Seeing a picture like that often makes us wonder if creative tendencies are somehow genetically predisposed, like an overstuffed paint box handed down from one generation to the next. For some artists this is true. Norman Rockwell, Tasha Tudor, Lois Lenski, Marguerite de Angeli, and Beatrix Potter all had creative ancestors in their family tree. But more importantly, they all had an insatiable desire to draw. “I think I’ve always wanted to be an artist,” said Rockwell. “I certainly can’t remember ever wanting to be anything else. Not that I awoke one morning with the full-blown idea swimming around in my head. It was gradual. I drew, then I found I liked to draw, and finally, after I had got to know something of myself and the people and things around me, I found that I didn’t want to do anything but draw.” My Adventures as an Artist by Norman Rockwell (page 37. Harry N. Abrams, Inc. Publishers, New York 1960)
I know just how Rockwell felt. I love to draw and paint. As a child, I had no formal training and remember little of grade-school art classes. At home, however, I was allowed to work with all kinds of mediums: pencil, colored pencil, pastel, watercolors, acrylics, and even oil paints. I unconsciously explored the elements of art: color, value, line, shape, form, texture, and space. My calling to be an artist was fostered by my mother, who saw promise in my abilities and provided a creative home environment in which my talent could flourish.
Even with all this emphasis on creativity, I never made the connection that my life experiences were worth recording. I mostly drew out of my imagination and was discouraged from copying other people’s work. My mother wanted me to be original. The irony is that when I attended commercial art school, all we did was copy. We copied out of magazines and catalogs for advertising class. We copied from photographs and National Geographic for watercolor class. We studied other artists’ work. The only class where we drew from life was “figure drawing.” Needless to say, that was my favorite class (because it was real). But it wasn’t until I began looking for a way to teach my own children to draw and write that I realized what I had missed.
One day, I desperately searched the writing section of our library, looking for the key that would unlock my son’s creativity. Eric is an auditory learner, and when he was younger it was hard for him to get the thoughts out of his head and onto the page. He could talk much faster than he could write. This was never a problem for my daughter Claire, a visual learner who could write fluently from an early age. She saw punctuation and picked up on writing style as she read. This visual learning style gives Claire an edge that others would call a “gift.” Visual learners make the best editors because they “see” the mistakes. But Eric loved to tell stories. He talked all the time. What could I do to inspire him?
As I browsed the shelves, certain titles jumped out at me like “Writing from Your Heart” and “Recording Your Life Stories.” Most of these books were written for adults, and as I read them, I began to see that the writing approach I was exposed to as a child (with an emphasis on imaginary writing and grammar) was not the main writing approach that most writers recommended. These writers wrote from their life experiences. They learned to tap into their own writing voice of inborn rhythms, vocabulary choices, and ideas. Many of them kept journals, and that idea really excited my son and gave him a reason to write.
When my son narrated his first journal entry to me, it was two pages long. This kid had a lot to say! Eventually he moved from narrating his stories to typing them on the computer. As I saw how this method made writers out of all of my children regardless of their ages (3-15 at the time) or learning styles, I was led to write The Gift of Family Writing, a life story approach to writing for the whole family.
In the book Any child can Write, (Bantam Books, New York:1990) author Harvey Whiner says, “A better synonym for creative writing is ‘autobiography.’ Those countless moments in an individual’s life, brief, intense stretches of time, stud a child’s day and glitter in the mind like diamonds long after the moments pass. By recalling those moments of experience through language―specific, exact, sharply drawn―the young writer can practice the skills of writing.” Does this approach to creative writing make sense to you? It can be so freeing to realize that your children don’t have to dream up situations to write about unless they want to. They can write creatively about their life experiences as they happen!
Writers and artists have a sixth sense – a way of seeing life that others often miss. The skill of observation is finely honed by recording everyday moments. So how can you establish a creative home environment? Here are a few suggestions.
1. Read living books. No matter what teaching approach you use, reading is probably the most important element in fostering a creative home environment. Everything your child needs to learn about writing well can be found in the pages of other people’s work. Writing styles, sentence structure, and vocabulary choices all go into a child’s creative hopper and mull around, waiting to be utilized later in his own writing later. Read magazine articles and editorials also. Your children will learn how to write for publication by reading expository writing.
2. Teach your children to record their life stories as they happen. Don’t wait until a child is nine or ten to introduce creative writing. Transcribe your child’s oral accounts, no matter what his age, until he is able to write it or type it himself. Teach him to value his personal experience and to write and draw from life!
