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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 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 Find The Joy of Nature Study in Your Own Backyard

How do you find the joy of nature study in your own backyard? Here are some encouragement for easy homeschool nature study right out your back door.

How do you find the joy of nature study in your own backyard? Here are some encouragement for easy homeschool nature study right out your back door.

The simple truth is that everyone has something special and unique to explore in their own backyard or neighborhood.

How To Find The Joy of Nature Study in Your Own Backyard

I always go outside with the expectation that there will be something interesting.

Sometimes you have to look harder to find it than other times.

Nature study has made me more of a positive person…I expect to find something outdoors to make me joyful. I expect that there will be something that we can observe and notice.

How do you find the joy of nature study in your own backyard? Here are some encouragement for easy homeschool nature study right out your back door.
Wow! Look at the color of this fungi? We think it is called Witches Butter.

There is just so much to see and learn about, but we need to train our eyes and hearts to be open to the opportunities that arise.

seeds nature study
I am amazed by these seeds. As many times as we have hiked down this same path, by this same plant, I have never noticed these really great seeds but there they are.

Keep your senses open to any opportunities and you may be surprised what you find to be interested in along with your children.

How do you find the joy of nature study in your own backyard? Here are some encouragement for easy homeschool nature study right out your back door.
There were lots of fresh critter holes along the trail this week. This one was especially large. We see signs of lots of mammals as we walk and holes are some of the most intriguing signs that we are not alone.

Tips for Simple Homeschool Nature Study

I got to thinking about all of the simple things we have nature study in our own backyard that we have noticed over the years.

  • Trees: leaves, bark, twigs, roots, flowers, cones, needles, seeds, pods, nests, birds
  • Patch of weeds: leaves, roots, bugs, flowers perhaps
  • Dirt: worms, gravel, stones, seeds, mud
  • Sky: clouds, sun, moon, stars
  • Air: temperature, wind, smells, breath on a cold morning
  • Birds: flying, pecking, eating, chirping, hopping, shapes and colors, beaks, wings, tails, feet
  • Sounds: wind, frogs, rain, leaves, crickets, bees, fly buzzing, mosquitoes
  • Weather: rain, clouds, temperature, snow, ice, dew, wind
  • Flowers (garden or in a pot): petals, pollen, roots, leaves, stem, fragrance, shapes, colors, seeds
The ferns are growing right now like crazy. Every day there are more and more to enjoy.

More For Your Homeschool

Find out more about homeschool nature study encouragement and prompts in The Joy of Nature Study in Your Homeschool Year.

If you are not a Homeschool Nature Study member 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.

How do you find the joy of nature study in your own backyard? Here are some encouragement for easy homeschool nature study right out your back door.

What can you put on your list?

Above all, have fun and be joyful!

By Barb McCoy, Outdoor Hour Challenges founder

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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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Simple Ways to Study Nature in Your Homeschool This Winter

There are so many simple ways to study nature in your homeschool this winter! From nature walks to indoor studies, use this guide as a starting point for making memories together.

Simple Ways to Study Nature in Your Homeschool This Winter

There are so many simple ways to study nature in your homeschool this winter! From nature walks to indoor studies, use this guide as a starting point for making memories together.
Photos by Amy Law

Take a First Day of Winter Nature Walk

Getting outside for a walk on the first day of winter may be one of the most refreshing activities you could do with your children. The temperatures drop and we huddle inside more and more, especially on the shortest day of the year!

“The most obvious work of nature has been the preparation for winter. A wide range of observation should be used to impress the truth: the trees and shrubs have lost their leaves, and stored the provisions for spring in the buds and branches; many softer plants die down to the ground, storing the food in roots, others in bulbs, and still others in tubers. The question may be asked for each plant that comes up for observation – How did it get ready for winter?”

Nature Study by Months
There are so many simple ways to study nature in your homeschool this winter! From nature walks to indoor studies, use this guide as a starting point for making memories together.

1. Take a walk this week and spend a few minutes looking at the plants in your yard and neighborhood. Look for bushes and trees without leaves, stopping to note that these plants are many times not dead but just waiting for spring to begin a new growth cycle. Don’t go into too much detail but allow time for quiet observation.

