September 8, 2020

Nature Studies, Nature Notebooks: A Parent Child Journey

 Homeschooling moms, have your friends asked, "What about science?" 

Are you turned off to natural science, because you had distasteful experiences in school? 

Do you feel intimidated by science? 

Many people suppose that science can only be taught and learned in the classroom, with textbooks, using expensive equipment, taught by an college trained, and certified licensed science teacher. 

 Nothing could be further from the truth.

The methods we use are not difficult to learn or implement, and are really quite natural!

The pathway to a solid foundation in science is as close as your own front door...

7 Ways to Add Nature Studies to Your Homeschool

 1. Spend lots of time outside with your children.

 2. Take nature walks with your children.

3. Directly observe nature on those walks. Share your observations with your children.

4.  Keep and maintain nature notebooks or nature journals.  Basically, nature is the lab and this is the lab journal, a palace for recording observations.

5.  Learn the art of collecting, labeling, and displaying collections. What good is a collection in a box?  label, present, and share your finds.

6. Read quality books to your children about nature. Also, read nature stories to your children.. 

7. Plant a garden, if you can. You do not have a yard. If you do not have a yard, try container gardening on a window sill or balcony. Children, who garden, learn a lot about the laws of God, from gardening. I am talking about natural laws, such as, "the law of the harvest," "reaping what you sow," "there is a time and a season," "by their fruits, ye shall know them," and "sweat of our brow." Children can learn about different kinds of sins and bad habits by observing different kinds the weeds and how they spread.

Nature interests are magnified as parents lead the way. How can parents lead the way?

Cultivate your love for God's creations and share that love with your family. 

Be an example of enjoying and being interested in nature. 

Stimulate curiosity. Parents can stimulate their children's curiosity as they take their children for walks, explore, and notice the world around them.

Keep your own nature journal and share it with your family.

Soon after Vera had her baby, we began taking long walks every day. She would put her baby in a big old-fashioned stroller, and then head out for long walks. She invited me to bring my two boys and walk with them. My boys were two and four at the time. The walks were always long, but the boys soon adapted. As the weeks turned into months, our boys started to notice how things along the paths changed with the seasons. 

About forty years ago, we moved to Colorado. We lived in an apartment building for a couple years. During that time, a family moved from Germany and rented a nearby apartment. The mom did not have family and friends around. She was expecting her first baby and was living in a foreign land.  I had two little boys.  I had studied German in high school and college, so I reached out and we became friends.

Soon after the birth of our third child, we moved into a house about five miles away. We had miles of walking/biking paths that wound through parks, wetlands, greenbelts, and bridged streams. We continuing the walking tradition that started with Vera. I put the baby in a baby carrier and with the two boys, we walked everywhere. As a side benefit, I lost weight and my children got very healthy. My children began noticing lots of detailed things around them on the walks. They asked questions about the things they saw. My children even brought home little treasures they found. Being directly exposed to their surrounding environment stimulated their natural curiosity.

My children and I searched through all sorts of books together to find answers to what kind of plant or bug we had seen. This was before internet. The children loved to "collect" things as they walked along. Rocks, flowers, bugs, and pine cones were their favorites. You soon learn that all the treasures of the world start looking like junk and clutter unless you organize, label, and display things properly. These skills take time, but when done right, they provide collections worth keeping.

We lived in that house and enjoyed the walking trails for five and a half years. Then we moved to Loveland, Colorado. This time our subdivision did not have any formal bike and walking paths for us to enjoy. However, after all those years of walking with our kids, the habit was strong, so we regularly walked all the streets in our subdivision. We had two more children while living there, and as soon as they could walk, they were joining the rest of us on our walks.

When we moved to Utah, in summer 1993, we again did not have any walking paths. However, it didn't take long before our children knew every nook, cranny, and flower in our neighborhood. Soon after settling in, we took the three youngest children (then age ten, four, and two) up into the mountains for a hike. We hiked clear up to the snow line before heading back. 

During mid-winter we have taken the entire family on the walking/bike path that goes along the Provo River. Why do I share these things? I want you to know that walking is good for all ages, any-size family, no matter where you live, and in all seasons of the year. The walks need not be long. Some of our walks have been as short as once around the block. 

In January 1994, I read an article about Charlotte Mason and Nature Studies. Instantly, I fell in love with the idea. We were already getting out and studying nature. Charlotte also pointed us towards the idea of also keeping a nature notebook. 

In January 1994, I read an article about Charlotte Mason and Nature Studies. Instantly, I fell in love with the idea. We were already getting out and studying nature. Charlotte also pointed us towards the idea of also keeping a nature notebook. 

While reading a book "Charlotte Mason: A Home Schooling How-to Manual" by Catherine Levison, I discovered a paragraph on "Tree study." That paragraph was from an article in a Parent's Review, a publication by Charlotte Mason. The man who wrote the article was the editor of the Rural School Leaflet at Cornell University, a Mr. Edward M. Tuttle. He is pictured in the black and white picture of the man and the little girl, included in this post. That man is my husband's maternal grandfather. The little girl is my husband's mother. I knew she would be excited to see the book. 

My mother-in-law became my homeschool champion, because of the love for nature her father had nurtured in her and because he was mentioned in Levison's book. 

Mother took my children, one at a time, on nature adventures, "sight-seeing" different habits and birding in the nearby mountains.  She remembered her father's love of nature and she shared that legacy of love with her own grandchildren.

Children are born naturalists. When young, they are eager to discover and learn about their natural environment. So, open your door and start nature walks and nature studies today! Resist the urge to get between your child and their observing of nature.

Here are some links on Nature Notebooks and a Nature Notebook DIY:

Enjoy the out doors with your children. If the weather gets bad, you can observe from your window. You can also observe pets and observe indoor plants. This method can also be used with observations through a telescope and even with observations through a micro scope.  Nature studies and nature notebooks were how many scientists of renown got their beginnings. 

And remember, whatever you do, Enjoy the Journey!


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