Monday, June 13, 2011

Observation and Buzzing Bees Part 2

A few weeks back I posted about our approach to science incorporating nature study.  This has just become so natural and effective that I had to write some more.  I've noticed that when the kids have a chance to see and experience the natural world, the things we read about become even more real.  Our readings about insects happened a few weeks back but the kids haven't forgotten about it.  And I doubt they will either.  There are always thoughts and questions.

Over the weekend we were all at my sisters house helping clean up the yard.  While raking we discovered these:

The kids immediately asked for a plastic storage bag to save and bring home.  They were just so interested and pleased to have found a real skeleton of a honeycomb.  That's where honey comes from! Wow!  It's so thin! Wow!... And so on went the comments for the afternoon.  The next morning we had buttered toast with honey spread. 

This of course tickles me because I just finished reading part 2, Out-Of Door Life for the Children, of Volume 1: Home Education in which Ms. Mason emphasizes of course nature study and the outdoors, but more importantly to me she speaks of the power  in training a child to observe. 
"They must be alone, left to themselves a great deal, to take in what they can of beauty of earth and heavens; for of the evils of modern education few are worse than this - that the perpetual cackle of his elders leaves the poor child not a moment of time, nor an inch of space, wherein to wonder - and grow.  At the same time, here is the mother's opportunity to train the seeing eye, the hearing ear, and to drop seeds of truth into the open soul of the child, which shall germinate, blossom, and bear fruit, without further help or knowledge of her.  Then, there is much to be got by perching in a tree or nestling in heather, but muscular development comes of more active ways, and an hour or two should be spent in vigorous play; and last, and truly least, a lesson or two must be got in."  Volume 1, pg 44-45, 1906 edition
One of the benefits in my approach to combine science and nature study in the early years, certainly has the added asset of training my children in the art of observation.  Ms. Mason describes many ways to do this when they are outdoors.  She explains how to have the children recall what they observe in detail.  As her quote does mention our involvement in the process, I think,  it is an art in itself for us to know exactly when are the right moments to plant those seeds of knowledge.  Maybe we set up the parameters with a little reading at just the right season when we know there will be bees outside or butterflies fluttering by.  This might lead to discussions about insects, life cycles, habitats, ecological benefits; you get my point.   She mentions other examples where this is the case and your learning other subjects as well.  For example studying the natural positions of the sun and this leading to learning time, distance, and direction.  All of it from simple observations and a mother's gentle introductions.  Herein lies my very important job of finding those right books and materials that will allow me to guide them without lecturing the subject.  Let's face it, I'm not a walking encyclopedia.  A sweet introduction and just let that natural curiosity grow.

"In his early years the child is all eyes; he observes, or more truly, he perceives, calling sight, touch, taste, smell, and hearing to his aid, that he may learn all that is discoverable by him about every new thing that comes under his notice. ... Nature teaches so gently, so gradually, so persistently, that he is never overdone, but goes on gathering little stores of knowledge about whatever comes before him. ... By-and-by he will be called upon to reflect, understand, reason; what material will he have, unless he has a magazine of facts to go upon?" Volume 1, pg 65-66, 1906 edition

A recent discussion over at 4Real about what science curriculum should be used for first graders reminded me of what I was currently reading.  How Ms. Mason stresses the importance for these first few years and it emphasized something I've noticed in our approach to these two subjects, in the last two years.  When you let the kids explore the natural world in all its glory and magnificence; they naturally are curious and want to learn.  That curiosity can only come from the very basic senses of observation.  The longer my children are outside the more they've witnessed and the more anxious they become about wanting to know.  Not to mention how much they want to tell me about their observations.  Even sweeter for me, is how much they want me to tell them about their findings.  Another point Ms. Mason made, that I found interesting, is that if you allow for the progression of natural observation to occur, the child will also naturally progress to studying these subjects with greater interest and understanding.  In essence you're creating a deeper appreciation for the subject matter to come with more detail in later years.  I can see a process of learning here and it so makes me smile : ).

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