Keeping a Nature Notebook


Most homeschool teacher-parents realize the importance of nature as they study with their children.  It teaches so many things — of science, art, ecology, physical education, observation skills, and of God’s care.  With thoughtful attention, even math, history, language arts can be taught in nature.  Treasure and scavenger hunts in the back yard support observation skills and mathematics if designed properly.  And there’s no better way for a primary age child to learn how to write the alphabet than with a stick in the sand.  Following famous footsteps, like hiking along the Oregon Trail, combine nature with history.  A well-prepared parent will be full of stories to share as the hike progresses.  Nature provides many opportunities for a teacher-parent to create mini unit studies that enhance learning.  It doesn’t need to be difficult or complicated.  Try putting together a one-day unit study that uses nature as the classroom and teaches across the curriculum.  You will be sure to have the interest of all ages!  And after a long winter of dreary days, spring is the perfect time to implement this.


Keeping a nature journal or notebook is an easy way to tie everything together.  I like the idea of using both to implement nature studies.  A small journal with both lined and unlined pages works to write sentences and paragraphs about things observed.  The blank pages work great for sketching, watercolor, or chalk drawings.  And a notebook works great for quick notes and for collections.  Gallon size zip-lock bags, punched with a three-hole punch, make pages.  Using twelve gives students one for each month of the year.  Page dividers, marked January through December, give the child a place to put notebook paper, their zip-lock bag for that month, and handouts from their teacher-parent that might be helpful in their nature study.  Mini field guides, diagrams of the parts of trees or flowers, or scanned photos of birds, animals, or bugs give them guidelines as they search and identify in the outdoors.  Plants and leaves gathered can be brought home to press and dry, and later can be glued or taped to notebook pages and marked according to identifying parts. A story could even be written about the objects in the notebook or about the events leading up to gathering what is shown.  Scripture can be quoted and copied as it pertains to things seen or gathered.  Handwriting practiced.  A camera that takes photos that can be downloaded into a computer and then printed and put in a notebook is a great way for a child to document and learn.  There are no age limits!  From preschool through adulthood, this is a learning adventure that encompasses all ages!  Creative, active, and enriching, a nature notebook is a fun way to enjoy God’s creation and apply it to everyday learning and lifestyle.

*The snowdrops in my garden burst into bloom a few days ago. It’s delightful to have flowers in February!

The Portable Classroom

I recently came across what I think might be one of the best homeschool ideas I’ve seen yet. And it wasn’t on Pinterest (gasp!).


Imagine if you will, children who are bored or tired of sitting through their lessons. Hard, right? They don’t want to sit still, they don’t want to listen, they don’t want to work.

What’s a mama to do?

Friends, I present to you “The Portable Classroom.”

Remember, this is not my idea. A friend just sent me the SonLight downloaded curriculum on a thumb drive, and among the many files I found this little gem.

There are 2 lists of recommended materials – the classroom list, and the portable classroom list.

As I read it, I kept thinking to myself that this is pure genius!

I carry a backpack with me when we go out anyway… why not have things at hand to that learning can happen anywhere, anytime?!

Maybe you already knew about this idea. Maybe everyone already knows about it. Oh dear, maybe I’m the last one to find out.

Ideas for the Portable Classroom backpack:


Small white board and dry erase markers


Paper on a clipboard and pencils


Pocket guides (animals, trees, birds, etc. native to your area)

Small jars (baby food jars?) with small holes punched in the lid

Magnifying glass


Scissors, tweezers, pocket knife, etc

Ziplock bags

SonLight has several books and pages to print out that are made for this very reason, I encourage you to look into them! There is a nature study book, a printout on identifying animal tracks, and more!

Let your child pack his/her own backpack (obviously the younger they are the more help they’ll need), and you pack the teacher backpack. Have them ready by the door so that when you need a break, need to go out, or are planning a fun adventure your portable classroom is ready to go!

I love this idea because I would love for my children to know that learning can happen anywhere, and that nature is a classroom in and of itself. There is so much to see and learn and explore!


