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Homeschool Nature Study the Gentle Way

Wondering how to enjoy homeschool nature study the gentle way? Here are some simple steps to get you started. No special equipment needed!

I don’t look at outdoor time and nature study as one more homeschool subject I need to plan and be ready for, I just let it unfold. If your children want to learn more about something they find while outdoors, gradually teach them to look things up for themselves in a good field guide or on your next trip to the library.

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 has become acquainted with 12 trees, they are far better off than many of us.

Homeschool Nature Study the Gentle Way

My suggestion: Study one tree, one bird, and one insect per school year.

Take it slowly.

Wondering how to enjoy homeschool nature study the gentle way? Here are some simple steps to get you started. No special equipment needed!
photo by Amy Law

How to Enjoy Homeschool Nature Study in Simple Steps

Find one tree in your yard that you can study for a whole term.

  • Find out what kind of tree it is.
  • Make rubbings of the leaves and bark.
  • Does it drop its leaves or does it stay green year round?
  • Does it have any birds in it? Any insect holes? Hollows for critters?
  • Can you climb up into it and see what the view is?
  • Can you lay under your tree and watch the branches move in the breeze?
  • Does it have blossoms, fruit, cones, seeds, or other objects to study?
  • Do you see a nest in the tree?
  • Is the trunk straight, crooked, twisted, rough, or smooth?
  • Do the leaves or needles smell good? How about the bark?
  • Watch and observe and narrate one thing at a time you will find that it is really not so hard. If you feel like recording the experience, put something on paper.

Nature study the gentle way. Slowly, gradually, gently….it works.

Nature Study in Your Own Backyard – Studying One Tree

So I decided to follow my own advice and I went out and found a tree in my yard that I was interested in learning about. Turns out that after examining the leaves and the trunk of the tree, I discovered my tree is an Interior Live Oak. I know there are several varieties of oaks in my yard but I have never taken the time to identify them as any particular oak. My oak has leaves with pointy edges and they are glossy on both sides. It also has pointy acorns.

While I was examining the trunk I discovered that one side of it has *lots* of woodpecker holes drilled into it. I have walked by this particular tree hundreds of times but have failed to notice the holes. Amazing….now I will on the watch to see if I can see the woodpecker that makes the holes.

I used a tree identification guide and my new tree field guide to help me. This whole process, including taking the photos, only took a few minutes. I plan on watching my oak to see if there are any other things that I can learn about it.

So you can enjoy nature study the gentle way, the Getting Started ebook is available in every level of membership here on Homeschool Nature Study.

Wondering how to enjoy homeschool nature study the gentle way? Here are some simple steps to get you started. No special equipment needed!

This post first published by Barb May 2008 and Photo by Erin Vincent

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Preschool Homeschool Nature Study for Young People

Here you can learn how you to easily start preschool homeschool nature study. Nature study for young people is a joyous time of discovery and a time of introducing children to the beautiful world God created!

Think of the earliest years outdoors with your children as the way to start a valuable habit. I have seen in my family that developing a love and curiosity about the natural world developed gradually over their childhood. The earlier you start building a habit of nature study in your family, the easier it will be to encourage children who are eager to be outside and engaged in nature study. Here are a few more ideas on building the nature study habit at an early age.

How you can easily start preschool homeschool nature study. Nature study for young people is a joyous time of discovery of the beautiful world God created!
Photo by Amy Law

Preschool Homeschool Nature Study

“..the mother must not miss this 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.”

Charlotte Mason, Volume 1, page 45

I believe in the younger grades that our responsibility as parents is to open the eyes of our children to the world around them, exposing them to real things and real places.

I have long said here on this blog that it makes no sense to me to teach our children about the rain forest if they haven’t even learned about the trees and animals in their local habitat. The younger years of preschool homeschool nature study are the time to get outside and take walks and look at real things up close. The preschool years are the time to form memories and impressions. There is a time for books and textbooks (in limited amounts) but that can come later.

“As soon as a child is old enough, he should keep his own nature notebook for his enjoyment. Every day’s walk will give something interesting to add–three squirrels playing in a tree, a bluejay flying across a field, a caterpillar crawling up a bush, a snail eating a cabbage leaf, a spider suddenly dropping from a thread to the ground, where he found ivy and how it was growing and what plants were growing with it, and how ivy manages to climb.”
Charlotte Mason Volume 1 Home Education page 54.

homeschool nature journaling with preschoolers and young students

Thoughts on Nature Study from Charlotte Mason

  • The skill of drawing should not be addressed in the nature notebook. pg. 55
  • If the child is too young to write, the mother should do it. pg. 58
  • Encourage your children to sit quietly and patiently and to look closely. pg. 57
  • Some children are born naturalists but all have a natural curiousity that can be encouraged. pg. 58
  • Most children will think of a million things to put in his nature notebook. pg 55
Learn how you can easily start preschool homeschool nature study. Nature study for young people is a joyous time of discovery and introducing children to the beautiful world God created!

