As an eclectic Charlotte Mason homeschooler, nature study is near and dear to my heart—and the hearts of my children. We have learned so much about our Creator and the sciences through our weekly nature walks, all while touching on bits and pieces of almost every other subject under the sun, too.
I’ve been a nature lover from the time I was a child but had no idea how much something as fun as nature study could reach so deeply into every single realm of science, nor did I realize that God would reveal Himself to my family in such powerful ways as we find Him during nature walks.
Early on, I used to add nature study to the school schedule when and if we had time. It was an extra, a luxury of sorts, that came after the “real” lessons. Several years ago, I challenged myself to incorporate nature study weekly, since it was such an important part of a Charlotte Mason education. Boy, was I surprised to find our scheduled afternoon of nature study become the most anticipated activity of the week!
Kids love to get outside. They need to get outside. Fresh air, sunshine, and exercise keep us healthy and happy. Something about a lesson outdoors just sparks the interest of my children in a way that no other lesson can. For my rambunctious son, I’m sure he appreciates being able to run, jump, and climb without being told to “sit down and get busy!”
My overall philosophy when asked how to study nature is “Any way you like!” or “Whatever works for your children!” The most important thing is that your children are immersed in, and overjoyed with, God’s creation. Some children love to draw and document in journals; others enjoy scavenger hunts, and still others enjoy on-the-spot experiments and observations.
From a Charlotte Mason perspective, nature study should help children develop a keen sense of observation that flows naturally into the ability to describe clearly what they see. Descriptions can be shared orally, through various forms of writing, or even through detailed drawings.
To help children learn to become keen observers, parents can and should ask gentle leading questions like, “How many flower petals do you see? Can you describe their shape? Do they remind you of petals from other flowers you’ve observed?” Describing and/or noting correct names and parts should be encouraged, within reason, considering the child’s age. You can certainly use field guides, library books, and/or the internet to learn about the particulars of your nature specimens.
Nature study doesn’t have to be an all-day field trip where you visit a nature preserve, zoo, arboretum, or other fancy destination. (Although, those are wonderful places to go if you have time!) It can happen just outside your door where you deeply discover the normal nature around you. I’ll bet you’ll be surprised at the incredible variety of things you find. Have fun!
Copyright 2018, The Old Schoolhouse®. Used with permission. All rights reserved by the Author. Originally appeared in the Spring Supplement 2018 issue of The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, the trade publication for homeschool moms.