Friday, October 2, 2015

Nature Journaling [Homeschooling]

Four months ago, I didn't plan to homeschool at all. And here we are, a month and a half in, enjoying all these moments... including gazing at frogs.

What a privilege it is to be able to spend all these moments with my girls! Not only to watch them learning but also just to simply have the moments. As I researched homeschooling, I felt so drawn to the Charlotte Mason approach. In a nutshell, this approach to homeschooling values learning through living literature and active participation rather than textbooks. When your children are young (like mine are), Charlotte Mason suggests reading a lot of great literature to them and spending much time out in nature.

When I learned that Charlotte Mason really emphasized spending a lot of time in nature, and I started reading up on nature journaling, I was not immediately thrilled. It was difficult for me to see the value. But I wanted to give it a try.

And then we went camping over Labor Day, and we saw a fawn.

And we were able to get so close to it! Sophie really wanted to be able to feed it a leaf. 

The fawn ran away before she was able to feed it her leaf, but it was an exciting encounter nevertheless, and we ran with it! We went back to our campsite and pulled out our nature journals and sketched a deer (in our van while it poured outside). We pulled out our nature book on Mammals and found the page about deer and learned information about them. Through this exercise, Sophie learned about nature, worked on her writing (she wrote out "Fawn"), and she practiced her art skills in using her water paints. And isn't her fawn so cute? I.was.hooked.

So, last week Ben found a salamander outside our house. He brought it in to Sophie, and she was pretty excited. It was love at first sight for Sophie. She played with it endlessly, until we made her put it down so it could hide itself in the grass or dirt as they are underground creatures.

She's such a brave soul.

And very nurturing.

After we enjoyed the salamander for a day, Sophie grabbed her nature journal (and I grabbed mine), and we journaled about the salamander. The one we found is called a Spotted Salamander. Sophie wrote out long words, like Salamander and Amphibian. She insisted she wanted to! She still doesn't know all of her lowercase letters, so she switches to capital letters sometimes. It's so sweet to see her own writing in her journal, though. I tell her which letter to write, and she writes it. From her own memory, she can only spell her name, "it," and "is," so amphibian is a bit of a stretch ;)

We made salt-dough amphibians. Let's just say, this was mostly about the experience. After we baked them, the legs all started falling off rather quickly. This poor little froggy has lost two legs that are just hanging on by a super glue thread right now, and Sophie's poor little salamander lost a leg that has yet to be found. We got the idea from here, and Sophie really did have so much fun making these. Hopefully I can perfect my skills for any future salt-dough creatures. 

The creature that Sophie's spent the most time with this summer are frogs. We have tons of them in our backyard (and twice in our house!), and Sophie just loves them. 

Lyla loves them too. But we protect the helpless frogs and toads by only letting Lyla observe them from the (relative) safety of the bug catcher.

We are currently working on journaling about frogs :) When we went camping last month, we went to the nature center (which Sophie loved), and they had a frog show there. The naturalist showed us different frogs and toads (and a large salamander) and taught us all about them! Sophie was totally in her element. One of the neatest parts was that the naturalist played different frog and toad sounds for us. That night, we were walking to the bathroom, and Sophie was scared because it was dark. She was whining, and I told her to quietly listen and let me know what she heard. She quieted down and listened, and a smile filled her face. "It's a toad!" she exclaimed. So often our lives are noisy, and we miss the sounds around us. I loved that we could silence ourselves for long enough to hear the sounds and even to recognize what we were hearing!

And perhaps one of my favorite parts is that I am learning too! It's good for me to put down my own things and sit next to Sophie and learn with her. For her to see that I'm still learning too. For her to see that I'm not too busy for her.

“But ask the beasts, and they will teach you;
    the birds of the heavens, and they will tell you;
or the bushes of the earth, and they will teach you;
    and the fish of the sea will declare to you.
Who among all these does not know
    that the hand of the Lord has done this?
10 In his hand is the life of every living thing
    and the breath of all mankind.

Job 12:7-10

"O Lord, how many and varied are Your works! In wisdom have You made them all; the earth is full of Your riches and Your creatures." Psalm 104:24 

1 comment:

  1. Very cool! I love her artwork--probably better than anything I could do! Layla is crazy about all kinds of animals right now (and animals sounds) so it is so fun to introduce them to her "in real life" not just on a page. They are learning so much all the time!