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How to Use the Outdoor Hour Challenges For Your Homeschool Family Nature Study

Here are some things to consider for your homeschool family nature study. Every family is different so use these tips to get started with simple and joyful Outdoor Hour Challenges.

Here are some things to consider for your homeschool family nature study. Every family is different so use these tips to get started with simple and joyful Outdoor Hour Challenges.
Photo by Amy Law

How to Use the Outdoor Hour Challenges For Your Homeschool Family Nature Study

When getting started in homeschool nature study, here are some simple ideas to consider for your outdoor time.

Age of Your Children

  • Younger children-try to create exposure and have lots of time in free exploration outdoors
  • Older children-provide some structure to the preparation for your outdoor time, allow increased time outdoors, offer short follow up activities if they are interested

Your Particular Backyard Habitat

  • Suburban-Assess available trees, shrubs, and garden space. Focus on areas like birds, trees, insects, clouds or other subjects that you can find outside your back door. Container gardening is a great opportunity to create a natural area in even the smallest of backyards or on porches and decks.
  • Rural-Opportunity for longer walks each week and increased subjects to study. Perhaps planting a garden or just some child friendly plants like marigolds, sunflowers, beans, or morning glories.

Your Homeschool Family’s Interests

  • Follow your child’s interest as much as possible. Observe them as you go about your week and learn what interests them…insects? birds? lizards? mammals?
  • Do you have a pet that you can use as the center of your nature study? Cats, dogs, fish, lizards, hamsters all have their place in nature study.
  • Do you have access to larger farm animals? Horses, cows, goats, chickens, ducks? Take advantage of what you have at hand.

How much time do you have in your homeschool each week?

  • Ideally, you should be able to give an opportunity for outdoor time each day but realistically, you can pencil in one afternoon or part of an afternoon each week for nature study if you make it a priority.
  • Many families fit their nature study in as part of other activities. When you are on the way to another activity, can plan on stopping for a short period of time at the park for some nature study?

An Example Homeschool Nature Study with The Outdoor Hour Challenges

Let’s say that your family has preschool or young grammar age children. You have a suburban backyard. You have one afternoon a week that you can devote to nature study. You are beginners in the focus area of birds. How will you use the Outdoor Hour Challenges?

  • First of all, I suggest that you complete the few pages of reading for the challenge early in the week. Highlight any points you feel would be of interest to your children. I would pick only one or two points to share with young children.
  • If there are additional resources available, view those and print out any materials you would like to share with your children after your outdoor time.
  • Make the priority of your week’s nature study your outdoor time and make the most of it.
  • Prepare the children as much as you can in a way that is appropriate for their ages. If the lesson for the week is to learn about bird’s beaks, you might mention a few facts (check your notes) about bird beaks before you head out the door.
  • I might start off our outdoor time with a walk around the yard to see if we find anything new or interesting. If a bird happens along at the feeder or anywhere we can observe it, stop and quietly observe the bird, making special note of the bird’s beak.
  • After the birds flies away, take a minute to ask if your child was able to observe anything about the bird’s beak. Was it long, short, pointed, round, black, yellow, bigger than the head, and how did the bird use the beak?

Enjoy your time outdoors together and don’t spend your time lecturing or even talking very much at all.

” there should be as little talking from her (mother) as possible, and what little there is should have a definite purpose.”

Charlotte Mason, volume 1, page 45

With very young children, that would be all that I would expect for a beginning nature study session. There will certainly be something that they are interested in if you are actively walking and searching and listening and experiencing your backyard. You are the key by modeling how interesting things are right there in your own space.

Ideas for Simple Nature Study In Your Homeschool

In our family, when the children were young, we would work and play in the yard together during our outdoor time. Pulling weeds, cutting flowers to bring inside, sitting on the grass and watching the birds in the feeders, sweeping the walk, swinging on the rope swing, tidying the garden, listening to the bees buzz, turning the compost, watering the deck plants, and so on.

