Monday, December 19, 2011

Hearts and Trees: Changes In Store

I've received some email asking about my statement that my current Fall/Winter 2011 kit will probably be the last one I put together. A couple of things have led me to this decision and I wanted to share them with you all.

First I would like to say that I have appreciated all the support I have received from my blog readers and customers over the years and want you to know first and foremost, that it is still my goal to use Hearts and Trees and the products I offer to encourage art, handicrafts and nature study in your homeschool.

When I started putting Hearts and Trees kits together I was unemployed. It was my main source of income and I was able to devote much more time to putting the kits together. I was able to offer kits on a seasonal basis (four a year). With my current work and volunteering schedule I have not been able to give Hearts and Trees as much time and attention, and my kits have slowed down to one every 6 months or so. With the changes I have in store for Hearts and Trees I am hoping to offer something to my readers/customers much more regularly.

My goal has always been to encourage art, handicrafts and nature study in your homeschool by offering affordable and interesting products, and I can still achieve this with the changes I have in store for my business.

And on a more personal note, in relation to my volunteer work, it is my goal to move to another country (at least for a few months out of every year) and I am trying to set up my business so that it can support me while I am out of the States. With this in mind, some practical changes need to be made to the way Hearts and Trees operates.

So, be sure to check back January 1st 2012 for the unveiling of a new chapter of Hearts and Trees! I am very excited about these changes and can't wait to share them all with you.

I still have some Fall/Winter 2011 Kits left, so be sure to check it out and order yours soon. Thanks!

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Advanced Fall Color Activity

"The main use of this study of leaves is to make the children appreciate the beauty of the autumn foliage. This can be done through collections, made by the children themselves of the colored leaves. These may be pressed and mounted. A simple study of the colors may accompany the work by the selection of colored papers to match the leaves. All this color work, however, is but to impress the thought of the rich beauty of the autumn woods." The Southern Education Journal, Study for November. 1899.
With the start of fall I am certainly ready to get out and enjoy the fall color. (I am actually off to New York this week where I am hoping I will see lot of fall color!) I have put together a fun activity for older children to do this fall season.

There are a lot of fall color names that children may not be familiar with. How is burgundy different from scarlet? How is goldenrod different from yellow or gold? This activity may help your children (and you!) appreciate the many different shades of fall.

I have put together a free PDF download, which is basically a grid labeled with 20 fall colors. Using crayons or colored pencils, your child will fill in the squares with the labeled fall color. Then he will take that grid outside and see if he can find all the colors. Sounds like fun, doesn't it?

Here is the link: Advanced Fall Color Activity

What is your favorite fall color?
Let me know in the comments section!

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Nature Study Using Calendars Ideas

Calendars: It's a great idea to have children keep a calendar to record when and where they saw the first oak leaf, the first tadpole, the first primrose, the first ripe blackberries. Then next year they can pull out the calendar and know when to anticipate seeing these things again, and they can note new discoveries. Imagine how this will add enthusiasm for daily walks and nature hikes! A day won't go by when something isn't seen to excite them.

From Charlotte Mason Volume One, page 54

There are so many ways you can incorporate calendars in your nature study in your homeschool. Here are just a few I came up with.
  • Record an observation about "firsts" like Charlotte Mason suggests. (This time of year it could be first red leaf, first yellow leaf or first acorn on the ground, etc.)
  • Record the weather. (Is it sunny? Cloudy? Rainy? How much has it rained? What's the temperature?)
  • Record the animals you see in your backyard.
  • Record how many birds you can spot on your nature walk.
  • Record a new plant or animal you identified.
  • Record your favorite thing you saw on your nature walk.
  • A young child could draw a picture in the square for the day to record something he saw.
This might help you to stay motivated if it is your goal to do something nature study related every day- because you have a space to fill for each day. It also may help children to be more observant if they start looking every day for something to record on their calendar.

In my blog sidebar I have had a Blank Nature Study Calendar for you to download. If you haven't already taken a look at it and used it in your nature study, feel free to do so now. Or you can easily print blank calendar pages using your word processor or by searching for them online.

(PLEASE NOTE: I have changed the link to the calendar to dropbox, and now everyone should be able to get it free with no problems. Thanks!)

Do you use calendars in your nature study?
Do you find this idea helpful?
I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments section.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Hearts and Trees Now on Facebook!

I have set up a Facebook page for Hearts and Trees. Feel free to like me so that you can stay up to date on what's happening with Hearts and Trees. I will be offering some discounts and freebies only through Facebook.

In other news, I am putting together a Fall 2011 kit. I'll have it up for sale mid/late October. I am also working on something totally new and exciting for January 2012. I am really looking forward to sharing it with everyone.

And I still have some Spring Kits available so be sure to check that out if you haven't already. (Even though this is called my SPRING kit, it does not mean the activities are specifically spring-related.)

Monday, June 27, 2011

Why Include Handicrafts in Your Homeschool?