3. Regularly read the biographical information to your child about the author and illustrator of the book you are reading. Note how the illustrator chose to depict a certain scene and what phrases or sentences he based his drawings upon. If your story is a classic, get several versions of the same story and see how differently the illustrators portrayed it.
4. Encourage your child to illustrate the characters or a scene in a story that you are reading to them. Norman Rockwell did this as a boy.
5. Set up a figure drawing class right in your own living room. Pose for each other during family reading time. Tasha Tudor did this with her children. She says her girls posed out of sheer vanity, but the boys had to be bribed with chocolates. Even Norman Rockwell attended figure drawing classes while painting The Saturday Evening Post covers.
6. Read the biographies and autobiographies of authors illustrators. Some of our favorites are: Beatrix Potter’s Art by Anne Stevenson Hobbs, Drawn from New England: Tasha Tudor by Bethany Tudor, Journey Into Childhood by Louis Lenski, Butter at the Old Price – by Marguerite de Angeli, My Adventures as an Illustrator by Norman Rockwell (You must edit out a few chapters, but it is definitely worth reading to the family), and The Treasury of the Great Children’s Book Illustrators by Susan E. Meyer.
7. Visit the museums and galleries of your favorite illustrators. A few years ago, my daughter Elizabeth and I visited Norman Rockwell’s gallery and participated in a garden tour at Tasha Tudor’s farm in Vermont. It was a once in a lifetime experience and one that I hope my budding artist will treasure all her life.
8. Collect your favorite writers’ and illustrators’ works for the purpose of study and reference. Beatrix Potter’s father collected over thirty of Randolph Caldecott’s illustrations. Beatrix idolized his work and admits that she tried to copy it in vain.
9. Provide sketchbooks, journals, and art supplies. Like many other artists, Tasha Tudor’s drawing skill was directly attributed to the fact that she daily drew in sketchbooks since the age of ten.
10. At some point take art classes or get professional input. Most self taught artists receive professional training at some point in their lives. A good teacher can make a difference in the quality of your work. When your child is older encourage him take a few art classes or seek out a Christian artist who is willing to critique his work.
God created every child with the ability to write or draw. These abilities are given as a basic human necessity for self expression – rather than “gifts” for the chosen few as we have been led to believe. They come from the heart of a creative God who loves remembering and recording, and has given every human being the ability to do the same.
Jill Novak and her husband Robert have been married for 33 years and are the parents of five children. Together her family has founded Remembrance Press, publishers of The Pebbly Brook Farm Series, Becoming God’s Naturalist, The Gift of Family Writing, and The Girlhood Home Companion Magazine. Jill is a frequent speaker and contributor to the homeschool community and a Titus 2 encourager to the younger women in her life, especially her own daughters. For unique writing, drawing and mentoring resources visit www.remembrancepress.com or Hopeful Farm, the Novak’s ministry for families with children with special needs at www.hopefulfarmfoundation.org.
As a natural journalist and homeschool mom, I’ve learned to take advantage of “divine appointments” with God’s creation. Even though I’m accustomed to the landscape of my own backyard, I try not to let a season pass without capturing some of the same specimens anew in the pages of my journal and sharing my observations with my children. Little did I know that this morning was to be especially rewarding.
As I stepped into the sunlight, I was greeted by a cherished, seasonal event–the sight and sound of barn swallows performing aerial acrobatics above the long stretch of grass between the house and the silo. As in years past, I stood in awe, marveling at their agility as they swooped and flew at an alarming rate of speed, just inches above the ground. After watching their maneuvers for a few minutes, I continued walking up the hill to where the wildflowers grow. As I followed a trail through the tall grass and past the entrance of the silo, I heard a loud, insistent chirping coming from inside. Peering into the dim interior, to my utter astonishment, I saw six baby barn swallows on the floor, flapping their wings excitedly as their mother circled low and flew back up to the top of the silo. Every time she circled, they opened their mouths to be fed.
I quickly set up the digital camera and began recording this unusual happening. Suddenly, I remembered our four cats and how they’re prone to follow me on my jaunts into the field. Right then and there, I decided to rescue the baby barn swallows before they were found out. I ran down to the house and woke up the kids. They were excited about my discovery and after rounding up the birds, they carried them down to the kitchen table where they held them in their hands and drew from life. I even set up the video camera in the living room and sketched one little fellow from different angles. They were all very docile and obliging.
