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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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    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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    January Nature Studies Perfect for Winter Homeschooling

    Enjoy January nature studies perfect for winter homeschooling! 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.

    Enjoy January nature studies perfect for winter homeschooling! 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.
    Photo by Amy Law

    January Nature Studies Perfect for Winter Homeschooling

    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. 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. Take a walk and listen to the crunch of the snow. Breathe the air and enjoy the day.

    Go On a Winter Nature Walk

    Getting outside for a walk in winter may be one of the most refreshing activities you could do with your children. Simple and fun!

    snow experiments for your January homeschool
    Melting snow nature study activity

    Learn About Snow in January

    In this homeschool snow study there is so much to discover! Included is a field guide to snow, experiments like filtering, guidance from the Handbook of Nature Study and more!

    Enjoy January nature studies perfect for winter homeschooling! 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.

    Study Insects In Your January Homeschool

    We are focusing on winter insects in our homeschool nature study outdoor hour challenges. We are using the Winter Wednesday course and Handbook of Nature Study curriculum with our members. You can join our membership at any time. You will find a button at the end of this post that will take you to the signup page.

    When Winter Weather Drives Your Homeschool Nature Studies Indoors

    Taking your winter nature studies indoors when the weather outdoors is proving to be a challenge may be just the thing you need every once in a while. We have a lovely post from the archives to inspire your homeschool nature studies indoors for those days that you can’t face getting outdoors.

    Are you ready? Enjoy these Great Backyard Bird Count Homeschool Resources as you watch birds in your backyard this February!

    January Homeschool Bird Study

    Winter Bird Study for Your Homeschool – Even when the landscape is covered in snow or ice or mud, there are always birds that will come to visit if you create a little bird-friendly habitat with some seeds, suet, and freshwater. You can observe birds right from your window if the weather isn’t friendly. Or, if you have the right conditions, take a bird walk in a nearby wood. Winter is an amazing time to stroll your neighborhood looking for resident or visiting birds.

    Winter Homeschool Nature Study with Art and Music Appreciation

    This winter homeschool nature study curriculum contains all the nature study Outdoor Hour Challenges, custom notebook pages for nature study as well as art and music appreciation, and three months’ worth of art and music appreciation.

    Writing this winter homeschool nature study curriculum has helped us appreciate the winter season more than we ever have before. Part of our enthusiasm has come from spending more time outdoors bundled up with our families exploring the winter landscape.

    More Winter Homeschool Nature Study Resources

    Here are even more winter nature studies for you to enjoy together:

    Be inspired. Be encouraged. Get outdoors!

    Enjoy all kinds of January nature studies perfect for winter homeschooling! Get outside for a brisk nature walk and follow up with a nature journal page.

    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 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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    Nature Study Crafts For Kids: Easy Activities For Learning And Fun!

    Nature study crafts for kids are a hands on way to learn. What beautiful and easy activities for learning and FUN! Let us show you how.

    Nature study crafts for kids are a hands on way to learn. What beautiful and easy activities for learning and FUN! Let us show you how.

    Nature Study For Kids

    There is such value in adding nature study! Getting outside for a walk may be one of the most refreshing activities you could do with your children. Not only will you be learning about the beautiful creation in your very own backyard but you will be building lasting memories together.

    And, gathering supplies from your yard makes doing a nature craft together even more fun! Spend a little bit of time outdoors then come inside and create. You could even stay outdoors and be crafty on a nice day.

    Nature study crafts for kids are a hands on way to learn. What beautiful and easy activities for learning and FUN! Let us show you how.

    Nature Study Craft Activities For Learning and Fun

    Using our nature craft activities makes nature study easy on mom because our craft artist, Victoria, leads you and your students, step by step. Victoria grew up participating in the Outdoor Hour Challenges with her family. Nature has always inspired her work, right from when she was young. She, along with her sister, would go on weekly nature walks following lessons from the Handbook of Nature Study to learn about the beauty of our natural world. She has found through years of nature study that the slow and simple process of painting and being surrounded by nature has become her form of escapism from such a fast paced and material world.

    Each craft activity is seasonal and matches what you are already studying in your homeschool. Plus, nature crafts are just so much fun!

    Here are a few examples of the nature study craft activities you can enjoy in Homeschool Nature Study membership!

    Nature study crafts for kids are a hands on way to learn. What beautiful and easy activities for learning and FUN! Let us show you how.

    Ice Nature Art

    Ice art incorporating foraged berries, leaves, cones or whatever else you find in nature makes for a beautiful garden decoration…even of it only lasts a few hours.

    How to Make Forage Fairies

    This homeschool nature craft makes it so much fun to get outdoors and forage for your supplies.

    How to Make a Leaf Mask

    You will love making a nature craft with leaves! We will be making these gorgeous leaf masks with only a handful of supplies. Let your creativity go wild with these masks!

    Other nature study crafts include:

    • Last Days of Summer Wreath
    • Flower Hammered Note Cards
    • How to Make a Pouch for Your Nature Journal
    • Pressed Flower Vase

    With new nature study crafts for Homeschool Nature Study annual members each month!

