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Top Picks for Field Guides for Homeschool Nature Study

Building a library of field guides for your reference shelves is something that you can do as you work through the Outdoor Hour Challenges or as part of creating a homeschool library. These are our carefully selected, top picks for field guides for homeschool nature study.

You don’t need to in-vest a lot of money all at one time but choose a topic of interest and search out a good field guide as you can afford it. It is an investment in your family’s growing interest in nature study that will enrich your life for many years to come.

These are our carefully selected, top picks for field guides for homeschool nature study. Includes options for all ages.

What is a Nature Study Field Guide?


First of all, what is a field guide? A field guide is a book that helps you identify wildlife like plants and animals or other objects you find in nature like rocks or weather phenomenon. It is usually created to cover a specific region or area of the world. The guide usually has photos or illustrations of the object along with descriptions of the subject that help the reader identify it. Field guides are usually arranged to group subjects by color, shape, or habitat. Each guide will have introductory pages to explain how that particular field guide is organized.

Find out more about The Handbook of Nature Study book!

Three Field Guides To Use Alongside The Handbook of Nature Study


Our collection of field guides has grown year by year. I will share three choices that there are for field guides to use alongside the Handbook of Nature Study: Audubon Society Field Guides, Peterson Field Guides, and Golden Guides.

Audubon Society Field Guides

  • Actual photographs-glossy and in color
  • Separate section with thorough descriptions for identification
  • Vinyl cover for more durable wear or carrying in your day pack
  • Some topics available in Western or Eastern North American editions
  • My favorite: Birds

Peterson Field Guides

Read my full review of the Peterson Field Guides at The Curriculum Choice! Peterson Field Guides for Young Naturalists

  • Illustrations of typical specimens
  • Field marks for birds
  • Leaves, nuts, cones, needles shown for identification in the tree guide
  • My favorite: Trees

Golden Guides

  • Compact size and interesting to look at
  • Illustrations in color
  • More than a field guide with help in getting the most out of each study
  • My favorite: Pond Life

More Nature Themed Books to Enjoy

Out of School and Into Nature: The Anna Comstock Story Out of School and Into Nature: The Anna Comstock Story is a beautiful picture book biography about the author of The Handbook of Nature Study. Anna Botsford Comstock was passionate about children getting out of the classroom and into nature to learn first hand about our beautiful world.

A Nature Themed Book List for Easy Summer Learning – Over the years, our family has built a nature themed library of our favorite and most useful resources. There are picture books featuring the natural world, fiction with a nature theme, and non-fiction reference and activity filled books. Even now with my children all grown and on their own, I use this nature library for my own benefit and enjoyment.

Using the Public Library to Enhance Your Nature Study – You don’t need to spend lots of money building a library of nature literature. Using the public library as a source of books is easy and fun.

Favorite Nature Books for Your Homeschool Nature Studies at The Curriculum Choice – This collection of nature books I’m sharing with you not only includes many of our favorites, but many favorites of the Curriculum Choice Authors.

Homeschool Nature Study members have access to two resources to complement your nature book fun! Members enjoy a Nature Book Report Printable which is a wonderful follow up to your reading. There is also a Nature Book Project list to help you purposefully add nature books to your homeschool learning.

Living Science Beyond the Books – Every parent hopes their child receives a solid science education. This is the case whether our children are homeschooled or attending a traditional school. Many parents, including myself, know we received very little “real” science education growing up and when it comes time to teaching or supporting science learning in our children, we tend to feel slightly inadequate. This doesn’t need to be the case!

Planting a Rainbow Book Activities – After many, many days of grey, dreary weather–we needed a change! So for this week I checked out Planting a Rainbow by Lois Ehlert.

Birds, Nests and Eggs – The book Birds, Nests, and Eggs is the perfect beginner’s book for homeschool nature study. It’s also a wonderful take along guide that features many of the common birds that we see in our yards and neighborhoods.

These are our carefully selected, top picks for field guides for homeschool nature study. Includes options for all ages.

The Outdoor Hour Challenges Bring The Handbook of Nature Study to Life in Your Homeschool!

For even more homeschool nature study ideas for all seasons, join us in Homeschool Nature Study membership! You’ll receive new ideas each and every week that require little or no prep – all bringing the Handbook of Nature Study to life in your homeschool!

Be inspired. Be encouraged. Get outdoors!

by Barb McCoy, founder of the Outdoor Hour Challenges.