2. After your outdoor time, spend a few minutes discussing how plants get ready for winter. You can bring out the following points:

  • Some plants (Annuals) have seeds that survive the winter even when the plant does not.
  • Other plants (Perennials) have roots that survive the winter and start to grow again in the spring.
  • Deciduous trees shed their leaves, conserve food, and have buds that are waiting until spring to open and grow.

3. Make a nature journal entry recording anything of interest from your outdoor time.

Alternately, make plans to get outside for a brisk nature walk and then to follow up with a nature journal page recording all of the interesting things you found while outside.

animal tracks in winter

Animals in Winter Homeschool Nature Study

“The same thought should be applied to the animals. Most of the birds have gone south because of the cold, and also because their food is gone; the frogs, turtles, and toads are going to sleep all winter down in the mud or earth below the frost; the caterpillars are waiting in their cocoons for the warm spring sunshine; most of the other insects have laid their eggs for the next season, while a few of them have crawled into warm places to wait; the squirrels have gathered a store of nuts, and will soon be asleep in the old tree-trunks; the cats dogs, horses, and cows have grown a fresh coat of hair and fur. Nothing is forgotten; each is ready in its own best way.”

Nature Study by Months

Ideas to Prepare for Outdoor Study:

This will be another easy week of nature study that will blend easily with other Outdoor Hour Challenges. Take the opportunity to spend some time outdoors noticing the way that animals prepare for winter. Make this one an investigation!

You might prepare with a little discussion about the various animals and birds that live in your local area. Some ideas to get you started:

  • migrating or visiting birds
  • squirrels gathering nuts
  • insects in cocoons
  • changes in color of various animals as they prepare for the white of the snow time
  • You can also read this article: Animals in Winter.
snow homeschool nature study
Snow Outdoor Hour Challenge included in Homeschool Nature Study membership!

Get Outside!

Bundle up and spend fifteen minutes outdoors enjoying the December world. A good nature walk is pleasurable for everyone and allows you and your children to appreciate God’s beautiful creation. The best times I can remember with my children are the times we just took it slow and easy, looking for the little things that most people pass by.

Look for signs of animals and think about ways they prepare for winter. You can also make bird and animal observations, noting their behavior. How are they staying warm? finding food? sheltering from the weather?

Encourage everyone to use all of their senses on this walk:

  • Did they see something colorful or unusual?
  • How does the air feel on your skin?
  • Is there a particular fragrance to the air?
  • Can you listen carefully for a minute or two to distinguish any particular sounds?

Another idea is to ask your children to find differences in the landscape, comparing your neighborhood habitat on this winter day to what they remember about the first day of summer. This is a little harder and you may need to help them get started with a few of your own observations.

More Outdoor Hour Challenge Ideas:

  • Turn over a rock and see what’s underneath.
  • Look up in the branches of the trees and see if you can find any birds or other critters.
  • Sit quietly by the edge of a pond or stream and see what comes along.
  • Breathe the air and enjoy the day.
indoor winter nature study ideas for your homeschool

Follow Up Indoor Winter Nature Study Activities:

  • After your outdoor time allow time for a nature journal entry. Use the notebook page or the journal idea from the December Newsletter to record your observations of anything that your child finds interesting. I also have a December World Notebook Page included Homechool Nature Study Membership or you can use one of the journaling pages included in the free membership sample, below.
  • Maybe this week you could use a different art medium in your journal…many of us get stuck in a rut. Offer colored pencils, thin markers, watercolors, or pastels.

Paint a Winter Frosty Leaf in Chalk Pastels

Nana of You ARE an ARTiST offers a sample of her winter art lessons series in You ARE an ARTiST Complete Clubhouse membership. Suggested supplies: dark blue construction paper and leaf chalk pastel colors. Baby wipes or slightly damp paper towel for easy clean up.

  • You could also try offering modeling clay as an alternative to drawing the subject this week and then take a photo of the finished product to include in the nature journal.
  • Additional Link: Animals in Winter lapbook – free printable

Not all nature study needs to happen outdoors during the winter season! There are so many lovely ideas for you in Taking Your Winter Nature Study Indoors.