Writing an Educational Philosophy: My Experience & a “How-to” Guide

Have you ever tried burying a time capsule? Well, I haven’t. Or I didn’t think I had . . . until I ran across a document written 8 years ago, when I started this journey called homeschooling.

I remember writing it. It seemed like a highly [possibly futile] academic exercise at the time, but a couple of “THE books” recommended putting down, on paper, an Educational Philosophy, including a list of long-term goals for your child/student. So I did it. For several reasons, not the least of which was that I occasionally fall into the “Type A” personality bracket, I am exceptionally competitive (academically; don’t put me on a snowboard!), and I was going to be darned if I was going to fail as a homeschooling parent! I would do everything I was supposed to do to make this successful. To make sure my child was/is/will be successful. End of story–for then.

So I wrote “My Educational Philosophy”. It sounded grand. It was grand! And I just rediscovered this classic document, encased in plastic (apparently so it wouldn’t meet a sudden death by a Great Food Mishap . . . or excessive fondling, LOL).

This single piece of paper brings a smile to my face now. Full of idealism and lofty language, the four paragraphs seem more like a presidential-hopeful’s speech than anything else! Words and phrases like: foster, respect, exploring, discovering, “effort to maintain excitement for learning,” “love for the subject is permeable”, “utilizing techniques and approaches” pepper the page. It’s not bad. But after 7 years of homeschooling my children, I smile because that still-white page represents precious dreams that have come true, a journey not yet completed, and dreams that should remain just that . . . dreams.

Being the personality type I’ve already described above, I’ve marked the original document with notes for changes. A revision is in order! But why put the effort in now, after I’ve marked off 7 years of experience and probably referred to this grandiose language exactly once during that time? Here’s why:

  • Those words, phrases & dreams gave shape to our homeschool program. Though I never looked at them again, composing the document plastered the concepts within to my mind and heart. It is good to have ideals.
  • Writing an educational philosophy can assist in planning by narrowing down your curriculum options and helping you to organize your thoughts. This is the main reason to perform this exercise as a beginner. Even experienced homeschool parents can get distracted by shiny new curricula on an iPad, though, so having specific goals and plans can help maintain focus. Or give you a reason to buy the shiny new curricula!
  • Specific goals can also guide your budget by prioritizing what is most important and what can be left alone for the time being.
  • It’s good for the soul to mark growth on a long journey. When we look at where we started and mark off key milestones, courage to move forward blossoms.
  • It’s simply rejuvenating. Let’s face it: homeschooling isn’t easy. Burnout lurks around the corner. Recharging your batteries might be as simple as revisiting the passions, desires and goals that led you down this path in the first place. Find that love again.

Now let’s get down to the basics: what is an Educational Philosophy?

  • There are courses in educational philosophy. That’s the long answer.
  • Short answer: the WHAT, WHO, HOW, WHEN & WHERE of teaching and learning.

What should you can you include in your very own Educational Philosophy?

  • The purpose of education–from your perspective. Why do you value education? What’s most important to you?
  • The role of the teacher and the role of the student. (Is the teacher there to impart knowledge or steer the students toward resources? How should the student interact with information or the teacher?)
  • Is your home the center of training for your children? How does this affect academic endeavors?
  • How do your religious beliefs &/or practices factor into homeschooling?
  • How do you think your children learn best? (A learning styles inventory, available online, might be helpful to you.)
  • What are your goals for your children? Don’t be afraid to branch out of “academics” with these goals! The beauty of homeschooling is that we can address the WHOLE child and not chop their education into separate parts. Their spiritual selves are developing at the same time they are learning sentence structure and multiplying fractions.
  • You might wish to ponder Long-term Goals for your child that would encompass several years, or even through high school &/or college. (Short-term goals would be for a particular semester or year, and be separate from this document.)
  • How will you balance the needs of individual students with your toddler’s needs? (Thinking about this ahead of time might lead to problem-solving solutions before you’re frustrated and pulling your hair out! Trust me.)
  • What kind of a presence will your student/homeschool have in the community? In your church? With the neighbors? Work- and service-oriented goals may apply here.
  • Have you studied various education &/or homeschooling philosophies? This would be a good place to expound on how you will use a certain philosophy or method and why you agree with such-and-such a philosophy.
  • How will you use (&/or not use) technology in your homeschool?
  • You may choose to list how each parent will be involved in the homeschool and what your qualifications are, though this is certainly optional.

