The Joy of the Charlotte Mason Homeschool ~ Nature Study

Monday, April 27, 2015

We’re walking through the woods on a damp Spring day.  

The Robins are back, singing us an April song of return.  The vernal pool by the edge of the familiar path is back again and our children race to greet the swampy waters with a warm welcome.

“They’ll be toads soon, Mama,” my eight-year-old daughter informs me.  She’s beaming.
And she knows this as fact because we’ve studied and enjoyed the tiny toads here for as long as she can remember.

Our youngest son is sloshing through streams and puddles, curious of every new and living thing.  Our eldest is gazing up at the birds overhead, commenting on the roar of the fast flowing river that was frozen solid a few weeks ago. This is an afternoon of study in our family.  And it is the glory and enjoyment of this kind of learning that drew me quickly and easily to Charlotte Mason’s philosophies...

To read more, join me over at Winter Promise.

A Review of ARTistic Pursuits, Elementary 4-5, Book 1 (The Elements of Art and Composition)

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

We were excited to have the opportunity to review Elementary 4-5, Book 1:The Elements of Art and Composition from ARTistic Pursuits.  

As a family, we naturally enjoy doing art together and working on different drawing projects in our homeschool.  The ARTistic Pursuits books are a full art curriculum and come in many levels from Preschool to High School.  I chose this particular level because I really wanted a book that would challenge our children's developing art skills.

The Layout

What I love about the ARTistic Pursuits books is how in-depth and complete they are for art study.  If you have one of these books for your year, you will have a complete and comprehensive art curriculum.  This book in particular goes into great detail about composition and creative art processes while also encouraging creativity and observations skills.

The way Brenda Ellis writes these books makes them very conversational and friendly for children.  We have always worked on them together, as a family, but this book (Elementary 4-5, Book 1:The Elements of Art and Composition) could easily be followed independently by the student.  

The books are outlined incredibly well with full descriptions of goals, content, and scheduling.  Topics include things like: Space, Line and Shape, Texture, Value, Form, Contrast, The Shapes of Natural Forms, Edges, Balance, Rhythm, Depth, Proportion, Movement, etc.  The projects are challenging and definitely for 4th to 5th graders (and beyond!) in my opinion.   

The book is separated into units (1-16).  Each Unit has 4 Lessons.  These are broken into 4 focuses: Building a Visual Vocabulary, American Art Appreciation and History (picture study),  Techniques, and Application.  I show photos and descriptions of these lessons below.

A Peak at Unit 3

In Unit 3, we look at Texture.    

It took us about 2 weeks to accomplish all of Unit 3.  We did 2 lessons per week, which is the recommended speed in the guide.

The first part of Lesson 1 is the Vocabulary and Creative Exercise.  Here, we discussed how art gives us a chance to use all our senses, to slow down and appreciate the beauty around us (amen!).   We discussed the importance of the habit of attention is seeing the 'textures' in our world.

In the "TRY IT" section, children take a blind walk with a partner.  A partner leads the blindfolded child around the house to touch and feel different textures.  The blind folded child then must guess what they are touching.   After this activity, children are encouraged to draw some of the textures they found. Another idea is to put many types of textured objects in a bag to guess what they are by only feeling them with your hands.

The objective is to develop a deeper sensory awareness and vocabulary, which helps artists draw textured objects more affectively.

Lesson 2  is the Art Appreciation portion of the Unit.  Here we looked at a beautiful painting by Asher B. Durand called Kindred Spirits.  Using our observation skills, we identified various textures and surfaces in the painting.

There is a short biography of the artist as well as a narrative of "The Times", which is a description of what life was like at the time when the artist painted the piece and how that might have influenced the art and played a role in the landscape.  

We also used the "Make an Observation Drawing" suggestion.  I asked the children to draw textures that they observed in the everyday world.  This is a lovely opportunity for us Charlotte Mason-ers to do some Nature Study sketching in our journals.