Wonderful Winter Homeschool Nature Study Topics

In Homeschool Nature Study membership, each challenge gives you step by step instructions to get started with simple weekly nature study ideas…even in the middle of winter! This may just be what your homeschool week needs to get you through the cold winter days of January, February, and March.

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. Don’t be discouraged if you look at the list of topics and think you don’t have that particular subject close at hand. I will guide you through finding a replacement to still offer you a weekly dose of nature study.

The winter homeschool nature study challenges were written for families with children of all ages. In addition to the regular challenge, I have bumped up the nature study for older or more experienced children, complete with their own set of notebooking pages. 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.

Outdoor Hour Challenges for Winter – Bring the Handbook of Nature Study to Life in Your Homeschool!

Membership includes all you need for using the Handbook of Nature Study and enjoying learning together as a family. See a sample membership Winter Homeschool Nature Study by signing up with the form, below.

Membership includes all of this plus MORE!

  • notebook pages and coloring pages
  • Upper Level notebook pages for advanced or experienced students
  • Charlotte Mason style exam questions
  • Complete list of supplies needed
  • Detailed instructions for each challenge, including links and printables
  • Nature journal suggestions
  • Alternate ideas to adapt the challenges to your local area

Members also enjoy:

  • Bird in Snow video art lesson
  • First Day of Winter Walk and Observations Page
  • December World Notebook Page
  • Winter Weather Observations Journal Page
  • Window Observations Journal Page
  • December Words and Poem Journal Page

Special Outdoor Hour Challenges

  • Snow Study!
  • Red and Green Outdoor Hour Challenge
  • Moon and Moon Names
  • Study on Magnets and the Compass

And more challenges from all of the courses pictured above!

There are so many simple ways to study nature in your homeschool this winter! From nature walks to indoor studies, use this guide as a starting point for making memories together.

Get Your Free Sample Of Membership: Winter Homeschool Nature Study Download

Get Your Membership Sample of Winter Homeschool Nature Study!

Subscribe to get FREE Membership Sample of Winter Homeschool Nature Study.

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

    Most importantly, when you get outside for your winter homeschool nature study, take along a good attitude and leave yourself open to whatever the experience brings. Allow your children to direct you to things they find interesting and then share in their excitement.

    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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    Celebrate National Hiking Day in Your Homeschool

    Just in case you’re looking for another excuse to get outside in your homeschool. . .we’ve got a good one for you! National Take a Hike Day is on November 17 each year!

    What is National Take a Hike Day?

    People from all over the United States will be hitting the hiking trails around the country on that day. Hiking used to be a way of life. . .hunting for food or water. . .or just exploring. Today, many families live in cities or suburbs, and have to make an effort to get out in nature; and it’s totally worth it. If you do, you won’t be alone. In 2013, thirty-four million people got out to hike!

    Just in case you're looking for another excuse to get outside in your homeschool. . .we've got a good one for you! National Take a Hike Day.

    Who Started National Hike Day?

    National Take a Hike Day was started by the American Hiking Society. Their hope was to get people out in nature together again!

    President Lyndon B. Johnson was a big part of our current system of hiking trails. In 1965, he established the National Trails System Act that has doubled the number of trails in America. We now have around 60,000 miles of trails to explore!

    Just in case you're looking for another excuse to get outside in your homeschool. . .we've got a good one for you! National Take a Hike Day.

    Celebrate National Hike Day with Homeschool Nature Study!

    Mark your calendars for a November 17 hike! It makes an amazing way to spend time together as a family, gives more opportunity for nature study, and creates memories to last a lifetime. So, grab your hiking boots or shoes, water, snacks, kids, and maybe even a pocket field guide. This series is a great one.

    National Hiking Day In Your Homeschool

    Don’t know where to start? State Parks usually have some beautiful, well marked trails. . .and depending on the state, are often free to enter. If you’re looking for something very close to home, you can search on AllTrails for trails local to you. They have a free app you can download to your phone that is very helpful for finding hiking locations, and an interactive map that will show you exactly where you are on the trail once you get there!