You may choose to write your Educational Philosophy with just a few core components from the list above. Doing so will give your homeschool experience direction; clarity. If exploring more than this is overwhelming, stop here. Congratulations! Put that baby in plastic and tack it to a bulletin board!

Should you enjoy delving deeply into homeschooling/educational philosophy and methods, here are a few more questions & some resources that I’ve found helpful:

  • What teaching methods will you employ? Wikipedia has some simple definitions of teaching methods. This site goes overboard with 150 examples:
  • How will you know when a student has learned a concept or the required information? Educators call this “assessment” and there are various ways to measure a student’s knowledge of a subject. Here’s a link that might help:
  • Raymond Moore was one of the fathers of the homeschool movement. This foresighted Seventh-day Adventist educator helped many, many families in their homeschool journeys. He’s now deceased, but here’s a link to his foundation’s site:
  • There may be books in your local library about homeschooling philosophy. Mary Pride’s Complete Guide to Homeschooling was the one I borrowed & found immensely helpful in dissecting the various homeschool philosophies and methods. Reading this book gave me a bird’s eye view of the homeschooling world, including key terms that I was able to use to search more efficiently for my own homeschool curriculum. Another book in the same category is Debra Bell’s Ultimate Guide to Homeschooling. Peruse your local library for other offerings.
  • For the Children’s Sake, by Susan Schaeffer McCauley, follows the Charlotte Mason philosophy & methods of homeschooling. She outlines beautiful ideals and principles with some practical application.
  • Ellen White’s classic book, Child Guidance, can be found as a pdf document here:
  • Try googling key terms such as:

–Homeschooling philosophy and methods
–Classical Education
–Charlotte Mason philosophy and methods
–Unit Study Homeschool method
–Unschooling, delight-directed method, relaxed homeschool method
–Literature-based homeschooling method
–Eclectic homeschooling method
–Independent study homeschool method
–(you will find more, but this can get you started!)
(If you are an experienced homeschooler reading this, and you don’t see something listed that you have used, feel free to list your resources in the comment section!)

Developing your own Educational Philosophy, and putting it down on paper, can be an invaluable tool to guide your homeschool experience. Don’t forget that it is your own document, based on God’s guidance and your family’s particular situation/needs, so should you find that it’s not working for your family, please revise it! This is a tool for your homeschool, not the law.

If nothing else, an Educational Philosophy makes an interesting Time Capsule. But I hope you’ll find the process helpful, too.




Snatched away!!!

Child stolen!!!

These are all headlines that place a fear in any parents hearts. Who would take someone’s child? How would I feel if it was my child? What would I do?

Currently one of the most famous cases of kidnapping in the media is of a British child called Madeleine McCann. In 2007, the then 3 year old Madeleine, was snatched from a holiday unit in Portugal. Her parents were devastated. They have set up a world wide campaign to find their daughter. Her photo has been in every country, on billboards, on posters, in airports, on t shirts and in newspapers. Millions and millions of dollars have been raised to investigate into her disappearance. People from around the world have thought they have sited her and those sitings have been investigated from Morocco to Spain to New Zealand. Since 2007, almost every week, this famous case hits the headlines somewhere in the world and always in Britain. The Portuguese Police have led a full investigation, private detectives have been hired, now Scotland Yard, the world’s famous investigators are working on the case.The parents are leaving no stone unturned in the rescue of their daughter.

Why are Madeleine’s parents putting all of their resources, time, energies and their entire life into rescuing their daughter Madeleine? They do it because of love. They love Madeleine.

