Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Our Outdoor Classroom

This morning the skies parted, and after four days of rain, the luscious sunlight streamed through the clouds. My heart soared. It's incredible what a little vitamin D will do for you, isn't it? (Smile.)

Since we're homeschoolers and we have the flexibility to do so, we often take a quilt out into the yard and do some part of school outside. Typically, that's snack or lunch and read aloud. Occasionally it's bookwork.

But today- today with the sunshine filling up my soul (and addling my brain, my husband feared) I decided that we could move our shelves outside and do all of our (Montessori) work time out there. Now, the ground was way too wet after days of rain to even contemplate a quilt on the lawn, so here's what I did:
Yes, that's just what it looks like. I took over our deck and made it our classroom for the day.

We had an old rug in the basement that I brought up for our floor, and I just picked up two of our shelves from the schoolroom, and set them up as-is. They were already packed with our activities for the day (I try to do that the night before), so it was a simple task. I added the beanbag for relaxing, the plant for aesthetic value, and the pumpkin for natural world exploration (and because we are going to be working with it tomorrow in science and I wanted to pique their interest today). The music basket came out to provide a little free exploration for Ellie as I worked with Ava. But, as you'll see below, everyone played with the instruments today.

Are you curious about our school morning outside? Ben was at swimming lessons with Grammie, so the girls and I had the run of the place. Here's what we did:

Exploration of the prepared environment happened as if it were the first time they'd seen these materials. Probably because everything seemed so different out in the sunlight!

 I knew the beanbag would be a good choice...
 We've been working on shapes of late, so I put all three of our shape stacks out for exploration. Sure enough, a large part of the morning was spent working on those.
 I pulled out an old favorite- our clothespin color wheel.

 Contents of our music basket:
 During some parts of the morning I got Ava to use her work mat. Other times, I did not. No big deal in my book- I'm glad the learning is happening no matter where, and although I like to encourage the habit, it didn't seem like a battle to fight today.
 (Um, where is her headband in this picture?? And why did we decide to grow out her bangs??)
 We've been working on pouring with both girls recently as there has been considerable interest. We've just added cups with handles and are using popcorn now for Ava, which she really feels good about. She has to pour slowly and carefully so the popcorn doesn't spill out.
 Ellie's in the background here, having raided Ava's shelves. She does that a lot. (Smile.)
 Both girls did some colored pasta sorting:

 And both girls worked on a couple shape puzzles.

[The lines between each girl's materials is blurred when we do school together, which was a source of stress for me for quite a while. I worried when, like below, Ava used Ellie's things for fear that she wasn't challenging herself. Conversely, I worried when Ellie used Ava's materials for fear they were too challenging and she'd feel defeated. I no longer worry- I let each child choose their materials each day and trust that they're doing work which is enriching to them in some way.]
 I surprised her when I  took a picture of pumpkin exploration time.
By afternoon the rain had begun to set in once again and our afternoon session was done inside, making me ever-more thankful for the time outside this morning!

In case you're wondering, we are going to do this again. A lot. Set up and take down was surprisingly simple and the pay-off was huge. I can't wait until it stops raining again... next week some time. (Smile.)

Do you learn outside on occasion?

I'm linked up!


  1. What a lovely learning environment! I wish we had a deck or a similar outdoor space. Winter is coming fast here in MN and I'd like to take advantage of our outdoor time as much as possible. :)

    1. I know the feeling- we've been putting the heavy blankets on our beds and sleeping in "footy" pajamas already. We are making the most of every single moment outside!

  2. Looks like you all enjoyed the sunshine! Soak it up while you can, winter is coming. It's amazing how a simple change in location or time can really pay off in terms of their enthusiasm.

  3. What a great way to change up your learning and enjoy being outside at the same time. I'm sure the kids had a LOT of fun and will remember it for months to come.

    Thanks so much for linking up with us and sharing this week. :)

  4. I love your outside classroom! What a great way to add something new to spice up a school day!



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