Some of My Own Observations on Preschool Nature Study

  • It takes my children a long time to explore outdoors and they can do it very well without my interfering. I try to follow their lead and not rush them.
  • I need to participate in the nature study myself. I try to model how to find a subject for my notebook and really observe the object.
  • Drawing the object in the notebook is the last step in really “seeing” the object.
  • There is no use in forcing a child to work in a nature journal. Regular exposure to the outdoor life will eventually lead to a desire to keep a record of what they see that interests them.
  • Every nature journal is unique to the owner. I tend to record scenes in my journal. My daughter usually finds something pretty to draw. My boys find “things” to record in their journals like sticks, bugs, leaves, and seeds.
  • Don’t limit your journals to sketches. Sometimes we include photos in our journals. We have taken rubbings of bark or leaves. We have even taped small objects into our journals. Variety in our journals make them more interesting.

It will always be a joy to look back on the sketches and remember what fun you had exploring the outdoors. It’s homeschool nature study the gentle way.

Nature Study Year Round Support for Your Homeschool Family

We would love for your family to join us for the Outdoor Hour Challenges! We will help you bring the Handbook of Nature Study to Life in Your Homeschool! The Getting Started ebook is available in every level of membership here on Homeschool Nature Study. It provides access to Outdoor Hour Challenges curriculum and tons of resources to enrich your homeschool.

This post first published by Barb May 2008. Updated January 2022.

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Outdoor Hour Challenge: Nature Study-Creating Habits Young

Here you will find some of the best tips for homeschool nature study and creating habits young. Nature study can be a family activity with short lessons for your preschoolers or elementary-aged children during outdoor time.

“As for the baby, when he is put down, he will kick and crawl and grab at the grass, loving every minute of his freedom as he takes in nature in his own way. He should be dressed in something comfortable that can handle a bit of dirt and play.”

Charlotte Mason, Volume 1, page 45

Homeschool Nature Study – Creating Habits Young

In our family, when the children were young, we would work and play in the yard together just about every day. The habit of getting outdoors for a few minutes together began even before we started any sort of formal nature study. Simply being outside as a family 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, playing with the dog, turning the compost, or watering the deck plants, brought us in touch with so many interesting things to observe and enjoy.

There were rocks to turn over and look at what was hiding underneath…..ants and spiders and crickets. There were plants to smell like roses, thyme, and lavender. There were trees to touch and leaves to gather.

Nature Study is a Family Activity

The earlier you start building these habits in your family, the easier it will be to create children who are eager to be outside and engaged in nature study. Think of the earliest years outdoors with your children as the way to start a valuable habit. I have seen in my family that developing a love and curiosity about the natural world developed gradually over their childhood.

“..the mother must not miss this 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.”

Charlotte Mason, Volume 1, page 45

I believe in the younger grades that our responsibility as parents is to open the eyes of our children to the world around them, exposing them to real things and real places. As I said in Nature Study for Young People, “it makes no sense to me to teach our children about the rain forest if they haven’t even learned about the trees and animals in their local habitat. The younger years are the time to get outside and take walks and look at real things up close and form memories and impressions. There is a time for books and textbooks (in limited amounts) but that can come later.”

Nature Study with Very Young Children – Getting Outside Safely

Once you decide you want to venture out of your own yard, the stroller is a great way to get the little ones out but still let them be a part of your nature time. You can point things out to get them started, but soon they’ll be looking for clouds and birds on their own. Be flexible. I have one child that would rather push the stroller than sit and ride so I would tell him that he had to keep a hand on the stroller as we walked along at his pace. This kept him from running too far ahead and I could interact with him as interesting things caught our eye. This gave him a little sense of freedom, but I could be in close supervision.

From a very early age, we included the little ones along on our family hikes. The baby backpack was our best friend and the boys both loved riding along on dad’s back as we hiked. We trained them to ride in the backpack and then gradually shifted them to walking on their own.

Homeschool Nature Study Tips for Young Children

One of our favorite daily activities when the boys were very small was to let them use a small watering can to water our deck plants each morning. We would observe the flowers and play in the water a little, but they began to have an appreciation for growing things.

Also, the boys have always loved helping to fill the birdfeeders. This would get us outdoors and talking about the different visitors we had that ate the seeds. Scooping seed was a favorite toddler activity as well.

Collecting things to bring home and organize is also something very young children enjoy. I have one son that always had a pocket full of acorns every time he went outside. We collected them in a coffee can each day and he enjoyed spilling them out on the deck to count and sort through on his own.