Most of these everyday activities led to questions about nature which we would investigate later on either with books we had on hand or during our next trip to the library. Again, be diligent about observing what your child is interested in during your outdoor time. Build on that interest by perhaps reading up on the subject yourself and sharing with them a few facts to get them started. Look up the topic at the library the next time you visit and show your child the section of books on that topic and let them pick one or two to bring home to look at and read together. This makes the nature study lesson not so much like a lesson.

I hope this helps illustrate how you can take the Outdoor Hour Challenges and tailor them to your particular family and habitat. You should feel free to make adaptations to make each challenge special in your family.

Here are some things to consider for your homeschool family nature study. Every family is different so use these tips to get started with simple and joyful Outdoor Hour Challenges.

Homeschool Nature Study Membership for Your Family

In Homeschool Nature Study membership, each challenge gives you step by step instructions to get started with simple weekly nature study ideas whatever season you are in! This may just be what your homeschool week needs.

Each challenge is written for you to complete in your own neighborhood or backyard and you can adapt each challenge to fit your local area with suggestions I offer with each topic.

You will be able to use these studies with your whole family and pull it out from year to year and have a nature study resource for all levels.

Be inspired. Be encouraged. Get outdoors!

Tricia and her family fell in love with the Handbook of Nature Study and the accompanying Outdoor Hour Challenges early in their homeschooling. The simplicity and ease of the weekly outdoor hour challenges brought joy to their homeschool and opened their eyes to the world right out their own back door! She shares the art and heart of homeschooling at You ARE an ARTiST and Your Best Homeschool plus her favorite curricula at The Curriculum Choice.

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How to Build a Habit of Nature Study in Your Homeschool

Here is how to build a habit of nature study in your homeschool if you struggling with where to start. And if you have wanted to ease into a study of nature that is meaningful, but you get overwhelmed with all the programs and methods, we have the simple answer. Have fun and make memories together with these ideas.

Here is how to build a habit of nature study in your homeschool if you struggling with where to start and are overwhelmed with all the programs and methods.

Take it One Thing at a Time – Slowly Build a Habit of Nature Study in Your Homeschool

Adults should realize that the most valuable thing children can learn is what they discover themselves about the world they live in. Once they experience first-hand the wonder of nature, they will want to make nature observation a life-long habit.”

Charlotte Mason in Modern English, volume 1, page 61

Here is a simple suggestion that has worked for many families over the years. Study:

  • one tree
  • one bird
  • and one flower

per homeschool school year

Slowly, gradually, gently….it works. This way of structuring a bare bones nature study keeps the pressure off families just starting out with a pursuit of regular nature study. Working through the study of one subject at a time will help build your confidence and knowledge in a way that is not overwhelming.

It is sustainable over the years. In my family, I have seen the study of nature that is closest at hand build a love of things that seem common but on closer inspection, they are rather remarkable. Dandelions and oak trees spring to mind as examples of studies we did and gained a new appreciation for their design and beauty.

You can apply this idea to any areas of nature study that you wish. You could add an insect or a mammal each year. Or you can try a reptile or a fungus or a constellation. The beauty of this method of easing into nature study with your children is that you can follow their interests.

As a way of introduction to this method, I will share some ideas for a tree, a bird, and a wildflower.

Here is how to build a habit of nature study in your homeschool if you struggling with where to start and are overwhelmed with all the programs and methods.

Your Homeschool Nature Study Tree Project

Take it slowly.

Find one tree in your yard that you can study for a whole term to build the habit of nature study. If you observe and identify one tree per year, over the course of your child’s education, you will have learned about 12 different trees…I don’t know about you but I have a hard time just listing 12 trees by name so if your child becomes acquainted with 12 trees, they are far better off than many of us.

If you have built the habit of getting outside with your children, you’ve no doubt encountered a tree of interest. Start there! No matter the time of year, you will have plenty to observe.

Trees outdoor hour homeschool curriculum
  • Pine Trees and Their Cones
  • Members: enjoy a 4 Seasons Tree Study with a project with the included printable: 4 Seasons Tree Photo Project.

Learning About Birds in Your Homeschool

Now try the same thing with birds for your habit of nature study.

