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Nature Collection Display



As we strive to spend more time out in nature, we find our nature collection growing. When the kids were younger, it comprised mostly of rocks and sticks. Now, at 6 and 8, they are becoming discriminate and our nature collection has becoming more varied.

We use three shelves as our main nature display. I wish we had something like a letterpress drawer to display some of it on the wall, but for now we use acrylic containers salvaged from my parents’ house, thrifted wooden bowls, and unused vases to contain our nature items on the shelves.

We have the good fortune of a nature center which rewards nature items with points. With these points, one can purchase other nature items. Points can also be earned by doing nature projects, doing scavenger hunts at the nature center, and filling in a reading log. The kids have “bought” gypsum rocks, porcupine quills, moonstones, and other items.

We found a dying butterfly at Kroger one day in the fall and brought that home for the collection

We also have many gems and fossils from our days of being members of the Tellus Museum.

Ideas for your nature collection display:

  1. think outside the box and be creative
  2. repurpose what you have around the house
  3. visit thrift stores for pretty dishes and bowls
  4. have tools for observation – magnifying glass, jewelers loupe, microscope (that is the one we own and enjoy)
  5. use various acrylic containers
  6. include field guides nearby
  7. frame your nature
  8. group like items together and create labels (these chalk markers work well)
  9. have nature journals handy
  10. add beautifully illustrated nature books – like this one, or this one, or Brambly Hedge, or Beatrix Potter books.

“Consider, too, what an unequalled mental training the child-naturalist is getting for any study or calling under the sun––the powers of attention, of discrimination, of patient pursuit, growing with his growth, what will they not fit him for?” -Charlotte Mason

Keeping a nature collection allows the wonder for the outdoors to continue once you come inside. I’m all about nurturing my children’s wonder for God’s creation. On your next rainy day, when nature study comes up on the homeschool loop, all you have to do is reach for the display, take up one item and wonder at it out loud and watch the children wander over to wonder too.

{This post contains affiliate links of items that we use and like.  Thank you for your support of this blog and our family by purchasing through our link. Note that anything you purchase once you click through one of our Amazon links will result in supporting the blog.}
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Jumping into Ambleside Online Year 2




We started Ambleside Online this year. I had looked at it often, but never taken the plunge. However, God led me to various bloggers who were using Ambleside. Visiting their homeschools through their blog posts completely inspired me to try Year 2 with Bear this year.

It took a while to find a groove. I fought Charlotte Mason on a daily basis. The AO website for Year 2 recommends only penmanship, copywork, phonics (which Bear doesn’t need much of at this point), foreign language, and math as daily subjects. No grammar, no Latin, no vocabulary, and so on. The rest of the curriculum is through literature and living books (I highly recommend you take a look here so you can see what kinds of books get read through the year). Yet, I had a hard time letting go of my preconceived notions of what needed to get done in a day. CM recommends short lessons, but Bear’s math was taking 45 – 60 minutes per day to get done. I also kept trying to add in extra things like Latin, vocabulary, grammar, writing programs, and other things that weren’t truly needed. I was leaving out the essential extras like nature study and journalling, and composer and artist study (or just not getting to them regularly enough).

Slowly we changed. First, we tried to keep everything. I shortened the math lessons – set a timer for 15 or 20 minutes. I let go of grammar. I decreased extra writing lessons to twice a week. We kept Latin, but set a timer for 15 minutes. We kept English from the Roots Up, but decreased the time on it to 5 to 10 minutes.

Now, on week 32, I think we’ve gotten into a rhythm and routine that works for our family and that I can make work next year with a new baby.

In the next few posts, I’d like to give you an inside peek at a week with Ambleside Online Year 2 so you can see how we fit it all in, and in fact, how we are now done earlier in the day than we used to. We are just Ambleside Online novices and our way is just one of the many ways Charlotte Mason principles can get done. However, it does help to get a glance into other people’s homeschools and I wouldn’t have found our “system” without the help of many bloggers. I took the bits I thought would work for us from each of those blogs I visited. (Afterthoughts, Joyous Lessons, Sage Parnassus, the AO forum, and many more).

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A week with AO Year 2 – Monday




Monday is a short day. The kids have an extra curricular program for history and fine arts that takes up most of the day, giving us a very short time for school in the morning.