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Picture Books in Nature Study: A Parent’s Guide

Picture books in nature study work well for all ages. This guide has everything you need to get started.

Picture books in nature study work well for all ages. This guide has everything you need to get started.

Photo by Amy Law

Reading books is at the root of most of our learning, and nature study is no exception. When we first started homeschooling my children were just six and nine years old and reading aloud was part of our nature study. Three years later my children and I still enjoy reading books to enhance our nature studies.

Field guides are important to have on hand for identification and information, but I also think there’s a place for books meant to be read cover-to-cover. Picture books provide us with beautiful photos or artwork, information presented at a child’s level, and sometimes even a story interwoven with the facts. Reading nature-themed literature isn’t a substitute for time spent outside in nature, but it can be a wonderful addition to direct observation and experience.

Picture books in nature study work well for all ages. This guide has everything you need to get started.

What Are The Benefits of Reading Picture Books in Coordination With Our Nature Studies?

  1. In books you can learn about things that would be very difficult to observe in nature, like the migration of monarch butterflies or how bees dance to show where to find nectar.
  2. Pictures and information in a book can encourage you to look for things in nature, like animal tracks or leaf and bud scale scars on tree branches.
  3. Books can help bring new understand about things that seem common. For instance, seeing seeds traveling on our dog’s fur we have a sense of amazement when we remember that is how plants can spread to a new area!

Nature Book Recommendations

Sometimes I look up a specific nature study topic, and I might even request one through inter-library loan. Other times we peruse the nonfiction section and grab a book that looks interesting. Keep in mind that some books may not be in the nonfiction section—we’ve found some wonderful nature-themed books in the beginning reader and picture book section of our library.


We regularly utilize series like The Magic School Bus or authors like Gail Gibbons or Seymour Simon.

We also enjoy these series that offer books at various reading levels:

  • Let’s Read and Find Out
  • National Geographic Kids Readers
  • DK Readers
  • Blastoff Readers: Backyard Wildlife
  • Bookworms’ Guess Who? series.

You can accomplish two goals at once when your early reader practices with nature-themed books!

Nature Study Books to Enjoy In Your Homeschool

Here are some specific books we’ve enjoyed:

  • Outside and Inside Trees by Sandra Markle
  • Animal Tracks by Arthur Dorros
  • Planting the Wild Garden by Kathryn O. Galbraith
  • The Cloud Book by Tomie de Paola
  • All About Owls by Jim Arnosky
  • Chipmunk at Hollow Tree Lane by Victoria Sherrow

More Nature Picture Books

Planting a Rainbow Book Activities – After reading the book, my daughter worked on a color-matching game and did a flower craft.

Out of School and Into Nature: The Anna Comstock Story is a beautiful picture book biography about the author of The Handbook of Nature Study. Anna Botsford Comstock was passionate about children getting out of the classroom and into nature to learn first hand about our beautiful world.

Charlotte Mason Picture Book biography: The Teacher Who Revealed Worlds of Wonder

Picture books in nature study work well for all ages. This guide has everything you need to get started.

The Outdoor Hour Challenges Bring The Handbook of Nature Study to Life in Your Homeschool!

For even more homeschool nature study ideas for all seasons, join us in Homeschool Nature Study membership! You’ll receive new ideas each and every week that require little or no prep – all bringing the Handbook of Nature Study to life in your homeschool!

Be inspired. Be encouraged. Get outdoors!

Heidi homeschools her two children in Maine using an eclectic mix including Charlotte Mason’s ideas, quality literature and hands-on learning. She strives to show her children that learning is an exciting, life long adventure. She shares their experiences on her blog, Home Schoolroom.

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Planning for Nature Study in Your Homeschool

Find some helpful advice and delightful resources for planning for nature study in your homeschool and making your goals into a clear plan.

Find some helpful advice and delightful resources for planning for nature study in your homeschool and making your goals into a clear plan.

photo by Amy Law

Planning for Nature Study in Your Homeschool: How to Make a Plan and Set Goals for Your Family

Hopefully by now, dear readers, you have the desire to make nature study a regular part of your family’s lifestyle. You may even have the goal to do some incredible things for nature study.

“A goal without a plan is just a wish.”

Choose a Plan that Makes Sense for Your Family

There are many ways to go about planning a more formal schedule for nature study. Typically, families plan their nature study either by the month or by the school term (usually 4 terms per year). Either way is easy to do using the nature study planning pages available in Homeschool Nature Study Membership.