“If we are teaching the science of ornithology (study of birds), we take first the [robin], then the swimming and scratching birds, and finally reach the songbirds, studying each as a part of the whole. Nature study begins with the robin because the child sees it and is interested in it, and notes the things about the habits and appearance of the robin that may be perceived by intimate observation……the next bird studied may be the turkey in the barnyard, or the duck on the pond, or the screech owl in the spruces, if any of these happen to impinge upon his notice and interest.”

Handbook of Nature Study, page 5

The particular bird that you start with in your nature study should be the one that you have noticed and is common in your neighborhood or yard. Anna Botsford Comstock was a promoter of the idea that children should be able to directly observe their nature study subjects.

Learning about birds in your homeschool

So, for your family habit of nature study, start with the most common bird you see. Look it up in the Handbook of Nature Study, look for the Outdoor Hour Challenge that corresponds with that bird, or simply use your field guide.

You can move on to the next bird when you are satisfied with your study.

More bird nature studies:

How to Pick a Wildflower for Your Nature Study

“They should be able to describe the shape, size and placements of their leaves and whether the flowers have a single blossom or a head of them. When they know the flower so well that they could recognize it anywhere, they should take a look at the area it grew in so they’ll know what kind of terrain to look for it again in the future…If any mother lacks a knowledge of plants, a good field guide will be indispensable, especially if she can find one that includes little facts and fun things about the plants.”

Charlotte Mason in Plain English, Volume 1, page 52

Learning the names of wildflowers is a lifelong activity that brings such joy. Children love learning the common names of flowers and I found that once my kids knew a name of a flower, they respected it more for its special uses for all living creatures. You can keep it very simple or you can use the suggestions below to go a little deeper with each wildflower you observe.

Here is how to build a habit of nature study in your homeschool if you struggling with where to start and are overwhelmed with all the programs and methods.

Elements of a Grand Study of Wildflowers

Your child should be able to:

  1. Describe the shape, size, and placement of the leaves.
  2. Note whether there is a single blossom or a head of flowers.
  3. Observe the flower and its habitat so well that it can be recognized in any location in the future.
  4. Use a field guide to learn about the wildflower (with help from a parent if needed).
  5. Collect, press, and make a record of the flower’s habitat and location.
  6. Optional: Make a watercolor of the flower or the whole plant.
Handbook of nature Study quote

Homeschool Nature Study Members

Look in your membership for these resources:

  • Outdoor Hour Challenge Planning Pages: Use the term planning page to pencil out your topics for the year.
  • Deciduous Trees in My Yard and Evergreen Trees in My Yard notebook pages
  • There are courses in Homeschool Nature Study membership for wildflowers and birds.

If you are not a Homeschool Nature Study membership yet, please consider joining to gain the benefit of having a nature study library at your fingertips. There are numerous resources available for you to help create the habit of nature study within your family.

Homeschool Nature Study membership

Be inspired. Be encouraged. Get outdoors!

Written by Outdoor Hour Challenges founder, Barb McCoy and updated by Tricia

Here is how to build a habit of nature study in your homeschool if you struggling with where to start. And if you have wanted to ease into a study of nature that is meaningful, but you get overwhelmed with all the programs and methods, we have the simple answer. Have fun and make memories together with these ideas.

Tricia and her family fell in love with the Handbook of Nature Study and the accompanying Outdoor Hour Challenges early in their homeschooling. The simplicity and ease of the weekly outdoor hour challenges brought joy to their homeschool and opened their eyes to the world right out their own back door! She shares the art and heart of homeschooling at You ARE an ARTiST and Your Best Homeschool plus her favorite curricula at The Curriculum Choice.

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The Joy of Nature Study For Your Homeschool Year

We are excited to announce several fun resources that will make is easy for you to add the joy of nature study for your homeschool year!

“Make this a time to learn a little something new about your world. Finding time for these challenges will help this season be one that your child will not only learn something new but make special memories for a lifetime.” – Barbara McCoy (founder of The Outdoor Hour Challenges)

We are excited to announce several fun resources that will make is easy for you to add the joy of nature study for your homeschool year!

When Barbara McCoy retired, I knew that these gentle nature studies needed to still be available to homeschool famillies like mine.

