A Study of John Audubon

One of the stories that Nicholas read this week as part of his reading curriculum was a brief biography about John Audubon. As a nature-lover and wanna-be artist, I really enjoyed hearing the story and found it very interesting. Nicholas loves nature as well and he talked about the story with me briefly the following day.

I thought it would be fun to delve into John Audubon just a little bit more. So instead of moving on to the next classwork on the lesson plan, today we had a John Audubon themed field trip for school. I sometimes have to remind myself that I can do things like this - I'm the teacher and I can adjust the curriculum however I think it will best serve my children's love of learning.

"One of the beauties of homeschooling is that we can teach in ways that are not practical for tightly scheduled classes with scores of children. We can adapt out teaching methods to engage students in learning more, doing more, and thinking more so that they become participants in their own discovery of knowledge. they will remember and understand far more because they have experienced it firsthand."
- quote from Lynn Dean, "Discovering Texas", TX Home School Coalition Review Magazine, Feb '11

Man, I love homeschooling!

We started with a trip to the library to find books about John Audubon. Nicholas looked up books on the computer, got their Dewey Decimal numbers, and found them on his own. He seemed to like the challenge of the hunt. He found several in the juvenile section that included biographies but also a book of many of Audubon's beautiful paintings.

Next, we ran through Sonic to pick up some lunch and headed to the Grapevine Botanic Gardens to have a picnic lunch while we watched and listened for birds.

Nicholas hates it when I take his picture as he is saying the blessing before a meal, but I just love the sight so much that I can't help but want to capture it sometimes.

After lunch, we read some of our library books and learned more about John Audubon.

Rachel sat with us for the most part but eventually her wandering nature got the best of her and she started toddling away. We didn't get through all of our books but it's ok. We will bring them home and read some more of them tonight before bed.

We walked through the gardens for a while. I love this garden. It's rather small but there is so many interesting things to see.

As the kids found new and exciting things, we talked about them. They told me about colors and features on the fish as well as the habitat they live in.

Of course, sometimes it's just fun to stand on a bridge and watch the fish swim underneath you!

Next we found a quiet spot in the wooded area with some nice benches that became our make-shift artist studio. I got out the watercolor paints, brushes, cups, and the jug of water. We talked about some of the things we had seen on our tour of the garden and I asked them to paint something they had seen. They both decided to paint the koi fish.

Rachel soon tested out the texture of watercolor paints on her finger. Slippery and messy is all that comes to my mind.

Then she decided to use her finger to paint with. I love the artistic and creative approach...or maybe she's just being a normal 2 year old and experimenting with all that she can do with her fingers and hands.

I fell in love with Nicholas' koi fish. The colors were perfect and he really took his time and did a good job.

Next, he decided to paint a bird.

I love seeing them work side by side so well. I don't know if it was the art work or being outdoors but there was no sibling bickering. It was just really peaceful and sweet.

Of course, Rachel had to get creative again and tried to pour her cup of water all over her painting. My knee-jerk reaction kicked in and I said, "No, don't do that". To which she promptly fussed at me, "It's my water!"

I quickly came to my senses and realized that there was really no harm in what she wanted to do...it would satisfy her curiosity about what would happen when the water poured on her paper plus it would keep her busy and content for a while longer. All good things.

Sometimes you just have to choose your battles.

I actually like the swirl effect that the water created on her painting!

Of course, I love Nicholas' bird painting too.

The kids draw with markers, colored pencils, or crayons almost daily. But it's been a while since we have gotten the paint out - maybe since before Rachel was born. I already feel like I'm constantly cleaning up a mess so why give them ammo to make yet another one. But after today I think we might have to make room for a little paint in our regular art projects too. I was so proud of Nicholas' art work that I was thinking about picking up some picture frames and hanging them up in his bedroom.

As we were packing up to leave, I noticed this plaque right next to the benches we were working on. How true.

We put our art work and supplies back in the van and walked through the garden to the adjoining playground. On our way, I tried to get a picture of the kids in front of the fountain. But Rachel was too distracted by the water to bother to look at the camera. She then stuck her foot all the way in the water!

The kids had a blast at the playground and it was a great way to get in a little exercise and play time with other kids.

We made it home and I started unloading all of our stuff from the back of the van. I was horrified when I saw the pictures that we had laid out so carefully to be sure they completely dried.

The jug of water that I had brought along had rolled around on the ride home and some of the water leaked on to the paintings. I gasped aloud and Nicholas said, "What?" I didn't know what to tell him. He came over and saw his paintings. He seemed sad for a moment but then said, "That's ok! I'll just paint more".

It's really neat because this actually ties back in to the reading story where we first read about John Audubon. That story talked about John's first paintings. He had proudly displayed some of them on his wall but put most of them in a box under his bed. Later he went to retrieve the paintings only to find that rats had destroyed most of them in the box. But John did not let that discourage them. He considered those practice works and he went right back to painting even more beautiful paintings.

This was a wonderful outing. It was fun but we also covered so many educational subjects. We learned about finding books in the library, reading, science through the study of birds and fish, art, physical education, and even character development. There are actually homeschool curriculums that teach subjects by tying them all into a common theme like we did today. They are called Unit Study curriculums. I just might have to pull some of that into our curriculum. It's such a fun way to learn!

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