Junior Naturalists at San Antonio Botanical Garden

I love sharing about the educational opportunities available at San Antonio Botanical Gardens. In addition to their seasonal exhibits like Savage Gardens (which is going on through the rest of the year), the Garden has a wonderful selection of curriculum material on their website. Educational material can be found here and here.

We took full advantage of this resource this morning. The children and I met several other homeschool families from our local homeschool group at the Garden this morning. Together the children worked through the Junior Naturalist Program. Even with the hot and humid weather, the kids had a great time exploring the Garden and earning their Junior Naturalist Patch.

The Junior Naturalist booklet describe a junior naturalist as “someone ready to learn about plants and explore nature.” This program is designed to get children interested in learning about plants and exploring nature, so that they understand why plants are so important and worth protecting.

This booklet contains fourteen activities – some are game-type activites such as word unscrambles and decipher activities, and some are activities to be done while exploring the Garden.

To complete the Junior Naturalist program, children are expected to complete a certain amount of activities. For ages 3-5, children should complete 3 activies and one reflection question. For ages 6-8, children should complete 6 activities and two reflection questions. For ages 9-12, children should complete 9 activities and two reflection questions.

After working through the Junior Naturalist Program booklet, the children then receive a patch and are officially Junior Naturalists!





Illustrating her ice cream sundae containing ingredients found in the Tropical Room.
Showing off her Junior Naturalist badge!

Year Round Homeschooling

I’ve talked before about how we prefer to do year-round schooling rather than follow the traditional public school calendar.

In our household, because we participate in a small co-op that follows the local school calendar, we follow the traditional calendar for those subjects. When the school year raps up in late May/early June, we are done those subjects until the Fall. We switch gears to our summer schedule to cover material that we are often too busy to get to during the regular school year.  

There are a lot of benefits to schooling year-round, and different ways you can “do school” in the summer so it isn’t the same routine all year round. Here are some benefits, in my opinion, to year-round homeschooling:

1. Learning happens all the time, so why can’t education? If we set up our schooling to only take place August through May, are we subconsciously sending the message to our children that learning only happens when we are in school mode? Kyri will often choose to do school work in the evenings or weekends, just because she wants to. Learning without a schedule is something we encourage around here.

2.  There is no summer brain drain. When following a traditional school calendar, it often feels like once you hit June, students flip a switch and turn their brains off until its time to start back in the Fall. Because they haven’t thought about what they learned during the school year, often a fair amount is not retained. This ends up costing valuable school time in the Fall because there is a need for review before starting new material.

3. We don’t have to get into school mode in August. I know some parents grumble about getting their children used to waking up earlier once school starts in August. And there are often a few weeks of adjusting to a school routine again after having two months of relative leisure. Because we don’t have these extended breaks in our school schedule, we don’t struggle with these issues.

4. Taking the long view can reduce stress. When I start putting together school plans for the upcoming year, I consider Fall, Spring and Summer. While we only do Science and History during the Fall and Spring with our co-op, we work on Math and Language Arts the whole year. I don’t have the self-imposed pressure of getting through all of our material by the first week of June. Additionally, I don’t have to cover all of our subjects during Fall and Spring. Instead, I can wait to cover some subjects in the Summer when we don’t have Science or History on our schedule.

5. Schooling year round allows for more frequent breaks. I remember, when I was in school, being exhausted trying to push through to the next school break. It makes more sense to take breaks as needed. If life happens and things get hectic, we can take a week (or two) off of our studies and not fall behind.