Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Garden Unit Study

The weather is sunny and the soil is warm.  Why not inspire some "growth" in your homeschool with a lovely study on gardens? I am sure it will yield abundant results...

Chapter Books to Read AloudThe Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett

Short Story Read AloudMary's Meadow by Juliana Horatia Gatty Ewing (free online). A delightful story that will charm you and inspire you to create a garden.

Additional Chapter Books for independent readersRainbow Garden by Patricia St. John 

I would suggest reading together from the above chapter book for 1/2 hour a day. Read one of the pictures books per day as well since they are the non-fiction source of information in this study. (The books are just suggestions and you may use whatever you have available to you.) Then, have the children do some of the listed activities below each day according to their abilities. Include all work separately in a notebook/binder or composition book for each child. Don't forget to let them decorate their own covers with pictures of gardens, stickers or clip art! Encourage them to be creative.  By the end of a few weeks you will have a nice collection of "garden scrapbooks" to cherish as an educational keepsake..

Garden Inspired Learning Activities~


  1. compost
  2. garden
  3. mulch
  4. produce
  5. fertilize
  6. vegetable
  7. transplant
  8. soil
  9. cultivate
  10. nutrients
Bible/Penmanship/Grammar: Copy some Bible verses about gardens in your best handwriting and pay attention to punctuation as you do so.

Bible History: Read about the gardens of the Bible ~ Garden of Gethsetheme and Garden of Eden and discuss the two endings in each garden and what we can learn from them.

Science: Research which insects are good for the garden and which are harmful and make a list with two columns displaying the results.

Science/Research: Using an encyclopedia or the internet, read about "compost" and "crop rotation" and do a report about the benefits of both.

Science/Art: Using encyclopedias or the internet, read about companion planting. Draw or make a garden collage showing examples of good "companion" planting being sure to label what you planted near each other and describe the benefits of it.

Literature/Character Building: Read "Training and Restraining" from Parables from Nature by Margaret Gatty (The link will take you to the story for free). This excellent, short story will teach a lesson about the garden that is sure to bring on a good family discussion!

Science Project: Plant a garden (herbal, flower, vegetable, medicinal, etc). If you have enough land maybe each child can plant a different type of garden as suggested above.

Language Arts: Read some poems from A Child's Garden of Verses by Robert Louis Stevenson and have children copy some garden poems in their best writing making sure to pay attention to punctuation. My favorite is the book illustrated by Tasha Tudor!

Geography: On a blank world map, color the countries with and label the ten most famous gardens.

History: Research the Hanging Gardens of Babylon and write a report about it.

A Girl with a Watering Can by Renoir
Art History: Choose a favorite painting regarding a garden and do a picture study with your children.  Have them observe the painting for a few minutes a day and see what new things they notice about the picture. At the end of the week, print out a picture of it and paste on paper and have the child write their "review" of the artwork.  Some ideas are Claude Monet's Garden PaintingsVincent Van Gogh Garden Painting, or a Girl with a Watering Can by Renoir. You may also want to read a short biography of the chosen painter as well to enhance this study.

Arts/Crafts: Create and decorate your own seed packet and plant markers.

Field Trip: Go and visit a local garden in your area. You will be surprised what surrounds you!  Take plenty of pictures and scrapbook pages after your field trip to add into notebook.

Home Economics: Can something from your garden or make freezer jam with younger children.

Foreign Language: Memorize the word "garden" in the foreign language you are learning.

Science/Nature/Family: Play the Garden Game!  This beautiful game has gorgeous illustrations while educating about garden life.  An excellent investment for game night!

Science/Nature/Projects: Choose a few projects from Green Thumbs: A Kid's Activity Guide to Indoor and Outdoor Gardening (A Kid's Guide series) to do as a family.

