Saturday, October 03, 2009

Corndog, or Cattail?

To complete Outdoor Hour Challenge #3, I read pages 16 and 17 of Handbook of Nature Study. The first section covered language arts and nature study. As a Charlotte Mason homeschooler and RDI mom, I heartily agree that "the purpose of a language is, after all, merely to convey ideas" for I wish to know what Pamela discovers. In the cattail study, Pamela connected cattails to cotton and dandelion seeds all on her own! While nature study supplies excellent subject matter to narrate, the quickest way to kill the benefits is to turn it into a language arts exercise. I try to look at journal entries and written narrations as a record of her understanding of the English language.

The other natural form of expressing ideas found in nature study is art. We usually try our hand at water colors, but the handbook encourages allowing students "to choose their own medium, pencil, crayon, or water color." For the tree study (this week's challenge), I brought all sorts of choices: markers, watercolors, pastels, and oil pastels. The most freeing statement in the book concerned my own issues with art because my family has many talented artists, and I am not one of them:
Too much have we emphasized drawing as an art; it may be an art, if the one who draws is an artist; but if he is not an artist, he still has a right to draw if it pleases him to do so. We might as well declare that a child should not speak unless he put his words into poetry, as to declare that he should not draw because his drawings are not artistic.
The irony of it all is that usually children who draw what they see in nature study develop their own style and learn to draw very well!

We followed up the cattail study by painting water colors based on one of the pictures I took: mine, which is entitled "Cattail, or Corndog?" is on the left and Pamela's is at the top. Pamela wrote some notes about the cattails: "It felt like cotton. The seeds were like a dandelion seeds. It floated on the pond." Notice that Pamela made a tiny grammatical error, but I did not correct it.

Yesterday, Pamela selected a tree, well a sapling, from our backyard to do a year long study. Every season, she will record her observations to help her understand how trees grow and change throughout the year, so I printed out the tree study page for autumn.

Before we headed out, I read pages 622-624 of the handbook, focusing on autumn work. Pamela drew an incredibly geometric picture of her tree, while I snapped pictures that will help us study and classify the tree next week, focusing on the leaves, seeds, roots, trunk, bark, and crown.

How has my attitude about nature study changed since starting the challenges? I have longed to be more consistent but thought a weekly field excursion was too time-consuming and the handbook, too intimidating. Thanks to Barb's bite-sized plan to ease families into short but effective studies and her scaffolding of the handbook, I feel much more confident. I have kept my own nature journal, sporadically in fits and starts over the past three years, and seeing Pamela's art is inspiring me to do my own. The benefits of nature study are plentiful--exercise, fresh air, attention, science, language arts, topics for conversation, art, etc.

P.S. Pamela's tree is weeping mulberry (female cultivar), a variety of the white mulberry, so we will be doing a mulberry study for science next week. Since the handbook does not cover it, Barb's article on subjects not specifically covered will come in handy!


Barb said...

I love reading your entries and how many connections you are making about nature study and life in general. Your observations about your daughter always capture my attention.

As always, I love the graphicness of your daughter's artwork. Delightful.

Thank you so much for sharing your experiences.

Barb-Harmony Art Mom

Anonymous said...

You and Pamela are so far ahead of Raymie and me. We are going to chart our Crab Apple tree this year.

I was thinking of doing my own drawings too. Raymie has a real talent for art, which is something I never had. It might be fun to do the projects together.

I was going to comment on your math post, but when I saw the fractions that Pamela did I started to hyperventilate. Math scares the daylights out of me. So if it is OK with you, I will just read the math posts and hope I don't have to call 911.

walking said...

Cynthia, ten years ago when I got into Charlotte Mason, the best I could do was stick figures. I am still not an artist, but, from time to time, I am mildly pleased with what I draw or paint. All it takes are baby steps and a willingness to try!

walking said...

Cynthia, feel free to give yourself some grace about fractions and math. I believe we were poorly taught and the only kids who understood math were the ones with a natural aptitude. I know that Temple Grandin struggled with algebra because it was so abstract. So, I am trying to see with Pamela if teaching algebra properly will make a difference. So far, so good!

tiffrutherf said...

Man, I need to start sending my kids to your school!! Good work keep up the good work!

Adelaide Dupont said...

I didn't see the grammatical error.

Pamela is doing some awesome drawings and making great connections with all she sees.

Charlotte Mason is so right about art, for artists and non-artists alike. And it's good that you are drawing more than stick figures. Though they are still at the going rate: look at the sites for them.

walking said...

Pamela sometimes has issues with syntax: "a dandelion seeds" is a good example. In this day and age, grammar check should catch that, but her notes was handwritten.

Unknown said...

Looks like a great tree for the study, can't wait to see it's changes. :)