Members here on Homeschool Nature Study with the Handbook of Nature Study have access to a printable set of planning pages that would be helpful to download and save for future use. I will be referencing these pages in this entry.

Monthly Topics Homeschool Nature Study Plan

Use this approach if you prefer to have monthly nature study topics. I loved the years that we stuck with a topic for a whole month, digging in deeply. Gather ideas as you contemplate your seasons and habitat.

Keeping your focus to one broad topic a month gives you plenty of time to study several specific subjects, take a few nature walks with this focus in mind, and then create nature journal entries as a way of following up.

You can glean ideas for specific topics by clicking the tabs at the top of our website and checking the Homeschool Nature Study Membership for additional ideas and printables.

Seasonal or Term Topics Nature Study Plan

Some families like to schedule their nature study focus for a complete term or season. If you follow the Ambleside Online nature study rotation, you could use our planning pages to plan your year’s topics.

After you have chosen your topics, either monthly or for a term, you can then use the challenge and activity planning page found in the packet to note specific challenges or ideas that you want to implement during your topical study. For example, gather ideas that you hope to study with your children after choosing the topic of trees.

Planning ahead of time will make it more likely that they will happen. You can use ideas from the tabs at the top of the website, suggestions in our email newsletter, or ideas found in the printables list.

Here is another sample showing how to break down a month’s nature study ideas using the Outdoor Hour challenge, printables, and newsletters from Homeschool Nature Study Membership.

Customize Your Monthly Nature Study Plans

Think of all the nature study ideas as ingredients. There are many options for your nature study recipe. Pick the ones that suit your family and your taste. Add them to the planner page and use that to remind you of your options for the month.

Don’t feel like you need to complete all the things you list on the planner page. But creating the list will make it more likely your family will accomplish something during the month. Celebrate the things you are able to share with your family and look at this as a lifelong journey, taking one month at a time.

  • Homeschool Nature Study Membership – Look in membership courses and lessons for topics that you may wish to include in your monthly studies. Read through the ideas presented and pick a few to put on your monthly planning page. Make sure to look on the planning page for nature photo ideas, nature table suggestions, and nature journal topics to jot down on your monthly planning page.
  • Outdoor Hour Challenge Curriculum – Once you pick a topic, use the search bar on the blog and in your membership to find all the Outdoor Hour Challenges for that particular topic listed. Next to each topic, the specific ebook curriculum will be noted. Download and save the ebook curriculum from your Homeschool Nature Study membership for your family to use for your study. In the ebooks, you will usually find a custom notebook page to use as a follow up.
  • Printables –There are many printables in Homeschool Nature Study membership for every topic you may wish to study. Download and save the printables for your future use.
  • Seasonal Ideas – Use the seasonal ideas from the website to find one or two seasonal ideas to pick from for your family.
  • Once a Month Nature Journal Idea – Use the ideas in the Nature Journaling course in membership to create a nature journal page for any of the items listed above.
Find some helpful advice and delightful resources for planning for nature study in your homeschool and making your goals into a clear plan.

Nature Study Goals and Homeschool Planning Ideas

I’ve found it hugely helpful to have yearly nature study goals. Each year I pick a few things to focus on as part of my personal nature study. There are families that like to make these goals and record them in their nature journal as a way of keeping themselves accountable.

Keeping a Calendar of Firsts – with FREE Calendar Page! – It’s a simple way to learn the cycle of life in your world, noting the nature firsts that catch your attention each year. Comparing the dates of the firsts in nature will give you a more accurate telling of the passage of time.

Planning and Dreaming for the New Year – In the nitty gritty of checking things off, I urge you not to lose sight of the long term goal.

Homeschool Planners and Planning Resources – This collection of homeschool planners and planning resources is sure to spark some ideas and help you streamline your homeschool planning process!

Have a Back to Homeschool Planning Date – There’s just something special about designating time for just the two of us to talk. I thought you might like to know more about this simple idea, too.

There are 25+ continuing courses with matching Outdoor Hour curriculum that will bring the Handbook of Nature Study to life in your homeschool! In addition, there is an interactive monthly calendar with daily nature study prompt – all at your fingertips!

Join us for even more homeschool nature studies for all the seasons! With a new nature study each week, you will have joyful learning leading all the way through the homeschool year for all your ages!