Movie SuggestionsHomestead Blessings: The Art of Gardening,  The Secret Garden (Based on the novel)

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Loving Laundry and Learning ~ Help for Mother and Children

Laundry is basically the "gift that keeps giving"...  It never goes away.  BUT, the hostility toward the clean clothes pile in the laundry basket CAN go away!  In our household I generally do a load a day (yes, this varies depending upon your household size but this idea will work just the same).  By Thursday I usually have the "Tower of Babel" in a corner of a room just taunting me to fold them.  But I am armed now!  I shall not quiver at the demanding stack but smile and show my sweet children the newest audio book that I carry in my hand.  They are all too eager to listen to it! But those little hands must not be idle. They are excited to fold clothes and I am relieved of the next step of the laundry process.  At the same time, the audio books I choose are always character building and educational so there are many blessings to this system. To prevent slowness I usually surmise the pile and say "you have one hour to finish folding or I shut off the audio book".  The task is most likely accomplished on time with this reminder. Perhaps this will be a twice a week routine in your home or a daily routine. Later on the audio books can be used for car trips, sick children in bed or listened to while crafting, doing puzzles, etc.

Some of our favorite AUDIO DRAMA series are:

Jonathan Park Creation Adventures (Content: Creation Science/Character Building Adventures for Boys/Girls)

    Lamplighter Audio Books (Content: Historical/Classic Character Building Adventures for Boy/Girls)

    These audio books would be an excellent investment to add to the "fold"…  

    Sunday, June 19, 2011

    The Sweetest Perfume ~ For the Proverbs 31 Woman

    The Rose

    How fair is the Rose!
    what a beautiful flower!
    The glory of April and May:
    But the leaves are beginning to fade in an hour,
    And they wither and die in a day.

    Yet the Rose has one powerful virtue to boast,
    Above all the flowers of the field!
    When its leaves are all dead and fine colours are lost,
    Still how sweet a perfume it will yield!

    So frail is the youth and the beauty of man,
    Though they bloom and look gay like the Rose;
    But all our fond care to preserve them is vain,
    Time kills them as fast as he goes.

    Then I'll not be proud of my youth and my beauty,
    Since both of them wither and fade;
    But gain a good name by well doing my duty:
    This will scent like a Rose when I'm dead.

    ~ Isaac Watts

    Wednesday, June 15, 2011

    What is a Unit Study?

    I would like to start off by saying that I LOVE Unit Studies!!! I think it has something to do with my obsession with organization. It's like putting "same" items into a clear plastic container and placing a "label" on it regarding the common contents (it's a thrill every time).  The same idea is with unit studies! You have one common subject (for example: butterflies) and you teach all your subjects through it .  It's like a neatly packaged portfolio of work with a common theme. After a few weeks of covering your subject, you have a great memorial to the time you spent with your children and something for them to look back on with pleasure.  I think of them as learning scrapbooks and I save every one of them. Would you like to try one?


    Pencils, Colored Pencils, Glue Sticks, Paper, Scissors, Notebook/File Folder/Composition Book, Quality books that teach about the subject you choose.


    Here is an example...  We will use the subject of butterflies again (let us do an elementary aged study on this one).  You can put aside a week or two (depending on the attention span of your children) to study butterflies.  I do most of my teaching through unit studies though I do sprinkle in other curriculums that I deem too "yummy" to pass by (or something I don't have the capacity or desire to teach and someone else has done a beautiful job of doing it for me...) and I will go over those gems later on.  I also have a math curriculum, foreign language and Bible study that we continually do before we begin our unit study work for the day.

    Begin with Books:

    To begin, you will want to use a 3-ring notebook, file folder or composition book to put ALL your work into per student.  This will be the "learning scrapbook" that I spoke of. Remember to have your child decorate and label their own according to the subject of study. Younger children may draw a picture of a butterfly and paste on cover while an older student may want to do a scrapbook page of butterflies to decorate their cover.