    Are you new to hiking? Here a few suggestions of things to take. Snacks, first aid items, insect repellent, sunscreen and/or hats, plenty of water for each person, a trail map, pepper spray, a camera, happy spirits and maybe a hiking song to sing along the way 😉

    waterfall

    More Ideas for Family Nature Study

    Here are a few more ideas to inspire you to get outdoors!

    Just in case you're looking for another excuse to get outside in your homeschool. . .we've got a good one for you! National Take a Hike Day.

    Join Us For Homeschool Nature Study

    We’ve heard from families that they were reluctant to start a nature study plan, stating that they thought it would restrict their freedom to focus on one topic. But, they found that having a focus each week actually helped them to stay regular at getting outside and it helped them be better at taking a few minutes to learn about an object they encountered, even if it wasn’t the original aim for getting outdoors.

    We make it easy with resources you can use at your own pace and on your own schedule. Or, you may choose to follow our annual nature study plans closely and have everything at your fingertips.

    Be inspired. Be encouraged. Get outdoors!

    -by Amy Law

    Amy Law is wife to Jeremy, and mom to three. They homeschool using Charlotte Mason’s principles, and love to spend lots of time in nature! You can often find them hiking the beautiful trails of their beloved Tennessee hills, while Amy attempts to capture the beauty of it all with her camera lens.

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    Spectacular Night Sky Nature Study Ideas for Your Homeschool

    Take some time this next week to get outside at night and enjoy a beautiful night sky homeschool nature study. Allow plenty of time for your eyes to adjust to the darkness and just enjoy gazing up at the heavens. Use some of these suggestions to get started with some simple night sky observations.

    Take some time this next week to get outside at night and enjoy a beautiful night sky homeschool nature study. Allow plenty of time for your eyes to adjust to the darkness and just enjoy gazing up at the heavens. Use some of these suggestions to get started with some simple night sky observations.

    Spectacular Night Sky Nature Study Ideas for Your Homeschool


    Outdoor Hour Challenge
    Night Sky Study

    Record your night sky observations using this free printable. Barb McCoy created it so you can get two simple journal pages from one sheet of paper. Print the page, cut it in half, and then staple at the top to make a Night Sky Journal. Print several pages if you want to create a larger journal.

    Night Sky Journal Printable


    Night Sky Journal Printable Notebook Page

    Please fill out the form, below, to receive your free night sky journal page!

    Get Your Night Sky Journal Page!

    Subscribe to get your free night sky journal page.

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      Stargazing: Perseids Meteor Shower Homeschool Ideas

      If you aren’t familiar with the Perseid Meteor Shower, it is one of the brightest and longest-lasting meteor showers. And, it happens in August, so it’s usually easy to view because the weather is warm, and the sky is likely to be reasonably clear. 

      Barb McCoy, founder of the Outdoor Hour Challenges, shares some Perseids Meteor Shower encouragement and a journal page:

      Last weekend I visited with a friend who is also a nature lover. She and I talked about the night sky for a long time and how much joy it brings to us to view the magnificent canvas of stars each night. We shared stories of past experiences with viewing meteor showers and agreed that it is something to make time for even if it is late at night.

      Our family was able to view the Perseid meteor shower over the last few nights…it doesn’t disappoint! As soon as it is dark you can view a few “shooting stars” so don’t think you have to keep your kids up too late. It is more spectacular later in the night but just getting your children aware of what is out there is worth the effort.

      We also looked up the next full moon for August and marked it on our calendar. We noted last night’s sunset and the time in our area..planning on checking it a few more times later in the month.

      Take some time this next week to get outside at night and enjoy a beautiful night sky homeschool nature study. Allow plenty of time for your eyes to adjust to the darkness and just enjoy gazing up at the heavens. Use some of these suggestions to get started with some simple night sky observations.

      My nature journal entry is a work in progress and as the month goes by I will add more of my thoughts to the box I made on the bottom of the page.

      Getting Started in Nature Study Suggestion


      If you already own the Getting Started in Homeschool Nature Study ebook, complete Outdoor Hour Challenge #4.

      *Note: the free Getting Started book has the first three challenges. Members enjoy all 10 Outdoor Hour Challenges.

      Have a short discussion with your child about which aspect of the night sky they are most interested in and focus on that as long as they are interested…could be a week or the whole month.

