It’s Candlemas Week in Exploring Nature With Children
- What is Candlemas?
- Candlemas Day
- Presentation of the Lord, Candlemas, and Groundhog Day by Father Scott Winchel (video)
- How to make beeswax candles
It’s Candlemas Week in Exploring Nature With Children
This week in Exploring Nature With Children is ‘Candlemas Week’.
Candlemas takes its name from the blessing of candles for use in church throughout the coming year, and marks the presentation of the Holy Child in the Temple, where Simeon held Jesus and called him a ‘Light to the World’. In pre-Christian times February 1st was an important festival to celebrate the returning light.
Here are some helpful links to get you going:
Do let me know how you get on.
A few years ago, we kept phenology wheels that combined the natural world with the liturgical seasons and festivals. Rose and I have decided to each keep one again for this year.
The larger section for each month is where we will record the natural world, the smaller section is for the festivals; January’s being Epiphany. (We both chose Epiphany to record.)
There really are so many different ways to keep a nature journal!
This morning we were reading The Christmas Book by Enid Blyton, a beautiful, living book, that details the customs and traditions of Christmas, tells the story of the birth of Christ, and tucks in a wee bit of nature study too.
We read the chapter about Holly, and picked some from our garden to study.
Rose cut up some of the berries to see what was inside, and we sketched the holly in our journals whilst listening to Bing Crosby singing ‘The Holly and the Ivy’
Rose wrote a short dictation from the story we had read.
I copied out part of the story that had most interested me.
It’s beginning to feel a lot like Christmas!
I love this time of year; the sense of abundance in nature combines with the cosiness of home. After a long summer of lazy days, we return to our familiar daily routines. Everything begins to turn inward again as we prepare our hearts and homes for the long winter months ahead.
Where I live, the Michaelmas Daisy is everywhere.
The Michaelmas Daisies, among dede weeds,
Bloom for St Michael’s valorous deeds.
And seems the last of flowers that stood,
Till the feast of St. Simon and St. Jude.
On that lovely note, I wish you a happy and healthy Michaelmas, from my home to yours!
“Lectio Divina” is a Latin term for the Christian practice of “divine reading”, a way to read the scriptures, meditating upon them, and moving forward in prayer. The reader is changed by this deep and powerful experience; but what has this to do with nature study?
These three stages of learning are reflected through many ideas of education. They are a truly wonderful way to approach nature study. Let us look at the three stages of Lectio Divina and how we can bring these ideas to the study of nature.
When studying nature, this would be the stage at which we closely observe. Like the grammar stage of The Trivium, we are learning the facts about our subject. We spend time closely observing nature, learning, reading books and field guides and building up a store of knowledge about our subject.
In our nature journals, this may look like:
Key facts such as the location, date, time of day or night.
Brief notes on the weather.
We may make quick sketches to capture what we see, notes at the sides of our sketches to help us remember key details, such as notes on textures, position etc.
Latin names of subjects
This is such an important step in nature study; not to be rushed or missed by the harried parent! Reflecting upon what we have learned, making our own connections, thinking critically is important to building a relationship with, and understanding, the natural world around us. How does all that we observed in stage one fit together? This would be the logic stage within The Trivium.
In our journals we may make notes on connections; ‘what does this remind me of ?’ I would strongly urge you to read this blog post by naturalist John Muir Laws: Prompts For Deeper Nature Observation. His questions, I notice, I wonder, It reminds me of, are wonderful, thought provoking tools.
The final stage is our response to all we have learned and discovered. We have been changed by our experiences and have a need to communicate and express that. We cannot do this stage well, or authentically, without the building blocks of the previous stages, like the Rhetoric stage in The Trivium.
Our nature journals are the perfect place to respond; we may choose to:
Create more intricate, fully formed paintings or drawings of the focus of our nature study.