    The first step would be to find a "living book" (for you Charlotte Mason fans out there, unit studies is a perfect companion to that style of teaching/learning) regarding butterflies to teach about.  For younger children (4-8 years) it would simply be a picture book such as "Are you a Butterfly" by Judy Allen and perhaps an easy chapter book such as "Caterpillar Green"by Marla Martin.  Read a few chapters a day to the children from the chapter book and do some butterfly activities (see below) and place in binder/notebook/composition book each day. It is that easy...

    • I might have my students copy (copywork) a short poem about butterflies, making sure the student is writing in their best writing and copying all the proper punctuation (you have just done your penmanship subject and language arts in one swoop). 
    • As you read the above books, make note of harder words to spell and have the child copy them down in their notebook as their spelling words for the week.  Perhaps at a young age, "wing", "larvae", "fly", "nectar", "flower" and "butterfly" would be a good week's worth (you have just completed your spelling subject for the day and having them study the list every day is spelling for those days as well).
    • Perhaps you can splurge on a "Butterfly Growing Kit" to do as a science project. A great way to showcase God's creation!  At this point you can parallel a biblical lesson on how the old chrysalis or cocoon dies away and a new creation is born!
    • Draw a butterfly and label the parts (science and nature). 
    • Paint a colorful butterfly (you guessed it ~ your art for the day). You can find a book on "How do draw insects" and include the students drawing of a butterfly (art again) in their notebooks as well.
    • Make butterfly shaped sugar cookies (you're catching on...  home economics, math and family bonding along with a nice dessert for papa when he comes home!)
    • Read about monarch butterflies and where they are from and where they migrate to and draw/label routes on a blank map (you just did geography and it didn't even hurt!). 
    I can go on and on but I think you understand by now!

    It is all about quality books and gleaning all the goodies from them while adding the morsels of information into your "scrapbook of learning".  It's THAT fun and THAT easy and is VERY productive!

    I hope you try one and see how much more interesting it is to homeschool using the Unit Study method. Your children will cherish the time together and you will have a blast reading "living" books and learning with them. You will find our list of free unit studies here.

    For more information on Unit Studies, I highly recommend this book:

    This post may be shared with some or all of the following link-ups: The Art of Home-Making MondaysModest Mom Monday'sMonday's MusingsMake Your Home Sing MondayGood Morning Mondays,  The ScoopTitus 2sdaysTitus 2 TuesdaysRoses of InspirationTuesdays with a TwistRaising HomemakersWise Woman Link UpHomestead Blog Hop Wow Us Wednesdays,  Coffee and ConversationHomemaking ThursdaysHome Sweet HomeOur Simple HomesteadFrom the Farm Blog HopFront Porch Friday Blog HopAwesome Life Friday Link UpFive Star Frou Frou FridaySimply Natural Saturdays and Clever Chicks Blog Hop. Thank you lovely ladies for hosting these.

    Wednesday, June 8, 2011

    Ideas For and How to Do a Nature Study

    “A love of nature, implanted so early that it will seem to them hereafter to have been born in them, will enrich their lives with pure interests, absorbing pursuits, health, and good humor...”
    ~ Charlotte Mason, Victorian Era Educator

    With summer on the way (or any time of year for that matter), you may want to do a family project that is both fun and educational. Something that will be a keepsake for years to come and perhaps be a family project every season...  How about doing a RELAXED nature study? I would suggest just a few tools of the trade to get started:

    First off, a composition book for each member of the family. This will be the place for you to record your information, sketches, quotes and observations. When finished, this will become a keepsake (don't forget to put the date on the inside cover).   I like using composition books because they are inexpensive (at the back to school sales) but classic and when all is said and done, they look nice and neat on your shelf (or stack neatly in a plastic storage container). I would then paste a pretty label, sticker or handmade picture on the blank space of each cover to give each family member a sense of ownership and style (nature related of course).  Isn't this fun already?

    magnifying glass would be a useful tool in order to observe any specimens that are too small to get detail. They can be purchased fairly inexpensively.  Depending on your budget you can keep a "family" one to share on hand or purchase one per "naturalist".
    Besides a pencil and glue stick, I would also add a nice set of quality colored pencils (again, if your budget allows, one set can be shared with the whole family of course).  My favorite are the Prismacolor Colored Pencils as they bring such beauty to any page!

