My 12 year old daughter, Anna, has always struggled with writing. Both mentally and physically. It is hard for her to organize her thoughts and get them on paper. Also she is not adept with motor skills – large or small. Still, she’s a loving, happy, very creative little girl who loves beauty wherever she finds it. Our homeschooling has going fairly well, but still the writing was an issue. Beyond that I often noted that she found schoolwork, and her impression of learning, to be drudgery.
After hearing Catherine speak at the Midwest Homeschooling Conference [April 2010] a light bulb went off in my head. Anna is SO relational. She is happiest when she is reading a good book or talking to me about the good book she is reading. She loves to talk with me about any number of things. I felt I had, after 15 years of homeschooling 6 children, found the key to my youngest child.
We started off after I came home from the conference by discussing my plans for using no textbooks but doing lots and lots of reading. She was thrilled! We had already read many good books this past year and she discovered that books can be wonderful! She is currently reading a grade level book or higher every two days. She’s walking around the house with a book in her hand, reading. She’s reading instead of playing video games with her brother. I can’t keep her in books! Where we used to go the library and I would have to push to get her to bring two books home, she is now bringing home 5-8 books and we’re quickly having to go back to the library for more – often before the week is out!
I took her to the store and bought her a little notebook. I explained what a nature journal was, and how she could use it. She was hesitant to draw anything she saw as she has no confidence in her ability to draw. I explained that there was no right or wrong way to draw – especially in her journal. It was just for her and to be used to help her remember what she saw and experienced. As for writing, I told her to write just as I told her to draw – “write what you see, draw how you see it. There is no right or wrong, it’s just for you.”
With that, she set out into our backyard, to give it a try. She came in with eyes dancing and full of words to tell me about what she saw. She hugged me, thanked me for her Nature Journal and could not wait to finish writing and draw her experience. I was astounded! She wrote paragraphs! Clear, concise, well ordered paragraphs! She drew a very accurate representation of the bug she found. She asked to borrow my Nature Study Handbook in order to identify said bug. We found what she was looking for and she fairly burst with pride at being able to name the bug that she found.
Since then, each day for the past two weeks, what she looks forward to most, is the afternoon when it is time to get her Nature Journal, go outside and explore her world. I’m beyond thrilled to see my daughter loving to learn, to explore, and to communicate what she’s found. We’re both enjoying our homeschooling more than ever before. I know she is learning and that she is learning to love to learn.
She has turned her best friend on to using a Nature Journal as well. I heard her on the phone with “J” today saying, “when you are outside in your yard, or taking your dog for a walk, all you have to do is to start NOTICING things! Look around you, wherever you go, there are things to see EVERYWHERE!”
Thank you for your presentations and your books. They’ve been such a help in being able to get into this homeschooling method fairly easily and quickly. I do think I’ll want to read Charlotte’s work first hand, eventually. For now, however, having your books to get us started and guide us along is working beautifully for us!