CM education showing itself

This is new to us, doing formal lab experiments and lab reporting. Science isn't new to us, as we've covered science topics every year most certainly, but a regular school textbook and a box full of lab equipment are new elements in our homeschool.

We're ready for the changes.

The path through a wooded area to the river near our home.

This week's biology lab assignment was about local biomes. We headed out the door with:
  • L-square
  • measuring tape
  • string
  • stakes
  • compass
  • thermometer
  • stopwatch 
  • trowel
  • lab notebook
  • Ziploc bags
  • and instructions on how to notice our local biome (ahem....aka CM "nature study").
Measuring the first location.

The assignment was to study two different local locations. And, the assignment was also about learning to take measurements and make observations, practicing how to record data properly, and writing lab reports.

I thought it was funny when my daughter (whose assignment this study was; little bro and I were simply lab assistants) got to the part of the assignment when she had to list the plants in the selected area. With a glance around her, she rattled off a long list of plants by name.

She commented, "We won't find this same list in our second location by the river. Well, we'll find lady's thumb because that grows everywhere in this park."

I smiled that she took for granted that she knew all these plants and where they grew. She might not always appreciate the nature journaling we do, but I knew she knew these plants and habitats because she has spent time with them and has drawn them in her nature journal. The area around her wasn't filled "green plants and stuff," but individual, identifiable plants.

When she first read the biome assignment, she had no problem coming up with local places to study. She knows her neighborhood and the things that grow here. That's a CM education showing itself. (Not that nature study is exclusive to CM, of course, and not that knowing plant names is essential for an education.)

My daughter also commented while she was recording data that I would be happier if we were drawing in our journals instead of just making recordings. She was right!  

I admit that keeping a journal is far more interesting than making lab notes, though I suppose others might disagree. But I wonder if my daughter would find lab notes boring (she doesn't) if that were her only exposure to science study. Her journals and written narrations are full of her personality and the things she finds interesting. If science involved only filling in data tables, I wonder if she'd care as much as she does.

Measuring the second location.

It doesn't look like modern schoolwork to draw in a nature journal. It doesn't look like test prep. Drawing in the outdoors seems like a Victorian pastime for idle ladies and gentlemen, not a transferable skill in an indoor, fast-paced, screen-based world.

But, nature journals aren't just about the drawings. They are about:
  • sticking to a long-term project
  • making a project your own individual work
  • caring about presentation and accuracy
  • developing curiosity
  • working through a challenge and accepting mistakes (that's a big one!)
  • communicating what you've learned about the world
  • seeing that the world is bigger than yourself
  • enjoying personal progress. 
Not that you think about these lessons while drawing a crab-apple sprig, but I can see from a distance now that these are some of the lessons we've learned. Seems like good "prep" work to me. Plus, we can add the bonus lesson of nature study: making memories.

I doubt my children notice or appreciate how their CM background gives them a firm foundation. It doesn't matter if they notice now or not. It's their job to discover in their own time the route they have taken and to make their own conclusions about it. 

In the meantime, we make room in our lives for science textbooks and lab experiments. We're ready.

Today's gratitude: the gift of perspective that time gives.


  1. Excellent points about the virtues of nature journaling. And yes, someday they will see the value of their CM education. I get to hear some of those realizations with my two oldest. Of course, it warms the heart.

    From joy to joy,

  2. I am curious what my kids will say about their education when they are adults and look back. I hope my heart will be warmed, like yours is. Of course, they might say, "Mom, what was up with all that drawing of acorns and oak leaves?!" LOL.