Of all the blocks I am teaching this year, I am most excited about botany. I have hinted about how I plan to handle this subject before, and wanted to give some more details. I decided not to teach botany as a block, but more of a theme that will run throughout the year. My initial inspiration was a book Melisa Nielsen had suggested, The Country Diary of an Edwardian Lady by Edith Holden. (Do a google image search for sample pages.) The book chronicles Holden’s nature notes for the year 1906, and also includes verses, folklore, paintings and illustrations. It is a beautiful example of artistry and attention – two areas I hope to broaden and sharpen during our study of botany this year.
The spirit guiding my teaching of botany came quite by chance. I found mention of a book entitled The First Book of Botany: Designed to Cultivate the Observing Powers of Children, written by Eliza Ann Youmans in 1873. The title sounded in keeping with the Goethean/Anthroposophical way of teaching science, so I did a quick google search. What a goldmine! I downloaded the book for free on google books, but the opening quotations and preface convinced me to track down a copy to own. Here is a little taste for you.
These two quotations appear on the title page:
“Not that more is taught at an early age, but less; that time is taken; that the wall is not run up in haste; that the bricks are set on carefully, and the mortar allowed time to dry.” – Lord Stanley
“You study Nature in the house, and when you go out-of-doors you cannot find her.” – Professor Agassiz
And this, from the Preface:
“In the first place, it introduces the beginner to the study of Botany in the only way it can be properly done – by the direct observation of vegetable forms. The pupil is told very little, and from the beginning, throughout, he is sent to the plant to get his knowledge of the plant. The book is designed to help him in this work, never to supersede it. Instead of memorizing the statements of others, he brings report of the living reality as he sees it; it is the things themselves that are to be examined, questioned and understood.”
Yes, yes, yes. I cannot wait to get that book in my hot little hands. It is also full of lovely engravings that will serve as a guide to the plants and trees we encounter. Between our morning walks, trips to the local Botanical Gardens and the Arboretum, Vincent will have plenty of opportunities to observe the local flora. On alternating Fridays, we will work on our own Country Diary, filling it with seasonal verses, botanical drawings, leaf and bark rubbings, samples of seeds, leaves and such. I’ll be sure to post updates in the coming months.
- The Country Diary of an Edwardian Lady, Edith Holden
- “Guest Post: Botany in the Waldorf-Inspired Homeschool“, Lauri Bolland via The Parenting Passageway
- “Botany” podcast, Melisa Nielsen
- Botany: Christopherus Unit Study, Donna Simmons
- Botany, Charles Kovacs
- The First Book of Botany: Designed to Cultivate the Observing Powers of Children, Eliza Ann Youmans
- From Nature Stories to Natural Science: A Holistic Approach to Science for Families by Donna Simmons