Remembering how the babies opened their mouths when their mother flew by, we took them outside and set them on the lawn to be fed (after locking the cats in the garage, of course). To our surprise, not only did their mother swoop down to feed them, but other barn swallows did as well. Later that day, we tossed them gently into the air, hoping they would take off. When it became evident that they weren’t quite getting the hang of flying, we placed them in an aquarium with a lid for safe keeping. The next day we repeated the process again.
Over the next few days, the kids and I seemed to inhale information about barn swallows. From books on backyard birds to Midwest field guides and the encyclopedia, we learned all we could about our new feathered friends. What did barn swallows eat? Did they build a new nest every year or would they return to the one in the rafters of the grain barn? How many times a year did they reproduce? Where did they migrate to and when would they return? As we found the answers to our questions, we began to understand God’s design for these highly social creatures.
Finally, on the third day, their wings grew strong enough to carry them to the roof of the garage. At last, the confident youngsters flew into the branches of the buckthorn tree next to the garage, and eventually we witnessed them join the rest of the community on the roof of the grain barn where the older, more experienced barn swallows took turns pushing them off, encouraging them to fly. We all rejoiced when at last our dear little clown-faced friends graduated from “junior aviation school” and took to the sky.
Making the most of spontaneous encounters with nature requires the skill of observation. The Modern Oxford English dictionary describes the word observation as “the action or process of observing something or someone carefully or in order to gain information.” Observing nature close up and first hand should be a goal for any student who is passionate about drawing. Whether making a quick sketch or a more sustained drawing in great detail, observing a specimen involves more than giving it a brief glance and letting it go. It requires time to observe with the intention of getting the most out of the experience that you possibly can.
One of most intentionally observant naturalists I have come to adore is children’s author-illustrator Beatrix Potter. How I wish I could have tagged along behind Beatrix and her brother Bertram as they explored the Lake District of England during their family’s holidays there. No stone was left unturned in the path of these child naturalists. A friend of Beatrix’s father, the English painter and illustrator Sir John Millais, told Beatrix, “Plenty of people can draw, but you and my son John have observation.”
From an early age, Beatrix was deliberate in her quest to gain knowledge of the subject matter she chose to draw. She was gifted with an intense curiosity and need to understand; she didn’t just “appreciate” nature, she “recreated” it as well. And the originality in which she expressed her observations set Beatrix Potter far above the crowd of aspiring artists of her time. “It is all the same,” she said, “drawing, painting, modeling, the irresistible desire to copy any beautiful object which strikes the eye. Why cannot one be content to look at it? I cannot rest, I must draw, however poor the result.”
When it comes to drawing and recording observations, some artists like to work slowly. Watercolorist Patsy McNamara says, “I produce more of a sustained sketch. I’m uncomfortable trying to work quickly…My sketchbook is made up of slow, steady pages where I focus completely on my subject and lose myself in the process. My pages are about intense observation and gradual understanding, not about speed or an end product. It is a recorded form of active meditation, meant more to give me understanding than anything else.”
There is no method for nature journaling other than gaining understanding through one’s personal observations. The way I approach a subject depends on how it catches my eye, whether I will sketch it or draw it, what tools I will use, and even what effect I am trying to achieve. What nature journaling looks like for each of your children will be as unique and individual as their fingerprints.
We should never rush a child who wants to spend hours drawing in their journal. On the other hand, we should never demand a prolonged journaling session from a child who is not wired to be an artist. Not all children will gain understanding in the same manner–namely recording it in the pages of a journal. Auditory or kinesthetic children may need different avenues for “recording” their experiences, ones that heighten their sense of understanding and will be just as memorable.
More than One Way to Observe
Because of differing learning styles, not all children possess the gift of visual observation, but it is a skill that can be strengthened by giving them different avenues of exploration. Using our experience with the barn swallows as an example, the auditory child might want to imitate the sound of the chirping babies and practice his “bird call” for dad when he comes home from work. He could take the video camera out into the field and make a short documentary about the habits and habitat of barn swallows. The kinesthetic child could gain understanding of the anatomy of a barn swallow by modeling it out of clay or running around the yard waving her arms, swooping and diving and imitating the social behavior of barn swallows. All of these observations could be preserved through writing, drawing, and taking photographs of your child’s experiences to include in their nature journals.
