I remember my very first year of homeschooling. I was so nervous, yet excited to start this new venture. In September and October, the weather was gorgeous and I took advantage of my kids being home to explore the outdoors. In fact, we spent a lot of time outside. Fall in the Midwest is a beautiful season when one desires to go outdoors frequently before the cold winter approaches. It was also a novelty to be able to go to the parks around town during the school day and enjoy the pleasant weather and crisp fall days. I still remember the very first day we played at the park. We walked around and explored nature. We saw cicada shells and beautiful butterflies. When we arrived home, we dived into our encyclopedias and other books we had around the house (this was before high-speed internet) and discovered the different life stages of a cicada as well as a butterfly. My kids drew pictures and wrote about what they learned. Later that month, we caught a praying mantis and learned all about its species. At this time, I knew nothing about Charlotte Mason, Classical, or Traditional styles of homeschooling.
We just instinctively enjoyed nature, all the while not realizing we were studying science as we explored. As years went on, we began to get more creative and frequently went on hikes or tree walks, appreciating the rich beauty of the changing leaves and grabbing samples to identify later. I began to plan nature studies regularly and gave each child a sketchbook. One of my children became fascinated with birds, so we began looking for different types of birds on our walks. We also put feeders and a bird bath around the house and watched the various birds enjoy a snack and a refreshing bath. We still continue these nature studies. Just this year, we have enjoyed observing a squirrel in our backyard preparing for winter. He has been such a busy guy.
There have also been certain activities we do as a family that come only in the Fall. For example, every year we would make a trip to an apple orchard, go on a hayride, and pick our own apples. Then we would make applesauce and apple pie and read all sorts of children’s books about apples. In addition, we would occasionally make a trip to a pumpkin farm. Carving pumpkins and roasting pumpkin seeds were always on the agenda after the trip.
When it comes to fall, there is something about the weather that makes you feel exhilarated about being outdoors. Nature walks and outdoor activities are delightful for children, yet educational. From experiencing those last, warm afternoons, to feeling the first chill in the air, being outside in the fall provides a break from the indoors, while allowing children to experience a unique educational environment.