Written by Barb, founder of the Outdoor Hour Challenges and updated by Tricia

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Tips for Tackling Difficult Nature Study Topics

All homeschooling moms have them: homeschool topics that we don’t feel confident to teach. Here are some tips for tackling difficult nature study topics.

All homeschooling moms have them: topics that we don’t feel confident to teach. Here are tips for tackling difficult nature study topics.
Photos by Amy Law

Building the Habit of Tackling Difficult Nature Study Subjects In Our Homeschools

Tackling the difficult topics found in nature study can be a stumbling block for many moms. Most of us find it easy to be interested in and to learn about topics like birds and butterflies alongside our children. But, what about things like spiders, fungus, or rocks? Are we as eager to study those things commonly found in nature? I’ve suffered from this lack of interest in tackling difficult topics in nature study with my children.

Reasons We May View Topics as Difficult

Let’s face it. Most of us are not “experts” in nature study. These things were not covered in our educational years. So many times, when we’re faced with introducing our children to nature study, we feel unqualified.

We lack knowledge in the area under study.

“But she should not let lack of knowledge be a wet blanket thrown over her pupils’ interest. She should say frankly, ‘I do not know; let us see if we cannot together find out this mysterious thing.’”

Handbook of Nature Study, page 3

We lack personal interest in a topic.

It’s our attitude about a topic that can either encourage or discourage our children in their pursuing the study of a topic. If you are disgusted by spiders, they will probably take on your attitude. Honestly, I found studying snakes one of the most difficult things to do with my children so I would continually put it off until a future date.

Resources may not be readily available.

At some point, we come across something during our nature study time that is not in the Handbook of Nature Study. It may be a local wildflower or a migrating bird. Whatever the topic, we lack the knowledge or resources to easily study it with our children. We realize we need to do more research in our study. It seems like too much work.

Ideas to Help with Difficult Nature Study Subjects

Start with the Handbook of Nature Study lessons for a topic.

Build Up Knowledge

If you need additional information, try the children’s section at your public library for books that talk about the topic. Search for videos on YouTube if you want some help making a topic less intimidating. (Note: The Outdoor Hour Challenges (OHC) will usually have all these ideas in the lesson so make sure to look up your topic to see if there is an OHC on the website that you may be able to use.)

Example from our nature study:

Rain Beetle – How to Identify a New Insect: I found that the closer I looked at this insect, the more beauty I found in its design and features. It taught me that sometimes if we just take time to learn more about a topic, the more interesting it becomes.

Develop Interest Over Time

If you introduce a topic and it falls flat, nothing says you can’t move onto something else. Sometimes you just need to let some time pass before you find a hook for a particular nature study topic. This is especially the case when you’re studying a subject that you haven’t encountered in person. We all get more excited about something new we see and experience with our own eyes!

“No teacher is expected to teach all the lessons in this book. A wide range of subjects is given, so that congenial choices may be made.” Handbook of Nature Study, page 24

Study a Variety of Nature Study Subjects

There is no end to the variety of nature study subjects available to you. You could easily stick to topics you are passionate about for a long time. Eventually, you may develop a desire to tackle some of the less attractive topics with your children. Give it time.

“Usually, the reason for this lack of interest is the limited range of subjects used for nature study lessons. Often the teacher insists upon flowers as the lesson subject, when toads or snakes would prove the key to the door of the child’s interest.” Handbook of Nature Study, page 6

Find a Group That Can Support Your Study

Ask around your community or look at local social media to find a group or event that will help you get excited about a nature study topic. Ask at a local nature center. Put the word out in your homeschooling community. Find a mentor for a topic that your child is interested in learning more about and you have no interest in tackling. There is no shame in finding help for difficult topics.

My Homeschool Mom Experience with Tackling Diffucult Nature Study Topics

One year we studied rocks and I took the kids to the local rock and mineral show at our fairgrounds. Talk about the perfect place to find a mentor in this area! Most of the participants were eager to share their knowledge and even invited the kids to join their rockhounding group. I was able to get suggestions for places to go look for rocks to collect and for books that we could add to our nature library.

More Ways to Include Nature Study in Your Homeschool

Here are a few more ideas you might enjoy:

Homeschool Nature Study Membership

All of the materials in Homeschool Nature Study Membership are going to give you support and direction in offering a simple study of difficult nature topics. Because we each have our individual likes and dislikes, it’s hard for me to point to just one resource for you to use in your study.

