Monday, 9 April 2012

Charlotte Mason Style: Nature study and Journals.

The Canal walk in Tavistock.
We use Charlotte Mason methods for our home schooling. (please do some research on this amazing lady and her insights and methods of educating children (do a google search or try

One of the things a CM education includes is Nature Study- and again - there are many ways you can do this depending on the age and interests of your kids etc (again - a google search is great to see how others do it). You can simply go to your garden or hedgerow, your park or local area and you can usually spot something of interest - be it animal, plant, insect, weather. The point is for the child to notice something he hasn't before, sketch it and then write about it - something new he has found out - by researching it when you get home (how much you do is age relevant - it might be simply 'a plant' or its colour for a wee one and as they get older it might be the veins on the leaf and what they do). The Nature journal grows with the child. The boys have an a4 sketch book each.  I like the boys to date the sketch and include in their information what it is, where they spotted the subject, observations about it (i.e. behaviour, pattern, how many etc  maybe also what the weather was like if it is relevant). The sketch itself should be as detailed as they can manage  - and should be from observation - actually what they can see - not what they think it should be like. Then we look it up in a book or on the internet at home to add something new about it that they have discovered.  I tend to carry my digital camera with me whenever we head out in general, in case we spot something on the way (we do a lot of walking!),  the photos can be used in the journal, or for them to sketch from (especially if they want to sketch a bird or animal that won't oblige us by sitting still for us for 10 minutes!)
Here is something we happened upon by chance on a walk with some friends - it was not a planned nature walk, just an outing with friends along what I call the canal walk. The canal starts in Tavistock town centre and heads out through woods along side the River Tavy, and on (if you could go far enough), to Morwellham Quay - however the public only have access so far today and the rest has been fenced off. Anyway - we enjoyed lovely company, a packed lunch, the boys built dens in the woods with their friend whilst us pair of mums sat with a flask of tea and fed the toddlers. On the way the boys spotted this bunch....
.....they were not in the canal but in a little trickle of a stream at one of the entrance paths to the wood. The children stood for a very long time spotting them, counting them (how many can you spot?), just enjoying them - and that was all they wanted to talk about all the way home! You can happen anywhere at any time.

Nature journaling encourages the child to observe (a skill that children don't often have time to hone) and make connections and relationships with his surroundings and to see the Creator behind it.  It incorporates regular practise of sketching and art skills, it is a platform for teaching referencing and research skills, reading (to learn - not reading for readings sake), new vocabulary is learned and understood, writing skills are used,  and you get exercise thrown into the deal too - so in a traditional 'school mindset' you can say that english, p.e., reading, writing, art and science are all being done in one hit! 

Nature walks are supposed to be regular - may be once or twice a week - though i confess we haven't managed it that frequently - but i think - especially for little ones - it can be much more frequent than that, relaxed and opportunistic,  I believe I read that Charlotte would have her students get out for a walk every afternoon, all other studies were to be finished by the afternoon so it was free for going  outside - however I am not Charlotte Mason - she seems to have been a force to be reckoned with! 

In theory then: For Little ones i would suggest a little sketch pad and even if they only manage a blob (for a snail) with a wiggly line behind it (for the trail) , they have achieved an observation (excellent!) ask what it is (they are telling you what they already know, excellent!) if they say - it's a snail with slime - read something together about it and ask them  for one new thing they  heard, and maybe from what you read they may say - the slime is called a trail (excellent - something new has been learned ask them to label this new word on the sketch) Job done! As the child grows so will the skill of drawing and observing, researching etc. I have for my boys a ringbinder each , they have the sketch book to take out and about - then when it is done they take the page and hole punch it, and it is stored in the nature study folder. As this grows - the hope is they will start to categorise where each page needs to go - maybe the folder will be divided into animals, plants, weather, skys, or maybe it will be dividied by type of area - town, country, seaside etc. The point is it is personal, relational and individual to each child. They may like to take samples of leaves, flowers, feathers, learn the tracks animals make, etc - all can be put in there. At first for little ones it is anything that catches their eye or interest - as they get older you can 'plan' a theme depending on the time of year - maybe birds for the winter as you can attract them to your garden and observe them without leaving the house, or winter tree buds / winter tree silhouettes - can you learn which tree is which when it has no leaves? the list goes on and on. Currently Nathan is desperate to make a wormery, whist Jake is absorbed by rocks/gems. 
Whilst it is good to let them explore their interests - it is also important that they follow your plan - they need to develope a good habit of applying themselves to a task - even if it's not their favourite, after all we all have to do things in life we find less than exciting. Plus, they will never find and discover new interests if they are allowed to only follow what they already like. 
Having said that all - I must lead you to this page fpr a quick, funny and encouraging read. We can all get too tied up with our high expectations of what our home schooling should be like, and we pour so much into 'our' plans - and it is right that we be responsible and plan so that the dear children are not running wild and illiterate - to make sure we are covering the essentials etc - but  God has told us
For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD.
 For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts. Isaiah 55 v 8-9
 And as this dear lady writes in the link I gave you,
"..homeschooling is, at any rate, God's plan to bring the self-sufficient woman into dependence upon Him."
My experience so far certainly causes me to shout a big "Amen!" to that, and I wouldn't have it any other way!

What about you...... How do you implement nature study (if at all)? What things have you come across that have stood out? Do your kids keep a journal - is it different to how we do ours? What about you seasoned home educators out there - any tips or inspiration you can share? Please share....
In Him

No comments:

Post a Comment

You are welcome to comment or ask a question. If you disagree with anything I have posted you are welcome to say so but please keep your comments polite or they will be removed. Also bear in mind - what i post is my opinions, beliefs, experiences and understanding, I am entitled to them just as you are to yours, so please respect that. So.....on you go then!......x