Lesson 3 is the Techniques section of the unit.  Here we looked at specific techniques that can be used to create certain types of textures.   I Children are encouraged to use pencil to draw several objects found outdoors.  For this step, I offered my help.  I got a blank sheet and showed, by example, how to use lines, groups of lines, blending and shapes to create texture.  We also tilted our pencils and used them in various ways to show different types of textures.

Lesson 4 leads us to the Final Project.  

Here I encouraged the children to gather their tools for drawing and sketching.  This included paper, Nature Journals, and a pencil case with various sketching pencils and erasers.  I encouraged the children to use all the skills they had learned in the unit to create a drawing.  Our children created landscape sketches using their imaginations.  They also played around with various textures and different ways to hold their pencil and create textures in their sketches.

Hope this review was helpful!  If you would like to read more of the Schoolhouse Review Crew's reviews of various levels of ARTistic Pursuits, click the banner below!

Charlotte Mason Monday {snapshots} Water Birds, Nature Journaling, and some ideas for Picture Study

Sunday, April 19, 2015

We have had so much fun learning about birds.  We studied all through the Winter with Backyard Birds, then moved into Birds of Prey and now are finishing a small unit study on Water Birds (Water Fowl).  There are so many different types of birds to learn about and study, we have just narrowed it down to a few and enjoyed the journey.  What a wonderful time of growth in our love of nature and appreciation of God's amazing creation!  Birds are so incredible!

This post is done in {snapshot} style... here's a peak at our past week!

Visiting Water Birds at a Beautiful Wetland Sanctuary


Nature Journaling ~ Water Birds

Alex's Heron page

What happens when you give a bit too much creative licence to a 10-year-old boy...

Alex's "Ducks" page

Simon's page, illustration is from Draw Write Now, and Acrostic poem beneath.

Copywork, poetry/rhymes for Geese.

Combining narrating a short poem with Nature Study (above), and copywork of poetry (below).

Audrey's Good page (again, Draw Write Now  helped us!)


Audrey's Ducks Nature Journal page.

Ideas for Copywork:

Poem for 'geese'.

Rhymes for 'Goose'.

Enjoying Picture Study and Art Appreciation

We absolutely love Robert Bateman's Books in our home.  I highly recommend his book "The World of Robert Bateman" for use in the home(school).  We have used it for both Nature Study and Picture Study.

Here is an example of the narratives in the book:

"Snow Geese" by Robert Bateman

How we do a (simple) Picture Study with realist paintings of nature:

1. I tell the children the name of the painting and artist and show them the painting.

2. We read the corresponding narrative/description from the artist as the children continue to observe the painting.

3. I ask the children what they see, what they first noticed, what they like about the painting.  We talk about the mood or feeling of the painting and what the animals (birds in this case) might be doing/thinking/feeling.  We also look for interesting things that might not be obvious at first.  For instance, in this painting below, there is a little floating feather on the bottom right.  Bateman talks about how this feather has come from the bottom left Gull who is preening at dusk.

4. The children often answer this simple statement, "Like it/love it/hate it".  I have no idea where we go this... but it often stimulates good conversation.

5. For our study of birds, I would often show the children 1-4 paintings of the same type of bird and ask them to identify a favourite painting and tell why it was their favourite.

 Other Paintings we used:

Other Resources:

Watching Birds by naturalist Jim Arnosky was a great library find this week.  The two pictures on the left are two-page spreads from the book.  We also enjoyed several living books for our study of Loons, Swans, Ducks, and Herons.

A Few Links:

A Detailed (and Whole-Hearted!) Review of Draw Write Now

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Draw Write Now  is not only an engaging copywork and printing program, but also blends joyful art, drawing, mapping, geography and history concepts easily and seamlessly.  These books really present a 'living education' to children.   I call this a 'whole-hearted' review because I can, with my whole heart, give a glowing report of our experience with these wonderful books.  (I love it when that happens!)

I am overjoyed to share with you my review of the Draw Write Now boxed set.  The wonderful people at Draw Write Now were very kind to send it to me and I am so grateful!

Program Overview

Draw Write Now is written by Marie Hablitzel and Kim Stitzer.  

The bottom of each book describes Draw Write Now as A Drawing and Handwriting Course for Kids!