Using the Outdoor Hour Challenge for Creating Habits Young

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 new to nature study but you know your children have an interest in birds. How will you use the Outdoor Hour Challenges?

  • Pick your Outdoor Hour Challenge from the selection of birds available for creating habits young. You’ll need to read through the Challenge and then read the corresponding pages in the Handbook of Nature Study. Note a few points that you can weave into your outdoor time. 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 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 nearby, 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? In this way you start to create the habit of observing nature carefully together. Keep the “lesson” short.

“I sincerely believe that for the child, and for the parent seeking to guide him, it is not half so important to know as to feel when introducing a young child to the natural world. If facts are the seeds that later produce knowledge and wisdom, then the emotions and the impressions of the senses are the fertile soil in which the seeds must grow. The years of early childhood are the time to prepare the soil.”

-Rachel Carson, A Sense of Wonder

Nature Study for Young Children: In My Experience

In the younger years, we should be more concerned with creating that direct contact with nature and not the memorizing of facts about things we haven’t encountered in real life. Nature study should include those objects most often seen and encountered during your outdoor time. The flowers, trees, birds, insects, and rocks that are found in your own yard or neighborhood are the perfect start to your nature study experiences. The best way for creating habits young and to teach nature study is not by setting out a rigid course of study but to be aware of topics that are all around you and one by one to make observations and to learn as a family.

For instance, you could read about a monarch in a book, noting the illustrations and the scientific facts about this beautiful butterfly. This may soon be forgotten. But, if you are out in your garden or on a nature walk and come across a monarch butterfly that maybe has a tattered wing, your child might just want to know about where it came from and why it has a few ragged edges on its wings. They care about the real butterfly. Their personal experience with this insect will now give the reading about it in a book more meaning. This butterfly now has a story and your child might be more inclined to tell that story in their own words either orally or on paper. The correlation between what they saw in the garden and what they have learned about the monarch may even spur them to act in behalf of that monarch by planting a butterfly garden with milkweed or participate in a citizen science project where they tag monarchs.

If you are not a member here on the Handbook of 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 with creating habits young and growing the habit of nature study within your family.

The best tips for creating habits young. Homeschool nature study can be a family activity with your preschoolers or elementary-aged children.
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Bear Nature Study for Your Homeschool

We’re starting with a favorite topic, black bears! Enjoy a bear nature study in your homeschool with this Outdoor Hour Challenge and bring the Handbook of Nature Study to Life in your homeschool.

We’re starting with a favorite topic of mine, black bears! Enjoy a bear nature study in your homeschool with this Outdoor Hour Challenge.

Forest Fun for Your Homeschool

You can enjoy some forest fun nature studies in your homeschool and do a bear nature study Outdoor Hour Challenge. Just how to do this?

Choose your resource for learning about the black bear. This can be an online site like National Wildlife Federation or the National Park Service.

Please note that I will not be posting the complete challenge here on the blog, but you’ll find the detailed bear nature study challenge in the Forest Fun course that’s available with Homeschool Nature Study Membership. Sign into your account and download the accompanying homeschool curriculum for the details, more links, and notebook pages.

Find a bears study for your homeschool in the Forest Fun course in Homeschool Nature Study membership.

You can work through the Forest Fun Handbook of Nature Study curriculum any time during your homeschool studies. Forest Fun is a brand new series of homeschool nature studies featuring things you might find in the forest. It’s not too late to join us by purchasing a membership.

Enjoy a bears study in your homeschool!

It might be interesting to investigate online all the different types of bears there are in your area of the country. For example, we saw grizzly bears at Grand Teton National Park. The, on a camping trip to Yosemite, a black bear visited our campsite.

More Bears Study Resources for Your Homeschool

If you are looking for some hands on fun, you might also enjoy these bear nature study ideas from our sister website, You ARE an ARTiST:

Nana tells the story of bear coming into her backyard and taking a nap. She lives in an Atlanta suburb, so this was a really big deal! She also shared about how her neighbor said when the bear walked and the sunlight hit the bear’s coat, it had a rainbow of colors. Nana created a homeschool art lesson around her bear experience.

Paint a bear with Nana of You ARE an ARTiST!

And you can’t mention a bear study without including a very favorite bear, Winnie the Pooh! You can enjoy a Homeschool Nature Study with Winnie the Pooh’s Hundred Acre Wood as well. Paint a map of the Hundred Acre Wood, have a Teddy Bear Picnic and more.

Homeschool Nature Study Membership

If you don’t have a membership yet, you can click the graphic above and join today for immediate access to the 26+ nature courses and so much more!

We’re starting with a favorite topic, black bears! Enjoy a bear nature study in your homeschool with this Outdoor Hour Challenge and bring the Handbook of Nature Study to Life in your homeschool.
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Homeschool Nature Study For The Child Who Loves Reptiles

This homeschool nature study incorporates indoor and outdoor activities, perfect for the child who is fascinated by reptiles.

