Most parents understand that their children need less screen time and more time outdoors, but when it comes to nature study you might feel a little bit lost. It sounds fun, but how do you actually begin?
The Purpose of Nature Study
I think we have to answer this question first. What is the purpose of nature study?
We do nature study, first and foremost, to stop and bask in the glory of God’s creation.
Of course it is wonderful that the kids are outdoors and burning off energy. It is also a benefit that they are learning about the plants and the bugs, the weather, constellations, and so much more. As we research these things that spark our interest, we always come back to the Creator of it all.
In the never ending hustle and bustle of life, we often forget to appreciate the world around us. Taking a moment to watch the way snowflakes settle on the ground, the clouds move, or smell fruit ripening on a tree is a discipline and something that is a lost art in our modern day. I want my children to learn to appreciate the world that God has given them, to understand the way it works, and to be good stewards of that great gift.
Tips to Begin Nature Study
Nature Study doesn’t need to be hard and it doesn’t need to be long. I know that Charlotte Mason suggested something like every child should have at least 4-6 hours outside every day. For many this is just not possible and that is okay.
As homeschooling moms we shouldn’t be controlled by a homeschooling method, but we should take the lovely things that inspire us from these homeschooling methods and use them in a way that works for us, our children, and our schedule. If you can only take 10-15 minutes consistently each day to be outside with your child to focus on nature study and worship God by being still in his Creation, then do that and take joy in it! There might be other seasons in your life where more time will be available and you can count that as a blessing when it comes!
Here are a few quick and easy tips to get you going in your nature study journey:
- Get outside. Whether it is your backyard, at a friend’s farm, going on a hike, or visiting the zoo get outside where there is nature to be seen and studied.
- On cold days, consider going to a local nature center or even studying the outdoors from indoors.
- ACTIVITY >> If it is snowing, bring in snow and make Snow Cream and discuss how the snow compares to other forms of ice the children have eaten, how quick does it melt in comparison to ice cream, and can they find any bits of grass or dirt in it while they are eating which they will find fun, even if you don’t.
- Listen, Smell, See, and Feel. These are the activities that you want to be doing while you are studying nature.
- Pick one object or event to focus on for 10-15 minutes of your time. Consider doing further study when your time outside is over. For example, collect leaves and discuss their various shapes, colors, and intricate differences. Maybe go online later and try to figure out what kind of tree belongs to each leaf. If you like a flower study what it is, what its historical uses are, if it is edible or useful for medicinal purposes, etc.
- Analyze an object or event over a number of days, weeks or months. If you have planted a seed watch it grow and track its progress.
- Draw what you see. This exercise, whether you are artistically talented or artistically challenged, can help you to see more detail and beauty in what you are examining.
- Write down what you see. Nature journals are a common in nature study. This can be any old notebook you have lying around. You can draw what you see in this nature journal and write down how it makes you feel or the progress you are tracking.
- Include Scripture, songs, or poetry in your nature journal alongside your art and entries.
- Take pictures, print, and keep in your journal to help catalog what you see. This is what we do often instead of drawing!
The Benefits of Nature Study
There are so many benefits of nature study. One in particular that I listed above is that it inspires worship of God and instills a heart of stewardship for the Creation that God has given us.
I also love that for preschool and early elementary ages, nature study can lay the entire foundation for your science studies. There is no reason to buy a formal science curriculum when you have your back door for free and Google and YouTube to help you learn more. I love modern technology for this.
Young children that find textbooks and worksheets tiresome, will find science suddenly exciting and full adventure once they are free to explore and research what they find interesting.
Nature Study can be easy and very budget friendly. There are many tools available out there to help guide you in your nature study that are awesome and I will share a few that we use below, but ultimately you can study nature for free right in your own community. Isn’t that awesome?
My Favorite Books for Nature Study
The Nature Connection: An Outdoor Workbook for Kids, Families, and ClassroomsKeeping a Nature Journal: Discover a Whole New Way of Seeing the World Around YouThe Curious Nature Guide: Explore the Natural Wonders All Around YouNature Anatomy: The Curious Parts and Pieces of the Natural World (Julia Rothman)
My Favorite Tools for Nature Study
Kids Backyard Bug Catchers Exploration Science and Viewer Microscope, Insect Magnifier, Living Adventure Insert Case With Catching Tools for Little Critters for fun( Random Color)Childrens Bug Catcher and Viewer – Insect Magnifier, Catcher + 2 Bug Tweezers – Nature Exploration Microscope For Kids – By OLIVIA & AIDEN2 Pack Of Paper Primary Journal Early 100 CTDrawing and Sketching Pencil Set In Zippered Carrying Case
Follow our Nature Study Board on Pinterest for Exciting Ideas to Support Your Nature Study Efforts!
For further ideas on how to expand your nature study, check these out and follow the Talking Mom2Mom Nature Study Board on Pinterest!
Listen to the Talking Mom2Mom Podcast!
CLICK HERE to listen to our discussion on Studying Art, Music, and Nature the Charlotte Mason Way!