Saturday, May 17, 2014

Simple Nature Study With Kids

"Everyday--a little conversation with God, or his envoy
     the tall pine, or the grass-swimming cricket.
Everyday--I study the difference between water and stone.
Everyday--I stare at the world; I push the grass aside
     and stare at the world." --Mary Oliver, The Leaf and the Cloud

"Come on guys! I'm really excited to show you something in the woods!"

I told them I'd spotted a lone daffodil in the woods and it would be fun to observe it and draw a picture of it. I love observing nature. I'm like a kid in a candy store when things start blooming and the birds start showing off for us. We recently re-landscaped our front yard and Isabella says it looks like a nature center. That was kind of the goal. I can't wait for the perennials to grow up so that we can observe even more interesting flying creatures from our front window. We've set up several bird feeders and we watch a variety of birds throughout the day and always keep a book handy to identify new ones (though I'm about to go crazy trying to figure out the variety of sparrows). I've been working on a print-out of the birds we commonly see so that I can keep it by the window for the kids.

As for our daffodil study. It was very stress-free, as any nature study should be. I tend to over complicate most things, and assume I should become an expert before I can even begin a new hobby, but in teaching Isabella how to learn, and showing her that there are beginning steps you must take in any aspect of learning, I've relaxed a little bit. I don't have to be a master artist or a botanist or a naturalist, I just have to sit, listen, and make observations. Those observations may be in the form of writing, drawing or just verbal observations I share with my children. Until this year, I always said I couldn't draw anything other than a stick figure, and even my attempt at a "good" stick figure was lame. Isabella and I have completed several exercises in the book, Drawing With Children by Mona Brookes, and I've decided that I can draw more than a lame stick figure, and I actually enjoy drawing, even though I find it quite frustrating at times because it's much easier to snap a picture of a beautiful flower than it is to sit for half an hour trying sketch every detail. I've found that I enjoy the slowness of drawing, and I'm encouraging Isabella to slow down as well.

A progressive study...

"Isabella, let's take a careful look at this daffodil. Do you see how pretty it is? And isn't it interesting that it is the only daffodil in our woods?"

"You can use any art supplies you want. I'm going to use a pencil and we draw the flower the way we see it."

Isabella's first drawing...

"Wow! You made a very broad picture of what this daffodil looks like. How about you do it again, but this time get up close to the flower, and look at it from several angles, and then draw it again."

Second drawing...
"That's great! I like you showed more detail of the flower itself. Now, let's do it again, and notice the shape of the petals."

Third drawing...

I think the progression of drawings is really interesting, and I like that after some simple encouragement to slow down and take a closer look at the flower, she was able to draw a closer representation of the daffodil. Or I could just be crazy...but I think this kind of stuff is cool and it is in moments like this that I feel we get the most our of homeschooling.

Meanwhile, Isaac wrote the letter 'I' all on his own, without any prompting.

While we sat observing the daffodils, the chickens observed us. Before we got chickens my grandma told me that we'd know when a chicken laid an egg from the loud noises they make. It was definitely laying time when we were out there because they made quite the raucous. Chickens are very social animals and they really wanted to be over by our blanket, but they're sociability has been going too far lately since theywander over to my in-law's porch for treats and poop everywhere. They've been on probation and we're trying to train them in the evenings to stay in the woods and out of the porch and gardens. They're doing pretty well with their new rules and Isaac loves when we look out the window and say, "Hurry! We have to go chase the chickens out of Opa's garden!" Then he chases the chickens while laughing hysterically. 

Isabella generally melts in a puddle when I ask that she write anything, but during a visit to the local book shop, she used her money to purchase a little notebook and began writing one story after another. On this day, she wrote a story about our morning trip to the woods. I asked permission to record her story here: 

The Adventure With Mom and Isaac

Once opon a time Isaac me and mom fond a flouer. We all drwo a picture and Isaac made an 'I' it was cool because he had never made an 'I' before. The end. 

Our nature study supplies:

Her reaction when I try to take a picture of her.

Fashion over function. 

Some tips I've found helpful:

*Always draw/write along with your children. Chances are they'll feel more encouraged if you are doing the activity and making mistakes right along with them.
*Talk about how it feels to draw with a marker compared to a colored pencil or oil pastels or whatever your art medium is.
*Discuss why we use different paper for different kinds of art (assuming you have a supply of different paper weights and textures, if you don't, don't worry about it. I've learned it isn't about having just the right stuff, it's about the experience).
*Discuss what you each like or dislike about the activity, or what you would do differently next time.
*Encourage your kids to sit quietly for a few minutes and then talk about what you heard.
*If you're excited, chances are your kids will get excited. If I'd started this whole adventure with, "Okay Isabella, we're going to do some school work in the woods today. Let's go find a flower and draw it and talk about science..." she probably would have cried because I used the bad word: school.

Grab some pencils, colored pencils, markers or whatever you like, any paper you can find, and head outside! I promise you'll find something interesting.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Photo Dump

Ohio is finally in bloom and we are enjoying every minute we get to spend outside. The wonderful thing about this spring in particular, is that Isaac loves to play outside! He's been having a blast, Isabella too, but she's always outside, rain, snow and shine. 

I need to post all of these wintry pictures and get them out of the way! 

Preschool Carnival

Isabella spends hours shredding chalk and mixing it with water to make paint. 

Little House on the Prairie Paper Dolls...these were one of my best purchases. I think they kept her busy for four days straight. The only downside, none of the dolls/clothing is perforated, you have to cut out everything.

Showing that his hands got dirty and he was okay with it!

Isabella has this amazing gift of getting Isaac to fall asleep.

More words next time.