Tag Archive for Charlotte Mason

A Parenting Gem from Charlotte Mason, That Nearly Every Other Parenting Book Missed

I’m re-reading Home Education by Charlotte Mason and I stumbled upon this nugget of mothering goodness that stayed with me for months and wanted to share it, as I don’t recall ever reading it explained this way anywhere else.

(And let’s be honest, you’ve seen my bookshelves! I’ve spent hundreds of dollars on parenting and education books.)

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Charlotte Mason, as you might recall, was an educator in England during late 1800’s, known for her compassionate heart for the plight of children and her keen observations about what made them tick.

She knew how to win their hearts, and understood the difference between being lectured to and being fully educated.

In volume 1 part 3, Entitled “Offending the Children,” she talks about a code of ethics for dealing with children, taken from the gospels:

It is summed up in three commandments, and all three have a negative character, as if the chief thing required of grown-up people is that they should do no sort of injury to the children: Take heed that ye offend not––despise not––hinder not––one of these little ones.

She opens by telling the story of a mother who thinks it’s “funny” to get a reaction out of her baby by saying “Naughty Baby” just to watch the way the child’s face drops and her countenance changes. In short, teasing the baby by saying something untrue. She notes that the baby’s face changes because her little conscience is working and she’s aware of right and wrong. Then she asks how this child could grow up into someone who couldn’t care less about doing right?

She contends that is because of the inconsistency of the mother and her example of not loving virtue.

By slow degrees, here a little and there a little, as all that is good or bad in character comes to pass. ‘Naughty!’ says the mother, again, when a little hand is thrust into the sugar bowl; and when a pair of roguish eyes seek hers furtively, to measure, as they do unerringly, how far the little pilferer may go. It is very amusing; the mother ‘cannot help laughing’; and the little trespass is allowed to pass: and, what the poor mother has not thought of, an offence, a cause of stumbling, has been cast into the path of her two-year-old child. He has learned already that which is ‘naughty’ may yet be done with some impunity, and he goes on improving his knowledge.”

 

She contrasts this behavior with that of the “law compelled” mother–one who upholds virtue as a standard for all in the house, including herself and doesn’t allow herself to rule her children from a place of convenience, selfishness, moodiness, or whim.

This mother believes it’s her DUTY to live under the very laws she upholds as beautiful and right to her children. AND, conversely, to parent any other way, especially to parent on your whim or moods, it to train your child to live selfishly and hate virtue.

She explains that children are born into the world with a sense of justice. They recognize injustice when they’re called “bad boy” or “naughty girl” when they weren’t truly bad.

Children know and learn quickly that sometimes the only truth they have to get around is mom’s bad mood or dad’s tired hour to get what they want. They are trained to manipulate when parental whims are the prevailing law in the home and God’s law, or virtue and right and wrong is nothing.

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A mother who “does not offend or hinder a child” is one who consistently calls good good and evil evil.

She teaches the child that they both have a duty to God and to truth.

Therefore, she doesn’t laugh or overlook when the child throws a fit or hits another child, or steals cookies before dinner, even if she’s in an upbeat, silly mood and doesn’t feel like dealing with it.

And when the mother is aggravated or tired or stretched to her limits, she refuses to come down hard on the kids for little offenses, as though she’s the only consideration in the house and she’s above the law of God. She has a duty to love virtue and live virtue, and well, unjust anger doesn’t fit into that rubric.

I think many times we parent to our own whims. We know the right things to do, yes, but we don’t love virtue enough to do the hard things, and consequently, our children don’t love virtue either. It becomes a big game of pushing limits, testing mom and dad, or seeing how far we can go to the edge without getting in trouble.

Charlotte Mason, in Home Education says,

The child has learned to believe that he has nothing to overcome but his mother’s disinclination; if she choose to let him do this and that, there is no reason why she should not;

On watching a mother who lives by whims, not principle or law:

if his mother does what she chooses, of course he will do what he chooses, if he can; and henceforward the child’s life becomes an endless struggle to get his own way; a struggle in which a parent is pretty sure to be worsted, having many things to think of, while the child sticks persistently to the thing which has his fancy for the moment.