Sometimes I feel inadequate to teach about something my boys are interested in studying. Reptiles are one subject that I would put in that category! I have a huge aversion to the sight of reptiles, but on closer acquaintance I am not so put off and can see the beauty in their creation and how they fit into the web of life.

Because both of my children are absolutely fascinated by reptiles, I have grown to appreciate their role in our interest-led learning and homeschool nature study.

The process of going from feeling totally disgusted by these sorts of creatures to admiration is by getting to know them better. Here is what the Handbook of Nature Study says about reptiles and nature study.

“But she(the teacher) was equal to the occasion, and surprised them by declaring that there were many interesting things to be studied about snakes, and forthwith sent to the library for books which discussed these reptiles; and this was the beginning of a nature study club of rare efficiency and enterprise.”
Handbook of Nature Study, page 193

What better way to follow your child’s interest than to learn right alongside them? I can’t always start off as excited about things as my children are but I can muster up enthusiasm at learning about it as part of God’s creation. Each animal and plant has a place in the intertwined web of life we have all around us. Snakes, lizards, spiders, rodents, and everything else each are dependent on each other and in the long run so are we. Each creature has a job to do and when I think about that in relation to snakes and reptiles, it encourages me to dig a little deeper with my children.

Outdoor Homeschool Reptile Nature Study

While I do not love the idea of randomly seeking out reptiles in the wild, there are ways to incorporate this interest in our nature study.

Herping is a term used to describe going out into a reptile habitat and look for lizards and snakes. (I know, it can be cringe inducing, but hear me out.) Like any nature study, this is about exploring and getting my kids outdoors. After learning a few safety precautions (namely, we are not picking anything up!) it is actually a beautiful way to explore nature.

We discuss the various habitats and take pictures of any lizards we find. We hike and are always careful to watch out for rattle snakes.

Overall, it’s a brilliant outdoor nature study for our homeschool.

outdoor nature study

Ideas For Indoor Reptile Nature Study

Because it still stresses me out a bit to actually go looking for wild reptiles, we also devote a significant amount of time to indoor reptile study.

Here are some of my boys’ favorite learning activities:

  • Visit the pet store and discuss the various reptiles and their man made habitats.
  • Head to the local reptile zoo.
  • Look up various facts about reptiles online.
  • Check out books from the library.
  • Set-up our own habitat for our new pet lizard (because nature study has a way of creeping into my boys’ birthday wishes)
This homeschool nature study incorporates indoor and outdoor activities, perfect for the child who is fascinated by reptiles.

A Homeschool Nature Study Resource To Help Your Family Learn

Thankfully, our nature study does not end with reptiles. In fact, one of the best ways to continue our learning all year long is with the Homeschool Nature Study Membership.

With it, you will have everything you need to bring the Handbook of Nature Study to life in your homeschool. It provides access to Outdoor Hour Challenges curriculum and tons of resources to enrich your homeschool.

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Taking Your Homeschool Winter Nature Study 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.

Taking Your Winter Nature Studies Indoors

I knew as I posted the challenges each of the last few weeks that there were families who were buried under snow already and those that have really cold temperatures to deal with. I received a personal email from several of you letting me know that you are suspending your Outdoor Hour Challenge (OHC) participation until spring and it made me a little sad. I have been thinking hard about how to help you to keep up a system of nature study while you are living a more indoor centered life until the temperatures warm up.

Taking your winter nature study indoors

Believe it or not, although my photos are not showing it, we are experiencing cold temperatures here in Northern California. I know that in perspective that they are not as cold as some parts of the world right now but still we have had ice and frost every morning this week and yesterday on our afternoon hike it was 37 degrees. My nose and ears were cold because I took off down the trail without my knit hat. We occasionally will get snow that lasts a few days which is just enough to make it fun and not a chore. I share all this so you don’t think of me as sitting outside in my shorts in the sun under a palm tree just because I live in California.

What can you do to bring a little nature study time to a cold winter’s day?

Long lists of nature study ideas always seem to overwhelm me so I thought I would share just a few really *great* ideas that could get you started in taking your winter nature studies indoors.

  • Hang a bird feeder outside a window where you can sit inside and look out at your daily feathered visitors. A simple seed or suet feeder outside your window will bring years of enjoyment as you get to know and learn about your local birds.
  • Keep a window sill garden. One of our OHC families wrote about their window sill garden, its a great and inexpensive way to enjoy nature.
Taking Your Winter Nature Studies Indoors Keeping a Window Sill Garden

Here is her photo of their window area. Doesn’t it look inviting and make you really want to take a minute to not only look out the window but also take a peek at the plants? They would make great subjects for a nature journal as well. Thanks to Mama Stories for letting me use her photo.

