The idea of spreading the atmosphere of your home outdoors can be as simple as washing your windows to see the outdoors better, or as complicated as calling a landscape architect to make a master plan for your property.  I encourage you to do something this fall that will make next spring more pleasant for your space and that will cause you to desire to step outdoors more often.