One of my goals this year, when it comes to the kids’ learning environment, was to take it outside as much as I could. I really like the quote by Charlotte Mason that states, “Never be within doors when you can rightly be without.” This is one of the main reasons I decided to incorporate the “Exploring Nature with Children” curriculum into our learning moments.
I find that when we are outside, free from the distractions of the toys, tv, food in the fridge, bark from the dog, or you name it, the kids fight less and more good stuff happens! When we are outside, the questions are endless. Sometimes the questions relate to our surroundings and sometimes they don’t. “Why is that cicada dead?” “What type of animal footprint is that?” “How many foxes have you seen in your entire life?” “What’s your favorite food?” “What’s your favorite song?” These questions sound like music to my ears because it means they are curious and want to know more. When we are better able to engage in these types of conversations without a tv in the background, it sounds silly, but I can feel our bond growing stronger with each word.
When we do have to be inside though, because of extreme heat (and soon to be extreme cold), I try to make the environment comfortable and educationally rich.
What do I mean? Let me explain:
Well, some people have designated “learning stations” and we don’t. We have the house (floor, kitchen table, couch, playroom, etc.)
Don’t get me wrong. I thought about creating a “learning station”. I really did. I love how they look and I can’t help but feel like they should be able to get a kid into the correct mindset to learn. But as I watched my kids and how they naturally got into their own individual learning modes, each kid seemed to do or go somewhere different than what I thought they should. Sometimes they congregate together, but sometimes they also spread out and go their separate ways. Sometimes they are sitting, but sometimes they are rocking side to side as they concentrate on a particular task. Overall, I find that when my kids are allowed to be comfortable, they are all around more content and willing to be actively involved in a learning moment and activity.
When I think of an educationally rich environment, I think of a place that promotes learning naturally. Because of this, I like to keep books of every level easily accessible to the kids in every room of the house. I also like to have maps displayed in several areas. Next to our dining table, you will find 2 different types of ABC charts and a numbers 1-100 chart. I also have an awesome analog clock that is at the kids eye level. These are just a few ways I create an educationally rich environment.
My thought behind having all of these items easily accessible to the kids is that they will take advantage of them at some point or other. One day they will pick up the book they have walked passed many times and wonder what it is about. They will either ask me or my husband to read it to them, or they will attempt to read it by themselves. Many times I will watch them look at the ABC and number charts while eating and recite the alphabet or start to count or use the chart to help solve a math problem. And that clock I mentioned that has been placed at their eye level, well, this is because it allows me to include them in time management throughout our day. (More about this amazing analog clock will be shared in a learning to tell time post!)
What does your learning environment look like? What are some of your must haves?