After describing the battle of wills that will surely result from self-centered living in parenting, she asks where it all stems from:

In this: that the mother began with no sufficient sense of duty; she thought herself free to allow and disallow, to say and unsay, at pleasure, as if the child were hers to do what she liked with. The child has never discovered a background of must behind his mother’s decisions; he does not know that she must not let him break his sister’s playthings, gorge himself with cake, spoil the pleasure of other people, because these things are not rightLet the child perceive that his parents are law-compelled as well as he, that they simply cannot allow him to do the things which have been forbidden, and he submits with the sweet meekness which belongs to his age.

In short, the child needs to know that his mother

“is not to be moved from a resolution on any question of right and wrong.”

I have done a lot of parenting and I’ve seen a lot of parenting and I know how easy it is to parent out of “convenience” for mom.

“Stop fighting.”–This house is so loud I can’t hear myself think.

“Do your chores.”–I don’t want to have to remind you and I want the work done.

When it all comes back to us as the center, and we forget virtue all together, we are woe-fully off of our goal of parenting to the glory of God.

Virtuous parenting looks up to the will of the Lord. It insists that we all live for God’s desires. Parents can’t live as though they are above God’s law. They don’t get a pass. They must not shirk their duty to live a life worthy of imitating.  To do so is to imitate another thing entirely.

In a Christian home, the standard must be God’s Word. What does God say about a matter? How would he have us act and react?  We don’t “seek our own” because we are not our own.

It’s worth working through Part 3 of Home Education if you want to read more about this. I found it very helpful.

For further reading on CM’s method’s, you might enjoy A Charlotte Mason Companion by Karen Andreola. Her blog is also enjoyable and refreshing.

Homeschooling Mom, You Are in Charge of Your Happiness.

I spoke to a younger homeschooling mom this week who was clearly exhausted and suffering from burn-out.

After telling me why she was dreading the next two months of “school” , I asked her if she’d ever considered this:

“You are completely in charge of your own happiness. You don’t need permission to make changes for your own sanity. If you are discouraged, change something or nothing will change.”

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She needed to look for creative ways to make room for things that bring her joy. She was suffocating and needed some soul-oxygen.

I have been in her shoes too many times to count. We don’t have time so we don’t take time. It’s a vicious cycle.

Sometimes we get so stuck in the same old rut, that we don’t even know we are spinning our tires and headed nowhere. Spinning our tires requires movement and energy, so we equate that with productivity. Fast paced, multi-tasking, non-stop activity does not guaranteed progress. In fact, I’ve found that it almost guarantees burnout.

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The great amount of work that is truly on the shoulders of a homeschooling mom can scare us into a life of hurry and worry.

We begin pushing our kids to perform with a “standardized expectation” where kids can’t be themselves or excel in their own strengths. No, come end of the year, we must all perform for the test. Proficiency in every subject. Just call me Drill Sargent Mom.

Maybe we forget that education is not simply about gaining knowledge to pass tests.

It’s about relationships, training, direction, discipleship, character, and the atmosphere of home.

Charlotte Mason was a huge proponent of the “The Atmosphere” of education, that sense of well-being, connection, and joy that you share with your child that assures them that you are glad that you are together today!

We are training for real life situations.

Grandma is sick. We’re packing it up to get her some ginger ale and make some soup.

Mrs. Jones lost her baby. We’re headed there to watch her kids so she can rest.

Mrs. Smith is really struggling this week. She’s coming here for coffee and we’re going to cheer up her kids. 

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Homeschooling is a marathon, not a sprint. It’s real life training. And we have to plan time for small things that will yield big results in our happiness. (This will be different for every person, depending on your interests!)

If you are dreading the end of your school year and you find yourself less than enthusiastic about it, evaluate why.

  • What has zapped all your energy?
  • Where are you stretched too thin?
  • Have you become the “do everything” mom, so that the kids aren’t carrying their weight?
  • Have you let behavior slide so that your days are filled with a constant chorus of whining?
  • Have you taken time to refresh your own soul?
  • Have you purposely pursued time away from the kids/classroom to nurture life-giving friendships?
  • What inspiring friend can you plan to spend time with this week?
  • Are you looking for ways to serve others outside of your own home?
  • How can you provide moments of beauty in your daily routine?
  • Are you over-committed somewhere? What can you cut?
  • Have you under-nourished your own interests? What can you add?

