Wednesday, August 12, 2015


It is August, which technically is the last month of Winter here in New Zealand.
Although the wind and temperatures can be cold in August and the day  still start with a bitter frosty morning, the beginnings of Spring have arrived! The incredible miracle of new leaf and flower buds are filling stems, stalks and branches.
Right now is the perfect time to start a game with the children that lasts a year.
1. Take your child for a walk to find a planet or tree that has bare branches. Let them pick out their plant friend. 
The plant needs to be close by so they can see it regularly. 
* In you home garden
* In a kind friendly neighbour's garden
* In a nearly park
* In the parking area at the shops, supermarket, mall, cafe, hall, school..... somewhere you go often.
This plant is to become their year long friend.
2. Each week or if you prefer each month, together with your child take the walk to their plant friend so they can visit and see what is happening.
I have done the weekly and the monthly versions with my children and found both were very rewarding experiences.
3. Once there, the child needs time to just look and chatter away to you if they wish. 
Each visit the condition of the plant friend needs to be noted or remembered. The child can do this by making a drawing, taking a photo or collecting a sample. 
Drawing demands physical and artistic skills from the child as well as concentration and patience. But this type of drawing is not about creating a work of art, it's about looking and seeing. It needs time and patience from  mum to be prepared and have the equipment at hand, then to wait while the child draws. 
I found it best to also draw a plant friend, that way I was busy while they were busy.
Photos are good because they are accurate and quick, but that is also their downfall. They prevent the child looking and taking time to get to know their plant friend. That's why I prefer drawing.
Collecting Samples is also good because they begin a physical collection with which the child can compare the future stages of their plant friend.
We found it was best to label each sample at the time with a date tag, or glue it with strong glue onto cardboard with the date labelled underneath, or place it on a large paper page with a date label underneath then covering the sample with clear contact. 
However you do it the point is to get them to look, compare and observe for themselves the changes as they occur in their plant friend for the duration of the year.
4. Remember, My Plant Friend is an experience for the child. It is for them to learn and discover what they can using their senses. Mum is allowed to answer questions but not to become a teacher or take over steering the child in how to think about their plant friend. You may find help by reading the final points of the post "Kids Outdoors in the Winter"
5. - At the first visit the child may find only bare branches.
- Next small lumps will appear on the branches and stems. You may be asked what these are. It is fine to give them the name, 'buds', but leave them with the mystery of what a bud is. It is good for them to think and wait.
- The buds grow and form a shape.
- The buds burst open - depending on the plant the bud may hold a leaf or flower. Let them find out.
"life stirs in the beautiful mystery of the leaf-buds, a nest of delicate baby-leaves lying in downy warmth within many waterproof wrappings;...each has its own way of folding and packing its leaflets." HOME EDUCATION : Charlotte Mason p.52.
"Then the flowers come, each shut up tight in the dainty casket we call a bud, as cunningly wrapped as the leaves in their buds, but less carefully guarded." HOME EDUCATION : Charlotte Mason p.53.
- Watch the way the leaves unfold - each plant is unique. It is good to capture the process as you draw, photograph or collect samples.
- Gradually the leaves and flowers multiply and grow in size. They mature, become damaged by the wind, insects or birds. They decay. 
- Then there may be fruit. If a child discovers for themselves that the fruit comes out of the flower, they will know it and remember it for life.
- the leaves may change colour and shrivel, then fall off the branch.
THISWEEKWITHTHEKIDS ~ these simple happenings are old stale knowledge to us but it is all new to a child. Our job is to put ourselves into the child's position and to wonder and admire the surprises they discover along with them.
Let your child find a Plant Friend this week.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015


Here is another outdoor game for children where they get to think their thoughts without interference. It again encourages children to look carefully as well as the need to use their mind to picture and remember, then describe. It is easy to play Mind Photography.
The Game Mind Photography: 
1. Take your children to a place where there is plenty to see in the distance or there is a wide open view. Usually an elevated position works well - 
a hill
a headland
suburban scene
If you live in Auckland it is perfect to go to the top of one of the many volcanoes.
2. Sit everyone down, they need to be comfortable. For this reason it would be best if the children have already had a run around, eaten and had a drink.
3. The best way to teach this game is for you to firstly demonstrate how it works. You will need to already have a few Mind Photographs stored in your memory. 
Close your eyes and tell them about one scene that you remember. Describe it clearly and with enthusiasm. It could be a scene they are familiar with. Your description will influence them so make it memorable. When it is their turn they may mimic your words or mannerisms so be an example worth following.
4. Once you have finished, tell them it is their turn. They start by  spending some minutes looking at a section of the scene in front of them. They can take their time. They need to look at it carefully and remember the details.
5. When they think they have looked enough, tell them to shut their eyes and try to see the image of what they have seen. If any part of their image is blurry or they can't clearly remember what it looks like, they need to open their eyes for a closer look. Then close the eyes again and recall the image. When they believe they have the image perfectly in their mind then they are ready to describe what they see.
6. Tell them to close their eyes as they describe, just as you did. Everyone is to simply listen, not correct or offer their thoughts.
Children can use this skill of looking at a distant scene, closing eyes and remembering or recalling it, as often as they wish. This is not difficult. The difficulty comes when they need to concentrate and describe out loud what is in their memory. Therefore it is suggested that the describing part of this game be only played on occasions.
Benefits from Mind Photography:
# A child's mind is filled with rich images of places and scenes that will stay in their mind's memory card for life. These images  are ready to recall, be enjoyed and bring with them recollections of innumerable sights, things heard, smelt, tastes, feelings and imaginings. They are their images and memories.
Mind images made in a child's mind in this way will be clear and vivid into old age. 
The reason so many childhood memories for adults are vague or incomplete is because as a child we never looked fully of carefully to make a clear mind photograph.
# By nature children can successfully look in detail at things that are close or near to them and tiny, minute things. This is not difficult for even very young children.
But to ask a child to really look carefully at things in the distance or at a wide open scene, is a more difficult task. 
They need help to be aware of the distant view. This is where this game of Mind Photography is so helpful. 
To be able to look beyond, further than what is close by, to look so carefully that the details are clearly kept in one's mind, is a skill that prepares a person's future abilities in numbers of life areas. By adding to that the occasional verbal description, where the child's mind and concentration work very hard, and you contribute to your child's future success in writing. Clear, accurate verbal description is the forerunner of successful writing.
THISWEEKWITHTHEKIDS ~ take the kids outdoors and play Mind Photography. It is an investment into their future.