Monday, March 9, 2015

Nature Study for the Hungry Soul

Ahhh, Spring.  You can feel it in the air.  Yes, we just got rid of inches of snow and ice and the landscape is brown and yucky.  But my peepers are singing their hearts out and I know it's coming.  I have an almost a desperate longing for Spring this year.  After my recent diagnosis with a life-threatening allergy to the cold in which I had two dangerous episodes, I have spent the last few weeks inside the house.  I'm dying to get out and revel in nature.

Our nature study has been very minimal this winter.  I plan to remedy that in the weeks to come.  Nature study is crucial to, not only our spirit, but to our academics as well.  Charlotte Mason recommended nature study and living books for science in the early years (actually all grades implemented these in addition to more formal study.)  The importance of nature study cannot be overemphasized.  It lays the foundation for all other study.  (Notice I did not say for all other "science" study.  ALL subjects benefit from consistent nature study.)  Living books play an important role in supplementing this important habit.

Below are some tips if you're new to nature study and resources that might help.

1.  Nature study can be planned or spontaneous.  You can have certain things you are looking for when you go out or just be surprised.  Sometimes we are studying a particular topic and we go out to observe that, recording observations in our nature journal, looking things up in living books, field guides or even an app.  But we always have our eyes open for things to see.  Barb at the Handbook of Nature Study site has a plethora of ideas and helps for you.

2. Invite nature to come to you.  Hang a bird feeder, build a bat house, plant a garden, etc.

3.  Keep a nature journal.  This should be a joy, not drudgery.  You should keep one as well as your child, but allow him to do his own work.  You may give suggestions but ultimately the work should be your child's.  Keeping a Nature Journal by Clare Walker Leslie gives excellent instruction.  The Country Diary of an Edwardian Lady offers inspiration (as long as you don't compare and become discouraged!  It's gorgeous!)

4.  Don't forget things that are "common."  I love what Sonya Shafer of Simply Charlotte Mason says.  "The dandelions are not new, but the children are new."  Help them to appreciate what they see in their everyday world.

5.  Look up.  There's lots of nature in the sky, day and night, and it often changes every few seconds.

6.  Living books can play various roles.  If you are studying specific topics, seek out books about those topics.  Or if you are out and see something unexpected, find books about that.  Don't let the books drive the study, though, and feel like you have to read about every single thing or record every single thing in a nature notebook unless your child really wants to.  Sometimes a little goes a long way. Some of my favorite science/nature authors and series are Jim Arnosky, Robert McClung, Millicent Selsam, Edwin Way Teale, Margaret Waring Buck, Let's-Read-and-Find-Out series, and Discover Nature series to name a few.

7. Keep a calendar of firsts.  These can be simple or fancy, but the easiest thing to do is get a plain ol' calendar and record all the "firsts" you notice...the first bud on a tree, the first peeper frogs, the first snowfall, the first frost, the first hummingbird, etc.  It may not be the first one, but it's the first one you saw.  Children love this and they are always looking to find things to add to their calendar.  Then the following year, they make another one and can compare from year to year.  They may notice that the hummingbirds came earlier this year than last or the first frost was later.  They begin to look for their favorites with anticipation and it will open their eyes to notice everything around them.

Never before in history have people spent so much time inside detached from nature.  We are paying a hefty price for our neglect.  Spending time outside creates a sense of wonder and awe for our God. Open your eyes and SEE.


  1. Great nature study ideas! I will pin this! :) Thank you for sharing on the Art of Home-Making Mondays!

    1. Thank you, JES. I'm sitting here now in a cabin in the Smoky Mountains looking out over the serene landscape, reviving my spirit and getting some much needed r&r. I wish I had remembered my nature journal... But I brought books. :) Is reading in nature considered nature study? Thanks for hosting. I'm always blessed there.

  2. I've never been one to get outside much. My youngest child, on the other hand, loves the outdoors. He would find this quite enjoyable, even at his young age of 2 1/2 with a little bit of adjustment.

    I enjoy all you've contributed to Literacy Musing Mondays so far!

    1. Thank you, Tami, for hosting. I was never really outdoorsy either. We started farming six years ago (had a lamb born yesterday) so I'm out much more now. I find it does more for my state of mind than most anything. 2yo's are curious about everything! This is a great time of year to introduce him to many things outdoors. :)