We didn't have class last week because it was school vacation in this part of the world, but we will be resuming this coming week. Each week we end up with a different set of kids but we have enough regular comers to still progress along.
In our one hour session the older kids have had just enough time to choose a specimen, look, write some analogies, and then draw. Last session, Deb spent some time talking to the older kids about analogies--what they are, and what makes some analogies better than others. This coming week I think they are going to look back at something they've done and do some creative writing.
Poetry, nature journals, and creative stories are all types of writing that can be started or enhanced by analogies. I hope to have some more examples after our next meeting.
As for the younger kids, we've been able to get some haiku poetry and some descriptive writing out of them. We are still working on getting them to slow down to be more thoughtful and observant, and that has led to improvements over the weeks. I've been looking into various types of poetry since Jamie suggested the cinquain form; I'm hoping to introduce this to them next time.
As Sarah suggested I created this sheet for our family to use for our Private Eye Nature investigations. It is meant to be printed out double-sided on an 11 x 8.5 (landscape orientation) sheet of paper and then fold it in half so the short sides meet (like a card.) I can then collect these in a small notebook that fits easily into any nature pack. I thought I'd share--enjoy! A Private Eye Nature sheet
Three blog carnivals have posted this week in which this new blog is listed.
The Hands On Home School blog carnival is up at Jimmie's Collage. It's a very full selection of great hands-on ideas this month! You can submit your hands-on ideas for next month's carnival here.
The Charlotte Mason blog carnival is always filled with great ideas and discussion about Miss Mason's educational philosophy, including Nature Study. The latest edition is up at Our Journey Westward. You can submit your Charlotte Mason inspired blog entry for the next carnival here.
Finally, the original homeschool blog carnival, The Carnival of Homeschooling is up at Our Curious Home. You can submit you homeschooling blog entry here for future editions.
You can't begin A Private Eye Nature study without a loupe. I've done a little looking and it turns out that they are readily available from a variety of source.
Amazon.com offers the widest variety of loupes at the best prices I've seen. You can get a set of 3 plastic loupes 3x, 5x, and 10x for under $3. You can also get a set of 3, including a double, 10x, 10x+20x, and 30x, for just over $6. Even a single 10x metal-cased, glass-lens loupe is $3 (it costs $5.60 at Home Training Tools.) While I have not tried an illuminated loupe, I do have an illuminated hand microscope (pictured above) and it is very handy to observe object in low-light conditions. You can get an illuminated loupe for only $5.
Ds#3 just turned 7. He does everything with great enthusiasm.
He's been looking at several buds and other things as well. Last week he picked up an acorn and placed it into his specimen bag. By the time we went off to Private Eye class several days later something very interesting happened.
The acorn sprouted!
This made a wonderful object for class. He looked at it carefully through the loupe and then came up with the following analogies:
A worm, a glue stick, a laser shooting out (he was looking at just the sprout.)
A tear drop, an eye (looking at just the acorn)
A cat or a dog, a single hair on top of a head, my loupe on its lanyard, a slipper.
He drew his acorn using 5x and 10x magnification. As you can see, the size compared to the circle looks like he drew the object without magnification.
Next I asked him to think about why it looked like that.
He said, "It's growing. This is a root that is growing out of it."
I wonder what other plant structures we will find arise from our specimens. This leads to a question I will pose to my kids, "What is the difference between a bud and a seed?"
This is the class, based on another program, that got me started on this blog. It's our third meeting, though only a handful of us have made it to all three so far. This is the older group after collecting specimens.
So far in our one hour class time the kids have only had a chance to do the basic four steps. In another week or two we plan on having them look back at their work and do some creative writing and/or drawing with their analogies.
Getting down the four-step process in this program is taking a bit of time and practice, especially for the moms trying to guide their kids. Everyone understands examining the specimen and drawing the picture, yet I've noticed that even though the kids are looking through the loupes to examine their object, they draw them unmagnified. I remind them to look-draw-look-draw and draw circles on their papers to represent the loupe but still they are not in the habit of drawing a magnified picture. I am going to try to cover the specimen somehow so the only way they can look at it when drawing is to look through the loupe, similar to drawing from a microscope.
Making analogies is a skill that requires a bit of work for most. My first "rule" is that they cannot make an analogy to another related item, so if they are looking at a plant, no plant analogies; if they are looking at a rock, no rock analogies. While they are valid analogies, my kids were stuck on them and couldn't come up with anything else. Once I made the rule they began to think in novel ways.
If they are having a really hard time getting started, I ask them to write a list of adjectives to describe the object. Next I'll pick two or three and ask, "What else is oval, brown, and hard?" What else has something long and thin attached to it?
Usually they want to get started drawing before they think about the analogies. While I see nothing wrong with doing that, many of the kids get a sense they are "done" when they finish drawing and spend less time on the analogies and hypotheses. Until they are comfortable doing the whole process, I save the drawing until the end.
The greatest appeal, especially for the boys and the younger kids, is just being outside and playing rather than doing a structured nature study. I'm still wondering how to overcome that allure!
Our first project the we will be spending some time on is Signs of Spring. I packed the loupes, the camera, some scissors, and some plastic bags and headed into the back yard. Ds#3 looked at at collected the greatest variety of samples (living or not.) While looking at moss, he described it as a green sweater on a rock--he may be a natural at this analogy business!
Ds#1 collected only a few samples, having more fun getting his feet wet while examining the moss and slime in the abundant water from the recent extensive downpours. He was too allured by the beautiful weather to do any sort of writing or drawing (tomorrow morning he will.)
Ds#2 was the most fascinated by the slime. He even returned with a container to collect some in order to more closely examine it and perform experiments on it. (Maybe tomorrow, too.)
When we got back to the house I asked them all to examine buds. Ds#2 started with this Mountain Laurel. At first he looked at it with the MicroMax but the magnification was so great that you could not take in the entire smallest distal tip of the bud, so he changed to the 10x loupe.
I asked all of them to think of what else it their objects looked like. Universally, all three boys came up with other plants for analogies so I asked them to think of non-plant analogies. Ds#2 was stuck so I asked him to list some adjectives. After a few he started coming up with analogous objects.
A branching tree
Split string Bagpipes
A bent fork, pink and rusty
After drawing his bud, I reminded him about the Haiku poetry he heard about at the Private Eye workshop. He noticed his fork analogy had exactly 7 syllables. I asked him what he was looking at. "A mountain laurel bud," he said; that quickly became the beginning. "What does it do?" I asked, and that became the third line.
Mountain laurel bud,
A bent fork, pink and rusty
To make more branches.
He was so thrilled with himself that he continued to make all kinds of haiku poems for the rest of the afternoon.
Next will be for them to choose another bud to compare and contrast with the first one.
We study nature through a loupe and draw what we see. We compare and contrast, make analogies, and consider why things are structured as they are. This simple process opens the door to scientific investigation, richer writing, and creative art. See The Basic Steps to find out how.
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Parents, teach your children to see nature, respect and protect it as a magnificent gift that presents to us the grandeur of the Creator! In speaking in parables, Jesus used the language of nature to explain to his disciples the mysteries of the Kingdom. May the images he uses become familiar to us! Let us remember that the divine reality is hidden in our daily lives like the seed in the soil. May it bear fruit in us!