Being a homeschool mom should not mean that you are now cloistered into your locked house, only to emerge for necessities like groceries and doctor’s appointments. You don’t stop being a sister, daughter, friend, neighbor when you teach at home. In fact, this role almost requires you that intentionally pursue a connected lifestyle to spark imagination and inspiration.

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If you are suffering from burnout, and you still have a way to go in the semester, it’s time to change something. Write down two things you can do this week to plan for moments of beauty and inspiration.

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Oh, I know. It’ll slow down your pace. You may only finish 130 lessons, rather than 140, but I think your kids’ experiences will be richer. (Don’t worry. The traditionally schooled kids rarely finish all their textbooks either.)

  • Make tea time a daily thing.
  • Take an afternoon to shut off all electronic devices and spend some serious time in the sun and fresh air.
  • Take a nature walk.
  • Arrange a small display of flowers for the table.
  • Notice the beauty around you in nature.
  • Notice the negative self talk in your own mind. Maybe your own words rolling round and round in your head–words or failure, or bitterness, regret, or disappointment–are the reason you are so sour and drained. Dwelling on the negatives will always do that to you.
  • Take a walk.
  • Get some exercise.
  • Head to the library and find books that inspire you to learn something new.
  • Paint outside with the kids.
  • Laugh with a friend.
  • Make a bon fire.
  • Read aloud to the kids.
  • Enjoy a treat together.
  • Invite people over. Connect in meaningful ways. Live. Enjoy your life and the people in it.

If you are dreading the homestretch, change it up. You’re on your own schedule. And you don’t need anyone’s permission to care for your self. You are in charge of your own happiness!

What are you going to do this week to plan for happy and inspiring moments? Share in the comments!

 

Thoughts on being scared to death of homeschooling, and thoughts on the thoroughly educated child

I’m entering my 17th year of homeschooling.

If you’ve read here for more than two minutes you know I favor the Charlotte Mason method, have an artsy/crafty bent, emphasize music and poetry, read a lot, and tend to be rather eclectic.

What you might not know is that I feel totally unqualified to do this job.

I’m not musical. I was an average student. I didn’t like to read. I’ve not mastered higher math or science, so how could I ever teach it!?

(I am artsy and that’s about it.)

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I’ve always known that I could not give my children the kind of education they need.

This has been the cause of a lot of fear in my life. I love my kids and didn’t want them to suffer because their mom was a bumbling idiot who thought she could do a better job than an actual teacher. I’ve always realized that if I messed this homeschool gig up, my kids would be the one to suffer in the long run. No pressure there.

I decided early on that the best course of action would be to attend a local homeschooling conference. For me, it was overwhelming and seemed to confirm what I already knew–“I’m not cut out for this.” Walking the aisles, eyes scanning the mounds of curriculum (too many choices!) I literally feel dizzy.  I was afraid that someone might try to strike up a conversation with me about what curriculum I’ve been using, and recognize me as the homeschooling fraud of a mom that I felt like.

I didn’t benefit from a homeschooling conference, but I did greatly benefit from an experienced lady at our local support group, Debbie. She listened and gave feedback. She encouraged me although she had a gazillion other things to do. She talked to me about all of the different ways people homeschool. She just gave me courage.

As I took each step, I also learned another truth: God had gone before me and was there to help me each step of the way. He was walking my homeschooling journey with me. He knew before the foundations of the earth that I’d be doing this job that I felt totally unqualified to do and that half the time I thought I’d lose my sanity performing. (You’re with your kids 24/7, ya’ll. That can be oh-so-good and bad.)

When I asked for guidance, He gave it. When I seemed lost, He helped me find my way through the advice of a friend or by information on the internet.

I learned that knowing my own limits as a teacher and understanding my personality mattered tremendously because I couldn’t be someone who I was not. And learning the personality of each child was crucial to understanding their learning style.