Start Young, Observe for a Lifetime
We don’t have to limit a child’s nature experience by setting a coloring page in front of him or having him copy someone else’s lines – not when there is so much to gain by letting him handle and draw a specimen from life. As in the case of Beatrix Potter, English children traditionally begin nature study around the ages of five or six. We, too, can give our children the eye of a naturalist from an early age. When it comes to understanding the design of God’s creation, a bird in the hand will always be better than two in the bush.
Jill Novak and her husband Robert have been married for 29 years. They are the parents of five children, ages 23 to10. Together their family has produced The Gift of Family Writing, Becoming God’s Naturalist, Drawing is Life, The Sketch with Me DVD Series, and The Girlhood Home Companion Magazine. Jill is a frequent speaker and contributor to the homeschool community. Visit the Novak’s website at www.remembrancepress.com and their new ministry for families with children with special needs at www.hopefulfarmfoundation.org. Contact Jill at email@example.com.
Spring, summer and fall are the time of year to stock up on plant and insect specimens for your home nature library. Nothing is more useful to an artist than a reference library full of specimens. Whether you preserve your specimens from life or use digital photography stored on the computer, stock your library now!
When I attended commercial art school we were taught to keep an artist’s reference file for anything we might want to draw in the future. Those files were filled with pictures of animals, people, and plant life taken mostly from the pages of National Geographic magazines. On one hand the files were invaluable if you needed an example of something for an illustration that you were currently working on such as a monarch butterfly on milkweed; on the other hand they were limited to the photographer’s style or the angle of his shot.
Other than figure drawing class and an occasional still-life, I don’t remember being encouraged to draw from real specimens. I found still-life drawings extremely uninspiring. And still-life is just what the name implies – still! I have found that drawing from life is much more captivating because you can observe a specimen in greater detail and draw it from any angle you choose.
How can you make your own specimen library? Well, it’s not hard at all. Let’s start with insects. Buy your children some butterfly nets and let them go exploring. It won’t be long before you have a fine bug collection. They don’t have to worry about pinning and labeling their insects unless they want to. Their drawings can be labeled and stored in notebooks. Pinning and labeling can limit your children’s ability to draw their specimens from different angles. Instead, get a large tackle box and store your bugs in it loosely. They can draw from their collection anytime they are inclined – even in the dead of winter. Preserve specimens in a jar with a cotton ball saturated in nail polish remover. When the bug has expired, place it in a slot and store it for later reference.
What about animals? Do you have a cat that loves leaving you “presents” on the doorstep? Some of most treasured bird specimens have been the result of a “cat-n-mouse” game. What about preserving dead animals that you find on the side of the road? Sound kind of crazy? Taxidermists have been doing it for years!
I love the story of children’s book illustrator Tasha Tudor thawing out specimens so she could pose them in different positions, and refreezing them to use again later. The collection in our garage freezer includes mice, moles, different kinds of birds, a baby weasel and many other interesting animals.
Keep a medium-sized aquarium on hand for drawing any live specimens you find. Release them after you’re done. In the last two weeks, we’ve used an aquarium to study six baby barn swallows, a large painted turtle, and a flying squirrel just to name a few. You never know what the Lord is going to provide for your nature study so be prepared!
Some plant matter can be preserved by air drying. I have several ball jars that line the top of an old library card catalog in my hallway. They contain samples from last year’s nature walks; thistles, bird’s nests, goldenrod, and milkweed pods are just a few of our “priceless” drawing treasures. Old printer’s trays can be filled with pine cones, maple tree seeds, insects, etc. Give your tray a prominent spot in your house and tell the kids to fill it up with specimens. Children are inspired to draw more spontaneously when specimens are readily available.
And of course, let your young naturalists loose in the backyard with a digital camera. Nothing can compare with the quality and instant reward of a child who takes his own pictures for reference. I regularly let Elizabeth, age 10, and Anna, age 6, take pictures of whatever they find of interest outside. Besides getting instant results, children can enlarge their photos and draw from them as they sit in front of the computer. If they can’t see a particular detail, they can click on the picture and enlarge it. Digital cameras are simply invaluable when it comes to catching a specimen for your collection!
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I was asked what supplies we use for nature journaling (I’m glad you asked!). Below is our basic supply list. I also have a workshop entitled Becoming God’s Naturalist which explores creative and practical ways to get the most out of nature study and nature journaling. It is available in a two CD set along with The Gift of Family Writing. You can find these resources in our bookstore:
Our Basic Supply List for Nature Journaling
Paper – For finished drawings we use individual pieces of 110 lb. cover stock fastened to clip boards (available at Wal-Mart). The completed drawing or painting is stored in a binder inside plastic sleeves. That way the children don’t have to worry about ruining previous drawings.
