Time for Reflection: A Time for Ideas

“Education is a life. That life needs ideas to keep it alive. Ideas come from a spiritual place, and God has created us so that we get ideas in the same way we pass them on to others: by expressing them in talk, or printed words, or the text of Scripture, or music.” Charlotte Mason, volume 6, page 109

Eighth grade is finished for the fourth time in our house. It is bittersweet.

All four times we taught this grade, usually American history, in different ways with different books and different styles. Nine years ago we taught with textbooks, seven years ago we did unit studies, last year we used The Well-Trained Mind suggestions since we had covered American history using Sonlight a few years earlier, and this year we used Ambleside Online’s year 9 with some modifications for my son’s interests. Can you guess which year I liked best?

That really is an unfair question because for each child the experience was tailored to meet their personality. For instance with my oldest child we used a textbook for eighth grade history but there were lots of things we did to supplement her learning. That was the year of learning American history through the lens of women in history. We based the year on making a quilt and learned all about the history of quilting in the early colonies, for women who were slaves, and then pioneer women. We read lots of biographies of women in American history like Abigail Adams, Susan B. Anthony, Harriet Tubman, and Amelia Earhart and discussed admirable qualities that each woman possessed. We read about colonial women, pioneer women, women of faith, and women in science and the arts. We baked, sewed, sang, and read about that period of time and both of us still remember that year with fond memories because it may have included reading a textbook but it was so much more than that because we got to know the time period and the people and what made them tick.

You get the idea. Even though I had never heard of Charlotte Mason when I was homeschooling eighth grade with my oldest two, I was still looking for living books, real stories, and trying to get to know the real people we were reading about in our text. It was really about hearing their ideas through our reading and activities.

” When a child is very young, it doesn’t seem to make any difference what philosophical idea we had when we educated them, whether we had the notion of filling a bucket, writing on a blank slate, molding a lump of clay, or nourishing a life. But as the child grows, we’ll come to find that the only things that are assimilated into who he becomes are the ideas that fed and nourished his mind.”
Charlotte Mason volume 6, page 108

Some days I want to call for a “do over” and start from the very beginning again homeschooling my children, not because I regret the methods I used but rather because I want to savor each year again. Reading the books, sharing the minute details of each day, watching the light bulb moments, watching them grow spiritually, and sharing the adventure all over.

It seems I blinked and arrived somehow at the present day where I realize my children have become four intelligent, thinking, creative, loving, God-fearing beings. They are people I love to be with.

There is still an unfamiliar path ahead of us but it is nice to be sitting here at this moment feeling like I have already accomplished more than I ever set out to accomplish in the homeschooling world….both within my family, in my community, and with others around the globe. As the saying goes, “It has been some ride.”

Four more years lie ahead to be filled with lots more learning alongside my boys. This is the spot in the road that we have been working for all these years. So many directions to explore and people both past and present to get to know in the days to come. I will try to remind myself that it is the ideas that matter, not the particular books or plans.

I can see the finish line of in the distance but somehow I don’t feel in a hurry to get there.

Barb-Harmony Art Mom

High School Science and Charlotte Mason

“His parents know that the first step in intimacy is recognition; and they will measure his education, not solely by his progress in the ‘three R’s,’ but by the number of living and growing things he knows by look, name, and habitat. A child of six will note with eager interest the order of time in which the trees put on their leaves; will tell you whether to look in hedge, or meadow, or copse, for eyebright, wood-sorrel, ground-ivy; will not think that flowers were made to be plucked, for––
‘Tis (his) faith that every flower
Enjoys the air it breathes”––

but will take his friends to see where the milk-wort grows, or the bog-bean, or the sweet-gale. The birds of the air are no longer casual; he soon knows when and where to expect the redstart and the meadow pipit. The water-skater and the dragon-fly are interesting and admired acquaintances. His eyes have sparkled at the beauty of crystals, and, though he may not have been able to find them in situ, he knows the look of the crystals of lime and quartz, and the lovely pink of felspar, and many more.” Charlotte Mason, volume 3, chapter 7, page 76 (original text)

This was our first year of high school using the Charlotte Mason method with my 14 year old son. I followed the Ambleside Online’s recommendation and used Apologia Biology along with the companion CD and the dissection lab kit. At the beginning of the year I was nervous that the textbook approach to biology would dampen our living books and nature study style of learning. It has proven not to be so.

