It’s not so often that I feel this way, but in this month I have had many a “eureka” moments !! While I have never been such a keen observer of nature growing up, my homeschooling venture has compelled me to go out on nature walks. I have always loved nature, but in effect it was hearing birds tweet and trees rustle, and the breeze blowing on my face with a cuppa and nothing more. I have been to Lodhi Gardens(Delhi) a zillion times and walked with blinders on.
In probing a bit on how do I go about doing nature walks, I stumbled on this websiteHandbook of nature study. Ploughing through the ten outdoor challenges was such an eye-opener to start with, but my blinders were still on. But then, Nathan and I started with being attentive to sounds we hear from our balcony… describing the feel of various barks, leaves etc.. Nathan loves imitating any bird he hears… started a small collection of findings etc…. This slowly and gradually made me aware of the various tree barks… shapes of leaves… colours and textures.. sounds of birds… et al!!!
To make it even better Dolphin (my friend) and I, we have decided to do these walks together. What a great help to have someone with an eye for nature do it with you. She is always the one to spot unique things. We devote a day in the week toward this…. and Lodhi has never been sooo exciting and educative as well. This place, as I see it now, is a mini arboretum and bird sanctuary.
Here are some of the observations we accrued this month, making me aware of a whole pedagogic repository! I can’t believe my eyes each time, the very things near to us can be so educational.( I apologize if I sound so newly enlightened on may be something that comes easy to some. )
The barbet’s home excavated in the trunk of a neem tree.
The Brown-headed barbet!! We always here this “katroo.. katroo.. ” call. Voila! We finally found his nesting place!
The White-throated Kingfisher. He, I have to say was this bold thing posing for this shot!
Spot-billed duck. Really looks gorgeous in flight!
The Little Cormorant could swim a long while under water. It really looks lovely swooping for a fish.
Nathan and Jordan (Dolphin’s son) really having a marvelous time. Fresh air, free space and lots to explore !! Learning alongside! (I do not have pictures of them both at the moment…. will upload them later) They really concoct a lot of games and just have fun together.
Observing the germination of neem seeds.
I never expected to enjoy nature walks with such intensity here in urban Delhi, but thanks to Lodhi, and in particular doing it with a friend. I would never have thought to come across any bird other than a myna, crow or pigeon overlooking from my balcony. A few days ago, I spotted a Coppersmith Barbet perched on the top of a peepul tree from my balcony, can I believe that??? My blinders have truly come off!! I was blind but now I see!!!
Not so very long ago, we had just finished a sumptuous meal from the ever so famous Andhra eatery, Andhra Bhavan, here in New Delhi. It was the weekend and was so crowded near the gate. We stumbled on a very dreary looking, tall man dressed in a robe and sash with unkempt hair reaching his shoulders and doped up. Remembered looking at him and feeling quite disgusted. Few steps away my son says, “Mama… wait a minuted…I think I just saw Jesus!” I was mortified to say the least to know that the image of Jesus Christ conjured up in his little mind was linked to this ungodly looking man! Oh no!
I’m glad to have made a virtue of this opportunity to communicate who Jesus is not. I said quite emphatically, “This is not Jesus… He can never be so untidy and shabby. This man looks more like a man that disobeys the commands of Jesus. And by the way, Jesus is not on earth, he is in heaven now and will come back to the earth one day.” I would have explained more but for his age – he’s is only 3 years old.
I was aware about good illustrated bible story books much earlier and had made sure to have only those, BUT for a few board books. And that was impressional enough! It then struck me that he, with very little eagerness listen to bible stories read from books. However, he would listen with zeal and participation to stories read directly from the bible or simply narrated. I guess, I’m just presuming, that the pictures from books must evoke images that he was not fond of! It also occurred to me that it was not just the long hair (which is not true about the appearance of Jesus) but the dress of those days, which was true, that interfered with his perception of Jesus and the stories from the bible. Anyway the bible was give to man without illustrations, so why not let his mind directly meet the stories from the bible without much interference from pictures. I had gleaned this truth from Ms. Mason and narrated a lot of bible stories albeit not followed it regimentally and consistently.
“Away with books, and ‘reading to’–for the first five or six years of life. The endless succession of story-books, scenes, shifting like a panorama before the child’s vision, is a mental and moral dissipation; he gets nothing to grow upon, or is allowed no leisure to digest what he gets. (CM V5, p 216)” she recommended learning few stories and telling it to them instead!
That does not mean I will never read bible stories from illustrated books ever!! But for now, for Nathan, I have decided to stave off biblical story books for a while and will narrate parables and old testament stories instead! Let his imagination conjure up his own images FIRST, and get acquainted with and love the stories. Incidentally, he loves me reading straight from the KJV every morning.. he actually enjoys that!
This episode set me thinking how essential is my part in developing my son’s perception of Jesus Christ so that he will desire God and learn to love Him. I really want Nathan’s initial perception of God to be that of omnipotent, holy, pure, logical – the qualities that drew me to GOD!! It just dawned on me that how will all these facets unfold in his life will primarily depend on me. I vaguely knew this fact (I guess all moms know that) but didn’t think of strategically and in a more conscientious way, with prayer, teaching and watching for opportunities to reveal those things about God. Steven does a lot of that, but Nathan spending most of his time with me, I want to brace myself to make good use of opportunities that can so very easily slip my way. This is my top prayer request that I will be endowed with special wisdom to seize the opportunities in the day to impart truth, thus shaping his perception! What a privilege and what a responsibility!
