Do you neglect nature study because it is something you don't feel comfortable teaching your children?
Maybe you didn't grow up with a knowledge of our natural world, or maybe the thought of identifying all of those outdoor things is overwhelming to you.
Never fear! Nature Study is enjoyable and rewarding, and it can be SO easy! Summer is the perfect time to start this with your children, but if you're stumbling on this post and it's not summer - you can start nature study ANY TIME!
While we're using our summer break to master elements of our child's character in order to make our school year easier, it fits perfectly that mom will work on her own little flaws, too. (you're welcome)
In our Laid Back Summer Planner, we set out to lay down the rails of perseverance, observation, and truthfulness. I've never read a more accurate description of a mom's duties towards her family than these!
Nature Study as Revealer
"..when children are old enough to understand that science itself is in a sense sacred, and demands some sacrifice, all the common information they have been gathering until then, and the habits of observation they have acquired, will form an excellent ground work for a scientific education. In the meantime let them consider the lilies of the field and fowls of the air." PNEU article, Dowton
Nature is God's textbook. We only need to look around to begin our study, and what a rich study it is. With each season, we are given new elements to consider and ponder. Even the passing of the seasons is a lesson to us. The observation of the world around us, especially in our tech soaked world, is a gift. It reveals to us God's power, might, care, concern, and Providence.
Consider this simple "weed" - Queen Anne's Lace (dacus carota) - it's so delicate and can inspire so much learning, wonder, and creativity.
Nature Study as Relational
“It is infinitely well worth the mother’s while to take some pains every day to secure, in the first place, that her children spend hours daily amongst rural and natural objects; and, in the second place, to infuse into them, or rather, to cherish in them, the love of investigation..." Charlotte Mason
I'm sure Ms. Mason in her use of the word "pain" had in mind the tendency we have to stay indoors. I don't know about you, but sometimes my children have to be prodded outside.
The wisdom in this rail is twofold. First, we're establishing a habit of "first things" for our family. First, we finish our lessons, then we spend time outside. And we first tend to lessons, then we tend to "play."
Getting our children out-of-doors and into nature affords the opportunity to observe and persevere. Habits take perseverance.
As homeschool moms, we have the rare opportunity as teacher-mom to study alongside our children in nature. And we get to observe their observations, experiencing the joys they experience. Creating these memories lays down the rail of relationship. We create relationship with the things we study and with one another. Further, creating this relational habit is a character rail that serves both us and our children for the school year and all of life.
Side note: Some of our favorite nature studies are the No Sweat Nature Studies -- have you seen them?
Nature Study as Relative
"The child who learns his science from a text-book, though he go to Nature for illustrations, and he who gets his information from object lessons, has no chance of forming relations with things as they are, because his kindly obtrusive teacher makes him believe that to know about things is the same as knowing them personally..." Charlotte Mason
I'm going to give you the rail right away for this one.
Webster's 1828 defines relative as, "Not absolute or existing by itself; considered as belonging to or respecting something else" and "That which has relation to something else."
Nature Study is a study in truthfulness relative to the information we gather. It isn't truth to teach theory alone. Children long for the experience of forming relations with the things they study. To make them their own.
God's Truths aren't relative, the way we define them in philosophy. But, they are something we learn to know as they are revealed to us through our own living. We learn to walk in certain shoes to give us insight and empathy.
Nature is the same way, and why it's such a wonderful textbook.
It's one thing to be taught the life-cycle. It's another to see it for yourself and "form relations with things as they are."
Alongside our children, we can internalize truths we've only read about as we witness them for ourselves. That's powerful!
How to Do Nature Study
Charlotte Mason has provided a help for out-of-doors here.
But, you can keep it super simple.
- Gather your notebooks and supplies.
- Buy or visit the library to obtain a nature guide.
- Get outside or visit a nature preserve.
- Keep it informal. Let the children explore.
- Look for opportunities to record your observations.
Nature Study for Wimps - if you're not sure about the concept, this is an easy introduction.
Laying down rails with Nature Study is perfect for summer learning (or any other time).
Let me know how you use the opportunity to build those rails to make your upcoming school year an easier one.
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