Be inspired. Be encouraged. Get outdoors!

written by Outdoor Hour Challenge founder, Barbara McCoy

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Project Based Homeschool Nature Study: Keeping a Calendar of Firsts

Keeping a perpetual calendar of nature firsts is a wonderful long-term nature study project for families. It’s a simple way to learn the cycle of life in your world, noting the nature firsts that catch your attention each year. Comparing the dates of the firsts in nature will give you a more accurate telling of the passage of time.

Keeping a perpetual calendar of nature firsts is a wonderful long-term nature study project for families. It’s a simple way to learn the cycle of life in your world, noting the nature firsts that catch your attention each year. Comparing the dates of the firsts in nature will give you a more accurate telling of the passage of time.

Keeping a Calendar of Nature Firsts

Calendars: It’s a great idea to have children keep a calendar to record when and where they saw the first oak leaf, the first tadpole, the first primrose, the first ripe blackberries. Then next year they can pull out the calendar and know when to anticipate seeing these things again, and they can note new discoveries. Imagine how this will add enthusiasm for daily walks and nature hikes! A day won’t go by when something isn’t seen to excite them.

Charlotte Mason-in modern English
calendar of firsts nature study

Download Your Free Calendar Page

(Note that members have this printable in your Planning Resources course in Homeschool Nature Study membership!)

Get Your Nature Study Calendar Page!

Subscribe to get your free nature study calendar page.

    We won’t send you spam. Unsubscribe at any time.

    You can use a calendar page for each month with the list of days down the side or a more traditional grid style calendar where you fill in the boxes as you go. Whichever way you choose will work if you just remember to weekly take a minute or two to note any nature firsts you observed. Make sure to record the date (including year), time, and or location of your observation.

    Keeping a calendar of firsts a great project based activity for your homeschool nature study. Here's how to make it work.

    Nature Study Items To Look For Each Year

    • First elk
    • First ground squirrels
    • First snow
    • First robin, junco, swallow, hummingbird
    • Last leaves on the aspen (Yes, you can keep track of “lasts” as well.)
    • First campfire of the season
    • First fire in the wood stove
    Keeping a calendar of firsts a great project based activity for your homeschool nature study. Here's how to make it work.

    More Nature Study Firsts for You to Observe in Your Homeschool

    • First bee seen
    • Frogs chirping– first day heard
    • First mosquito bite
    • First skunk smell
    • First trillium or other wildflower blooming
    • First acorns on the ground
    • First green grass
    • First tulips blooming
    • First day warm enough for shorts and t-shirts
    • First freezing temperatures
    • First snowfall

    As you can see from the list, you are not limited to any one season or any one area for your firsts. Challenge your children to come up with some nature firsts of their own.

    A calendar of firsts can be kept by the entire family or by each individual child. The observations can be listed in words and/or pictures!

    The beauty of this project is that it can be started at any time and can be completed over many years with no guilt if you forget to record something for a period of time. If that happens, just pick up where you left off.

    Keeping a calendar of firsts a great project based activity for your homeschool nature study. Here's how to make it work.

    More Ways to Include Nature Study in Your Homeschool

    Here are a few more ideas you might enjoy:

    Be inspired. Be encouraged. Get outdoors!

    Written by Outdoor Hour Challenge founder, Barb McCoy in 2015. Updated by Tricia 2022.

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    Homeschool Nature Study for Teens: Three Steps For Success

    Once my children were teens, our nature study sort of stalled out. I made the mistake of presenting our outdoor studies in the same way that I had always done with them in the past. I would pick a topic, share some information from the lesson in the Handbook of Nature Study, and then we would be out on the search for the subject.

    It was a habit but not really the habit I had set out to create. Where was the enthusiasm I had seen when they were younger? Why did we end of feeling like it was an item to check off our to-do list? I knew we could do better.

    Make your homeschool nature study for teens engaging and fun with these three steps for success. Includes practical examples.

    Homeschool Nature Study with Teens – Adapting to Different Needs

    “Nature Study – It is the intellectual, physical, and moral development by and through purposeful action and reaction upon environment, guided so far as needed by the teacher.” John Dearness, 1905

    “Some children are born naturalists, but even those who aren’t were born with natural curiosity about the world and should be encouraged to observe nature.”