These are the very nature studies my children and I started homeschooling with. To us, they are deliberate delight!

I shared a short introductory video, below:

That is why we are now offering Homeschool Nature Study and your Outdoor Hour Challenge hostess, Shirley Vels, has joined us!

Homeschool nature study annual plan. We are excited to announce several fun resources that will make is easy for you to add the joy of nature study for your homeschool year!

Outdoor Hour Challenges Schedule of Nature Study

The plan for the coming year is now available to members! In the photo above, you can see a preview of the courses and homeschool nature study curriculum we look forward to using! These plans were prepared by Shirley Vels, your Outdoor Hour Challenge hostess!

Shirley and I are always planning something new for you! The new plans for the homeschool year are available each July so that members will know the topics ahead of time and can plan even more fun learning.

We even have some new series coming soon!

Autumn Handbook of Nature Study outdoor hour homeschool curriculum

NEW Autumn Outdoor Hour Challenge Homeschool Curriculum

The new Autumn Outdoor Hour Challenge homeschool curriculum is available to members. It is also now available for purchase in our nature study store.

The Outdoor Hour Mom - nature study with Homeschool Nature Study series

New Outdoor Mom Series

Because nature study is for parents too, we have a new series starting in membership. These simple prompts will bring you joy, help you notice beauty and encourage you as you model nature study for your children.

Outdoor Hour challenge Nature Crafts

New Nature Crafts Series

In addition to the Outdoor Mom series, we will also be offering a new Nature Crafts series for members. We are so excited about both of these offerings!

New Outdoor Hour Challenge Every Friday

Shirley Vels, your Outdoor Hour Challenge hostess, shares about how there is a new Outdoor Hour Challenge Nature Study each Friday. She also talks about how these nature studies bring The Handbook of Nature Study to life in your homeschool.

Nature journaling series at Homeschool Nature Study

Monthly Nature Journal Activities

In this continuing series for members, monthly nature journal activities take your outdoor experiences, your thoughts, new ideas or facts, and make them tangible. Here are some ideas to get you started nature journaling.

We are excited to announce several fun resources that will make is easy for you to add the joy of nature study for your homeschool year!

How to Get Started in Homeschool Nature Study

You can download Getting Started – Nature Close to Home for FREE which helps you get started in homeschool nature study and outlines how to participate in the Outdoor Hour Challenges.

We are excited to announce several fun resources that will make is easy for you to add the joy of nature study for your homeschool year!

Nature Study in Your Own Backyard and Nature Journaling with Outdoor Hour Challenges

To get each Friday’s homeschool nature study Outdoor Hour Challenge and for access to a continuing series of new nature studies, join us in Homeschool Nature Study Membership. With homeschool nature study membership, you will have everything you need to bring the Handbook of Nature Study to life in your homeschool.

Be inspired. Be encouraged. Get outdoors

Tricia and her family fell in love with the Handbook of Nature Study and the accompanying Outdoor Hour Challenges early in their homeschooling. The simplicity and ease of the weekly outdoor hour challenges brought joy to their homeschool and opened their eyes to the world right out their own back door! She shares the art and heart of homeschooling at You ARE an ARTiST and Your Best Homeschool plus her favorite curricula at The Curriculum Choice.

We are excited to announce several fun resources that will make is easy for you to add the joy of nature study for your homeschool year!
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Frequently Asked Questions- Handbook of Nature Study

 

Handbook of Nature Study Frequently Asked Questions

I am working on creating a page with my web designer for the Frequently Asked Questions here on the Handbook of Nature Study. In the meantime, here is what I have so far.
What happened here on the Handbook of Nature Study?