We do not have set getting up times. Sometimes the pregnancy makes me very lightheaded in the morning and the best thing to do is lay in bed longer, and sometimes, the leg and foot cramps are so bad, I have to get out of bed to make them better. This particular morning nothing was amiss and I got up earlier. The kids tend to sleep in until 8 or 8:30 am (and even sometimes 9:00!), but J-jo sometimes gets up earlier – this was one of those mornings when he was up earlier.

The kids have to have their beds made, teeth brushed, faces washed, pajamas away, clothes on, and prayers said before coming down for breakfast. I usually shower and get dressed after breakfast to give them some free time before we start school.

Today Bear took a long time to come downstairs so I started school with J after my shower. He does math, spelling, and copywork daily. He joins in for the majority of the year 2 readings but next year will do his own year 1. Today he requested grammar – very rare occurrence, since I decided, as per Charlotte Mason, that grammar is not necessary in the early years. However, since he requested it, I got out the First Language Lessons (FLL) book I used once upon a time with Bear, which I started with him in the fall.

J-jo and I did FLL and spelling while snuggling on the couch. For spelling, we use All About Spelling in conjunction with a wonderful app my husband built me. J-jo neither cares to write very much nor use the All About Spelling tiles but he loves to use the iPad. I couldn’t find an app exactly like I wanted, so I asked my husband to create something. You can see the app in action below. The good news is that it’s available at the app store, so you can all use it, too.

Bear came down for her breakfast. I read our Bible while she ate. J-jo had a snack. After teeth got brushed, they both did copywork. Bear uses Pentime Cursive, and J-jo does the copywork from Writing With Ease. He likes this program, so I kept it.

J-jo wasn’t quite done copywork so Bear did EFRU (English from the Roots Up).

From 9:30 to about 10:00, I read aloud from Saint Anthony and the Christ Child, and we read our daily poetry (Christina Rossetti this term). The chapter from our saint book was quite long. I use various saint books to replace Trial and Triumph.

Then we went outside for math. It was 10:00 at this point and beautiful out. We had about 45 minutes left. I had to juggle both lessons and I hadn’t photocopied the worksheet portions of either of their Rightstart Lessons (level B for J-jo and E for Bear) so I had to improvise on our little whiteboards. It made both their lessons take a bit longer, but they swung on the swings and dug in the dirt while waiting their turns. See, I am not always organized and now you all know that truth.

It was time to go. Fortunately, the previous evening, I had been organized in the making of our snacks and lunches for our extra curricular program, so we brushed our teeth, got our shoes on and left the house. We used our time in the car to listen to half of a chapter of Robin Hood (an AO Year 2 literature title for term 3).

Piano practice got done after dinner. One bathed while the other practiced piano. We prayed the Saint Joseph novena and other family prayers, read half a chapter of The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (our current bedtime read aloud), and then the kids were in bed by 8:00pm.

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A Week with AO Year 2 – Tuesday




Whew. It is 1:40pm. I am completely drained. Probably because I have chosen to blog about my week, today was full of contrary children who opposed me at every turn (It will end up that this week becomes an atypical week full of outdoor play and playdates!). Welcome to the whole picture of homeschooling and if it happens to be all peaches in your home every day, just please keep me ignorant!

I couldn’t sleep last night.  A tired Mommy, who finally crashed on the couch at 3:30 am, to be woken at 8:30 am, doesn’t usually help the day.

School started at 9:30. They both did copywork. Bear did EFRU. Unfortunately, both children were quite grumbly, and it wore me out. Thankfully, my husband had most of the day off today so he was around to help.

We read our Bible, prayed, read a story from the Angel Food Readers about how we can be good eggs and bad eggs. This story must have hit home with my son, because after the story he did the rest of the school day without complaining. We did a lesson from the First Communion Catechism and read some of Christina Rossetti’s poems. Bear reviewed some Shakespeare memory work.

Math lessons, spelling using the app. Lunch.

I sang our new Folk Song (Clementine) to them as they ate lunch. We use this book and not the AO list of folk songs. I just choose ones I think they will like from the book.

After lunch, Bear did a written narration for her Sassafras Anatomy book (not an AO book, but one we added in). We don’t use the whole Sassafras curriculum, just the living book. J-jo read to himself from an Usborne What’s Inside You book.

Some friends came over at 2:00pm and the kids played outside most of the rest of the afternoon. After dinner, the kids practiced piano and took baths.

In looking at my checklist at the end of the day, I realize how little of it we have actually gotten to so far. I color some things in yellow I really want to get to tomorrow.

See the rest of the week:

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