I devoured For the Children’s Sake: Foundations of Education for Home and School and A Charlotte Mason Companion: Personal Reflections on The Gentle Art of Learning and Educating the WholeHearted Child  and realized that I was drawn mostly to the Charlotte Mason method.

I connected with Charlotte Mason’s respectful ideas about children:

  • that they are not creatures to be molded/created but were already born a person;
  • that adults should not abuse power or use fear/manipulation to make a child learn; (all I can think about is Mr. Gradgrind in Dickens’ Hard Times!)
  • that the mind of a child thrives on quality knowledge.

I appreciated that she taught that children should be kept clean, taught good manners, never demeaned (this during Victorian England when children were to be seen and not heard).

In short, children are capable and deserve respect. You don’t teach them how to learn—they already have that capacity. You provide excellent resources.

I realized that I don’t have to be an expert on anything to read my children excellent books and to expose them to the lofty ideas and beautiful language of people more intelligent than I.

I try to lead a “beautiful life” (cultured) with my kids. Much of this comes by adding music, art, literature, and details to our surroundings during the day. For instance, I might add flowers or a candle to our school room. I display the artwork of one or two artists per month on my fridge to familiarize them with that artist’s style. We read the poetry of one or two famous poets per month.We bake and craft.  We take nature walks to enjoy the creation. We have tea and cookies in the late afternoon in the fall/winter. We enjoy local produce and do seasonal excursions. These are all things that anyone can do. I’m trying to raise kids who notice and appreciate little things because education is more than taking in information.

To be truly educated, you have to care about how you fit into the grand scheme of life. Knowledge has to change you for the better and move you to action. You have to appreciate beauty simply for the love of it. You have to be curious about the inner workings of that concept you don’t quite grasp.

A truly educated person cannot be indifferent to the suffering of others no matter how “insignificant” they are on the social scale. I don’t care how much my kids know book-wise if it doesn’t cause them to be better neighbors. 

I think as a society we’re satisfied with a shoddy definition of education. As moms, we have to make sure that we don’t confuse taking in information with being educated or advancing through school with understanding knowledge.

We need to see our kids as whole people–education being a small part of who they are.

They need to know that they were created for a relationship with God and that outside of that relationship, nothing else makes sense. Their minds need to be informed and infused with the mind of Christ.

As I enter another year, I am confronted yet again with my own lack: lack of expertise, energy, and knowledge. And I know that though homeschooling can be lonely, I am not alone; God has gone before me and will be with me (and you!) as we start this new year.

 

 

 

{*post contains Amazon affiliate links at no cost to you. }

 

DIY Watercolor Bird Silhouette Art for Kids

I’m teaching a great group of homeschoolers simple watercolor techniques, and today I thought I’d post our next project as a tutorial that you can use for your kids.

Silhouette art is popular right now, and is super easy to create.

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Supply list: 

  • Watercolor paper, 140 lb.
  • Winsor & Newton Cotman Sketchers Pocket Box Set (This set fits in a child’s pocket and is perfect for nature study outings!)
  • Watercolor brushes– a flat wide 1″ brush and a medium fine tipped brush. (buy brushes that are specifically for watercolor and come to a point in the package. If they are blunt topped with NO point, your kids won’t be able to get detail.)
  • water
  • paper towels
  • 8″X10″ bird silhouette of your choice. Check google for bird pictures.

First:

Transfer your bird picture of choice to your watercolor paper.

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If you have graphite paper, you can use that, but for my art kids, we simply rub pencil over the entire backside of our image print out, then trace it. Know what I mean? You are scribbling with pencil all over the back of the bird picture you chose. Then place it on your watercolor paper and trace firmly, transferring the image.  That’s the DIY New England way. :)

Second:

Use your flat paint brush to paint your picture with WATER only.

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Third:

Mix cobalt blue or whatever “sky-ish” blue color you have and a little water and dot in the sky while your paper is still wet. This allows the paint to “spread” and makes the clouds look realistic. Allow to dry completely before continuing. If you are impatient like I am, use a hair dryer to speed up your process.

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Fourth:

Using a smaller brush, mix ultramarine blue or your darkest blue with sepia brown or your darkest brown. Don’t over mix. Allow the colors to separate. Your mixture should not be super watery. You want a dark mixture. Watercolor dries at half strength, so use color that is darker than you think it should be. Fill in your outline and allow to dry. You’re done.

