The kids have been super excited to watch our little backyard pond and the life cycle taking place right before our very eyes.
Very fun and educational.
We’ve taken an unschooling approach to our pond study.
Here’s our little backyard pond:
This was the pond a month ago and we have enjoyed watching the plants grow and the frogs and toads frolic.
This is what the pond looks like now:
It was here when we moved in last year, but all dry and overgrown. I cleaned it up. I planted some azaleas and a Japanese maple. I have some pea gravel and want to line it with granite bricks instead of the bamboo fence. I need to trim the bushes.
The yellow irises are a lovely surprise!
And I love the yellow buttercups all over the yard. I can’t bear to mow them or pick them.
I have no idea what I’m doing, but apparently it’s a success!
We have three goldfish that survived the winter. We had a dozen or more frogs and toads last month, singing and mating and laying eggs.
The kids were absolutely fascinated watching them.
The cattails and other pond plants are flourishing.
A few weeks ago, we discovered and several clusters and strands of eggs. The clusters are from frogs and the strands are from toads.
The kids explored the neighbor’s larger pond with lots of tadpoles. Love this pic, taken by our neighbor!
We also drove to a couple nearby larger ponds to explore and compare with our tiny backyard pond.
This heron has learned that the bread thrown by humans attracts the minnows. He uses the bread as bait so he can eat the minnows!
Tori loves turtles!
I love the Charlotte Mason, Montessori, and Unschooling methods of learning.
The children are responsible for their education, with just a little guidance from the parent or teacher. They are led but what delights them, are independent, and are not externally rewarded.
They develop a love of learning.
What’s the difference between the methods I mentioned?
Charlotte Mason: “Education is an Atmosphere, a Discipline, a Life.” We keep lessons short and don’t work on every subject every day. We read, read, read living books and explore.
Montessori: “a system of education for young children that seeks to develop natural interests and activities rather than use formal teaching methods.” I provide many opportunities for the children to learn individually and naturally with open-ended activities.
Unschooling: “puts the desire, drive, motive and responsibility for life – this thing we call learning, or education – in the hands of the learner.” I am open to many different options for learning and don’t just rely on prepared curriculum.
How we learned about pond life:
We watched the plants bloom and grow and the critters move about. We discussed what they were doing over a period of several weeks.
We used a variety of reading materials to further explore – online articles, from the library, from our home bookshelves, encyclopedias. We love The Handbook of Nature Study for lessons on our natural world.
We looked up videos of frogs and toads online and watched different parts of the life cycle. We compared the different species at different times.
We have open-ended pages to draw and journal about our learning experiences. The kids write and draw about what they found most fascinating. They asked for pages on frogs, toads, irises, ferns, snails, wildflowers, cattails, and more! All pages are different and original.
- It’s important that I am excited about learning with my kids (and sometimes moreso!) My excitement is surely contagious and I show my children it’s safe and ok to get excited about what we’re learning.
- Many extended learning opportunities. I provide books and websites, notebooking pages, videos, field trips, library trips for more books. We all do love to read and books are super important to us. I have modeled a love for reading since before my kids were born.
- Lots of oral discussion. I love listening to my kids and answering their questions as we learn. I always want them to feel safe to ask the hard and uncomfortable questions.
- Projects and crafts. My kids learn best by doing. They love to create as they learn, so providing them opportunities to draw and be artistic is good for them and helps them understand concepts.
I’ve found that when I don’t stress with checklists, schedules, curriculum…my kids naturally learn and explore and exceed my expectations with their school work!
- Notability app for iPads for fun clipart, presentations, and graphic design. My kids love to create books about their favorite topics!
- Productive Homeschooling for printables and online creation. My kids love the beautiful designs and many options for notebooking pages!
- Handbook of Nature Study blog – great printables, challenges, and ideas for learning about nature and art.
- BBC Nature Documentaries – great video education in a British accent
- Cornell Ornithology Lab – tons of info about birds, including their calls, videos, coloring pages, and more!
- My Nature Study Pinterest board has lots of great ideas and lesson resources.