    Charlotte Mason, vol 2 page 58

    The Challenge of Teens and Nature Study

    These questions led me back to the internet to research more closely how nature study develops into upper level science.

    “The Field Lesson. When planning a field lesson, three points should be kept in mind:
    First. The aim, to bring the children into sympathy or in touch with nature, through the study of that part of nature in which they have been interested.
    Second. The conditions out of doors, where the children are at home, where they must have greater freedom than in the schoolroom, and where it is more difficult to keep them at definite work, and to hold their attention.
    Third. The necessity of giving each child something definite to find out for himself, and of interest to the children so that each will try to find out the most and have the greatest number of discoveries to tell.”

    Nature Study and The Child, Charles B. Scott, 1900.
    Make your homeschool nature study for teens engaging and fun with these three steps for success. Includes practical examples.

    I found with my teenagers that there needed to be a different sort of follow-up to our nature observations…more than just a nature journal. They needed to be more connected to their nature study by finding patterns and relationships between past experiences and new ones.

    “But true science work does not stop with mere seeing, hearing, or feeling; it not only furnishes a mental picture as a basis for reasoning, but it includes an interpretation of what has been received through the senses.”

    Nature Study for the Common Schools, Wilbur Samuel Jackman, 1891

    This is the part of nature study I found the most meaningful to my children. To take what they already knew and to build on it with new observations, developing a real interest in knowing more. I could no longer just relate facts, no matter how interesting the facts were.

    Here is the key: Teens need to find the answers to their own questions and then express those answers in a way that makes sense to them.

    Three Steps To A Better Nature Study Experience for Homeschool Teens

    My research found that this pattern – observation, reasoning, expression – is nothing new or unique to nature study. This pattern is the process that all science is built upon. I have created a printable that explains this process and you can download and read it here (NOTE: Homeschool Nature Study members have this guide in your Getting Started course in membership):

    Get Your Three Steps To Nature Study Success Guide!

    Subscribe to get your free nature study success guide.

      We won’t send you spam. Unsubscribe at any time.

      Three Steps to a Better Nature Study Experience How to Offer Age-Appropriate Nature Study for the Whole Family

      Homeschool Nature Study members will find this resource in your Getting Started course when logged in to membership.

      If you are not yet a member, you can download this resource for free, below:

      Make your homeschool nature study for teens engaging and fun with these three steps for success. Includes practical examples.

      What Can Parents Do? How to Encourage Homeschool Nature Study With Your Teens

      It would be ideal if all nature study could be spontaneous but that hardly seems practical in a busy homeschooling week. For ease of scheduling, there must be some provision for getting outside each week (or in a perfect world it would be every day).

      Aim for three things in your nature study:

      • to really see what you are looking at with direct and accurate observation
      • to understand why the thing is so and what it means
      • and then to pique an interest in knowing more about the object

      What if my teen is still not interested in nature study?

      Sometimes, despite all my efforts, my teens’ interest wasn’t equal to my interest in nature study.  I could take them to the most fascinating places to explore and they would just want to sit and talk or take a walk by themselves. The setting was perfect and the subjects abounded, but they are more interested in throwing rocks or digging a hole.

      I knew the value of getting teens to get outside and see the wonderful things that existed right there under their noses. I knew I could not force them to do nature study but giving up was not an option. The answer is patience. The best way to handle this issue was to allow them the space and time to experience nature on their own terms.

      In My Homeschool Mom Experience:

      Here is a real-life example My two boys and I regularly made visits to my dad’s pond together.  When younger, they would go right to the business of scooping up water and critters and talking in excited voices about what they were finding. But once they reached the teen years, I noticed a different atmosphere, an attitude of “we’ve been here and done that”. I tried to remind myself that this was their normal teenage reaction to just about everything. They rarely appeared to be too excited on the outside. More often than not, they would later on relate the whole experience in a more favorable light to their dad or one of their siblings. Apparently, the outside of a teenager doesn’t accurately reflect the inside at all times.

      So if you have older children and they appear to not be interested at first, don’t give up. It may be that they just aren’t showing it outwardly but inside the experiences are deeply affecting them. Don’t give up on the habit of nature study with your teens.

      Enhancing a Nature Walk with Teens

      Digital Photography: A love of the natural world does not come automatically for all children and sometimes we need to find a way to hook them into getting outdoors. Most of our children have a lot of screen time each week. Rarely are they without a device that has a camera function. Take advantage of this tool in enhancing your time outdoors!

