Nature Journaling & Parental Approaches to Education - Eva Varga

February 23, 20104

I’ve been wanting to introduce Nature Journaling to my Roots & Shoots group for sometime now. Today seemed like the perfect opportunity. I thereby utilized Barb’s Winter Nature Study as a guide and selected Winter Trees as our topic. All but two of the children (my own) had had previous experience with nature journaling, so I spent a little time in the beginning sharing examples of journaling and making suggestions of what one may wish to include in their own journals.

I talked briefly about observing trees in winter using the suggestions in The Handbook of Nature Study as prompts. We then went outside on our front lawn and made observations both from afar and upclose (looking for buds, leaf scars, etc.).The kids stayed on task (with the exception of my little guy who took the opportunity to run about in hopes of getting attention – it’s a good thing we homeschool or he’d be labeled, I’m sure of it!) for about 15-20 minutes – making sketches in their journals and asking questions.
I was happy to see that many of the kids took time to add detail to their sketches – and it was evident that they were looking for the characteristics I had previously mentioned (opposite or alternate branches, leaf scars, buds, etc.).When everyone had completed their journaling, we returned indoors and divided into two groups (as there were so many kids this time). One group worked on Japanese inspired fish kites while the other group listened to the book Winter Trees by Carole Gerber. We didn’t get an opportunity to rotate, however, as moms decided they needed to go home just prior to the time we would have switched. Everyone started to slowly depart at that point and I began to question the success of the activity. I also began to wonder about the make-up of the group. I started the group years ago when my children were small – before I had even considered homeschooling. The families that were involved at that time are still committed to the group and attend most regularly. All of these children attend public school. As the children have gotten older and have developed other interests, the number of participants have waned. I’ve thereby opened the group up to homeschool families that we’ve met along our journey. Presently, the group is comprised of about half homeschoolers and half public-schooled kids. This makes for an interesting dynamic.
I’ve also noticed that to some extent – the moms of the homeschooled children are hands-on. They are engaged in the learning process and work alongside their children to ensure they are getting the most out of the lesson. The moms of the public-schooled children more frequently stand back and visit with one another and intervene with their child less. Two distinctly different approaches to education.

I am beginning to entertain the idea of meeting 2x a month – once for homeschoolers and once for public-school kids – allowing families to attend whichever time/day works best for them. This would require more work on my part but would be valuable to my own kiddos, providing them more opportunities to interact with others in an educational setting. What do you all think? Should I continue forth as usual or make changes to accommodate different educational approaches?


  • Pebblekeeper

    February 23, 2010 at 5:13 pm

    I like the combination of different types of learners and teachers. Maybe a hands on mom will discover the joy of seeing what the other children can do on their own, and maybe the coffee talkers can see what a small amount of alongside encouragement can spark. I would hope that the different types of mom might come to the middle, sparking interest, but not “doing” the project for the kiddos. 🙂 As we grow in the home learning, meeting so many moms on line and IRL with varying back grounds, my life and teaching is so much more enriched! So – two separate classes? My vote is no. Two a month? It could be done, especially if one is just a walk and sketch. 🙂

  • Barb-Harmony Art Mom

    February 23, 2010 at 7:41 pm

    In my experience with groups doing nature study, smaller groups are better. I would opt for two different times just because the dynamic is so much more intimate when you have fewer children. More one on one, more time for quiet, more time for interaction, less commotion, less distraction.

    I have learned to always give the parents a job or ask them to step away if they want to talk. I try to remember to pull them aside *before* the event to make sure they understand that it isn’t a social event and that I will give all the kids a chance to socialize *after* the main lesson. They usually take the hint.

    15-20 minutes is a good time frame, at least it has been in our family and when I lead groups in nature study.

    I really enjoyed reading your post. 🙂

  • Jeff and Sarah

    February 26, 2010 at 4:08 am

    ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!?!?! That is so incredibly random. I can’t believe that we both attended the same high school, both moved to Bend, and both decided to homeschool…wow.

    How is your school year going? Found any great new resources? I haven’t read your blog this week, so I need to catch up!


  • Alycia in Va.

    February 26, 2010 at 8:17 pm

    I would have never guessed the observations about homeschooling vs. public ed moms, although I would imagine that since homeschool moms dedicate themselves100% to educating their children, they would be more hands on.

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