Nature study is our favorite science, especially for the early years. It has been something that has come easily for us. We live rurally and homestead — there is always something to study. When my bigs were littles and I was falling in love with the Charlotte Mason philosophy, nature walks were a regular part of our day. I read Pocketful of Pinecones and wanted what I saw in the pages. Still today, nature study is our favorite way to do science. Especially for young learners, exploring our world (and backyard) is an easy way to incorporate science and encourage observation.
One of the habits and skills that young learners need to develop is observing. This will serve them well in later years of learning and throughout life. Whether you are watching birds out the window, observing a tree in the yard change throughout the seasons or going on a backyard scavenger hunt of nature sights and sounds, encourage observation.
One of my absolute favorite books to inspire my young adventurers is One Small Square: Backyard. This book, along with others in the series, is packed full of inviting illustrations, engaging age-appropriate text, and activities and experiments to rival any science book. When I was new to homeschooling – and sure I was going to really make a mess of things, I followed the book more closely. As my confidence and family grew, the book became more of a resource for my children to use. The information and activities sparked further research and experiments that they had the confidence to take on all by themselves. As they grew, they were getting more out of it.
Dig Into an Experiment
With my younger learners, I would take the lead and direct most of the activities. We would take weekly or bi-weekly walks, just observing and drawing the happenings in our yard or woods. We would also regularly visit our “square” and dig into an experiment from the Backyard book. As we dug in the garden and planted trees, we would see the signs of life we had learned about from these backyard adventures.
Through our Nature Studies, we touched on botany, zoology, and geology. Studying habitats led to the study of biomes around the world (more of those delightful One Small Square books). In learning about biomes around the world, we crossed-over into geography. Geography is another favorite subject for developing good habits (we pray for the people that live where we “are” in our learning). We kept track of our findings and thoughts in a notebook. We made drawings and paintings (now art is included). It became such an easy part of our homeschool, a delightful habit.
Nature Study is Indispensable
By spending their early years doing nature study, the good habits of observation and experiment were already there. When they started to do “real science”, following the scientific method of making hypothesis and careful taking notes and analyzing the results was easy. Nature Study is an indispensable part of our curricula.
As my children have grown, we have added other great books to our resources. Field Guides of both trees and birds for our area, living books such as the Burgess Bird Book for Children or Paddle-to-the-Sea or the Handbook of Nature Study are just some of what you’ll find on our shelves. If you have limited resources, choose the Handbook of Nature Study; it is worth it’s weight (all 3 lbs or so for the paperback) in gold.
I still lead my littles (7 and 9 years old) in our Nature Walks. I want to make sure they are developing good habits – and I love doing nature study. My older children are often out with us, though I don’t require it. They experience that same enjoyment, observing God’s creation, that I do. I need only give them a notebook and a nudge.
Throughout the years, I have had times of being bored with our simple studies (if it is going well, we feel the need to make it better, right? Why?!?). I have found a few resources that have more structure. These Nature Study resources are things we have used and I recommend. The Handbook of Nature Study website has printables, an encouraging newsletter and planning pages. They use the Handbook of Nature Study book by Anna Botsford Comstock (see, you really need to have your own copy). There are three levels of membership, though much can be gleaned from simply subscribing to the newsletter and blog posts.
Another resource we often turn to is NaturExplorers. With more than 20 topics and related e-books available, it can be hard to choose. Within each NaturExplorer you will find easy-to-follow directions to explore, observe and record. Similar to a unit study, in that other subject areas are tied in, you can do as many or as few of the activities as you wish. Book lists and notebook pages make these easy to incorporate. You can choose the topic, let your children decide (there are a couple for preschoolers, too) or download one that answers your curious child’s latest question. “What are those big birds in that field and why are they there?” Coping with the Cold answers migration questions if you should be in the path of migrating cranes like we are.
Please visit my fellow homeschool bloggers who are talking about Exploring Our World this week:
Note: all links will be LIVE by Monday 1/23 at noon EST.
Notebooking Our Way through History by Susan @ Homeschooling Hearts & Minds
Studying the Where and How by Michele@Family, Faith and Fridays
The History of Our Mysterious Struggle With History by Laura @ Four Little Penguins
Social Science, Science and Exploring our World – Our Path by Joelle @ Homeschooling for His Glory
Learning History Through Fiction by Kristen @ Sunrise to Sunset
History in Our Homeschool by Amanda H @ Hopkins Homeschool
Exploring Our World Through History And Science by Laura @ Day by Day in Our World
Bringing History to Life! by Yvie @ Gypsy Road
History, Living Books and the Imagination by Sarah @ Delivering Grace
Exploring our world comes in many different forms. by Kim @ Good Sweet Love
Bible, History and Geography by Lizzy @ Peaches At Home
Beyond the Books – Social Studies and Science by Shecki @ Greatly Blessed
Exploring the World with Living Books by Brittney @ Mom’s Heart
High School History & Science without Textbooks by Christy @ Unexpected Homeschool
Exploring the World Starting with Canada by Annette @ A Net in Time
Visit The World Through Video by Lori H @ At Home: where life happens
What A Wonderful World by Kym @ Homeschool Coffee Break
The Time we got Lost in the Woods by Dana Hanley @ Roscommon Acres