Our Homeschool

Nature Drawing With Young Children

By age 5 or 6, most children are able to learn to draw.

If you grew up thinking “I just can’t draw”, then your early teachers did you a disservice.  Unless impeded by a disability, all children can learn to draw well.  True, some are gifted with incredible natural talent and inspiration, like Akiane, who painted this face of Jesus entitled Prince of Peace, when she was 8.  (I’m a little bitter with her parents, because for the smallest print of this image they charge a whopping $450!)  On her website, they list her paintings by the age she was when she made them – very interesting!

But the rest of us can also learn to draw recognizable images, at least at a rudimentary level.  The reasons we should encourage young children to draw are many.  Drawing is a skill which can be applied to all subject areas throughout a lifetime.  It is a practice that many children simply enjoy, and drawing teaches them the important skill of careful observation.  It is particularly useful in learning geography.  Pre-schoolers can be prepared for writing and drawing skills through the use of the Montessori insets.

The book, Drawing with Children, by Mona Brookes, is a fantastic and practical guide to teaching children (and adults!) how to draw.  This resource is used during the first 6 weeks of the 3 Foundations cycles of Classical Conversations.  A helpful website to supplement the work of this book is Drawing Ia where you can print off free drawing exercises similar to those in the Brookes book.

We use the Brookes-book exercises and philosophy throughout the school-year to develop our drawing techniques.  We also do intentional “nature drawing” periodically to foster a love of drawing and improve our skills of observation.  (I use the word “we” intentionally – when the children see me trying to draw something, they can’t help but want to give it a try.)  In early fall we do the most nature drawing outside, because each year I feel the need to “make the most of” our good weather before winter makes it impossible.  I schedule nature drawing once a week, but I also stay open to opportunities that come knocking unexpectedly.

Many times we have been to our local zoo during school hours and had the entire place to ourselves.  We plop ourselves down and get out our paper and pencils and simply try to draw what we see.  Once our drawings are complete, we label them with the date, location, and any other information we want to add.  (The older the children get, the more they can add.)  We tend to do most drawing on loose-leaf paper while the children are still young, and put the favorite samples into our art or science binders.

Other times, we draw at home, inside or out.  Our children’s garden is a great place to sit on a tree stump and draw the familiar life around us.  Another book that inspires us in this work is called Keeping  a Nature Journal, by Clare Leslie.  It is packed FULL of sample nature-journal entries.  There are several Charlotte Mason education books which teach how to encourage nature drawing.  The fictional story called Pocketful of Pinecones by Karen Andreola is a great inspiration for how to use nature drawing as a central part of the homeschool curriculum.

Nature curiosities can be brought indoors and placed in the center of a table when the weather makes it too uncomfortable to draw outside.  The book series Do You Doodle? by Nikalas Catlow is a fun drawing book to bring along on car rides or into waiting rooms.   A final recommendation is the book series called Draw Write Now for learning to draw animals while remaining indoors.  The possibilities are endless!  The key is to just get started.

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