"Father, look!" The boy knelt beside the tide pool, excitedly motioning to his father. The small animals and waving plants never ceased to fascinate him. "Remember, my son, record what you see, because tomorrow, it may be completely different." Robert reached into the bag hanging at his side and pulled out a small sheaf of papers. Carefully he drew the sea life and wrote a detailed description in a neat hand. "Finish up, my son. We must return to complete your Latin and Greek studies today." The boy obeyed, reluctant to leave the wonders of his outdoor classroom to return to his books.

As Robert grew, he explored every inch of the small island village of Freshwater. The animals and plants fascinated him, as did the motion of the waves and the changing of the tides. His father was his teacher and taught him to look, to listen, and to wonder. He learned to record his observations and discuss them later with his father. He was apprenticed to an artist, which only served to increase his bent toward investigation and recording. At the age of thirteen, he left his small island home and began attending Westminster School. His father's training served him well, and he soon moved on to Oxford University. After completing his studies, he remained at Oxford, conducting his own experiments as well as collaborating with other preeminent scientists such as Sir Isaac Newton and Robert Boyle.

Recently I discovered the History Lives series by Brandon and Mindy Withrow. This incredible series uses narrative stories to retell the history of the church through the stories of leaders and lay persons alike. I use these in all my classes to illustrate how to take a bit of fact and write a story.

God is the only one who can create something out of nothing. For the rest of us, we are given the task of taking what we have and making something new with that. Writers often refer to the well from which they draw characters, events, and settings. Many students don't know how deep their well is or how to draw from it. Training their imaginations through imitation is a vital step in giving all students confidence in their own creativity.  

*This article published September 29, 2010.


Danielle Olander, when not caring for her husband or homeschooling their four children, teaches homeschool writing and literature classes near their home in West Michigan. As both a homeschool graduate and a homeschooling mom, she understands firsthand the benefits and challenges of home education. Also a freelance writer and editor, she is an Accomplished Instructor and exhibitor with the Institute for Excellence in Writing and the author of Life Science-Based Writing Lessons. 

1Aesop's Fables, available at www.gutenberg.org/ dirs/etext92/aesopa10.txt

This article was originally published in the Jul/Aug 2010 issue of Home School Enrichment Magazine. Sign up now to receive a FREE sample copy! Just click here: http://homeschoolenrichment.com/magazine/request-sample-issue.html