  • I have been creating, sharing, and selling ebooks as part of the Outdoor Hour Challenge for many years. The library of challenges and ebooks had grown to such a size that it was becoming hard to navigate or to use easily, especially for newcomers. The decision to create a membership site was a BIG decision and not taken lightly.
  • Creating the Ultimate Naturalist Library and then offering it as a membership access site was the most efficient and reasonably priced way of allowing access to a lot of great nature study resources for families. This level of membership is perfect for the family that is getting started with nature study, wants a lot of choices, needs the archived newsletters, and would like all the new releases during the year(see below for a list of the ebooks scheduled to be released during the up-coming year). I always like having every challenge at my fingertips so I can pull one as the topics present themselves during our nature study time and I know you will too!
  • I realize that there is a core group of OHC families that have made purchases in the past so the Journey level of membership is perfect to keep your nature study journey rolling. You have access to the Getting Started ebook, new challenges, and the archived newsletters (just in case you missed some along the way).
  • There are some new faces here at the OHC as well so the Discovery level of membership is a perfect way to get your feet wet with the Getting Started ebook, the new challenges, and the archived library of newsletters.

Can I purchase the ebooks separately?

  • At this time you cannot purchase the Outdoor Hour Challenge ebooks separately. Just remember that with your Ultimate Naturalist Library membership you will get EVERY ebook available on the Handbook of Nature Study for a value of over $87 dollars PLUS the new ebooks that will be released during your membership year.

What does the Ultimate Membership include?

  • The Ultimate Membership includes all 12 ebooks listed on the library page, all 36 issues of the archived newsletters in their original format, and ALL new items to be added in the next year. You have the ability to download and save every ebook, newsletter, and printable available right to your own computer for future use…even after your membership ends. You just need to download and save the resources DURING your membership period.

What are the new items scheduled to be released during the year (April 2014-April 2015)?

  • There will be three ebooks with brand new challenges based on the information in the Handbook of Nature Study.
  • Fall ebook– loaded to membership pages on 8/15/14.
  • Winter ebook– loaded to membership pages on 12/19/14.
  • Spring ebook- loaded to membership pages on 3/20/15.
  • In addition to the new ebooks, there will be 2-4 various printable notebook pages and activities posted to the library each month.

Will I have access to all the ebooks after my membership ends?

  • No, you will need to download and save to your personal computer the ebooks (and newsletters and printables) during your membership period.

Can I purchase a membership to the Ultimate Naturalist Library this year and then purchase the Journey level next year?

  • YES!

I just need the back issues of the monthly newsletters. Where can I get those?

  • Every level of membership to the Ultimate Naturalist Library, including the Journey and Discovery levels, includes the archived newsletters.

Where do I see a list of the ebooks available in the Ultimate Naturalist Library?

  • You can visit the Join Us page for a complete explanation of the ebooks included in the Ultimate Naturalist Library.

Are the challenges on the blog different from the challenges in the ebooks?

  • Each Friday I post a nature study challenge on the blog featuring a topic from the Handbook of Nature Study. These challenges are and will continue to be from the OHC ebooks. So what are the advantages of having the new challenges in ebook format? You will get the challenges ahead of time so you can plan your family’s nature study for the quarter. Also, you will have access to the custom challenge notebooking pages not available to non-members.

Can I get a refund?

  • No. At this time, I am not processing refunds. There are plenty of samples for each ebook out there so there should not be much of a surprise once you purchase your membership. I am happy to answer any questions about the memberships BEFORE you purchase. I want you to be happy with your membership and I will explain anything that isn’t clear up front.

Can I print the ebooks for my family?

  • Yes, you are welcome to download and print the ebooks for your family’s use, making multiple copies of the notebooking pages for each member.

Do I need to print the ebook?

  • No, you can work right from your computer, iPad, or Kindle for each lesson. You will only need to print the notebooking pages if your family desires to complete them for their nature journal.

I am new to the Outdoor Hour Challenge, can I try the Discovery or Journey level of membership and then upgrade?

  • YES! If you purchase the Discovery or Journey level membership and then decide you want to upgrade to the Ultimate Naturalist Library, contact me directly and we will set that up for you.

I want to receive your monthly newsletter. Where can I subscribe?

  • At the top right of the website there is a subscription box for you to enter in your email address. You will receive a confirmation email that you will need to reply to and then you will be all set to go!

I don’t want to purchase anything. Can I still follow along?

  • Yes, of course. You can subscribe to my free monthly newsletter for continued nature study encouragement. Also, there will be challenges posted each Friday that you can use for free but you won’t have the plans ahead of time or the custom notebooking pages .