I’ve been reviewing the past two years worth of nature journals as I prepare for the year ahead, and the different ways my students have of completing the same assignment have warmed by heart.
I’ve mentioned before that Princess Margaret and Dragon Slayer have different ways of approaching their nature journals, and I decided to share one of the more drastic examples. Last spring I sent them out to an ant hill with instructions to observe for 10 minutes, and then draw me something about ants. Copper Top took longer than usual falling asleep for her nap, and when I made it outside I found that Dragon Slayer had moved on to battling with trees and Princess Margaret was still busily drawing.
It was clear to me that Dragon Slayer had observed closely, and chosen to note a few different aspects of ant life. I was pleased.
When Princess Margaret held out her sketch book and asked me to write a few words on her entry, it seemed that she had made a simpler observation for her journal.
Then I turned the page. There was an ant crawling across her hand, as well as both an internal and external vision of the ant hill, rendered in full color. My mother heart swelled.
“Wow! That’s quite a lot of detail.” “Keep turning, Mommy.”
The following pages became more and more imaginative. An ant carrying a lollipop home was followed by a bird (ridden by Thumbelina) who was flying over to the ants with a bucket of food. Then came ballerinas, and then images of a prince presenting his princess with a portrait of herself.
That same prince and princess starred heavily in the pages ahead, but the final image was Princess Margaret herself “being nice to the chickens.” (She even labeled it, hence the need to hide the name.)
In the end, I reminded Princess Margaret that her nature journal was a place for recording what she observes, not what she imagines. But I was secretly glad I had this record of her artistic digressions.
The goal of nature study is to train the observational powers of the student, and I believe that this assignment was a rousing success. I enjoy the way that an education built on the principles Charlotte Mason laid out in her educational philosophy allow each child to develop the same essential skill (in this case observation) in their own unique way.