It makes me think that all of us have been kidnapped and we don’t even know it. This one solitary planet in an entire universe has been hijacked. Back in the garden of Eden satan, through deception, kidnapped this planet and it’s dominion passed into his hands. Each one of us finds ourselves stolen away from God. God has set in motion an entire search and rescue operation. His love for us drives Him to do everything He can to bring us back to Him. He has emptied heaven of all it’s resources, time and energies in our rescue. He leaves no stone unturned in working to bring us back to Him. God’s own son even laid down His own life to bring about our full and complete rescue.

Col 1:13 For He rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son

Gal 1:3,4 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for our sins so that He might rescue us from this present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father,to whom be the glory forevermore. Amen.

By the work of Jesus Christ, we have been rescued from the domain of darkness and we have been returned to our rightful Father who loves us, created us and saved us.

The question remains. Do I want to be rescued?

What Does a Real Homeschooler Look Like Anyway?


Musings of a Retired Home School Mom

In my little rural corner of the world in the mid to late 1980s homeschoolers were few and far between. They were actually so few and far between that I didn’t know of one single person in my whole county that was doing it. The homeschooling magazine that I subscribed was my only connection to the world of homeschooling. It always featured a photo on their cover of a homeschooling family, along with an article inside describing the family and their homeschool.

The families were always large, sometimes quite large. (Was having 6, 8, or even 10 kids a prerequisite for homeschooling?) The women in the families always wore their hair long, wore dresses, and all of their dresses usually matched. (Interestingly, when I was getting ready to write this blog I did an internet search to see if the magazine was still in existence. Believe it or not, the cover family on the current issue looks exactly the same as those from back in the day.)  The description of their families and their homeschools seemed very patriarchal; not at all like the more relaxed, cooperative relationship that my husband I had with one another, or the descriptions of homeschooling that I had read about in Dr. Moore’s books. Was this what homeschoolers all looked like? I didn’t know, because I had never met one before.

It wasn’t long before I had the chance. At the time we lived in a small, rural town with a population of 238. I heard through the grapevine that a homeschooling family had moved to a rental house just a couple of miles out of town. I decided to pay them a visit, introduce myself and see what I could learn from a real, live homeschooler. When I got there, the family was exactly like all of the ones I had read about. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that.) I asked her to show me how they did homeschool.

She got out some workbooks that were just printed in black and white. There were no colored pictures at all. She showed me some charts that they used to check off when they had finished a lesson or project and that was it. I felt kind of let down. This wasn’t at all what I thought homeschooling would be like. How was I ever going to know how to do this?

The family soon moved away, and we began homeschooling and forged our own way. We didn’t look or act like the families on the glossy cover of the homeschooling magazine. We fumbled a few times, but recovered and carried on. And surprisingly over the next few years I would hear about one homeschooling family, and then another, and another. After several years there were enough of us to get together and meet as a group.  None of us looked alike. There were large families and small families. There were women that only wore dresses, and women that never wore a dress. There were families that were borderline unschoolers and families that mostly did “school at home.” There were Catholics, Baptists, Methodists, Pentecostals, a Seventh-day Adventist, and more. We all got along and respected our differences. Our common ground was homeschooling.

During this same time I was active in moderating an e-mail list for Seventh-day Adventists.  I went into the job thinking that all  Adventists dressed, worshiped, thought and acted the same way. When I stepped down from that position over a decade later, I realized that there was just as much diversity among Adventists as there was in our local group. The biggest difference between the two groups was the diversity among the Adventist group caused controversy and conflict. For some reason we couldn’t seem to accept our differences and support anyone that didn’t fit into our picture of we thought  an Adventist should look like.

I am thankful for that experience. It opened my eyes and helped me to become a more balanced and accepting person. I realized that even though you and I might not agree on what version of the Bible to use, whether it’s okay to wear jewelry or not, whether we should only wear dresses, eat meat or be vegan, attend a celebration church with a praise band or only sing hymns, we all are homeschooling because we want to do the very best for our children. That’s the bottom line! I pray that someday we will all be able to get together for a big Adventist homeschoolers’ reunion under the Tree of Life, no matter what our differences here on earth might have been; and that all of our children will be there with us because we did the very best that we could for them while we were here on earth.