  • Grow a Tabletop Garden. Last year a lot of families tried an indoor gardening project and had great success. It is something easy and inexpensive and so interesting to grow. I was thinking that it was about time to plant another dish garden using root vegetables.Here are the instructions and photos at Hearts and Trees – Tabletop Garden Instructions and Notebook page

This is a really easy project even for little ones to manage. The results are fantastic and will brighten up a winter day for sure. Here is what the tabletop garden looks like after it starts growing. Update #2

This was our tabletop garden last year and it always cheered me up to take a minute to view its progress. We had great results even in this not so very bright window, in a room where we don’t keep the temperature very warm. Things to learn about: roots, leaves, and then eventually flowers. Grow the garden and keep up the notebook pages and you will bring a little nature study into your winter.

  • Another activity that we do around here is to play nature journal catch-up when the weather is too cold or wet to go outside. Items that we have on our nature shelf can be brought to the table and sketched or painted into the nature journal on a long winter’s afternoon. Many times this activity will spark a memory or a question that we had that we never took the time to research before. This is a perfect time to dig a little deeper into subjects that interest your child. A stop at the library the next time you are out running errands can provide the opportunity to look for books on the birds, trees, and wildflowers of summer.
  • Plan next summer’s garden. Okay, I admit it. I love gardening catalogues. One favorite winter nature-related activity that we do in our home is plan next summer’s garden. Browsing and dreaming over the seed and garden catalogs warms your heart in a way that brings optimism and hope during a bitterly cold day. The promise of a garden full of green things can help pass the time as you stare at the starkness of a winter’s scene out your window. Sketch the garden out on paper with colored pencils. Ask your children to participate. Designate one catalog as the cutting catalog and let the children cut the photos of flowers and veggies out and glue them to paper.

My favorites: Burpee, Park Seed, and Pinetree Garden Seeds.

I have in mind a whole new idea for a summer’s garden. It was sparked by this family’s idea and blog entry at Understanding Charlotte. Make sure to pop over to her blog and view her photos of how they brought nature study up close during the summer. This is such a great way to attract nature right up to your window. This idea could be started next spring and kept going for next winter as well. Many times if we just leave plants in the ground over the winter, creatures find a way to use them. I still have sunflowers…very dead sunflowers….in my garden but they provide food and shelter for visiting birds. I think this is such a great concept for families that have limited space or need to contain their garden in pots on a patio. You can use your imagination and plan your own window accessible garden for next spring and summer and winter.

  • Last but not least, don’t minimize the power of a quick walk outdoors if the weather cooperates. Seize a few moments each week to step outdoors even if you are bundled up and initially not excited about the thought of getting cold on purpose.

One of my favorite moments in the winter are those few minutes after the snow stops and everything is covered in whiteness. The stillness and quiet of that moment are priceless in our modern world. It is as if everything has stood still and you can capture the clean white slate that snow gives…even in the city or in a neighborhood.

The time before all the kids head out to play and enjoy the winter games of childhood is one of the gifts of winter. As an adult don’t forget the delight you had as a child when it snowed. Muster up some enthusiasm and view the winter weather from your child’s point of view. It can seem like a miracle to them.

“There is enough to see outside in winter to satisfy any poet. In fact, winter may be even better because there aren’t so many things going on in nature that they crowd each other out. It’s easier to notice what’s there.”
Charlotte Mason volume 1, page 86

If you are buried under a blanket of snow which makes getting outdoors a challenge, then consider taking your winter nature studies indoors.

Join the Homeschool Nature Study Membership For Helpful Tips Year Round

We have an exciting winter nature study program planned for the balance of our winter Outdoor Hour Challenges during January and February full of more simple ideas to spark your family’s love for nature at this very challenging time of the year. Plenty of ideas for taking your winter nature studies indoors!

These plans are available right now for our members along with a nature study calendar full of links to explore. Both these are exclusive to our membership so if you are not yet a member please do consider joining our Outdoor Hour Challenge membership…we would love to have you become part of the family.

An image showing the full collection of Nature Study courses

Connect With Us On Social Media

Did you enjoy this Outdoor Hour Challenge on Winter Weeds? Be sure to tag @outdoorhourchallenge on Instagram and use the hashtag #outdoorhourchallenge so we can see and comment!

Winter Nature Study Resources

Here are some of our favorite resources for winter nature study!

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This Festive Homeschool Nature Study Challenge Is Perfect For Christmas Time

Are you up for a wintery festive homeschool nature study challenge?

Christmas time is so busy and it is easy to get distracted by all the hurry of the season. Sometimes it is just nice to get outdoors with the children and leave the pressures behind.

How about a festive homeschool nature study this winter? Now is the perfect time to include some themed nature crafts and studies in your homeschool.