    Nature study crafts for kids are a hands on way to learn. What beautiful and easy activities for learning and FUN! Let us show you how.

    More Resources For Nature Study In Your Homeschool

    We love the nature crafts Victoria shares! And, did you know that Victoria’s mother, Shirley Vels, is your Outdoor Hour Challenge hostess? Not only does Shirley share your new, weekly Outdoor Hour Challenge, she also encourages fellow homeschool moms with her monthly Outdoor Mom lessons in membership as well!

    Find out more about the Outdoor Mom encouragement and prompts in The Joy of Nature Study in Your Homeschool Year.

    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.

    nature membership for your homeschool

    Members also enjoy access to:

    • NEW, weekly Outdoor Hour Challenges to bring the Handbook of Nature Study to life in your homeschool!
    • the annual nature study plans
    • matching courses with materials and journaling pages
    • interactive calendar with daily nature study prompts
    • Nature Journaling course
    • and MUCH more!

    Annual members of Homeschool Nature Study enjoy access to both the Nature Crafts course AND Outdoor Mom plus more exclusive courses and content.

    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 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.

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      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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      Homeschool Fall Leaf Study And Activities (perfect for all ages)

      To celebrate the first day of fall or autumnal equinox, we invite you on a fall leaf study in your homeschool! There are leaf nature studies to fill an entire week!

      To celebrate the first day of fall or autumnal equinox, we invite you on a fall leaf tour in your homeschool! There are leaf nature studies to fill an entire week!

      Celebrate The First Day of Fall

      Here is a fun idea for the first day of fall and your fall leaf tour!

      To celebrate the first day of fall or autumnal equinox, we invite you on a fall leaf tour in your homeschool! There are leaf nature studies to fill an entire week!

      Homeschool Fall Leaf Study And Activities

      This study is designed to be completed with what you have around you. As the leaves turn, head outside, notice fall colors and collect some different colored leaves.

      Compare Leaves from Two Different Trees

      • Leaf shape and leaf margins.
      • Leaf arrangement on the stem.
      • Leaf color, texture, and size. (You can measure if you wish.)
      • Come back in from your walk and follow up with a journal page.

      Take a Fall Color Walk For Your Nature Study

      To continue your fall leaf tour, take a fall color walk! We also start to take more hikes now that the afternoons are a bit cooler. We have our favorite trails and try to get outside every day to see what we can find of interest.

      Read in the Handbook of Nature Study page 14, “The Field Excursion”. The reason I want you to read this section is so you have a better understanding of how to prepare you children for a short outdoor excursion with a purpose. Let them know ahead of time the reason you are going outdoors, have them gather their supplies, and then make the excursion outside to look for fall colors.

      With our Printable Autumn Series Field Notebook included in membership, you can enjoy these studies and journal pages:

      • Seasonal tree study
      • Goldenrod
      • Oaks & acorns
      • Fall bird study
      • Squirrels
      • Mushrooms
      • Pumpkins
      • Field Notebook List

      Fall Color Challenge Activity: Match Leaf Color to Your Art Supplies

      A more detailed advanced study for upper level students is included in membership. Here is a peek at what you can enjoy as you continue your fall leaf tour.

      Collect a variety of colorful leaves and bring them inside. Have fun matching the colors of the leaves to your colored pencils, chalk pastels, crayons or other art supplies. You might want to sketch your leaves in your nature journal.

      Watercolor pencils on the left and regular colored pencils on the right.

      Fall Homeschool Nature Study Ideas

      Track Weather in Your Homeschool

      Autumn seems to be a season that many of us look forward to and in my part of the world we welcome the cooler temperatures and the crisp morning air. We begin to see a few days of wet weather and one activity that seems to make its way into my nature journal is to keep track of that cooler wet weather.

      To celebrate the first day of fall or autumnal equinox, we invite you on a fall leaf tour in your homeschool! There are leaf nature studies to fill an entire week!

      Simple Fall Homeschool Nature Study Ideas with Apples, Pumpkins and Pears

      Our Homeschool Nature Study members enjoy these wonderful challenges!

      • Apple Challenge – Simple nature study featuring apples and the Handbook of Nature Study.
      • Pumpkins – Study your pumpkins and then eat them too!
      • Pear Challenge – Yummy nature study featuring pears and the Handbook of Nature Study with advanced study options too.
      To celebrate the first day of fall or autumnal equinox, we invite you on a fall leaf tour in your homeschool! There are leaf nature studies to fill an entire week!

      Autumn Series with the Handbook of Nature Study: Outdoor Hour Challenge Curriculum

      There are so many fall favorites for you to explore over the next months!

      Members also enjoy access to:

      • NEW, weekly Outdoor Hour Challenges to bring the Handbook of Nature Study to life in your homeschool!
      • the annual nature study plans
      • matching courses with materials and journaling pages
      • interactive calendar with daily nature study prompts
      • Nature Journaling course
      • and MUCH more!

      More Fall Nature Study for 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.