I've realized, however, that this program is so much more than simply writing and drawing.  This program introduces lessons in mapping, nature study, habitats around the world, geography, history, and also encourages creative thinking and independent learning.

The Box Set includes all 8 books in the program.  The books are not levelled, as I originally thought.  Book 1 is not easier than book 7 or 8- they simply have different themes.  They all have very similar styles of drawing lessons and comparable copywork selections.

These are non-consumable, high quality, and can be used over and over for years to come.  This is particularly exciting for me as many of the copywork and printing/handwriting programs I've seen are consumable, which means they are workbook style where a new book is needed for each level for each child.  It gets costly!

The themes for the books offer a great variety of topics and subjects to draw and write about.  Some examples include: Farm Animals, Storybook Characters, Animals and Habitats (On Land, Ponds and Rivers, Oceans), Animals of the World, The Pilgrims, and more.  See all the themes of each book HERE.

The Draw Write Now Boxed Set comes with all the books in a beautiful, sturdy box folder with lovely pictures on the outside.  I highly recommend, if you do purchase Draw Write Now - get the boxed set.  The variety has been a huge motivator and enjoyment for our children.  Also, because we have three children, they have all been able to easily and happily choose their own lessons in their own books and work all at the same time.  If we didn't have enough books to go around, I know our kids would be fighting over Draw Write Now!

How To Use Draw Write Now

The day we received the Boxed Set in the mail, our children were eager to start with the program.  Immediately, our daughter (she's 8) dove right in.  Because I didn't have a plan yet, I just allowed her to choose the lesson that appealed the most to her.  I was not at all surprised that she picked the "Hen" lesson from Book One.  (She loves her five pet hens!)

We decided to use our Nature Journals for our Draw Write Now pages.  It just seemed an appropriate place to include such pretty pictures and copywork to match.  I find that putting the childrens' copywork in a book they are proud of (such as a Common Place book or Nature Journal) really encourages them to do their very best to make their work beautiful and complete.

Having said this, you can use any simply notebook for the Draw Write Now program, but you will need one as children do not write in the workbooks.

This program is incredibly easy to use, we simply opened up the books and followed the instructions.   

Here's how each lesson works:

1. Introduce the Subject - just a simple introduction to the subject is good, although you could also choose to read a book or do some research on the subject, depending on what you will be drawing/writing about.  For the "Hen" page, we looked at one of our favourite young science Usborne books, Eggs and Chicks.

2. Draw the Subject -  can I tell you how excited my children are that they get to draw FIRST!?  The children draw the subject with a pencil by following along with the step by step lesson given in the book.  I usually do not need to help my daughter.  She wants to work independently and does so with quite a bit of success.  However, with my sons I do sometimes help them through this step, simply showing them where the lines fall and which lines will eventually be erased, etc.

3. Draw the Background - this is where the children can use their imagination or choose to copy the background given.  My children often do a combination of these two ideas.

4. Practice Handwriting - in our homeschool, we call this part Copywork.  I guess that's the Charlotte Mason in us.  Here the children simply copy the sentences in their best printing below the picture they have just created.  The results are beautiful!  For this, we simply cut out a rectangle of lined paper to cut and paste below their artwork.  The results were really pleasing visually, something the children were very proud of!

5. Color the Picture - now the children add color details.  Our children mostly used pencil crayons, however, you could use crayons, markers, whichever medium you prefer.

And then... the children marvel at the beautiful work they've created!

Starting with the drawing in pencil.

Adding Color.

The final product for "Hens" from Book One.  (LOVE IT!)

Audrey loves hens of all kinds, so she also decided to do the Little Red Hen from the Story Book Characters section of Book One.  This is the final product, beautiful, isn't it?!

How Audrey displayed her first two Draw Write Now lessons in her Nature Journal.

Mapping Activities with Draw Write Now

There are several different mapping activities/lessons to work through in the Draw Write Now books.  Examples include a globe showing how Columbus sailed west, a map of the contour of the USA and surrounding countries/oceans, a map of the Antarctic, and a map of the Savannahs of Africa.