      Although there are advantages to taking a walk “unplugged”, there are distinct benefits to allowing your teens to take photos as part of their nature study time.

      • It slows them down.
      • Helps them focus and really see an object.
      • Everyday things in their own backyard can now be captured and viewed.
      • They can see the beauty.
      • They make their own connections.
      • Perfect for our teens…they are comfortable with the technology and love to share with their friends.

      More Homeschool High School Nature Study Encouragement

      Here is even more information on how nature study can enrich your homeschool teen’s high school experience:

      Advanced Studies in Each Outdoor Hour Challenge Homeschool Nature Study

      Each week when we release a new Outdoor Hour Challenge, we include advanced studies with our older students in mind.

      Charlotte Mason Style Exam Questions for Homeschool High School

      Several of the courses included in Homeschool Nature Study membership include Charlotte Mason style exam questions for advanced students. Author Barb McCoy says, “This series has proved to be a huge success in our family, helping to bring nature study up to a level for my teens. Also, I saw families with large age ranges of children completing the challenges together, each on their own level and enjoying it.”

      Make your homeschool nature study for teens engaging and fun with these three steps for success. Includes practical examples.

      Include Nature Study in Your High School Plans

      Gradually I have learned the value in allowing some leeway in the high school nature study topics we learn more about because I can see the growth in my children’s love for and connection to the world they live in. I hear their appreciation for the complex system of life that was created for us to enjoy and benefit from.

      Written by Outdoor Hour Challenge founder, Barb McCoy and updated by Tricia.

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      The Purpose of Nature Study: How to Use Questions and Answers in Your Homeschool

      Just what is the purpose of nature study? Use these examples for how to use questions and answers in your homeschool as a jumping off place for even more discoveries and further adventures! Learn together and make memories as a family.

      Photo by Amy Law

      The Purpose of Nature Study: How to Use Questions and Answers in Your Homeschool

      Nature study is more about asking questions than it is about finding answers. I always enjoy a good question because it means that my children are taking something they see or hear and are internalizing it and then coming up with a good question. Many times just asking the question helps solidify what they already know.

      “Nature study does not start out with the classification given in books, but in the end it builds up in the child’s mind a classification which is based on fundamental knowledge; it is a classification like that evolved by the first naturalists, because it is built on careful personal observations of both form and life.”

      Handbook of Nature Study, page 6

      For instance, if they see a little creeping creature and wonder what it is, they will need to look a little closer. On examining the creature, they see that it has six legs. Six legs equals an insect and not a spider.

      So already before asking me what it is, they have decided it must be some sort of insect and we can then pull out the proper field guide to see if we can identify it by habitat, color, shape, and size.

      Using Field Guides and References in Your Nature Study

      If we never positively identify a particular insect, we still have taken some time to investigate it further both in the field with our eyes and afterwards in the house with the field guide. The important work was done. We could be finished there if we felt satisfied or we could dig further, checking on the internet or at the library if we were inspired to know more.

      Other than the Handbook of Nature Study, a science reference shelf with a collection of field guides are the best tools for research. The process of going through identifying a subject leads you through a series of questions…good questions.

      questions and answers in nature study

      Nature Journaling in Your Homeschool

      Some families are making the next step and trying to keep a record of their time in nature with a nature journal. Our family finds this activity very rewarding but we don’t always draw in our journals after every outdoor time.

      Honestly, when we do take the time to try to draw what we see during our nature time, we get a lot more out of it. There is something about the process of taking your experiences and putting them down on paper that creates a special bond between you and the subject whether it is a leaf, a spider, a flower, or anything else you choose to draw.

      questions and answers in nature study

      Maybe you have a collection of items from a picnic nature study last summer….the process of collecting the items can be more fun than spending time identifying them. Just enjoy them and then leave them there at the beach. Maybe next time you will have some questions ready to ask and the proper field guide on hand and will get down to the business of knowing the particular rock and tree.

      So don’t be afraid of questions….questions are a great tool. You don’t need to know all the answers to the questions that your children have about nature study. Consider it a good thing when you find something you need to research because you will learn right alongside your child.

      More Ways to Spark Interesting Questions and Answers in Your Homeschool

      Here are a few more ideas you might enjoy:

      questions and answers in nature study

      Be inspired. Be encouraged. Get outdoors!

      by Barb McCoy, Outdoor Hour Challenges founder, September 2008

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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!