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This can be used for any silhouette, obviously.

You can use the same technique to make this picture with 3-5 year olds, except after you transfer the image on your watercolor paper, you COLOR the silhouette outline with a white crayon. This is called a wax resist. Then, once your silhouette is colored in white, you watercolor the background. Easy peasy art project for your kiddos.

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Watercolor is a wee bit intimidating if you’re not used to the medium but here are a few things to remember about watercolor:

  1. You need to DRY your work between steps or you’ll end up with a hazy soup.
  2. As much as possible, mix only two colors at a time. Anything more gets muddy.
  3. Use the best quality materials you can afford. Investing in a small artist quality palatte, like the Winsor & Newton Cotman Sketchers Pocket Box Set is better than using Crayola Watercolor from Walmart. Your kids will get a much better result.

ENJOY!

*This post contains Amazon affiliate links. Thanks.

Charlotte Mason on Taking Kids Outdoors

This week I have been re-reading Home Education  by Charlotte Mason to my great delight. I am gearing up for the fast approaching school year.

Charlotte Mason encouraged mothers to take their children outside for walks and to observe the nature that is all around us. She believed it trained their power of observation and expression.

“This is all play to the children, but the mother is doing invaluable work; she is training their powers of observation and expression, increasing their vocabulary and their range of ideas by giving them the name and the uses of an object at the right moment,––when they ask, ‘What is it?’ and ‘What is it for?’ And she is training her children in truthful habits, by making them careful to see the fact and to state it exactly, without omission or exaggeration. ”

Kids at Scituate Lighthouse

Charlotte Mason recommends that children should be taught:

The names of field crops in the area. We drive by a stretch of gorgeous untouched farmland each time I go to my mothers. I always enjoy seeing the rotations of seasons in the farmland. Farmer tilling the field, next time, planting, and the next, tall corn growing. The kids enjoy seeing the animals as well. And of course, my father is a cranberry grower so we enjoy watching the progress of the family crop as well. (cranberry unit study here)

The names of local field flowers: Learn the wildflowers and flowers by name in your own yard first, then expand.

The names of local trees: Learn the trees in your own yard first, then expand.

The names of local birds: I used to tape up pictures of birds in our back yard for the kids to learn (and for me to reference incase I forgot!)

Seasons should be followed: Comment on the seasons: the chill in the air, the salty taste of the ocean air, the burnt orange hue of the leaves. This is the easiest way to follow the seasons. Or, in your nature journal, sketch the same flower in your yard through its growing season. Record the date on each sketch.

Or set up a nature table. This is a small area in your home of the season’s treasures: shells, starfish, beach glass, for summer; leaves, acorns, pinecones, lovely art for fall. My friend Kara has a beautiful article on nature tables here.

Nature diaries should be kept: These can be a sturdy covered notebook with pages that will accommodate both watercolor and ink drawings. If you attempt these, too, mother, your children will gladly copy you. Whenever I pull out my paints with the kids up, they always want to paint with me. This video shows you how to watercolor your nature journal using only three colors.

Entrance to a Concentration Camp in Germany.

When the children were younger, I would pack up a picnic lunch and head over to one of the family cranberry bogs to spend an afternoon. We’d eat lunch out doors and the kids would explore the woods looking for something interesting to share that they had not seen before. We’d sketch their find in a nature journal, then bring it home for further investigation. The time spent outside, eating in the fresh air and the memories of the kids playing in the sunshine are gifts to me. I am glad I was there with them.

Rebekah surprised me the other day, when she pulled out her journal and asked if I wanted to see her sketches from Germany. Apparently her camera broke one day and she recorded her memory in the form of a sketch.

Church at Worms where Martin Luther said "Here I stand. I can do no other. So help me God."

This week we spent some time outdoors with the kids. Peter took us to a beach in Scituate and we spend the afternoon climbing the rocks and walking the shore. I took these photos with my phone, so I apologize for the grainy look.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I can feel myself getting re-energized for the upcoming school year. How about you? :)

An Example Of A Charlotte Mason Narration

Many of you know that I tend toward the Charlotte Mason method of homeschooling, and one of the things that I LOVE about the method is narration. Narration can be tricky for some reason, so I wanted to show you two examples of what it looks like in our home.