We chose to start with a Lesson which walked us through mapping the Continents in a very simplistic way.  I really love the idea because I see how children remember information, and this is one of the key ways my kids tend to recall things.  They sketch it out with big bold colors and basic shapes with text.  We would progress from here to try to outline a more realistic shape of that Continent.

Here's a peak at the lesson from Book 7:

A Happy Ending with Draw Write Now...

I recently sent this little testimonial to Kim (she's great, by the way) at Draw Write Now:

Last week, as we were working on our Nature Journals, my daughter became very upset.  She loves to draw, sketch, and add pages to her journal, so it surprised me when all of a sudden she was in tears!  She was trying desperately to draw an owl for our study of birds of prey.  The step-by-step print-out I had placed before her was just causing frustration and a feeling of defeat.  Even after I reassured her that her owl was indeed really good (it was!), and promised to help in any way she needed, she continued to sniff and cry.  

The poor girl is such a tender heart and longs to draw well.  After a few moments of wondering what to do to help - I remembered there was an owl in one of the Draw Write Now books.  I asked her if she would like to try to do the one from Draw Write Now instead and she lit up and stopped crying immediately.  

I found the page and she busily went to work.  After about 20 minutes she ran to me beaming from ear to ear.  She had drawn and coloured the owl very successfully and was feeling very content and proud of her work.  So, Draw Write Now saved the morning, and once again, I was reminded of how wonderful this program is for instilling confidence in my young artist.  Thanks so much.   These moments make a homeschooler's day!

Audrey's finished owl.
Added to her Nature Journal page.

Simon (age 9) also wanted to do the owl lesson.

We love the Variety!

One of the most lovely things about using Draw Write Now for copywork and art has been the variety!  This is another reason I would encourage getting the Boxed Set.  All three of our children have truly enjoyed picking out their own lessons to accomplish.  This has given them a sense of ownership and control over what work they do.  Having said this though, I have no concerns because I know any lesson they work on will be giving them great practice in handwriting and will be developing many other skills.

If you cannot choose the Boxed Set, starting with one of the many books will still offer quite a bit of variety for your child as each book includes on average about 25 different lessons and ideas.

Audrey loved the 'girl' drawing from the Kids and Critters section of Book One.  She started with the word 'girl' and by following the instructions, turned it into a beautiful picture of a girl jumping rope!  Really neat!

Another Draw Write Now page with the 'girl' project up top and a lesson about Swans below.

Alex (age 6) loves to flip through the Draw Write Now books and choose his copywork and drawing lessons for the week.

Enjoying choosing which lesson to work on!

Using Draw Write Now with a Younger Child

I consider Alex, our youngest, to be a fairly young scholar.  At six-years-old he's ready for short lessons and focus on copywork and art but often is not able to sit as long or do as much printing as his older siblings.

Alex, however, really loves Draw Write Now and is very drawn to the bright pictures and simple instructions.  

I found Draw Write Now very easy to adapt for a younger child.

One thing we did is I helped him draw by drawing the picture step by step along with him.  As I drew each step, he would watch and then add his own lines like the ones I had drawn.

We also simplified the copywork for him so that it was broken down into more doable words and portions for him.

Drawing step by step with Mom.  Mine is on the left, Alex is following along on the right.

A great book for introducing the subject of "bats".

Alex's finished pencil sketch and a few simple copywork words.

After adding colour and more words, Alex's 'simplified' project looks like this.  He was proud of his work and wanted to do more!

A few days later, with my help doing the drawing, Alex accomplished this page!

Simplified copywork is easy to add.

The REALLY neat thing about this program and Alex is that after about a few weeks of doing Draw Write Now, he pulls it out and does projects completely on his own, like this one -

Everything about this just makes me happy...  *chuckle*

More of our Draw Write Now work:

One of the great things about this program is how versatile it is.  We have pulled out these books several times to use the art lessons.  Through our Nature Studies, for example, we are often drawing birds to add to our journals.  The Golden Eagle lesson below was one we used in our study of Birds of Prey.

Simon's Golden Eagle (this is incredible for him!)

