Review: Out Of School And Into Nature: The Anna Comstock Story

One book that is a staple in many homeschoolers’ personal libraries is Anna Botsford Comstock’s Handbook of Nature Study.

Comstock’s Handbook deserves its own review but today I wanted to share a picture book we have thoroughly enjoyed here.

Out of School and Into Nature: The Anna Comstock Story, written by Suzanne Slade and illustrated by Jessica Lanan, is a wonderfully put together introduction to the life of Anna Comstock.

It shares the story of Anna’s childhood love of exploring nature, and how this love matured along with her, into a life’s passion for studying nature.

Anna did not marry right away, but went to college (in a time when this was not the norm) to learn more about plants and insects.

“Such thousands of insects I never saw before.” Anna Comstock

She spent time developing her art skills, drawing insects. Her drawings were even used by a professor in his lectures, as well as by farmers identifying insects that were destroying their crops.

Some of the lovely illustrations in the book.

She also used engraved wood prints to produce very detailed images. One thing that I love in this book is the recreation of these wood prints – some can be found in her Handbook of Nature Study.

Side-by-side view of the illustrator’s rendering of Comstock’s wood stamp drawings, and the images from The Handbook of Nature Study.

Anna Comstock wasn’t just a scientist and artist though – one of her passions was getting children out into nature. She worked hard to convince teachers to include nature study – real study with children getting OUT into nature and not just reading about it at their desks – in schools.

“Nature study cultivates in the child a love of the beautiful.” Anna Comstock

I think The Handbook of Nature Study is an essential addition to any homeschool library, and we so enjoyed learning about this remarkable woman who made this work possible.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

This book gave an abbreviated introduction to Comstock’s life – but you can read more at Britannica,¬† and wikipedia¬†includes references and external links to check out.

Two resources worth mentioning that use The Handbook of Nature Study:

The Handbook of Nature Study: The Outdoor Hour

Exploring Nature With Children

 

Save

Save

Save

Review: A Handbook to Morning Time

I have struggled over the years to establish a morning routine in our homeschool that I am happy with.

What I envision – the children and I enjoying time spent together with good books, doesn’t always happen. While we have had periods where we would start our day with a basket of good books, life happens and our routines fizzle out.

Our morning time stack.

I need not just a routine, but a PLAN. And Cindy Rollins’ A Handbook to Morning Time came at just the right time for me.

“Morning Time sets the tone for the day by helping us focus on those things that we ought to love.”

Rollins, with years of homeschool experience behind her, lays out her morning time plan. She details each area that she strives to cover. But, she also acknowledges that sometimes, morning time doesn’t happen, and that’s okay!

Rollins uses morning time not just for reading to her children, but also working on spiritual growth as well as memory work. As I read through this book, I felt truly inspired. While I made sure to have quality reading picked out for us (often choosing titles from Beautiful Feet Teaching Character Through Literature or Five in a Row), I think there was still a lack of direction to our morning time. To be honest, there were subjects I was trying to hit later in the day (like artist or music appreciation) that Rollins covers as part of morning time, and her approach seems more comfortable and natural.

“Morning Time is a liturgy ordering our affections towards those things which are true, good, and beautiful – it is a liturgy of love.”

Since I finished this quick read, I have already worked to implement some changes to our morning routine, and plan to incorporate more of her plans as the year progresses.

The older children have been memorizing various poems from Robert Louis Stevenson – one of our favorite poets!

In the beginning of her book, Rollins lays out the elements of her morning time. These include:

Morning Meeting

Family Worship including prayer and hymns

Composer/Artist discussion

Bible and Theology reading

Bible Memory

Shakespeare/Plutarch rotation

Folk Song

Poetry reading and memory work

Miscellaneous memory work

Grammar

Read Aloud

She then expands a bit on each area. I won’t go into detail on each section, but several stood out to me and are worth mentioning here.

The morning meeting is just what it sounds like, a meeting before the day starts. This is a time to mention any plans for the day, upcoming items of interest, just to make sure everyone is on the same page.


In addition to our longer reads that we are slowly working through, we also have shorter books that are included during our Read Aloud time.

During worship time, there are prayer requests and singing. Rollins discussed singing and learning new hymns. This was something that grabbed my attention immediately. After finishing the book, I printed out the sheet music to one of my favorite hymns, Just As I Am, and we have been singing it joyfully all week. I love the idea of making a family hymn book, with printed copies of those hymns we have learned.

For Composer and Artist studies, Rollins suggests using the schedule provided by Ambleside Online. We have previously studied composers and artists when Kyri was younger, using Harmony Fine Arts. We have not done anything formally in a few years though, and I do like the schedule that Rollins uses. We may adopt the Ambleside Online schedule for composer and artist study in the new year.

We have, over the course of two years, been working on Bible Road Trip, but I think Kyri wants Bible time to be more reading and discussing and less notebooking-type work. So I like the idea of having a routine of reading some scripture, followed by a chapter or segment from some Christian text. Nothing elaborate, just a page or two depending on the depth of the reading.

Bible memory is something we love around here. The children are active in AWANA, and so they are already used to learning and reciting scripture. We could incorporate verses from their AWANA books as morning time memory work, or follow some of the suggested verses that Rollins includes.

We’ve started memorizing scripture together and learning hymns as well.

Rollins’ suggestion of alternating between Shakespeare and Plutarch really intriqued me. Earlier this year I was able to participate in a members’-only author event with Read Aloud Revival, featuring Ken Ludwig, author of How to Teach Your Children Shakespeare, and this event really ignited an interest in reading through works of Shakespeare with my children. But we just haven’t gotten started yet. According to Rollins, it’s as simple as one scene, another scene, an act, and finally the entire play. One step at a time. Why should I even bother with Shakespeare? According to Charlotte Mason, it is “good for the instruction of the conscience and the molding of our judgements.”

While I have read a little Plutarch, I hadn’t really given it much thought as a component of morning time. But Rollins explains, “Plutarch can provide us with a way out of the red state/blue state divide and into the clear air of individual responsibility and the consequences of ideas.” So reading Plutarch can be used for teaching citizenship as well as training a child’s judgement. She suggests reading three lives a year. She does suggest that this be reserved for older children but than younger children could benefit from sitting in while it is being read.

One component that I am really excited to incorporate into our morning time is Memory Work.¬† Rollins suggests well known speeches and historical documents, among other things. I’ve already got a small list of documents that I’d like to start with, including the Bill of Rights and the Declaration of Independence.

I also recently finished up Mere Motherhood, Rollins’ earlier offering, and it was such a lovely compliment to A Handbook to Morning Time. While Mere Motherhood was published first, I am glad I read Handbook first. Having a firm grasp on Rollins’ morning time routine was really helpful as I was reading through her memoir, where she mentions her morning routines regularly but not in a super detailed fashion.

You can also keep up with Cindy Rollins in her podcast, The Mason Jar, at the Circe Network.

Cindy Rollins books are available through Circe Institute.

Save

Save