How Can I Make Our Homeschool Nature Study Festive?

I’m glad you asked! Our winter series of curriculum ebooks and courses have so many wonderful winter challenges to inspire your homeschool nature studies and because we are known for our challenges only taking about an hour (or longer if you prefer). It does not have to be an onerous task during this busy season.

A festive homeschool nature study can be as simple as wrapping up warmly and going on a lovely winter walk to find some winter colors. Challenge 1 in our Winter Wednesday book does just this. You can read about Barb’s hunt for red and green on a wintery walk she took a few years back. You can also read her World of Winter post which fits in nicely with our wintery festive homeschool nature study theme.

I always find that you can add a little fun into your nature studies by including a few nature crafts and a festive nature study is the perfect time to do just that!

Read my Winter Nature Crafts Post and my Snow Nature Study & Winter Stars Post for some ideas on crafting some festive fun activities into this months nature studies.

How about a festive homeschool nature study this winter? Now is the perfect time to include some themed nature crafts and studies in your homeschool.

Challenges from our Winter Wednesday Outdoor Hour Challenge Book

Our Winter Wednesday ebook and accompanying course has lots of other wintery nature topics to explore in your homeschool:

  • Challenge 2 – Snow
  • Challenge 3 – Winter Star Constellations – this would tie in beautifully with the story of the wise men from the east as they followed the star to find Jesus in the stable at Bethlehem!
  • Challenge 4 – Trees: Silhouettes
  • Challenge 5 – Trees: Cones
  • Challenge 6 – Winter Weeds
  • Challenge 7 – Winter Insects
  • Challenge 8 – Birds
  • Challenge 9 – Mammals
How about a festive homeschool nature study this winter? Now is the perfect time to include some themed nature crafts and studies in your homeschool.
Please be sure to share photos of your nature time with us! Use the hashtag #OutdoorHourChallenge when sharing so we won’t miss your photos!

A Homeschool Nature Study Membership For Helpful Tips Year Round!

Our members’ Outdoor Hour Challenges for January will come from the Winter Wednesday ebook and course. If you would like to join our nature study membership then please visit the link below to join – we would love to have you along.

Members also now have a printable plan for the upcoming year for guided nature study – January 2022 to August 2022. We will be following highlighted challenges from the Winter Wednesday, Spring, Summer and the Garden books and courses.

An image showing the full collection of Nature Study courses

Connect With Us On Social Media

Did you enjoy this Outdoor Hour Challenge on Winter Weeds? Be sure to tag @outdoorhourchallenge on Instagram and use the hashtag #outdoorhourchallenge so we can see and comment!

Outdoor Hour Hostess Shirley lives in Chester, England and blogs at Building A Household of Faith where she writes about homeschooling the Charlotte Mason way, nature study and encouraging homeschooling moms in their great charter as Christian wives, mothers and keepers of the home. She also hand-dyes yarn in her home studio Under An English Sky, which is inspired by the English countryside and of the great living books she and her family enjoyed over their homeschooling journey. No doubt you will be sure to recognise some of the names of her yarn from literary childhood favourites!

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Outdoor Hour Challenge: Cultivate the Habit of Reading Nature Books

Outdoor Hour Challenge

Week 12 – November 19, 2021

Cultivate the Habit of Reading Nature Books

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

This entry is not intended to be an exhaustive list of nature books you could have in your home. Rather, it’s filled with possible selections and ideas you can adapt to your own personal tastes and habitat.

nature books library literature

Start Collecting Books ASAP

“Nature themed literature is a wonderful way to generate an interest in the natural world. These books can also be used to enhance an area of study by sharing information along with illustrations in a simple and non-threatening way. Children can usually sit still for a few minutes while you share a picture book and many times, they will later pick up the book again all on their own and really study it.”

This is a quote from a newsletter article I wrote and then shared on the blog. You can read the entire article here: Using the Public Library to Enhance Your Nature Study.  

The link above also includes a free printable Nature Book Report notebook page for you to use with your family.

Young Children – Create a Book Basket

Gathering seasonal or themed nature study books into a basket takes a few minutes of preparation but it can provide hours of enjoyment for your family.

Three Ways a Book Basket Facilitates Learning

(Read more in the January 2015 Newsletter found in the Archives)

¨ Introduces and allows familiarity to nature study topics: Make sure to read or page through any picture books in the basket at the beginning of the month. Demonstrate how to use field guides (or learn how to use them together with your children).

¨ Reference: If you choose books that fit into your monthly nature study themes, you can refer to the books in the basket as needed to support or go more in-depth as you work through your weekly topics.

¨ Allows for independent learning: Leaving the basket out at a level accessible to your children will allow them to study the books on their own during their free time.

