Celebrating Autumn

September 23–27, 2013   |   Vol. 117, Programs 16–20

This fall, don’t just start school—start new traditions in your homeschool! On this week’s Home School Heartbeat, Mike Smith offers creative suggestions for taking advantage of seasonal opportunities to make learning more fun for your students in everything from science to art.

“Incorporate new traditions into your homeschooling routine to celebrate the coming of autumn.”—Mike Smith

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This fall, start more than just a new math or spelling book. Begin some traditions at your house to celebrate the changing season! On today’s Home School Heartbeat , your host Mike Smith offers ideas for how to showcase autumn in your homeschool.

Mike Smith: What does autumn mean to your student? Whether you live in the city or country, in the middle of New England foliage or in the desert of the Southwest, you can incorporate new traditions into your homeschooling routine to celebrate the coming of autumn.

This year, take time to get out of the house for some field trips. Take advantage of the harvest season to visit a pumpkin patch, a corn maze, or an apple orchard. Your children will revel in the opportunity to pick, prepare, and preserve fall produce. And while you’re at it, explore together the historical traditions of harvesting.

Is your area well-known for a specific crop? If you live in the Midwest, consider taking your children to see a wheat field harvest.

Another great fall activity is the county fair. Visit the fair—or, better yet, enter the fair! Even if your kids haven’t raised “Some Pig” or a prize-winning pumpkin, there are probably contest categories that they could enter. Many fairs feature contests for domestic arts and crafts, including cooking, baking, needlework, woodworking, quilting, and more.

With options like these for great fall outings, you’re sure to find something that will make a special autumn tradition for your family. Next time we’ll explore more fall activities, and until then, I’m Mike Smith.

Mike Smith: This year, what about taking a new approach to an academic area that you don’t normally focus on—visual arts, for instance—and tying it to the season.

Go to an art gallery, or check out a book on art from your library. Find paintings depicting autumn landscapes. Select your favorite two or three painters, and then study them. In what period did they paint? What techniques did they use? Did they paint in one primary region? Get some books on basic art technique and work on imitating your favorite painting.

Don’t overlook the beauty of nature. Encourage your children to hone their photography skills. Start with a study of the changing colors of a single tree over the course of time. Or take pictures of the same object in different lights and from various angles. Focus on the beauty of autumn—with art.

Another way to cultivate creative productivity this fall is to take a seasonal chore, like yard work or house maintenance, and turn it into an opportunity for your older children to cultivate life skills. Give your children ownership of your fall yard work. Have them purchase the necessary equipment to get the job done, with the budget your family has established for that task. Make seasonal activities a chance for your children to develop responsibility.

And until next time, I’m Mike Smith.

Mike Smith: As fall fruit and foliage peak, help your children learn what makes it happen! You can find botany information in biology books or online. Anna Botsford Comstock’s Handbook of Nature Study is an interesting guide to studying nature firsthand through observation.

This fall, explore with your students why leaves change color. The main factors are temperature, moisture, and length of day. If you live in an area with fall foliage, make a list of factors that might have contributed to the brilliant or lackluster display you see this autumn.

There are simple chromatography experiments that your students could do as a science project with either green leaves or leaves that have changed colors. Check online for instructions.

Remember pressing leaves? Let your students preserve the splendor of autumn by pressing leaves with a warm iron in wax paper. Collect leaves from as many different trees as you can, and use them later in the year to identify trees by leaf characteristics.

If you live in an area without fall foliage, you can still focus on botany! Take advantage of the harvest season to learn about how fruits mature. Choose a locally-grown fruit and illustrate a chart of its developmental process.

Have fun with fall science experiments, and tune in to our next program for ideas on incorporating fall into your other subjects! And until then, I’m Mike Smith.

Mike Smith: Fall provides a perfect opportunity to explore the works of many regional poets and storytellers. Do you remember learning James Whitcomb Riley’s poem “When the Frost Is on the Punkin” as a child? Your children will delight in the rich dialect and colorful images of that fall favorite!

From John Keats’ “Ode to Autumn” to Robert Frost’s poems celebrating New England fall, explore the poetry of the season with your children. You might check your library for poetry magazines and journals, which often contain topical or seasonal poems.

The rhythms and rhymes of poetry appeal to children of all ages, so even if your child can’t read yet, he’ll enjoy hearing you or your older students read fall poems aloud to him. Once your older students have read some fall poetry, consider having them analyze the form of the poem. Guides to the rules and patterns of poetry are available online, in literature textbooks, or in books at your library on how to write poetry. Finally, have your student write her own autumn poem.

You may also enjoy reading aloud favorite short stories of autumn, such as Washington Irving’s “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” and seasonal selections from longer works, like the Little House on the Prairie books .

There are many classic autumn picture books for your youngest learners, including Ox-Cart Man ; Hello, Harvest Moon ; Reeve Lindbergh’s Johnny Appleseed .

Have fun reading together! And until next time, I’m Mike Smith..

Mike Smith: Don’t forget to celebrate the holidays of fall! Thanksgiving may be the one that first springs to mind, but it’s not the only one.

Yom Kippur, Reformation Day, and All Saints Day each have religious significance and often major historical events connected to it. Check out books on the historical background of the holiday, biographies of key figures, historical fiction, music or artwork associated with the holiday, and ethnic traditions. You could also use one of these holidays as a starting point for a unit study on your family’s religious heritage.

You could brush up on English history in your homeschool this year by observing Guy Fawkes Day on the fifth of November, and learning about the Gunpowder Plot and the history of the British Parliament.

And what about Veterans Day as an opportunity to teach your children about the cost of freedom? The holiday began as Armistice Day, celebrating the end of World War I, but was broadened to honor veterans of all American wars. Take your children to a nursing home to visit a veteran, make cards for veterans and distribute them through a local VA medical center, or have your student interview a veteran and write a short essay.

Of course, you don’t want to miss the rich opportunity fall offers to study Thanksgiving and the founding of America! As you learn about the precious freedom the Pilgrims sought, you’ll appreciate the freedom we have—to worship and to teach your children at home.

Until next time, I’m Mike Smith.

Mike Smith

Michael Smith and his wife Elizabeth, along with Michael Farris and his wife, Vicki, incorporated Home School Legal Defense Association in 1983 and were the original board members. Mike grew up in Arkansas, graduated from the University of Arkansas where he played basketball, majoring in business administration. Upon graduation, he entered the U.S. Navy and served three years before attending law school at the University of San Diego.

In 1972, he was admitted to the bar in California and also has been admitted to the Supreme Court of the United States. He is licensed in Virginia, California, and Washington, D.C.

Mike and his family began homeschooling because their 5-year-old flunked kindergarten. This was quite a disappointment to Mike in light of the fact that he was preparing this child to be president of the United States by starting his education as early as possible.

His family’s life changed drastically when he heard a radio program in 1981 which introduced him to the idea of homeschooling. When they started homeschooling, they began homeschooling one year at a time to meet the academic and social needs of their children. After spending lots of time around people like Mike Farris, he became convinced that he had been called to use his gifts and talents in the legal profession to assist homeschoolers who were being prosecuted because they didn’t hold a teacher’s certificate or satisfy the school district that they could competently teach their children.

Mike came to HSLDA full-time in 1987 and has served as president of the organization since the year 2001. In addition to serving as president, he also is a contact lawyer for California, Nevada and Puerto Rico. All of Mike’s children are now grown, and three of the four were homeschooled. The most enjoyable part of Mike’s job is when he is able to go to homeschool conferences and meet what he calls America’s greatest heroes, homeschooling moms.

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