Nature studies are an important part of our homeschool and our life. On the ranch, life fits well with the Charlotte Mason philosophy for nature studies. We are outside every day; so we can easily incorporate our science lessons into what we see and do.
When we are outside, I encourage my children to appreciate and observe the environment around us. I emphasize the importance of using all five senses to immerse them in nature. By doing this, it encourages them to ask questions about what they see. If we are hauling water to cows, this can provide the perfect opportunity to sit at the lake for a few minutes to see what lives around the lake. Sometimes we learn about a new species of grass during a quick picnic snack. I love watching my children get excited and ask to look up more information about what we observed as soon as we walk in the door.
This provides the perfect opportunity to start a small unit study on the subject, to do more research, and to use their nature journals to document what they saw. As often as possible, we take our nature journals and camera along with us so that my children can write, draw, and take photographs to document what they see. There are no expectations for this journal since they can document their observations however they would like. In our home, we will continue learning about what we were exploring outside using a combination of resource books, field guides, websites, and living books.
What I love most about nature studies is that they are short and spontaneous lessons. I highly recommend not scheduling a certain time limit to each nature study session as this provides your children the freedom to learn as much as they want to with no limitations. Sometimes a nature walk will take us thirty minutes, and the next time we will spend two hours observing and exploring. Last summer, we were checking cattle and noticed a few trails that led to a discussion on voles. We spent over an hour following their trails and discussing their homes, habitat, and diet.
I love hearing my children say, “Mom, let’s learn more about that!” Learning in nature can be lots of fun, and to see my boys enjoy learning and want to learn more is how I measure our success. The next time you are outside with your children, I would recommend taking a few minutes to sit, listen, and observe the environment around you. You never know what lesson and discussion it might inspire.
Copyright 2018, The Old Schoolhouse®. Used with permission. All rights reserved by Janice Campbell. Originally appeared in the Classical Supplement 2018 issue of The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, the trade publication for homeschool moms.