      Some night sky nature study ideas are:

      • stars
      • planets
      • meteors
      • or the moon

      Complete the notebook page from the Getting Started ebook if you want a more formal record of your study. 

      Moon phases homeschool nature study

      More Hands On Night Sky Homeschool Nature Study

      You might also like these fun ways to learn about the night sky:

      For even more homeschool nature study ideas, 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!

      Enjoy the outdoors at night with your children. If you have early risers, you can even enjoy some time then. It is a special time to share together.

      Take some time this next week to get outside at night and enjoy a beautiful night sky homeschool nature study. Allow plenty of time for your eyes to adjust to the darkness and just enjoy gazing up at the heavens. Use some of these suggestions to get started with some simple night sky observations.

      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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      First Day of Spring: Simple Ways to Study Nature in Your Homeschool

      We are excited to get started on this first day of spring with simple ways to study nature and a fresh set of homeschool nature study ideas. It hardly seems possible that we are at the beginning of another spring season but here we go! We look forward to another season of encouraging nature study. Have fun and get outdoors with your children!

      First Day of Spring: Simple Ways to Study Nature in Your Homeschool

      Inside Preparation Work
      1. If you have not read pages 23-24 (How to Use This Book) in the Handbook of Nature Study, please read it now. In addition, read the section on The Field Excursion on page 15. Highlight interesting sections as reminders.
      2. Prepare your children for your outdoor time by explaining the purpose. For this challenge, use the ideas from Outdoor Hour Challenge #2—Using Your Words in our FREE Getting Started Homeschool Nature Study Guide which is take a short walk in your yard or neighborhood and then come back inside and record words to describe your experience.

      We are excited to get started on this first day of spring with simple ways to study nature and a fresh set of homeschool nature study ideas.

      Spring Splendor Nature Walk Ideas

      Homeschool Nature Study Members: Before beginning this series of challenges, use the Spring Splendor Notebook Page (Challenge on page 8 of your Spring Nature Study Curriculum and notebook page linked there as well) to build enthusiasm for the spring series of nature study. Keep the page in the front of your nature journal as a reminder of the three questions you hope to answer and the three activities you hope to accomplish.

      Outdoor Hour Homeschool Nature Study Time

      1. Enjoy some time outdoors this week as part of this challenge, including a few minutes of quiet observation if possible. Observe what early spring looks like in your neighborhood. Use all your senses. If you have young children, taking a walk and enjoying the season is the main point. You can work on adding words as your child gains confidence in nature study.
      2. Homeschool Nature Study Members: Use the Spring Nature Walk Worksheet notebook page if you want more structure to your time outdoors.
      3. Collect an item to sketch into your nature journal, perhaps a leaf or a flower.
      4. Advanced Study: Take photos of spring flowers, birds, trees, leaves, or other objects you see during your outdoor time. Try taking photos from different angles and up close.

      Follow-Up Activity

      1. Use the Spring Splendor notebook page (Homeschool Nature Study Members) or your nature journal to record your time outdoors, including the prompts for descriptive words. You can brainstorm words with your children if they have trouble. Sketch or watercolor your spring scene in your nature journal or onto your notebook page.
      2. Advanced Follow-Up: Make a slideshow with the images you took of your spring splendor walk. You can also print the images and include them in your nature journal.
      3. Homeschool Nature Study Members: Optional coloring pages: Spring Woods 1 and Spring Woods 2.

      We are excited to get started on this first day of spring with simple ways to study nature and a fresh set of homeschool nature study ideas.

      More Spring Homeschool Nature Study

      You might also like these simple ways to study nature in your homeschool!

      Outdoor Hour Challenges with Homeschool Nature Study

      If you enjoy any of these first day of spring nature study ideas, please share with us! Take a photo, share on social media and tag @outdoorhourchallenge on Instagram and use the hashtag #outdoorhourchallenge – we would love to see and to comment!

      John Muir quote

      Homeschool Nature Study Membership for Year Round Support

      Can you believe all of these spring homeschool resources you will find in membership? You will also find a continuing homeschool nature study series plus all the Outdoor Hour Challenges for nature study in our Homeschool Nature Study membership. 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!

      Be inspired. Be encouraged. Get outdoors!