I used to work for a before/after-school elementary school program. I was responsible for planning "projects" for the kids. It was amazing the difference in the attitude and enthusiasm of the children when we did more hands-on crafts with a real product as a result, instead of the stand-by coloring pages, collages, or cut and paste projects. I think their favorite project was when we sewed fleece pillowcases. The whole group (K-5th graders) all got into the project. Sometimes it was a chore to get all the students to sit down and work on that day's project, but this was an exception.

As I was reading from Charlotte Mason I was struck by her points about what makes an appropriate handicraft:

"The best handicrafts for children under nine seem to be caning chairs, carton work, making baskets, weaving small rugs, Japanese curtains [?], carving cork, sewing pretty samplers, easy needlework, knitting with big needles and coarse threads, etc.

The important things to keep in mind about children's crafts are that:

a. they shouldn't waste their time making useless things like paper mats, or models constructed from softened peas and toothpicks.

b. they should receive patient, thorough instruction so they know how to do the craft correctly.

c. sloppy work should not be allowed.

d. they should be given work well within the ability of their age range so that they are able to do it well and not sloppily."

Charlotte Mason in Modern English Page 315-6

I really appreciate point a. Children don't want to make something useless. The want to learn how to sew, knit, garden, scrapbook, etc. They want to learn the skills they see us adults using.

The difficulty with teaching the children real handicrafts, and what seems to deter most parents I think is point b. It takes "patient and thorough instruction" on the parent's part. Yes, it may take more time and attention to teach a child to knit instead of having them color in a coloring book, but remember the idea is to teach a life skill. That is Charlotte Mason's whole idea behind teaching children handicrafts- teaching them life skills.

When I was probably 10 or 11, my parents bought me a sewing machine. I attended classes at the sewing shop and joined the home school sewing club. Today I sew gifts, sell crafts online and even attempt to sew clothes occasionally. What a great skill, that I never would have developed without the encouragement as a child. It is hard to explain how relaxing and satisfying it is for me when I am immersed in a project. That is something worth sharing with our children.

I think what I like the best about this idea is that parents can share whatever craft and skill they enjoy. Do you like to garden? Help your child plan, plant, and tend to his or her own little plot of land. Maybe he can just have a pot on the deck of his own to care for to start with. Do you knit? Teach your child to knit a simple scarf. Do you love photography? Share that passion with your child. It might even motivate you to get back to your favorite handicrafts.


If you have trouble including handicrafts is your homeschool, I have put together kits to help you. All the materials and instructions are gathered together in one convenient kit for you to share with your children. I am actually even currently having a sale for my lastest kit. For more info see my posts here and here.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

SALE! Hearts and Trees Spring 2011 Kit!

For the month of June or until I run out of kits I am offering each of my Spring 2011 Kits for just $10 plus shipping! For more information about this kit see my post here. To purchase a kit use the PayPal buttons in my sidebar. If you have any questions feel free to email me ( Thanks!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Mental Habit: Observation and Attention

How many times have we seen something without really seeing it? We walk past flowers and trees and insects and works of art all the time without giving them much notice. Charlotte Mason encourages us to develop the mental habit of observation and attention in our children. The following excerpt from Charlotte Mason's Original Homeschooling Series Volume 1 sets forth an example of why it is so important to help our children to cultivate the habit of both observing the world around them but also the habit of giving attention to things.
"Is little Margaret fixing round eyes on a daisy she has plucked? In a second, the daisy will be thrown away, and a pebble or buttercup will charm the little maid. But the mother seizes the happy moment. She makes Margaret see that the daisy is a bright yellow eye with white eyelashes round it; that all the day long it lies there in the grass and looks up at the great sun, never blinking as Margaret would do, but keeping its eyes wide open. And that is why it is called daisy, 'day's eye,' because its eye is always looking at the sun which makes the day. And what does Margaret think it does at night, when there is no sun? It does what little boys and girls do; it just shuts up its eye with its white lashes tipped with pink, and goes to sleep till the sun comes again in the morning. By this time the daisy has become interesting to Margaret; she looks at it with big eyes after her mother has finished speaking, and then, very likely, cuddles it up to her breast or gives it a soft little kiss. Thus the mother will contrive ways to invest every object in the child's world with interest and delight."
If we are trying to encourage the habits of attention and observation when it comes to picture study we first need to present a work of art to our children and let them look at it. For this example we will use VanGogh's Starry Night, a painting many of us have seen hundreds of times. Our first inclination, and the inclination of young children, might not be to give it too much attention... "Oh that's VanGogh" we might say to ourself, or "It's a picture of night" a child might say... but we need to train ourselves to really pay attention and to observe works of art. What are the colors VanGogh used? Look at the buildings. Count the stars. Trace the brushstrokes with our fingers. By pointing out and helping our children to see the details in works of art we help them develop the habits of observation and attention and to develop a love and connection with the works of art they study.

I still have quite a few Hearts and Trees Spring 2011 Kits left,
so be sure to check them out.