Thursday, December 06, 2007

Wild Days: Creating Discovery Journals Book Review by ChristineMM

Title: Wild Days: Creating Discovery Journals
Author: Karen Skidmore Rackliff
Format: softcover book
ISBN-13: 978-1576360736
Publisher: self-published

This is a slim volume, a quick read, I finished it in under three hours. The author, Karen Skidmore Rackliff writes in a colloquial manner which is easy to understand. The author tells of how she and her seven homeschooled children spend one day out of every two weeks in nature. When the family (and especially mom) is feeling stressed out by errands and household tasks they pack meals and snacks and head off for a full day in nature. Rackliff calls these “wild days”.

When she decided to have her children keep nature journals, at first she forced each child to record words and images in what she calls a “discovery journal” (what others call a “nature journal”).

She is not ashamed to admit that her oldest son didn’t like this and said she feels that over time he continues to be disinterested. With subsequent children she stated she was less forceful, and simply modeled journaling by (continuing) to make her own journal in their presence. She said she felt that this was key in subsequent children being more creative artistically and with the written word in their own journals.

The author’s approach to their nature journals changed over time to what I feel is more like “unschooling” in which the child is placed in a stimulating environment with art supplies and a blank journal, and where the parent doesn’t really care if the journal is ever used or not. I wondered if the difference in her two sons’ reaction to their use of the discovery journal could possibly be due to the child’s interest or learning style; the son who was so creative with detailed writing entries may have a talent or special enjoyment of composing written journal entries rather than focusing on having more drawn images.

I appreciated the listing of published nature journals that are on the market today and plan to use these lists for future reading “wish lists”. However, being completely untalented in any area of artistic endeavor, I was wishing for some references for books for beginners, to learn basic drawing and watercolor skills. The author made it clear that she taught herself to draw and paint by just doing it, practicing and experimenting and feels we all should do it this way. While the notion of not needing to take classes or read books before starting a journal is appealing, it is actually scary to me. Here again, I think the author’s own learning style preference of just doing it and jumping in as a novice is due to her own learning style, whereas my comfort level-learning style is to learn a little about technique from reading about it to give me some concrete information and some confidence, before facing the blank page.

All in all when I finished the book I was excited at the idea of planned time in nature to observe, relax, and de-stress. I have always wanted to learn to draw and paint and this book has really inspired me. I also appreciated the content to support my continued attempt to have my own Charlotte Mason style homeschooled children keep a nature journal.

I would have preferred a bit more detail about which brands of art supplies are good, rather than her just saying “ask the storekeeper at the art supply store” for recommendations of good products.

I enjoyed the small black and white photographs of the discovery journal entries which ranged from her young children’s art to her own beautiful entries. They were nice to see and helped me get a gist for what is typical of young children’s drawings (when they are not taking formal art lessons).

Note: I bought this book in January 2003. I wrote this review in April 2003. I continue to recommend this book as it is the most ‘real’ book about nature journaling with children that I’ve ever seen. I also have since tried drawing in pencil and ink. I have read other books on art journals and drawing, check my profile to read those.

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