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      Your Backyard Homeschool Nature Study Laboratory

      Your backyard truly is homeschool nature study laboratory! We will show you how you already have what you need for building the habit of getting outside with your children.

      We are challenging you to begin homeschool nature study with the intention of creating the habit of getting outside with our children every week. There is something exciting about starting nature study with all the possibilities in front of us. Take the opportunity to join us for what could be the start of a grand adventure.

      How do you create the habit of getting outside with your children?

      Baby steps. We are here to help you with some methods that have been shared over the last decade, guiding hundreds of families to successfully navigate nature study close to home. When establishing a new habit, we have always found it helpful to start small and work on consistency.

      Your backyard is a homeschool nature study laboratory! You already have what you need to build the habit of getting outside with your children.

      Your Backyard is a Homeschool Nature Study Laboratory

      A new habit can be encouraged simply by seeing the benefits of an easy change. Think of your backyard and neighborhood as a nature study laboratory. Change your view of what is right outside your own door. Look for the extraordinary in the ordinary. Starting with the things closest to home, you’ll soon see how the habit of getting outside each week comes more easily.

      What is there to observe in our backyard Homeschool Nature Study Laboratory?

      Here are just a few things you have easy access to for backyard homeschool nature study

      • Trees: leaves, bark, twigs, roots, flowers, cones, needles, seeds, pods, nests, birds
      • Patch of weeds: leaves, roots, bugs, flowers
      • Dirt: worms, gravel, stones, seeds, mud, ants, mushrooms, moss
      • Sky: clouds, sun, moon, stars, birds
      • Air: temperature, wind, smells, breath on a cold morning
      • Birds: flying, pecking, eating, chirping, hopping, shapes and colors, beaks, wings, tails, feet
      • Sounds: wind, frogs, rain, leaves, crickets, bees, fly buzzing, mosquitoes
      • Weather: rain, clouds, temperature, snow, ice, dew, wind
      • Flowers (garden or in a pot): petals, pollen, roots, leaves, stem, fragrance, shapes, colors, seeds
      Your backyard is a homeschool nature study laboratory! You already have what you need to build the habit of getting outside with your children.

      How long does it take? Just 15 minutes!

      Consistently taking fifteen minutes during your weekly schedule to get outside will be of great benefit in providing interesting things to observe. Even better, take that time when your child is distracted or listless during the homeschool day and seize the opportunity to get outside with them for just a few minutes. Once you see the benefits of allowing this time outside to reset, you’ll begin to see nature study as a refreshing necessity rather than a task that needs to be checked off a list of things to do.

      We don’t need to devote a lot of time to nature study during our weekly schedule. Keen observation is the key, not reading lessons, filling in notebooks, or keeping collections. Short walks outdoors along with our children as we encourage observation will do far greater good than any other form of lesson plan.

      Favorite Handbook of Nature Study quotes

      Can I just send my kids outside on their own?

      Children need to grow the habit of looking at things carefully.  In nature study, we can encourage our children to look at things more closely, to really see what is there.  You need to go with your children outdoors at first, walking alongside them or being available nearby. This will alert you to subjects of their interest. Have them describe what they see and perhaps you can ask a few leading questions. Keep it friendly and light.

      “The great danger that besets the teacher just beginning nature study is too much teaching, and too many subjects. In my own work I would rather a child spent one term finding out how one spider builds its orb web than that he should study a dozen different species of spiders. If the teacher at the end of the year has opened the child’s mind and heart in two or three directions nature-ward, she has done enough.”

      Anna Botsford Comstock

      In My Experience

      Your backyard homeschool nature study can hold your attention for a long time if you are diligent about looking for a variety of things to observe. Most of us have plants, birds, trees, rocks, insects, invertebrates, and mammals that will visit us at least at certain times of the year. Challenge your family to pick something each week to learn more about. Nature study is a long-term project (or even a lifestyle) that everyone can find satisfaction in doing together as a family.

      Each family member can develop their special area of interest. My daughter and I love flowers and birds. My husband is a tree person. The boys enjoy insects, rocks, and mammals of all sorts. Look for your child’s interest and nurture it! I sometimes wouldn’t get involved at all when the kids were looking at something. Quietly observing their interaction with the natural world gave me insight into what we could learn about in the future.