This is a great 20 min. video on outdoor preschool in Norway, that I came across via the yahoo group. Even though it’s unpleasantly wet and cold, the children seem to have so much fun. Love the statement – “There’s no such thing as bad weather, except bad clothes!” This really encouraged me to brave the cold and sometimes damp weather we have here in Delhi. Also, great ideas on what one can do outdoors with 3 to 5 year old children. Their little brains maturing without the pressure of formal lessons.
As I embark on a Charlotte Mason journey with my preschooler… to able to grasp her educational outlook and going through her homeschooling six volume series can seem quite extensive to absorb in a short time. The books are meant for snacking on over a period of time, although I wish I could gorge on in one or few meals – take in her entire philosophy in one sitting. But I know that each volume when read piecemeal can provide a steady diet of encouragement and instructions. But this could take years before I complete all six volumes and just about scratch the surface of what she is trying to say. This is why I really love Ambleside Online: besides that wonderful free curriculum that it is, it has systematically organized resources to help me get started on the right note. And all this for free! Comes courtesy of the Advisory, a group of moms that have selflessly put this together, just encouraged by the fact that such an education might influence the next generation! They do benefit from the pooled research and information as they homeschool as well.
Having said all this I, by no means, suggest substituting reading the homeschooling series for all that Ambleside Online has to offer. Actually, the website includes a link to the series and encourages us to read them!
The three links that I found helpful to comprehend and align with her philosophy for a preschooler:
Also going through the FAQ page answered a lot my queries!
From what I get from reading the above links… in the early years, rather than on academics, parents are to zero in on “ many relations waiting to be established….” (vol 6, pp.72-7) as in with the earth, plants and trees, animals and birds, human affinities, and their relationship with God. The rest will come! This seems enormous in itself. Botony, ornithology, socioeconomics etc. all in preschool?? But, all this is to be accomplished through simple interactions.
These years are also to fence my authority as a parent and concentrate on habit formation that of obedience, imagination, cleanliness etc. I hope to explore this area a bit more.
My next goal is ensuring Nathan has a lot of outdoor times so as to let him explore and acquaint himself with natural objects first-hand. Working with concrete objects with the real world rather than the pseudo manipulated kind that of the Montessori approach.
The preschool years, a.k.a. Year 0 – birth to age 6 – is also said to be a great time to get the extras rooted in. Extras include poetry, composer study, classical music, folk music, art study, hymns, foreign language.
Rephrasing a quote from Charlotte “Away with books, tell stories instead during the first few years!” I really find it hard adhering to this entirely. However, I love the idea of narrating bible stories than reading them. But books, I can’t dispense with! Anyway it’s more the panorama of pictures that is the problem not the reading in itself. From what I get, substituting books for outdoor activities is what’s discouraged.
Having got a gist of what I should be doing I hope to chronicle, here a little, there a little, as I go along.
Reading ‘Some Implementation‘ got me galvanized into action… Hey, why not? I have no more than one child! What’s wrong with me? My son definitely need at least an hour of fresh air and sunshine! After all Charlotte reckons three to four hours for children under age 6! With our not so well-ventilated rooms in contiguous houses, the least I could do is take him out! Those where the thoughts that raced through my mind!
The next day was busy, but you know what …when one makes something a priority, one can somehow fit it in!! My mom was leaving for Bombay, my dad’s diet and juicing needed supervision, some read alouds for Nathan, fixing lunch….. in the middle of it all, at 1 p.m. “ Nathan let’s go to the park!”
Making a virtue of the sunshine and the park, for which I’m ever so grateful, grabbed a banana and a bottle of water, and set out. He made a castle from the bricks strewn in the park. And crushed scattered lime leaves and noticed the lime tree in blossoms. I showed him the difference between buds from the blooms and he asked me, “ Where’s that girl, Thumbelina?” (ha!) For a want- to -play- ball kind of child, I was amazed at how he played with bricks, leaves and mud all by himself.. .. Just letting him be. As Charlotte puts it, ‘A good deal of letting alone!’ I enjoyed watching such freedom and was smug about putting it to practice!
I consider myself so blessed to walk in the trail blazed by others. How easy can it get!
With all this, I went back to refresh my memories on those principles I said I would follow for my preschooler. As I mould my preschooler I plan to concentrate on habit training, nature study, composer study, poetry, hymns, foreign language etc… and informal read alounds! (as suggested from the above link)
The preschool years of life is an undertaking that I now come to see as crucial and formative that will determine most of the child’s character. This enterprise which will have challenges, risks and complications and most importantly scope for growth (sounds metaphorical), but seriously taking it up with diligence and punctuality just like professionals confer on their work! Love that kind of fervency! The Creator Himself has thought the mother qualified to take on this challenging task. He will bestow special wisdom in the process, I believe… So, I cannot walk about with lack of confidence in my ability as a parent… trusting that the parent-child relationship works! Believing in His design!