Sketchbooks – My children love having their own sketchbooks. Right now they’re crazy about large formats. Buy a couple of different sizes. You can never have enough sketchbooks! Just about any brand of sketchbook will do. Look for Beinfang or Cannon.
Watercolor paper – You don’t have to buy watercolor paper for beginners, but if you do, try a watercolor block. The paper is already stretched so you don’t have to worry about it buckling. I like to work on Strathmore Watercolor paper cold press. It is available in different sizes (the 9 x12 is nice). We also paint on 110 lb. cover stock. It holds up pretty well as long as your brush isn’t excessively wet.
Pencils – Our favorite all-purpose pencil is Faber Castle. You can find them in most art stores. Buy soft art pencils B, 2B, 4B, 6B and aqua or water soluble art pencils. Let the kids experiment with the different textures. They’ll tell you which ones they like the best.
Artist pens – by Faber Castell. These pens are great for noodeling, doodeling, and sketching. My kids love these pens and told me to put them on the list.
Watercolor pencils – Derwent available at Michael’s, Hobby Lobby or Ebay.
Erasers – We use plastic erasers by Staedtler which are available from Wal-Mart in packages of three. Plastic erasers remove pencil marks without hurting the paper. Kneaded erasers work well for picking up tone.
Paints – I like Prang 12 count paints for children (little kids can use Crayola). They offer a wide palette to mix from and are relatively inexpensive. I also purchased a set of Grumbacher watercolors for myself. These are not necessary if you are just starting out, but you can get them on sale at Michaels for $2.00 a tube. Some children, like my Elizabeth – now age 15, loves tube paints.
Try not to let age be a limiting factor when it comes to art supplies (my mother let me paint with oils when I was 10).
Brushes – Purchase fine quality brushes of different widths and shapes for watercolor. Inferior brushes will ruin your efforts to control the paint. If you’re watching your budget, purchase a couple of sets of packaged brushes from Wal-Mart or Hobby Lobby. They may have to be replaced periodically but they are much better than the brushes that come in paint boxes.
Just as every child can write from what he knows, every child can draw from what he sees. Children who rarely pick up a pencil on their own can learn to express themselves creatively if they are exposed to the right environment – one that’s filled with the beauty of God’s Creation, the work of inspired artists, and the tools of the trade.
I remember the first time that I nature journaled with my children. It wasn’t hard to convince them to come outside and draw. A balmy summer morning beckoned us to abandon our regular indoor routine. Elizabeth, age 6, headed up to the garden and picked a few ripe strawberries. Eric, age 11, found a tiny Monarch caterpillar on a milkweed leaf in the field. Claire, age 15, snapped off some purple coneflowers from the flowerbed next to the house. We spread blankets on the ground and opened our sketchbooks. The three older children, heads bent and eyes fixed, immediately began to draw. Anna, age 3, ran and tumbled in the grass before plopping down on a blanket next to me. I picked up a strawberry leaf and looked intently at the serrated edges. Timidly, I applied pencil strokes to the paper. I hadn’t drawn on a regular basis since art school. Drawing felt foreign. I wondered how the children were feeling as they drew from nature for the first time.
As the sun warmed our shoulders, I wasn’t aware that my children’s education had just been enriched beyond anything I could ask or think. Nature journaling is the course of study the Lord has used to make my children more aware of His abundant Creation and the ability He has given each one of them to capture it on paper.
A Method of Drawing Instruction
One day, Elizabeth, who usually drew out of her imagination drew my sewing machine which was sitting on the table in front of her. I was dumbfounded. Was drawing from life a step I had missed with the older children? Even though I had grown up in a creative home where drawing was encouraged, I didn’t know what method to use to teach my children how to draw. What could I use that would keep my children – all of them – captivated and wanting to draw for a lifetime?
As I browsed the parent-teacher section of my local library I found a book by Catherine Levison entitled, A Charlotte Mason Companion. Charlotte Mason, a late nineteenth-century educational reformer from England, based her philosophy on the Latin word for education, educa , which means “to feed and nourish.” Understanding the natural affinity that children have for nature and desire to learn of it first hand, she recommended that every child keep a nature journal.
Could teaching art really be so simple? Was drawing from nature the very thing that would inspire all of my children to want to draw? In the months that followed, the answer to that question was a resounding “Yes!” God’s awe-inspiring Creation was right outside our window the whole time! How could I have been so blind! Children love nature—they love to hold it, draw it, and let it go.
