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By: Cassie Tatum Hart

If there’s anything I love more than teaching my kids, it’s planning to teach my kids I actually love the days I can sit down, look at our curriculum for the upcoming term, pull up a blank calendar and fill in my spreadsheet with incredible plans that will fill my children with excitement and wonder I enjoy the planning more than the execution, and I’m not kidding.

So this week, I was thrilled to sit down and think about birds. We follow the Charlotte Mason philosophy, loosely using the Ambleside Online curriculum. Ambleside provides three nature topics for each year (One per term. A term is about 12 weeks.). For the fall, the powers that be suggest that we study birds.

With any subject we are going to tackle, I first remember that the one who does the work learns. So my job is not to learn about birds and regurgitate birdness to my kids. My job is to set up opportunities for them to encounter birds and encourage them to investigate birds. I will read up on birds so I can answer their questions, but I’m not here to be the know-it-all bird lady.

My goal for my kids by the end of the term is to be able to identify 12 local birds by sight and sound and complete a nature notebook with notes and pictures about each bird.

When my mindset is right, I check my assets. What do I already have that will help us study birds? I already have the free Merlin Bird App. You can turn on the mic, it will listen for birds and suggest what bird it might be. If you can see the bird, you can answer some simple questions about the bird and Merlin will show you pictures so you can figure out what type of bird you are looking at It’s free, and I like it.

We already have Burgess Bird Book it’s a simple story about Peter Rabbit learning about types of birds We may read a few chapters of that book during morning time (This book is old enough, it’s in the public domain, making it free online) Next time we head to the library, I’ll check section 598 that’s where the bird books are I’ll keep these books in the back seat of the car for easy perusing.

We have a couple of bird feeders purchased during quarantine so we can look at birds out our window. We are off to a great start and haven’t spent any money yet.

Next, I want to see if there’s a way to use our bird study to build community. So I google “bird hikes at state parks” and, sure enough, several nearby state parks have weekly hikes with a naturalist to look for birds. There’s also a nice Audubon site in our area that is worth a drive and hike. So I make a note to set up an event in our local homeschool community to bird watch with friends Both these events are free and more fun with other kids.

Also: Chickens are birds! And we have several friends with hens. We plan to visit friends’ houses and observe their chickens.

And that’s how I planned my bird term without buying any curriculum, worksheets, or spending any money. Win win win.


Cassie is a Charlotte Mason homeschool mom and artist running on the grace of God. Follow her writing and artistic adventures at

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