I wrote a post back in November 2007 about our plans but now that the year is over, or very close to it, I thought I would update my thoughts so when I use this course again with my younger son, I would have it all in one place and it will perhaps help another mom who is trying to transition to a more textbook approach to high school using the Charlotte Mason style.

If you are interested in seeing the table of contents for Apologia’s Biology course, here is the link.
Apologia Biology Table of Contents

We did not do all of the items listed but we did do quite a few of them. If you have already completed a nature study focus listed in a module, you could just review your nature journals and your field guide cards to refresh your memories. We actually completed a focused study of insects, birds, and small mammals this year. We are currently working on a focused study of garden plants using the Handbook of Nature Study.

Here are the ideas we have for adding in nature study and living books to Apologia Biology.

Module 1:
Read biography of Carl Linnaeus
Read Microbe Hunters, chapter 1 Leeuwenhoek

Module 2:
Read Microbe Hunters, chapter 2 Spallanzani and chapter 3 Pasteur
Start a pond study to complement the study of microscopic organisms-protozoa
Use A Golden Guide to Pond Life
Read biography of Louis Pasteur

Module 3:
Continue pond study-algae
Handbook of Nature Study section on insects of the brook and pond

Module 4:
Nature study focus on mushrooms and other fungi
Work with yeast
Work with molds

Modules 5-7:
The Biology Coloring Book by Robert Griffin-color appropriate pages to help visualize the abstract concepts in these modules

Module 8:
Growing pea plants to support Mendelian genetic study (just for fun)
Read a biography of Gregor Mendel
Grow radishes as part of experiment 8.4

Module 9:
Read a biography of Charles Darwin
Handbook of Nature Study section on rocks and minerals

Module 11:
Dissection of an earthworm
Nature study focus on Invertebrates-garden snails, earthworms
Handbook of Nature Study section on invertebrate animals other than insects

Module 12:
Nature study focus on arachnida (spiders) and/or insects and/or lepidoptera
Dissection of a crayfish
Handbook of Nature Study section on insects

Module 13:
Dissection of a perch and a frog
Nature study focus on amphibians
Handbook of Nature Study section on fishes
Handbook of Nature Study section on amphibians

Module 14:
Collect leaf samples
Nature study focus on flowerless plants
Handbook of Nature Study section on flowerless plants

Module 15:
Insectivorous plants-observe a Venus Flytrap or Sundew
Nature study focus on garden flowers-parts of a flower
Collect and press flowers
Germinate seeds
Handbook of Nature Study section on plants/garden flowers

Module 16:
Nature study focus on birds, reptiles, or mammals
Handbook of Nature Study section on birds
Handbook of Nature Study section on reptiles
Handbook of Nature Study section on mammals

In addition to this, he read the following books and kept a commonplace book:
The Yosemite by John Muir
The Story of Science: Aristotle Leads the Way by Joy Hakim

We kept a nature journal and we used the following field guides:
Peterson Field Guides: Western Birds
Peterson Field Guides: Western Trees
National Audubon Society Field Guide to Reptiles and Amphibians
National Audubon Society Field Guide to Insects and Spiders
National Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Wildflowers
Mammals of California by E.W. Jameson, Jr., and Hans J. Peeters

If you would like to have links to the books we used this year, you can visit my page that outlines our whole ninth grade curriculum. You will need to scroll down to the science section but there are links to Amazon.com for each book listed above except for the field guides.
Well-Trained Mind: Grade Nine (with a Charlotte Mason Twist)

So there you have it. This year has opened up my eyes to how easy it was to keep with our Charlotte Mason ideas for learning if you are alert to opportunities that come up. Next year we are continuing with our study of biology and focus on marine life with Apologia’s Marine Biology textbook. When I get my thoughts and ideas together for that book, I will share those too.

