Nature Study: Week 3

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Too much have we emphasized drawing as an art; it may be an art, if the one who draws is an artist; but if he is not an artist, he still has a right to draw if it pleases him to do so. We might as well declare that a child should not speak unless he put his words into poetry, as to declare that he should not draw because his drawings are not artistic.”  — Anna Botsford Comstock, Handbook of Nature Study


Yesterday, we went to our favorite nature study place, wondering if it might be under water since we’re in an area of the south that has received massive amounts of rain over the last two weeks and has experienced some pretty extensive flooding.  Fortunately, the gates weren’t locked, but my friendly, helpful visitor’s center lady advised us not to attempt to walk the trails.

Since I didn’t want to give up our nature study time altogether, I decided that we’d sit in the rocking chairs on the front porch of the visitor’s center and see what we could observe from there.  Since the Week 3 Challenge has to do with sketching and we always see lots of interesting things when we’re around the visitor’s center, I thought this was a very viable solution.


Though Megan complained and was ready to leave as soon as she found out we weren’t walking the trails, sitting on the porch proved to be a workable solution for everyone else.  I was amazed at how much we saw from that one vantage point.

The first thing we saw was something that I’ve seen on rare occasions, but I had to look it up when we got home to be sure of exactly what it was called:


Dasymutilla occidentalis: a velvet ant

We were also thrilled to sit right in front of the hummingbird feeders and observe them.  They’re such fascinating creatures.  I think that the thing that I always find so interesting about them is how short and stubby their tails are once they get still enough for you to actually see their tails.

It’s also funny to me how territorial they are.  They’re a lot like my kids sometimes — No, I’m not currently eating out of that feeder, but you can’t have it!  It’s mine!  I was here first!

Another favorite was the little blue-tailed lizard that came scurrying by.  I had my camera out trying to catch the hummingbirds in action, or I never would have been quick enough for this guy:


We also saw a couple of beautiful butterflies, tons of bumble bees (one sat right beside me on the arm of the rocking chair, but flew away before I could get a picture), and some mockingbirds.

I was very reassured by the quoted passage above, which was part of the reading for this week’s nature study challenge.  Despite how kind many of you have been with your comments, I still don’t feel that I’m very artistic (though I have seen some improvements as I’ve begun applying some of the things I’ve been learning with our art lessons).  It’s nice, though, to be reassured by Anna Comstock’s words that I still have the right to draw, if it pleases me to do so.  And, it does please me.  I’ve always enjoyed drawing and creating.

So, with that, I share some of our sketch pages from today.  First is mine:


Next is Brianna’s, who really is artistic:


And, finally, Megan, who had to be encouraged to draw something living because really she only wanted to draw the mosaic bench at the visitor’s center (photo below her sketch):


Josh wasn’t too enthusiastic about drawing today, so I didn’t push it.  I want all aspects of our nature study time to be something the kids enjoy, not just another “school subject” that I’m making them do.  He did find a really nice bird feather that he saved and he enjoyed collecting a handful of interesting, colorful rocks to study while we were at the nature center, returning them before we left.

The final piece of our nature study today surprised us today when we arrived at my sister’s house for dinner…more crazy-looking mushrooms to add to our photo journal collection:

037 038

What about you?  Have you and your kids been enjoying any time outdoors together?

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Kris Bales is a newly-retired homeschool mom and the quirky, Christ-following, painfully honest founder (and former owner) of Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers. She has a pretty serious addiction to sweet tea and Words with Friends. Kris and her husband of over 30 years are parents to three amazing homeschool grads. They share their home with three dogs, two cats, a ball python, a bearded dragon, and seven birds.

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  1. Oh, thank you for finding out what that ant is! Always wondered. Cool mushrooms too. Just saw your basic white one while I was opening the chicken coop this a.m. Lots of rain here.

  2. I continue to love your nature studies! I'm positive that I have never seen a velvet ant before. The journals are awesome. I dream about having something like that mosaic bench in my backyard.

  3. Love the journals. That's one of our favorite activities.
    We live near an area with flooding too and haven't been outside in a week.

  4. Ticia,

    I agree about the heat. It's only been in the 80's here this week and, although all we did was sit on the porch at the nature center, I was sweating by the time we left.

    I don't like to sweat. 😉

  5. It's one of those things that I keep saying I want to do but never do. I need to put it at the top of my priorities, even if its just a drive to the river.
    We have had so much rain here lately that we haven't been outside, it seems, in days. The boys will run out for a few minutes and get all muddy in between storms.
    I think the little ones and I can have a little nature time this evening as my oldest has soccer practice.

  6. My husband has taken the kids out geo-cacheing. They always find new parks, and have the motto cache in trash out, leaving the site better than they found it. If you have a handheld gps, it is a great way to get the kids interested in doing some hands on orienteering.


  7. Oh, I enjoyed this! I want to ditch our science text book and do some nature studies. Good inspiration! And, I love the sketches.

  8. Love your entry this week. It is hard to believe that you all are flooding and we are so dry, dry, dry.

    Your journals for this challenge are wonderful. I love the format of the entry from the HNS as well. I think Tina included it in the notebook pages in the OH Challenge book because she liked it too.

    I was wondering if you would like to join the OH Challlenge nature journal page Flickr group. The links are on my sidebar but here is the one for 8 years and under:

    There is also one for 9 years and up and that includes adults! I would love to have some of your samples as part of the group if you have time to pop over and add them.

    Thanks so much for sharing your links to your entries.

    Barb-Harmony Art Mom

  9. Those are some crazy mushrooms! We had the ones that look like a brain in our front yard a couple weeks ago. I keep forgetting to look up more information about it… and right now? Yah, I remember and I'm still not gonna do it. Wouldn't be prudent.

  10. Oh, I love that you just ended up SITTING on the porch! Of often, we feel the need to get out and walk. But, you proved that you don't need to be moving… nature will come to you! 🙂

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