      Remember that nature study intensity can come in cycles. There are periods of time or seasons of the year when we devote much energy to getting outside and taking nature walks. The amount of time may fluctuate to fit our family’s circumstances. Although regular outdoor time reaps the most benefits, real life demands we make allowances for breaks and interruptions. But don’t let these breaks stumble you and get back into it as soon as possible, picking up where you left off.

      What can homeschool parents do?

      To be successful in creating a nature study habit, it’s helpful for parents to be enthusiastic and see for themselves the beauty in the natural world. Start with your passions and then build from there with what you discover about your child’s interests. For example, if your interest is in flowers, spend time in your garden together or visit a nearby garden with your family. Start off looking at flowers and see where that leads. An insect may visit your flowers, or a bird may land nearby. Try to allow for nature study to unfold before you.

      They need you to regularly allow time to just be outside during all the seasons. We can all bear fifteen minutes a week of backyard homeschool nature study under even the most uncomfortable circumstances. If you keep in mind that your nature study can be just outside your back door, you’ll be more apt to go out regularly.

      Homeschool Nature Study Members Have Great Resources at Your Fingertips

      Consider working through the first three Outdoor Hour Challenges in the Getting Started ebook. These three challenges can help build your nature study habit. I highly recommend following the suggestions for reading in the Handbook of Nature Study that go along with those challenges. The words expressed in those readings include timeless advice to parents about the value of regular nature study close to home. Make sure to have the printable nature journal pages bookmarked in case your child is ready to create a record of their Outdoor Hour Challenge.

      #1 Let’s Get Started
      #2 Using Your Words
      #3 Now Is The Time To Draw

      Look for the Outdoor Hour Challenge Planning Pages printable in the Planning Resources course. Use these pages to make a rough plan for your nature study.

      If you’re not a member here at Homeschool Nature Study 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.

      Your backyard is a homeschool nature study laboratory! You already have what you need to build the habit of getting outside with your children.
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      The Ultimate Guide To Nature Study Resources

      Here you will find the best nature study resources plus year round support for your homeschool family! With this Ultimate Guide to Nature Study Resources at your fingertips, you will have all the beautiful benefits of nature study in your homeschool plus tips and ideas for getting started.

      “Out-of-door life takes a child afield and keeps him in the open air, which not only helps him physically and occupies his mind with sane subjects, but keeps him out of mischief. It is not only during childhood that this is true, for love of nature counts much for sanity in later life.” -Handbook of Nature Study, page 2

      The Benefits Of Nature Study In Your Homeschool

      “In studying nature close to home, our children will learn to observe, to write about their experiences, to draw their treasures, to be patient, to imagine, and to explore. You don’t need a special textbook or kit to get started.

      A nature walk can stimulate our child’s senses and their inborn desire to ask questions. One bird, one tree, one wildflower or garden flower at a time, our children will learn about their own world and neighborhood.

      Whether your “outdoors” is a park, a few square feet of dirt, or an acre of forest, every child has the opportunity to be exposed to some kind of natural environment. If you live in a high-rise apartment or the weather is too frigid or too hot to be outside, bring nature to you in the form of a potted plant, a fish tank, or a collection of natural objects brought in from your time spent outdoors.

      Pine cone homeschool nature study.
      Photo by Amy Law

      Anna Botsford Comstock in her book Handbook of Nature Study puts her thoughts this way, “Nature study is for the comprehension of the individual life of the bird, insect, or plant that is nearest at hand.” My eyes are wide open at all times to find ways to bring nature closer to our family.” – founder Barb McCoy

      “The ability to group things together by type and find differences is one of the higher orders of intellect, and every opportunity to use it first-hand should be encouraged.” -Charlotte Mason, vol 1, page 64

      Tips For Getting Started With Homeschool Nature Study

      “In nature-study the work begins with any plant or creature which chances to interest the pupil.”Handbook of Nature Study

      Enjoy your time outdoors together and don’t spend your time lecturing or even talking very much at all. Here are some encouraging topics to consider:

      Outdoor Hour Challenge waterfalls
      Photo by Amy Law

      Encourage Nature Study Investigation by Using Questions:

      How to Use Questions in Nature Study:

      • What do you see?
      • What do you know?
      • What do you wonder?
      Outdoor Hour Challenges
      Photo by Amy Law

      The Best Resources For Nature Study In Your Homeschool

      You truly do not need many resources to enjoy nature study in your homeschool. Here at Homeschool Nature Study we suggest:

      1. Outdoor Hour Challenges
      2. The Handbook of Nature Study book
      3. Homeschool Nature Study Membership

      Outdoor Hour Challenges for Your Homeschool

      Just how do you get started in homeschool nature study? How do families participate in the Outdoor Hour Challenges? It is so simple to get started and we will show you how. Grab one of our best nature study resources with our free Homeschool Nature Study Guide and discover the joys of nature study in your homeschool.

      Get Your Free Getting Started in Homeschool Nature Study Guide

      It is simple to get started. We will show you how. Grab this free Homeschool Nature Study Guide and discover the joys of nature study in your homeschool.

      Includes 10 Outdoor Hour Challenges to start with in your homeschool plus:

      • General Instructions for Getting Started
      •  A list of the very few materials and resources needed
      • Corresponding custom notebook pages to use in your nature journal for each challenge

      Each Outdoor Hour Challenge Has Three Parts:

      inside preparation work, outdoor time, and then a follow up activity. You can complete all or part of each challenge as you go along. Each challenge is written so you can adapt it to your own backyard or local area. Use the ideas as a way to get started with simple weekly nature study using the Handbook of Nature Study.


      “…the mother must not miss the opportunity of being outdoors to train the children to have seeing eyes, hearing ears and seeds of truth deposited into their minds to grow and blossom on their own in the secret chambers of their imaginations.” Handbook of Nature Study, Page 17

      “It is a mistake to think that a half day is necessary for a field lesson, since a very efficient field trip may be made during the ten or fifteen minutes at recess, if it is well planned.”

      Handbook of Nature Study

      Bring the Handbook of Nature Study to life in your homeschool!
      Photo by Amy Law

      The Outdoor Hour Challenges Only Have One Required Book

      The Handbook of Nature Study By Anna Botsford Comstock ISBN 9780801493843

      The Handbook of Nature Study is Not a Field Guide

      This is probably the single most useful aspect of this book. In the beginning I was stumbled by the fact that this giant book didn’t have many of the creatures in it that I wanted to study. I was trying to use it as a field guide and then as an encyclopedia….it just isn’t meant to be either of those things.

      The Handbook of Nature Study does have many specific creatures to study, broken down into categories. You can look them up either in the table of contents or in the index. If you find that the specific creature you are looking for is not listed, you can turn to the introductory pages for the category.

      Top Tips for Using the Handbook of Nature Study as Your Guide

      Helpful Tips for Incorporating the Handbook of Nature Study in Your Homeschool

      Handbook of Nature Study: Friend or Foe in Your Homeschool

      https://buildingahouseholdoffaith.com/

      Nature Journal Supplies and How Tos

      Homeschool Nature Study membership for year round support
      A beautiful variety of homeschool nature study topics

      Enjoy ALL of these nature study resources with Homeschool Nature Study membership!

      Other Online Homeschool Nature Resources

      The Best Homeschool Nature Study Resources – A great compilation over on our sister site, The Curriculum Choice.

      Bird Study with Art – includes a study of artist and naturalist John James Audubon.

      Chalk Pastel Nature Journaling – a fun way to capture your nature adventures.

      Homeschool Study of Beatrix Potter – let’s go visit Hill Top Farm and meet all of her favorite animals!

      Homeschool Nature Study Membership!

      Homeschool Nature Study Year Round Support with Membership


      Bring the Handbook of Nature Study to life in your homeschool! We invite you to join us in nature study with the Outdoor Hour Challenges and Homeschool Nature Study Membership.

      “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. All people are supposed to be observers of nature and there’s no excuse for living in a world so full of amazing plants and animals and not be interested in them.” -Charlotte Mason, vol 1, page 61

      Here you will find the best homeschool nature study resources plus year round support for your family! Includes tips for getting started.