Another art lesson we used for our study of Birds of Prey.

Owls are Birds of Prey, too!

And for our study of water birds, the kids drew these beautiful Great Blue Herons (I LOVE these!!!):

A couple extra little drawings:
Audrey chose to recreate the cover of the Boxed Set because she loved it so much!

The other side of the Boxed Set cover (by Audrey).

What the Kids Think...

Alex, age 6

Alex enjoys Draw Write Now far more than I expected.  Being younger, I wasn't sure if this program would be suited to him.  However, he has gravitated to the simplicity of the lessons and is thriving with them.  Just the other day, he pulled out a Draw Write Now book and accomplished an entire lesson on his own!  I was blown away!  I didn't ask him to do it, he just 'wanted to'!

"I love it because I like doing it for art projects.  I love the Robin in Book 6." -Alex

Here is the work he was able to do on his own after about two weeks with Draw Write Now!  I was so thrilled!

The Robin, by Alex (age 6)

Audrey, age 8

Audrey has expressed over and over that this program is her absolute favorite.  She is naturally artistic and enjoys drawing, coloring, and doing copywork - so it didn't surprise me that Draw Write Now was a perfect fit for her.  Because she longs to draw well, the lessons have been a blessing.  She has created beautiful pieces of work independently and is growing in her confidence as an artist and in printing.  

This is the program she asks to do every day.  She can't praise it enough!

"I LOVE(!) the Draw Write Now books because you do the drawing first and I love to draw.  I like how my picture looks and I like how they do the steps." -Audrey

The Miner, by Audrey (age 8)

Simon, age 9

Simon doesn't usually gravitate towards art.  He also doesn't really enjoy copywork.  So, this program was not one I anticipated him liking.  The funny thing is - he actually really loves Draw Write Now!  The art lessons are so simply laid out that he can follow along and enjoy much success with them, even though he isn't a natural 'artist', as they say.  This is great for building his confidence and creating a desire within him to work hard and do his best.   The copywork is simple enough and never intimidating, so he accomplishes it quite well.  All in all, he enjoys Draw Write Now more than he has enjoyed the other copywork and drawing programs we have used.

"8 stars out of 10.  I like it."  -Simon  (he's a man of few words...)

Golden Eagles, by Simon (age 9)

A couple more things about Draw Write Now...

The more I use these books and read through each title, the more I love what I see.  Every book is similar but slightly different in what it offers.  Many of the pages include a themed question to be read and answered.  For example, When can a gazelle run faster than a cheetah? and Why are porcupine quills hard to remove?  Answers are found in corresponding sections at the end of each unit.  These sections also often include other tid-bits of information pertaining to the theme.  These books are seriously full of hidden nuggets everywhere!

The Teaching Tips sections offer things like pointers on accomplishing the art, maps (for book 6 there is a map of the Earth's major biomes as well as diagrams of Ponds and Rivers and Oceans which you can see in the bottom right picture above and larger, below.)

Teaching Tips section of Book 6

The Draw What You See, Draw from Your Imagination, and Draw Your World sections are really neat.  Each book is different.  In Book 2, for Draw What You See tips and encouragement are given for the child to notice how simple it is to draw people using circles, dots for eyes, lines for mouths, and rectangles for bodies, etc.  In Book 6, for Draw Your World children are encouraged to look through a window and take note of horizon lines depending on their point of view (in photo above), ideas are also given for how to draw backgrounds given point of view.  In Book 1, for Draw from You Imagination children use drawings to tell their own story and create easy story characters.

The Table of Contents for each book is great because it is friendly for readers and non-readers alike!  The visual grid works wonders for finding what we're looking for and building the skill they need to look something up in a Table of Contents at a beginner level.

Some Links for Resources you might like to go along with Draw Write Now:

Draw Write Now Printables from 1+1+1=1
Free Printables from Butterflies & Barefoot Lasses

This program has been a pure joy in our homeschool.  It is beautiful, gentle, affective, creative, and children actually want to do their 'work'.  

We are huge fans!  Thank you, Draw Write Now, for the opportunity to review these incredible books.

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