Recommendations for Your Nature Library

The list below shares some of my favorite books from our family’s nature library. Please use this list as a starting point and then build upon it with books that capture the interest and locality of your family. Please see the August 2015 Newsletter found in the archives for more of my personal favorites, including field guides, children’s literature, reference books, and more.

Readers Digest North American Wildlife @handbookofnaturestudy

North American Wildlife: One of my all-time favorite books for nature study. This colorful edition will keep the interest of children of all ages.

Tracks, Scats, and Signs:  This is one of my favorite books for learning about signs of mammals. It is perfect for a winter mammal study! Look for printables available to Member’s in the Library.

Backyard Birds: This book is the basis for a whole series of bird nature study ideas. It’s a great beginner’s book on birds. Please note it is used extensively in my Learning About Birds ebook available to Members.

My Favorite Tree Nature Club Printables

My Favorite Tree: You will love having this book as part of your nature library. Learn more about so many interesting trees and use the resources in this entry to take your study deeper.

Birds, Nests, and Eggs: I am passionate about the study of birds and this reference is a great introduction to a bird study for children and families.

Discover Nature at Sundown book

Discover Nature at Sundown: This is one in a series of books that takes you into more advanced nature study around a specific theme. This book focuses on things you can study at sundown.

One Small Square: Seashore: Are you getting ready for a trip to the beach? This book will give you plenty of nature study observation ideas to try. I also highly recommend this whole series of One Small Square books for your nature library.

Pond Study Nature Club August 2018 @handbookofnaturestudy

Pond Life (Golden Series): We have used this book extensively in our own family’s pond studies. I hope you look for it at your library and enjoy its awesome illustrations and information. Members can download a pond habitat printable set from the Member’s Library.

America’s Prairies and Grasslands: This beautiful book is one in a series that I highly recommend.  Members can download a prairie habitat printable set from the Member’s Library.

 

Ultimate Naturalist Members:

Printables:

  • Nature Book Report notebook page

Newsletters :

  • March 2012 – Children’s Nature Literature
  • November 2013 – Nature Literature
  • January 2015 – Book Basket
  • August 2015 – Nature Library – If you’re at all interested in building a nature library, this is the newsletter that has the most detailed ideas and resources for you to use.

If you’re not a member here on the Handbook of 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.

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What’s In Your November World?

What’s In Your November World?

It’s easy to dismiss the November world as cold and dark, even barren. But I guarantee that if you take a short walk outside with your children, you’ll realize there are still plenty of things to capture your attention. deschutes river nov 2021 (2)

We took a hike this past weekend and it actually snowed on us during our adventure. Even then, we were able to hear a flock of grosbeaks up in the treetops, see colorful lichen on the trees, and some amazing mushrooms pushing their way up out of the ground.

deschutes river nov 2021 (1)

The deciduous trees here are fairly leafless already, but there was an abundance of leaves on the ground that we could stop and observe. I put a couple of leaves in my pocket so I could paint them in my nature journal once we arrived home.

I admit that it was cold, and the weather wasn’t the most inviting. We could have easily not taken our hike. Am I glad we made the effort? Yes!

Here’s my suggestion for you this month:

Push yourself to get outside and take note of your own November world. Even if you only get out for a few minutes, you’ll more than likely find something to note in your nature journal.

Please see the link below for a more detailed challenge for November. There’s even a printable notebook page for you to use with your family.

Enjoy!

Outdoor Hour Challenge November World Observations

You can read the original Outdoor Hour Challenge here: November World.

November+World+Know+Your+Own+Backyard+Notebook+Page.jpg

Printable: November World – Know Your Own Backyard Notebook Page

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Outdoor Hour Challenge: The Habit of Taking Your Nature Study on the Road

Outdoor Hour Challenge

Week 11 – November 12, 2021

The Habit of Taking Your Nature Study on the Road

Our family has always enjoyed being outside together, hitting the hiking trail and doing a little exploring. But often the biggest obstacle to taking that hike was figuring out where to go. We may have had the desire and the time to get outside but wrestled with the question of where to go. Often we thought too big.

I realized over time that we didn’t need to travel far to find places to go on short notice or even for a half day’s hike. I loved being able to roll out of bed, decide to go on a hike, and be out the door in a short period of time. So, how did I overcome the dilemma of finding places to hike near our home?

Here’s the idea we landed on and have since adapted to our home here in Oregon.

“We found a long time ago that we can explore so many different places by using a simple idea. Take a map and place a big dot on your hometown. Now determine an hour’s distance from your home and draw a circle around your home at that distance. Make a list of all the places you can go that are within that hour’s distance and then start one by one giving them a try. We have been following this concept for over a decade and it always amazes us what we can find to do that is within that short distance range.” From my blog in 2010.