An arrangement of pressed flowers or leaves
Quotes that pertain to the subject
Passages of scripture
Poetry; either written by ourselves in response to our wonder at the focus of our studies, or poetry written by another, that our heart connects with.
Lists – insects, wild flowers, mammals, trees, whatever appeals to the journal keeper.
These stages are not fixed rules, but an oft-practiced pattern to mark the way as we progress in our journaling of the natural world, and enter into a deeper relationship and knowledge.
I am well on the way to getting Rosie’s socks finished. My dad was admitted to hospital on the Tuesday before Christmas with pneumonia, he was extremely poorly, so I sat at his bedside, the gentle clicking of my needles filling the silence. My stitches helped to keep me calm, an unspoken prayer for when words were too difficult.
Often, I was simply too tired to knit. When not at dad’s bedside, I was at home, busy with Christmas preparations, or in the car, driving my mum to the hospital.
As he began to improve, my hands were busy with washing and feeding dad, then bringing newspapers, or helping him speak to mum on the telephone.
I am beyond thankful that dad is back at home now, but I have been reminded of what Christmas really is to me; family, togetherness, warmth, and love. That darkness and despair will not go on forever;
For a child is born to us,
a son is given to us.
The government will rest on his shoulders.
And he will be called:
Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
His government and its peace
will never end.
I thought I would take a little time to show you the many different advent calendars we have in our home.
I am compelled to point out that I have celebrated advent with children for many years now; my eldest will be thirteen years old in a few short days. So our collection has been built up over the years.
In the photo above, you can see the Advent spiral I made many years ago. We used to have a more traditional advent wreath, with five candles, but I made the spiral & prefer to use this instead. This year we have been very blessed my my mother in law, who gave the girls these two Yankee candle calendars, so we will be using the lovely scented tea lights to light our way to Christmas.
We say this little rhyme as we light our daily candle:
Winter is dark,
Yet each tiny spark
Brightens the way
To Christmas Day
Shine little light
And show us the way
To the bright light
Of Christmas Day.
Unfortunately, I cannot remember where I found this rhyme, so I am not able to give credit to the author. Please let me know in the comments if you do!
The country diary of an Edwardian Lady advent calendar I bought last year, but for some reason we did not use it, so is new to us this year. Isn’t it beautiful?
Next up, we have two lovely books; Tasha Tudor’s A Book Of Christmas, which is so much more than just an advent calendar. A real treasure!
The Animal’s Advent is a sweet nature-themed calendar.
Here is our Jessie tree
Again, I made the most of the ornaments when the children were very small, we also use a clay Christmas tree ornament, which goes onto the Jessie tree on the last day.
I found the templates for the ornaments free online (the link has been long-forgotten; I printed out the daily readings and such years ago, but there are many links on the internet for you to follow. I customised the daily readings, and now use the ornaments I made with selected readings from The Jesus Story Book Bible
You will notice the nature table has been cleared for December, so we can add our nativity. We add baby Jesus on Christmas eve, before bed-time 🙂
The Wise Men make their way from a shelf in my bedroom, along the landing, down the stairs, as advent progresses, arriving on the nature table on Epiphany.
This is the children’s nativity set. When they were little, they would play for hours with this set.
(Picture of Elianna when she was a wee dot!)
We have this calendar, into which I tuck wee chocolates
This year we have also added the Latin Advent Calendar from Classical Academic Press.
In the kitchen, I have my very own Nativity
I love having this in my window! As I stand washing dishes, or preparing food for my family, its presence gently reminds me to reflect upon Christ.
I bought this set the first Christmas I was married, and in my own home. It is a very treasured possession.
I also have my advent devotional readings, which are a calendar of sorts.
This year I am using Lighted Windows, which I have used in previous years too.
I usually journal during my quiet time; sometimes I add drawings & colour.
This is an excerpt from my Lenten journal this year.
Often I just write 🙂
Each evening, I read this lovely book to Rose: Advent Storybook 24 Stories to Share Before Christmas. A beautiful tale for young children/