This morning I read the short story, The Elephant’s Child by Rudyard Kipling, to my girls.

It is the story of a curious, short nosed Elephant that wonders what the crocodile eats for lunch. He asks all his relatives, but all they do when he asks is to give him a spanking. He runs away to find out for himself and in the process ends up with a looong trunk after a tug of war for his life with the croc. Kipling explains that all elephants from that time forward now have long trunks. 😉

Then I had them narrate back what they remember. Narration is used to help the child process the information as a memory aid. It forces them to think it through for themselves. It also helps prepare them for writing essays someday.

So, today I want to show you narration, at two totally different levels. Hope is younger, and I think you’ll notice that as the child gets older, they are more detail oriented with their narrations. Hope this helps someone. I was always a little confused by the whole narration thing. Enjoy.

 

Summer: The Perfect Time to Begin Nature Study

If you are at all familiar with Charlotte Mason’s methods, you know that she encouraged teachers to expose their students to nature. And summertime is the perfect time to start nature study with your kids, because they have so much free time out doors.

A page from my nature journal

If  starting nature study sounds overwhelming to your already busy schedule, let me clear up a few misconceptions.

Nature study is not:

  • a thing to be feared because you don’t know a dandelion from a daffodil or a woodpecker from a warbler.
  • just another subject to add to your already busy school day.
  • a subject to be graded.
  • a subject that should be taught if it does not encourage fondness of the out doors and the appreciation of nature. 

Nature study is:

  • Simply the study of nature meant to cultivate a child’s ability to accurately observe the world around him.
  • A tool that should increase a child’s love for all things beautiful.
  • something that with minimal prep work can be enjoyed by your whole family. 
  • A break from the routine of school work.
  • As simple as a brisk walk to observe the foliage of a particular wood, or as detailed as drawing out the different types of markings and types of bird feathers.
  • something can be started at the earliest of ages by simply pointing out things in nature in a conversational way. “Oh, look at how the robin has a red belly.” “See how the cat likes to be in the sunshine.”

Let me give you a few easy ways to start nature study with your young ones:

1. Observe the birds in your area. Start with the birds you come into contact to on a regular basis. Here in the northeast, we see robins, sparrows, orioles, bluejays, cardinals, turkeys, mallards, etc.

2. Learn the proper name!  Don’t just call them “bird”,” tree”,” flower”- consult a field guide and learn the names of the things in your own yard first. (Don’t laugh- I did this when Rebekah was two. When she asked me the name of “that birdie” and I realized that I had a lot to learn.) I found the Handbook of Nature Study by Anna Comstock to be a very helpful reference. Also, I liked the National Audobon Society Field Guide Series. Also, eNature is an online resource where you can search by types of birds and hear their songs.

3. Ask questions that make the child observe.

  • Where do you see this bird the most?
  • When did you see it first this season?
  • What color is his beak? Eye?
  • What color is his head? The back? The throat? The breast?It’s tail?
  • Does he hop, run or walk?
  • How does he get his food? Drink?
  • How does he react around other animals?
  • What song does he sing?

When appropriate, encourage the child to record his observations in a small unlined notebook. More detail on this later, but it should be small enough to carry around with thick enough paper to handle marker and watercolor.

Tell your child to record what they observe. You should set the example by also sketching in a field notebook. Also, the child’s observations should not be “graded.” The field notebook should be for pleasure and for the child’s own benefit. Grading, criticizing or marking up the child’s notebook is off limits. :) You might ask gently”Which bird was it that you observed  to be bright purple with pink polka dots?” to get the  point across that this should be realistic.

Also, take advantage of the easy summer schedule to start your nature study on the beach. Your child can observe shells, crabs and  starfish by the water, and grasses, dunes, sandpipers and other birds by the marsh. Most kids love finding treasures on the beach and with a little creative conversation, you can get them “thinking” without them really knowing they are learning. :)

What other ways have you found to  teach your child to appreciate nature?