Monday, September 22, 2008

Introducing Beauty to the Day

In addition to our core school subjects, I try to incorporate a few other things that I feel are important-- poetry, classical music, great art, and the study of nature. These things add beauty and substance. You certainly don't have to be a homeschooler either! Anyone can introduce beauty to their child or to the whole family. The best part about it is most of it is free. You don't need a curriculum-- just be creative!

At first glance, this can seem overwhelming, but we don't do everything every day by any means! We try to just make it part of life.

Since the kids were tiny (a few months old), I've been reading and reciting nursery rhymes to them. While nursery rhymes can be silly, they are a form of poetry! We have several nursery rhyme books that Gavin and Maddie enjoy "reading" to Owen.

You don't have to wait long to begin introducing more sophisticated poetry to children. We own several good poetry collections. The kids' favorite is Eloise Wilkin's Poems to Read to the Very Young. We also have Favorite Poems, Old and New edited by Helen Farris. The library has numerous books of poetry if you don't have any on your own bookshelves.

In addition to listening to beautiful words, I require them to memorize a poem every so often, too. It is amazing how fast they can commit the words to memory! Some of the first lines Owen (2) recited were from nursery rhymes he had heard. Gavin (5) and Maddie (4) can memorize longer poems such as "Time to Rise" by Robert Louis Stevenson and "The Road Not Taken" by Robert Frost.

Classical Music
Why not introduce children to classical music when they are young? Last year, we focused on Peter and the Wolf for the first half of the year. We listened to the selection, learned the story being told, read a book adaptation, and watched a video interpretation. The second half of the year we focused on Beethoven. We listened to several of his famous works and learned a bit about his life (through an easy biography and several children's videos). This year, we have started with The William Tell Overture which is proving to be Gavin's favorite so far.

Great Art
This one is hard for me because I've never been personally interested in art. However, I've learned to appreciate it and I want the kids to do the same. Last year, we spend a lot of time with Claude Monet. We started with a print of Monet's "Waterlilies" and just looked at it periodically. Sometimes we pointed out colors we saw. Sometimes we held it close to our eyes and then far away to understand how Impressionists painted. Sometimes we pointed out things we had never noticed before...anything to get the kids (and me...and sometimes Daddy, too) to really study the artwork. After a month or two, we started studying another of Monet's painting and did the same kinds of things. I'll never forget taking Gavin to a restroom at the mall and as we were walking down the hall, he looked up a large floral painting on the wall and said, "Hey, Mama, that looks like a Monet!" The woman walking in front of us just about fell over when she looked back and saw a 5-year-old!

Along with viewing the artist work, we also briefly studied their life just to get a feel for who the artist was.

After Monet, we spent some time last year with Norman Rockwell and this year, we plan to study a few paintings of Degas since Maddie is starting ballet classes this fall. It is easy to find copies of great pieces of art to print off of the Internet. Another source of art is calendars. Check local stores in January to find calendars at a greatly reduced price.

The Study of Nature
is Gavin's very favorite part of school! It is so easy, too. (This is hindered only by the fact that I'm just not an outdoor person!) We take nature walks (in a variety of settings, including our in-town street) or simply go outside to observe nature as often as we can. The kids each have a sketch pad that they add to often. They can include drawing/sketches of things they see, leaves they've collected, flowers they've pressed, photographs of animals, anything they wish. We try to label the books as best we can with a date and the name of the object. It is fun to visit the same location in different seasons to see how trees, flowers, clouds, etc. change with the weather. While I point out things I think will be of interest, I try to leave most of the observations to the kids. I let them touch, smell, and see what fascinates them.


  1. I really enjoy hearing about your schooling with your children. How, exactly, did you start school with your kids? I know you mentioned B5iaR, but did you just one day announce "school!" or build it up first so the kids were excited about starting? I have a 2 year-old and I want to start some type of slightly structured learning when he's about 2 1/2. Any suggestions?

  2. These are wonderful ideas!!! I love how you make everything a learning process for them... how focused and intention it is, but yet at their pace, learing in thier time, and in their comfort levels!

    Great job!
    Many blessings-

  3. I started slightly structured learning (Before Five in A Row mostly) when Gavin was 3 1/2 and Maddie was 2. I never really built it up as anything besides, "We're going to read a neat book and do some activities with it." Slowly, I started referring to it as "school."

    The next year, I started kindergarten with Gavin (when he was 4 1/2) and we did similar stuff only slightly more structured. Maddie participated in what she was able to do which even included kindergarten math for awhile (maybe half the year).

    This year, Gavin is in 1st grade and Maddie is doing slightly structured pre-school and Owen is doing barely structured activies a few days a week.

    I guess what I'm trying to say is it is a gradual process and the kids hardly realize they are doing "school."

  4. I agree with Amanda. I love reading about your schooling for the kids.


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