I wrote that blog entry when I still lived in California, in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada. We were blessed with many trails within a short distance of our home, even some that were accessible in the winter. We of course had our favorites that we visited many times but over the years we tried to include new places each season. We were never without a few wish list places to look forward to trying.

When we made the big move to Central Oregon four years ago, we did the same exercise with an Oregon map. We drew a 50-mile radius around our hometown and then did research to find trails to explore in our new habitat. It’s surprising how many interesting places you’ll find if you give this a try. Everyone has a unique place to explore and it just takes a little preparation to get you going on some new and fresh trails.

Finding Resources

I did some research on Amazon and found that if you type in some particular words you can find some great ideas for books for your family just about anywhere you live. You can purchase the book from Amazon or look up the title at your public library instead.

Type in the search box on Amazon.com:

Easy Day Hikes _______ (with your state instead of the blank)
Best Day Hikes ________ (with your state instead of the blank)
Day Hike ____________(with your closest National Park instead of the blank)
Fodor’s __________(with your state or region of the US like Southwest or Northwest)
Moon Handbooks ____________(with your state, region, or national park instead of the blank)
Hiking ___________(with your state, region, or national park…this one will get you a lot more choices and can be overwhelming)

Another tip that I will pass on is to go to Barnes and Noble and look for their travel guide section. Browse and pick out a guide book to your own state and/or local area. Be like a tourist and read the guide book to discover more about your own locality. I keep one of the hiking guide books and a local map in the pocket of the door in my car. I refer to it when we are looking for local attractions for day trips.

Of course, you can just look things up on the internet, although when I am out and about it is reassuring to have a map and some directions in my pack as a backup. I do lots of research online, but I feel better having a book describing the hikes when we head out the door. At the very least, we carry a map of the area where we are hiking. I could write a whole post about bad maps and books and trail markers but I will save that for another time. 🙂

 

Nature Study When You Travel

Maybe you would like to incorporate a little nature study when you take a vacation or longer trip. I think this is a fantastic idea and we’ve done it in our family for decades. It brings an added layer to your vacation experience, introducing you to things you might otherwise miss if you weren’t thinking about nature while traveling.

The difference between a good outdoor experience and a great outdoor experience with an opportunity for nature study is sometimes just a matter of preparation.

Preparation for Nature Study When Traveling

1. Do a little research ahead of time for the habitat you’ll be visiting.
Determine what you’ll encounter on your trip that might make for interesting
nature study. For example, if you’re going to be visiting an ocean beach, learn what
plants, birds, and animals make their home there. You can also use the Handbook of
Nature Study to read about things you think you might encounter during your travels.

2. Find resources such as field guides or other nature related books to read or bring along with you. I suggest starting with a few field guides with common nature study topics: birds, wildflowers, and trees. Check your library for books you can borrow and take with you. To prepare, you should page through the field guides before you leave on your trip to be familiar with the layout of the book and perhaps to glean a few things ahead of time to be looking for as you go outdoors.

3. Bring along your nature journal or some pre-printed notebook pages. During down time it is nice to have supplies on hand to make a nature journal entry to record your nature study as you travel. Basic art supplies like markers or colored pencils are easy to pack. I also like watercolor pencils for nature journal entries. Keep it simple and light.

4. I also like to look up nature centers or nature trails in the areas we visit. A good nature center visit can take an hour or two and can provide a spark to capture the interest of everyone in the family. The staff is usually knowledgeable about the local habitat, giving you advice on where to go and what to see. They also can help identify anything you have observed but can’t put a name to as you try to make your journal entries. Most nature centers have bookstores that can provide additional resources to follow-up your nature study time.

Ultimate Naturalist Members:

Getting Started Ebook: In preparing for your trip, you could also look up a few of the Outdoor Hour Challenges before you travel, the first five challenges can be applied to any habitat. If you have the Getting Started Challenges 1-10 ebook, you can have that loaded on your laptop and reference it as you travel.

 

Printables:

  • Nature Center Notebook Page
  • Habitat notebook pages – see the various habitats available
  • Any of the specific printables for topics you may encounter on your travels

Newsletters :

  • December 2013 – National Parks (travel)
  • May 2015 – Nature Study Travel (printable notebook page for travel)

Take time to go through your Membership library to see what’s available to help you in your quest to make difficult subjects easier for you. My intent in writing the Outdoor Hour Challenges was to make your life easier when it comes to pulling together an interesting and rich nature study for your family.

Join Us Ultimate Naturalist June 2020

If you’re not a member here on the Handbook of 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.

Please note that the Ultimate Naturalist Library will only be available until 12/31/2021. At that time my website will be shutting down.

If you’re an email subscriber to the Handbook of Nature Study, you may consider saving this email in a folder for future reference. The blog will be retiring at the end of the year as well.