    At this point you are ready to begin!  If you are anything like me, sometimes you need a little inspiration or perhaps you want to keep up a family read-aloud time in your home in the summer.  If this is the case, I would recommend a book that you can either read together once a day, once a week or whenever you need ideas for your nature study book entries.  We have begun reading The Story Book of Science (Yesterday's Classics) by Jean Henri Fabre.  This is an excellent book about nature written by a French naturalist in the early 1900's and is creation based and rich in vocabulary.  His love of God and creation are pouring through this little gem of a book and I know you will become inspired as you read through these pages together (you will also grow in vocabulary as well).  The author writes about his summer with his nephew and nieces as he educates them about the living world around them in story form which we think is very fun!

    For example, the first couple of chapters discuss ants.  After this interesting account you will be inspired to go outside and observe them on your own. Draw and color them, label which type of ant they are (a field guide or internet would be helpful in this area) and include a diagram of an ant by labeling the body parts. When everyone is hot and sweaty, come back into the house and find the Bible verse about ants to include as another nature study book entry (Proverbs 6:6 Go to the ant, thou sluggard...).  

    Maybe it is just too hot outside and you want to do an "indoor"nature study entry. Consider the chapters in The Story Book of Science (Yesterday's Classics) on volcanoes (or any other chapter with a subject that won't be available on your back porch) and do a different type of entry based on the author's information rather than what you are gathering outside.  Draw a volcano and diagram it. Include a list of volcanoes in your notebook (each family member can see if they can come up with one based on what they already know or learned about). Discuss the idea that Sodom and Gomorrah may have been destroyed by a volcano and why obedience to God is important.

    Another thing we like to add to our nature journal are lists. We keep adding information as it comes to us and it is very enjoyable. Some of our lists are famous naturalists, bugs we find around our home and types of butterflies we have come across, etc. Feel free to decorate the pages with drawings for a creative outlet.

    Another idea is to take your nature journal with you on your family travels.  Include samples of the nature around you such as pasting in photographs of pretty shells you find on the beach (don't forget to find a field guide and label it when you get home!).  Or include tree bark rubbings (cut and paste into nature book once done, find in field guide/online and label tree when you get home)... Include a poem about trees next to your entry... Pressed flowers or leaves you find can be added and pasted in... Include a Bible verse about flowers right next to your entry on flowers, etc.

    Or simply go on nature walks and record what you see in your notebooks. Draw the pictures of the birds you see, the trees you like and any other item of interest. Getting fresh air and discovering the little details of nature are all beneficial to the family!

    I think you get the idea.  By the time summer is over you will have a treasury of pictures, lists, diagrams, poems and Bible verses all about nature and all recorded inside one volume (not to mention all the quality time spent discussing as a family the various concepts and lessons).  This will be something to review and appreciate in the years to come! Perhaps you will continue the study every summer.  Perhaps you will continue throughout the year. However it works for your family, one thing is for certain, Nature Study Journals would only take about an hour a day but the growth and fellowship will last a life time!

    "But ask now the beasts, and they shall teach thee; and the fowls of the air, and they shall teach thee: Or speak to the earth, and it shall teach thee; and the fishes of the sea shall declare unto thee; Who knoweth not in all these that the hand of the Lord hath wrought this? In whose hand is the soul of every living thing, and the breath of all mankind." 
    ~ Job 12:7-10

    This fiction book written to encourage mothers on nature study inspired me toward nature study and was such a pleasant and peaceful read!

    Discovering Nature and Science Series

    For those of you who love this idea but don't have the time to implement it, I highly recommend these Charlotte Mason style nature studies {Affiliate Link}. The workbooks have prepared everything for the student to do on their own. There is excellent literature and nature study blended together in this curriculum (along with simple arts and crafts, hands-on activities, research, etc.).