Anyone who’s been homeschooling long enough has likely experienced the winter slump–that little gray zone after the holidays and before the spring thaw when everyone is suffering from a mix of boredom, cabin fever, and a lack of motivation.
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““I cannot endure to waste anything so precious as autumnal sunshine by staying in the house.” – Nathaniel Hawthorne
This week started with blisteringly hot days and ended with the arrival of autumn, but only after a two hour haul into the mountains on Saturday to see the aspen gold. Every year, we drive up to Summit County to celebrate the equinox because it usually aligns perfectly with peek colors in high-country leaves. Autumn is my favorite season, and this day trip didn’t disappoint.
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Last winter, we went through a few months of medical issues with a close family member that required a lot of driving back and forth across the Colorado front range. Normally, this sort of upheaval of our “usual routine” would have made me feel anxious and unsettled, but thanks to the Brave Writer lifestyle (and Julie Bogart’s endless, soothing wisdom), I accepted that things would just need to be a little bit looser in this season of our homeschooling life.
If a homeschool fairy swooped down one day and told me I could only choose three tools to teach my children, I’d like to think I would not hesitate. I would smile and reply, “Books, nature, and open-ended art supplies.” But my answer is a sneaky one. I firmly believe that, at least in the early grades, you can teach just about every subject with these three things.
In our homeschool, our morning and evening baskets are a way to introduce a variety of content–in both fiction and non-fiction format–in a very relaxed and cozy setting. On any given day, both baskets are filled with everything from Roald Dahl and Beatrix Potter to Life of Fred and Robert Frost poems. Atlases, maps, and history encyclopedias wait eagerly beside ABC books, Eric Carle stories, and a book of famous women explorers. Harry Potter rests against a tiny chemistry book and the Burgess animals share space with a guide to Rocky Mountain insects.
Peanut butter and jelly. Peas and carrots. Peaches and cream. STEAM and nature study.
Yes, they belong together that much. This isn’t a new concept, it’s just that back in the olden days when we were kids, they didn’t call it “STEAM” (or “science, technology, engineering, art, and math.”) But we built forts, bridges, and hide-aways none the less. We forged ramps for our bikes, pulleys to get snacks to the top of the tree, and leaf crowns for our heads. We rigged up makeshift roller coasters, launched pinecones with homemade catapults, and sent crude little boats down drainage ditches. Most of us spent our childhood steeped in STEAM outside, from the time the sun came up until the street lights came on.
Edwin Hubble said, “Equipped with his five senses, man explores the universe around him and calls the adventure Science.” Of equal notability (in my humble opinion), Richard Louv said “If we are going to save environmentalism and the environment, we must also save an endangered indicator species: the child in nature.”