One of my absolutely favorite things about homeschooling is the freedom we have to explore whichever subjects that we choose. One of my children’s absolute passions – I imagine it is probably every child’s passion, if given the opportunity – is to experience nature. From early on Clark and Luci were fascinated with dirt, bugs, flowers, and weather. Personally, I’d rather hide inside and pretend that bugs and such do not exist, but at some point (it may have been when my children started bringing their new “pets” indoors), I was forced to acknowledge the importance and necessity of nature study in my children’s lives.
Now, recognizing their need to be a part of nature, we have incorporated nature study into our regular homeschool curriculum. This spring, the subject is “The Wonderful World of Wildflowers” and I have rarely seen my children so engrossed and engaged in a subject. It makes for an afternoon of pure pleasure to watch as my children run, squealing with delight through the fields of colorful flowers, stopping to discover and discuss a new shape or shade, before moving on to the next bright sprig, collecting vibrant bouquets of every variety, filling our home with beautiful splashes of color.
When I first realized that I needed to incorporate Nature Study into our homeschool curriculum, I had no idea how to proceed. However, over time, we’ve come up with a system that has made our nature study an opportunity to joyfully interact with nature in a way that encourages exploration and further learning.
Don’t Neglect Nature Study
For us, it is important to get out of the house, into nature at least once or twice a week. It’s a way for the children to burn off energy, and it also a way for the adults to de-stress. Have you ever stood on a mountain, overlooking a lush, green valley below? There’s a hush in the air and all you can hear is the wind blowing through the trees and a remote bird call, echoing. As you stood there, were you able to feel the sense of deep, intense peace? It’s an understanding that all of your big people problems are suddenly not so significant. Have you had this experience? Nature can have an intense effect on us physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. While it’s easy for Nature Study be the first thing to drop off our to-do list, it’s far-reaching effect may be cause to reconsider its’ importance. Nature Study always leaves us happier, more relaxed, with a greater ability to focus.
How We do Nature Study
We approach Nature Study with a general subject in mind. This spring, we are exploring the Wonderful World of Wildflowers. Once or twice a week, armed with Comstock’s Handbook of Nature Study and our little field guide, Wildflowers of Texas, we spend several hours at the local nature preserve, a favorite park or even a farmer’s field to see what new flower we can discover.
We don’t always find what we are looking for, but that isn’t cause to stop exploring. Besides, our Handbook of Nature Study has a bit about everything!
We tried nature journaling while exploring, but the truth is, most children aren’t going to want to sit down in an ant hill to draw when they can be running around in a field. Instead we wait until we get home to do our journaling. While outside, we take pictures. I got the children a solid camera that can tolerate a few bumps and even immersion in water. We all take pictures, and the children may collect a few specimens. Remember to bring a basket or backpack for all of the treasures that they find!
Once we get home, we continue our Nature Study. If we haven’t already, we identify the different specimens that we’ve collected in our field guide, Wildflowers of Texas, and then read about them in Comstock’s Handbook of Nature Study.
Journaling comes next. This is where the children really integrate their new-found knowledge. While Clark and Luci are not likely to take the time to sketch or write about their findings while outside, they are more than happy to do so once inside. I may print out a few of the pictures that we took. We may simply sit around a big bouquet, drawing what we see. We also like to look at the flowers up close with our microscope. This opens up a whole new world of what can be sketched and described in our nature journals.
This week we played in a field of several whidflowers. The main flower was the Gaillardia Pulchella (more commonly known as Indian Blanket or Firewheel) flowers. A handful of them brightened our table for the few days that they lasted. This is Luci’s drawing of them in her Nature Journal.
Do you think your children would enjoy incorporating Nature Study into their homeschool curriculum? Drop by My Joy-Filled Life for our guest post on Discovering Dandelions to learn more.