For us, nature study has been well-planned and thought-out. In practice, though, it has been spontaneous. For example, I wanted to weave in nature study to every Friday’s morning time. Well, in place of that morning time nature study, we have ended up meeting with friends many Fridays to walk in nature, attend some kind of educational talk or living history exhibit, and then to play and eat and soak in the world outdoors. Nature study fail? Maybe. Nonetheless, I will not regret getting plugged in to a group of friends with whom we have loved frolicking in the fields!
Early in the school year, we would alternate our nature friends group one week with the next week being a “home” Friday. I had each of my older children (ages 6 and 3.5 at the time) decorate their own spiral nature notebook with stickers, animal cards, etc. I had my own nature notebook. Next, we’d venture outdoors and see what we could see. I found a new friend in the bark of our big pine tree. He/she was a spider who I named “Zebra”, to convey his black and white striped legs. Zebra and I had a congenial relationship. He or she would let me sketch him when he emerged from his hole, but he sure was shy. It didn’t take more than a puff of air to make him retreat to his home. Poor Zebra. For about 1 month, I recorded his behavior and environment. If I had only looked at a field guide to spiders. I never knew what kind he was. Nonetheless, by early fall, Zebra had disappeared. I will not lie, it was kind of sad for me.
My eldest son has enjoyed nature study in a different way. Now it is more a part of life. He will not necessarily be the first one to pick up his notebook and sketch away, but he loves being outdoors and experiencing bugs and all the crawly things first-hand. We have graduated from cicadas to robin eggs. In the springtime, there really is so much to take in from the backyard. My youngest son even gets in on the action by asking me to flip over the brick pavers in our backyard so he can explore all the crawlies that hide underneath. Poor things will be lucky to escape his curiosity. All three of my children experience nature in their own way. My daughter, who struggles with asthma and eczema, does not love being outside as much as the others, but she does love helping me tend to our flowers and plant new things around the yard. I do not require anyone to sketch anything on our nature walks, but if they do one day decide to bring their notebooks along, that will be a victory for me!
Per usual, we are planning on using our Classical Conversations science material (as it applies to nature study). In addition, I have ordered Arthur Ransome’s Pond and Stream and the Pond and Stream Companion (Simply Charlotte Mason). Christian Liberty nature readers are very handy for looking into animals of interest, and we own a couple field guides (mushrooms and shells). I am hoping to build our field guide collection over the years. My goal is to help foster the innate wonder they already have for God’s creation. Some of our favorite nature study resources I have listed below.
Pond and Stream
(you can download it free here)
Other living books related to nature study:
We have not started a garden, nor do I think it would be wise to start until my 3 are a bit older and have established habits of nurturing and caring for smaller-scale projects. For those out there who do garden, I do aspire to this! I love seeing what many friends have done over the years to get a garden started.