If you read my personal blog on a regular basis, you’ve probably noticed that my kids and I have been surprised to discover a real love of nature study this year. We’ve tried having a nature study time in the past, but it has always fallen by the wayside until this year. I thought I’d share some things that are working for us so that maybe you’ll find some ideas you can use to add a nature study time into your homeschool.
Nature Center Membership. You may be one of those fortunate people who have a wonderful area to explore nature in your own backyard. We’re not. One of the reasons nature study has fallen by the wayside for us in the past is that our yard isn’t an especially interesting place to spend great amounts of time outdoors. I knew that if we were going to carve out a regular time for nature study, we had to find a place that was interesting to us. The family membership at a local nature center was inexpensive and has been one of our best homeschool investments this year.
Make It a Date. We have our nature study time once a week, in between Josh and Megan’s music classes. Because we have set aside this time specifically for visiting the nature center, it happens. Consistently. If possible, decide on a day and time when you know that, barring any unforeseen obligations, you should be able to visit your nature study spot.
Supplies. We have a bag of supplies set aside specifically for our nature study time and I keep them in the back of our van, so I don’t have to worry about forgetting them. Our bag contains sketch books, a pencil bag for each of us (containing colored pencils, a sketch pencil and an eraser), magnifying glasses, binoculars, field guides, and a piece of drawing charcoal for doing leaf rubbings. I plan to add some plastic sandwich bags for things we might like to bring home (only things found on the ground — we don’t pick flowers, leaves, etc.) and I want to add something for us to sit on while we sketch. The only thing I have to remember to grab each week is my camera.
Handbook of Nature Study. The book, The Handbook of Nature Study by Anna Botsford Comstock has been invaluable to us this year, along with ideas from the Handbook of Nature Study blog and these tips from Raising Olives.
Realistic Expectations. I know that last year, I envisioned us all sitting around together, quietly sketching away, capturing the details of the beauty around us. Yeah, right. My kids would much rather be skipping rocks in the creek or crashing along the trails in the woods than actually observing anything specific. So, I’ve learned to keep it low-key. If I have something specific I want us to do, I plan to spend about 1/2 our time (or less) doing and the rest of the time letting the kids explore. They’re still getting out and observing things.
I also try to keep in mind that the kids’ nature journals are their own. I strongly encourage them to sketch something and write some information down about what they drew. I also try not to make it an assignment because I want journaling to grow into something that each of the kids enjoys.
Those are some of the things that have been working for us this year. Do you and your family enjoy a weekly nature study time? If so, what tips would you offer?
Kris is the sweet-tea-drinking, nature-lovin’, classically eclectic, slightly Charlotte Mason, homeschooling mom to her three Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers.