Making time for nature study

A homeschool mom wrote to me and said,

“My greatest struggle in doing Nature Study is not being able to find time to do a walk or do a nature journal entry.  I know that we should make the time.  What do you suggest?”

Charlotte Mason’s had a great love of the outdoors and she advocated that children spend healthy doses of time outdoors every day.  She encouraged her students to develop the habit of keen interest, observation, detailed comparisons, and an ever-growing knowledge of plants, seasons, living creatures, and geography.  Her approach was natural, gentle and fun!  She encouraged each child  to keep a nature journal ~

“As soon as he is able to keep it himself, a nature-diary is a source of delight to a child.  Every day’s walk gives him something to enter …” (Vol 1, p.54-55)

Outdoor time is restorative, calming, refreshing and inspiring.  It changes our moods, lifts our spirits and shifts our perspectives.  Young children need the outdoors almost as much as they need food and sleep!  It is vital to their growth and development.  They need to touch, feel, hear, smell, taste and experiment with nature. Let your kids get wet and dirty!  It is an essential way for them to discover the world around them.

Over the years we have used several fun outdoor nature study activities that provided wonderful nature experiences, some which lead to nature journaling and further study or research.  Tea time or just before or after lunchtime every day is a good time to go outside into the garden and to find something on topic.

Here are some really quick, fun nature ideas with free downloads:

  • Use the Outdoor Hour Challenges Nature Photo of the Week topics.  Choose one word for the week and let your children grab a camera or smartphone and find and snap photos of their nature word for the week.  Children absolutely love this activity!  If they want, you can print out photos, and let them make a journal entry and possibly research anything that captured their curiosity.  Download the chart here ~ Nature Photo of the Week Chart
  • Here’s another quick idea!  Let your children pick out a colour from the pack of colour cards and encourage them to spend a time outdoors finding that specific colour in nature ~ Download ~Color Hunt Cards printable from Handbook of Nature Study
  • Ambleside Online’s follows a simple theme for each season and term. Display some reference books, library books, pictures and examples of the theme on a nature display shelf and encourage your children to look for those topics outdoors on their nature walks each week.  DownloadAmbleside Online Nature Study Schedule
  • For quick, fun nature activities, use my Smash This Nature JournalsThese nature walk prompts are simple, unusual, sometimes messy or out-of-the-box ideas.  Boys and young children especially enjoy these fun nature journal activities. Print the Smash Nature Journals out and encourage your kids to complete a page or two each day. 
  • Allocate one day in your week for nature study.  We followed our Theme of the Week and Wednesdays were for “Wonderful World” where we did longer nature walks, added Geography lessons and completed an entry in our nature journals.Daily themes 2015

It doesn’t matter if your kids seem to “play” instead of formally learning.  If you teach them to be curious, observant and inspire them to observe and notice details in nature around them, they will surprise you with their knowledge and passion.

Please don’t kill this natural delight by teaching or making a big deal about knowing everything or looking up everything about things found in nature. During my early homeschooling years almost killed my kids’ enjoyment of our nature walks simply by being overly enthusiastic and teachy. May I suggest that you ditch the idea of formal nature study lessons and do very informal, but regular, fun nature walks instead.

I hope that some of these outdoor prompts inspire you and  I encourage to make time for nature study into your school days!

Blessings, Nadene
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