Barb-Harmony Art Mom

Drawing With Children-Les 5 Watercolors in Your Nature Journal



Watercoloring is the medium that I will share with you this time and show you how we use it in our personal nature journals. I know there are lots of ways to incorporate watercolors into your nature study but I will focus on how to do so in your journals while you are out and about.

Please note: Nature journals take many forms. What my journal looks like is different than what yours will look like. The idea of offering this series of Drawing with Children entries for nature journals has been to offer different ideas and ways to go about keeping a record for your personal enjoyment. I have shared before that we don’t always make an entry with every hike or outing. I make lots of entries and my boys make a few entries. If you are interested in seeing the variety of ideas we incorporate in our journals….here is an entry I wrote awhile back.

Drawing in Your Nature Journal
-My personal journal and thoughts on how to make it your own

So if you are reading Drawing with Children by Mona Brookes, you can follow along with her lessons for watercolors on pages 167-169. Here she gives you step by step instructions for offering watercolors to your children. I would suggest following the lesson and then letting your children practice on watercolor paper. After you feel comfortable with the medium, try using it in your nature journal.

We take our journaling supplies with us on every trip we take. Our recent trip to the desert in Arizona was no exception. Here is a photo of what I packed to take along with us in case we felt inclined to stop and draw.

This is the dollar store box that holds all the supplies. I am sure you can find something similar if you try the dollar store or Wal*Mart or another local discount store. This one is the perfect size for slipping into a backpack.

Here is what I take along inside. From left to right:
Prang semi-moist watercolors-purchased at Michael’s
Ziploc bag with assorted sizes of brushes
Scissors-never know when you will need these πŸ™‚
Small yogurt cup for water
Black gel roller pen
Prismacolor Watercolor Pencils in a metal box (underneath the sketch books)
Sketch book 9 x 6 size with 60 lb paper- I carry two of these so the boys can use one too

That’s it. I rarely need more than that for “on the road” sketching and painting. Inside the watercolor pencil box I do carry an extra sketch pencil. I don’t worry about carrying water since we either have a water bottle along on the hike or we find some water where we are going like in a lake, a stream, or a river.

Sometimes I will sketch with a pen and then watercolor it later.


I also have been trying out some watercolor crayons in my nature journal. You can see a video I made showing how to make a watercolor leaf using this media.

Watercolor Crayons in My Nature Journal


Here are the rest of the Lessons:

Lesson 1 – Getting Started

Lesson 2 – Drawing from Graphics

Lesson 3 – Still Life

Lesson 4 – Volume Drawing

Lesson 5 – Conte Crayons

Lesson 5 – Chalk Pastels

Lesson 5 – Drawing Pencils

Lesson 5 – Colored Pencils

Lesson 5 – Oil Pastels

Lesson 5 – Watercolors

Click to each lesson for adaptations, suggestions, and videos.


You can download all the Drawing With Children – Nature Journal Style Lesson Plans here: Drawing with Children Lesson 1 – Getting Started.


Cover Grade 4

Please note that Drawing With Children is part of the Harmony Fine Arts Grade 4 Curriculum. You can click over to read more about this art and music appreciation plan here:

Harmony Fine Arts Grade 4 – Explanation

Harmony Fine Arts Grade 4 – Sample

The plans in Harmony Fine Arts Grade 4 relate the lessons to a study of great art and artists. Please see page 9 in the sample linked above to get an idea how I do this in the plans.

Supplies Needed for the Lesson Above

Please note these are Amazon affiliate links to products I own and recommend.

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