I’m just going to go ahead and get this out in the open: I’m not an outdoorsy girl. I don’t get dirty, hot weather makes irritable, and I’m generally uncomfortable with all things creepy or crawly. And birds? Well, the rest of the homeschool world may love them, but I’ve had my share of panic attacks because birds were flitting around me.
Despite my neurotic nature tendencies, I’m learning to love nature study. It’s actually a highlight of our homeschool week now, so whatever your aversion or hindrance, there’s hope for nature study in your homeschool too.
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Our journey to a Charlotte Mason-inspired homeschool plays a large part in our newfound love for nature study. It didn’t matter so much in the earlier part of our homeschool journey when we were dabbling in the different homeschool methods and educational philosophies, but there’s no escaping nature study in a Charlotte Mason homeschool.
“We were all meant to be naturalists, each in his degree, and it is inexcusable to live in a world so full of the marvels of plant and animal life and to care for none of these things.”
Miss Mason pretty much put me in my place when I read this in Home Education. She sold me on the importance of nature study in our homeschool. I knew it was time for me to get over it and get outside with my kids.
Learning to Love Nature Study
Now, I’m by no means ornithophobic turned ornithologist, nor am I excited about the six months of 90°+ temperatures coming my way. Even for the sake of nature study, I’m still not playing with insects or running my fingers through the dirt, but I now understand the value of a walk through the woods and an opportunity to take in the sights, smells, and sounds around us.
While I’m still learning to love nature study, I am making progress and I can honestly say that I enjoy our time learning and observing.
If you’re not quite there with nature study yet, keep the following tips in mind as you get outside with your kids and get started with nature study.
5 Tips for Getting Started with Nature Study
1. Find a convenient place you can visit regularly
Convenience goes a long way when you’re getting started with nature study. If you’re anything like me, you need something you can easily fit into your regular routine, a place that removes all excuses.
That may be a walk around your neighborhood, a huge backyard, or a local park. We live in an apartment, so we alternate between our favorite park and the beach. Both are convenient and easy to work into our weekly routine.
2. Don’t complicate nature study
There will be plenty of time for details once nature study is a natural part of your homeschool routine, but don’t make a big deal out of it when you’re learning to love it. Instead, focus on observation and habit. It may not sound like enough, but it can prove quite fruitful.
I recently learned the importance of these two things firsthand. Since we moved in May, my daughter and I have been walking the same trails at our favorite park a few times each week while my husband and son run on the track. Regardless of which trail we choose for the day, she and I always stop by and look at the pond.
She’ll sometimes bring her nature journal to record life around the pond, but most days we simply stop and observe. Because of that, we’ve been able to witness the seasons come and go in front of our eyes.
That was especially remarkable because we had a rare snowfall in our area in January. Our pond, usually full of lily pads, ducks, and activity, was frozen, silent, and still.
The incredible contrast was something we would’ve missed had we not made visiting the pond a regular part of our homeschool week. Indeed, habit and observation are faithful teachers.
3. Make it a priority
I know it’s not always logistically possible, but our days are always better when they start outside. Unfortunately, we’ve learned the hard way that we simply will not make time for nature study if we plan it later in the day. It needs to be our first thing in the morning or it will fall victim to our already full days.
For you, prioritizing intentional nature study may not mean that it has to happen before math, language arts, and the other things in your homeschool planner. It may be more so that it needs a designated day and time on your calendar. If that’s the case, do what you can to guard that time. Resist the urge to overschedule and make nature study a priority.
4. Keep a journal
You need a convenient place to record your observations. While there are tons of supplies that work well for nature study, I use a simple nature journal for myself, my kids use notebooking-style journals, and we all use good colored pencils.
So, what goes in our nature journals? We keep them simple. We record the date, location, and weather conditions for the day. Then we write about and sketch anything that seems noteworthy. Again, it’s simple, but our nature journals help us develop observation skills and build our nature study habit.
One day, we’ll graduate to using watercolors on all our nature journal efforts, but for now, this colored pencil and journal combination works well. It’s not complicated, cumbersome, or time-consuming, which means I’m more likely to be faithful to it.
Speaking of faithfulness, the more faithful I am to nature journaling, the more it will help my kids in their nature study efforts. Like so many things in life, if they see that nature journaling is important to me also, they’re more likely to see its value and be less likely to view it as a chore.
5. Have nature study resources on hand
Don’t stress if nature study doesn’t come naturally for you. I’m a big believer in accepting help when I need it. For me, that help with nature study has come by having the right resources around.
There’s no shortage of highly recommended nature resources out there, but the right ones can be lifesavers if all of this is new to you. For example, field guides, books like Nature Anatomy, and apps like PictureThis and Merlin Bird ID have helped us greatly with identifying plants and birds we’ve spotted.
Additionally, we’ve enjoyed learning the characteristics and behavioral patterns of birds and animals through living books like The Burgess Animal Book for Children and The Burgess Bird Book for Children. Note here that we’re learning about them and not exactly getting up close and personal, but baby steps are better than no steps, right?
Lastly, The Nature Connection Workbook and Our Journey Westward’s NaturExplorers studies have been invaluable in helping me move nature study from my “maybe one day…” list to our normal homeschool routine.
I’m a by-the-book girl at heart, so I appreciate instruction anyway. I appreciate instruction all the more when I’m experiencing something that hasn’t always been a part of my life. That’s why having clear nature study suggestions from resources like these has made a huge difference for us!
In closing, I hope you see that you don’t necessarily have to play with the creepy-crawlies, spend hours in the scorching sun, or embrace all the winged beasts in order to incorporate nature study in your homeschool. The important thing is to see its value and to find what’s doable for you and your homeschool.
>> For more nature study ideas, see
10 Nature Study Ideas That Nearly Anyone Can Enjoy. <<<
2 thoughts on “Learning to Love Nature Study: Tips from the Homeschooler Who Doesn’t Like Birds, Dirt, & Hot Weather”
For a fun exercise in the outdoors, have your children look for letters when they are out there. It make them focus even closer on their surroundings. Look at our website alphietheletterhunter.com and see how much fun finding letters can be.
We love doing those letter hunts… it’s one of our favorite outside activities. 🙂
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