It’s been amazing to hear Anna (age three) say, “Bring that in the house, Mom, so we can draw it!” She has spontaneously drawn spiders, leaves, and sunflowers. Elizabeth (age seven) is enthralled with nature and loves to draw from it anytime. She loves collecting insects and making herbarium (plant) collections. It has been gratifying to see Eric (age 11) become a more confident artist as he trains his eye by drawing from life. And Claire (age 15) didn’t know that she could draw anything other than horses until we started drawing from nature. All of us have become sensitized to plant, animal, and insect life for the purpose of recording it in our journals.
The Skill of Observation
Learning how to draw is a process, and yet it’s rarely viewed as such. People often think you “have the gift” or you don’t. The truth is that everyone has the ability to put marks on a paper, but they must be willing to take the time to observe and practice. There is a vast difference between looking at something and really seeing it. Seeing takes time.
The definition of the word observation is “the act of observing or taking notice; the act of seeing or of fixing the mind on anything.” In order to observe something, we have to look at it for a sustained period of time. That’s hard for some of us to do because we have to make a choice to sit still. Do you really have to sit alongside your children and draw in a nature journal? No, you don’t have to, but you get to!
In the book Plain and Simple, Sue Bender says one of the most important things that she learned from living with the Amish is that they only think about one thing at a time. When they are sewing they don’t think about gardening, and when they are gardening they don’t think about washing dishes or preparing dinner. They only think about the task at hand, and everything is given equal importance and value. That’s what it’s like whenever you sit and draw in your nature journal. Life comes to a screeching halt, because it takes your full concentration to really “see” what you are looking at. It’s so relaxing to fix your eyes on a specimen and try to recreate it on paper. When you teach your children the quiet art of sitting and sketching from nature, you teach them to see what others miss―a God who loves, color, variety, and design. There are many valuable lessons to learn in the pages of your nature journals!
When children are young, five to eight years old, they draw symbols to represent objects. They may decide that a green triangle represents a pine tree. Yes, they know what a pine tree smells like; they’ve been pricked by one at the Christmas tree lot. They know a pine tree is not a green triangle, but when it comes to drawing it on paper—well…it’s easiest to draw a green triangle. This stage of art development is called the symbolism stage. A child is happy to draw out of his imagination, using the same symbols repeatedly to represent everyday objects.
Around the age of nine or ten, however, children become visually aware of the world around them. They want their drawings to look realistic. During this phase they can become overly critical of their work if they can’t make their drawing look “just right” in terms of detail and proportion. This is the stage where many children stop drawing. That’s why nature journaling is such a powerful tool for helping children see the way an artist sees. It requires them to develop the observational skills needed to move out of the symbolic stage to drawing realistically.
Enjoy the Process
One of the hardest concepts to teach older children about journaling, whether writing or drawing, is that the process is more important that the product. For writing, the process is “thinking.” For drawing, the process is “seeing.” We live in a product-oriented society. We want quick, measurable results—that’s how we know we’re a success. However, you can’t expect a perfect drawing every time you nature journal, especially if you’ve never drawn realistically before. Drawing from life is a process that can only be developed over time―through practice.
If your children become dissatisfied with the product of their efforts, encourage them to slow down, relax, take their time, and draw the object with as many details as possible. If your child is patient and persistent in journaling on a regular basis, year in and year out, he will grow in artistic ability.
When I was at a used book sale at our library last fall, I noticed a woman buying quite a few art books. We started talking and I found out that she was a professor at the Art Institute of Chicago. I told her about how I had attended the American Academy of Art many years ago, that I was now homeschooling my children, and how we nature journaled together on a regular basis. We talked some more about art and her childhood experiences in that area. Then she said the most profound thing to me. “You know,” she said, “Your kids will never have to go to the Art Institute if you work with them the way you are. All I am is a disciplinarian!”At first I was stunned, but I knew what she said was true. She gave her students assignments to make them produce. My children produce because they love what they’re drawing, especially when I draw with them.
Nature journaling is a wonderful opportunity for the parent to model the process of creative expression so that the child will wholeheartedly embrace it. If a child is willing to take a risk and put his pencil to paper (because we have assigned it), then we too can take a risk as his teacher and draw with him. You don’t have to be an advanced artist to nature journal with your children. You will learn more about the process of drawing as you practice. Be encouraged that your family members will grow in artistic expression as you draw God’s creation, together.
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