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Rocks and Minerals Unit Study Ideas

My boys love to skip rocks. No matter if we’re by a lake, stream, or river – some stone is getting tossed into the water. It’s a contagious activity really. Who can make the most bounces. It truly comes down to finding the perfect rock. Our last day in the Grand Tetons, skipping rocks, one child decided to fill up his pockets with treasures rather than toss them away. The tactile child immediately noticed the rocks were much different than the rocks in Florida. I knew as soon as we arrived back home we’d be starting a Rocks and Minerals Unit Study.

Use these fun ideas to create your next Rocks and Minerals mini unit study. Plus three free downloads for Members.

Rocks and Minerals Study For Homeschool Science

Regardless of topic, always hit up your local library when creating a unit study! The library is a homeschool mom’s best friend (before we count up the late fines). Each child is assigned a job of finding one book to contribute to the current unit study topic. My boys are highly competitive so we always end up with more than one book each. We gathered many books, everyone carrying an arm load of information. Be sure to find more than one rock, mineral, gemstone, etc. identification guide and maybe a biography on a famous geologist, James Hutton is the “Father of Modern Geology”.

Start a Rock Collection

You can take a Nature Walk and find rocks in your backyard, but I decided to buy a rock set online. Veteran Homeschool Mom Tip: ask your homeschool friends if they have a rock collection or gem set. Once our set arrived I shared with a friend I purchased a box and of course she had three different sets on a shelf somewhere in her homeschool room. Don’t forget to ask your crystal loving friends too! I’m sure they have some quartz, tiger’s eye, and amethyst ready to be examined.

Use these fun ideas to create your next Rocks and Minerals mini unit study. Plus three free downloads for Members.

We were very pleased with the variety in our set and spent several days sorting them and trying to identify them. Some sets include a color sheet with names. I created my own sheets for identification and quizzes. Little learners can start by sorting rocks by color, shape, and size.

Free Rock Worksheets

Homeschool Nature Study Members can print My Rock Journal and Rock Types we created just for you. For older students who may have already studied rocks, print the Earth’s Layers Worksheet. You can download all these from your dashboard in your Rocks Course.

Use these fun ideas to create your next Rocks and Minerals mini unit study. Plus three free downloads for Members.

Rock Field Trip

After you’ve hit the library and loaded up on your own collection of rocks, be sure to plan a Rock Field Trip! We were visiting Minnesota and noticed a few great waterfalls to hike around. Read: Waterfalls & Creeks before you go. The family wanted to head north on a pretty drive up to Canada. We found an Amethyst Mine where we were able to hammer, chisel, and keep our own bucket of amethyst! Years later when we moved to Colorado we toured an active gold mine in the Rockies. It was such a great experience wearing hard hats and working the mine. You can find these interesting places with just a quick search online.

Keep an eye out on your next vacation. Veteran Homeschool Mom Tip: vacation is never truly just a vacation. We’re always learning! Check out the local things you can do for homeschool interests and build on what you learned at home. When we visited DC we spent days hitting the Smithsonian.

If you cannot visit a real or active mine – visit the museum! Geology became really exciting for us once we moved from sea level Florida to mile high Colorado.

Science Centers, Natural Museums, and Learning Centers are full of these wonderful stones. Google “rock exhibits near me“. You will be surprised how many traveling exhibits bring in such interesting gems.

We are incredibly lucky to be near the Denver Science & Nature Museum. They have a huge permanent display of rocks and gems. Plus the History Colorado Center, a museum in downtown Denver, shares the History of mining and tools (who doesn’t love learning about “The Widow Maker”), and offers fun hands-on explosive exhibits.

Rock Art

We believe all lessons should have some type of art component. We wrapped up our rock unit study by painting rocks and leaving them on trails for others to find. You might not be able to mine amethyst, but you can paint a rock purple! Or even yellow with a giant smile. Leave a rainbow behind for a special keepsake. We’ve noticed in our travels some small towns hide rocks along their main street shopping area. We really enjoyed swapping rocks in Winter Garden, Florida.

rock art

We hope you create a fun time learning with your students with these rocks and minerals unit study ideas. Are you a Homeschool Nature Study Member? If not join the community for tips, ideas, unit studies, and #outdoorhourchallenges.

Stef Layton Bio

Stef started homeschooling her boys in 2008. She quickly adopted a hands-on learning homeschool style and graduated her oldest tactile learner in 2021. Stef started the Hands-On Learning column in Homeschooling Today magazine. The Laytons currently reside in the foothills of Colorado where Stef also teaches yoga. The family loves to hike trails, stand-up paddle board, and chase sunsets. Stef shares travel and homeschool tips on IG at @LaytonAdventures.

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Nature Study And High School Science: A Complete Guide

It is often the case that once our homeschooled children reach their teens, nature study is pushed aside. Perhaps we think that because our children are now in high school, learning should be more textbook based. But the opposite is true!

This article has quotes from the Royal Geographical Society on the importance of field work in higher learning – that goes way above high school learning!

In fact, there are academic journals and papers written about the importance of learning in the field. You can see for yourself right here.

Highs School Science Doesn’t Have To Be All Textbooks

If hands-on, experiential learning is no longer appropriate for our teens, then why are there lab work classes in high school?

Why do natural scientists and great wildlife film makers, and academic researches still head out into the field to observe nature?

Why do environmental and marine scientists still gather specimens, conduct experiments or spend months at a time out in nature studying the behaviour of all manner of animals?

The problem is not the continuation of nature studies in your homeschool. The problem is the manner in which it is presented.

Learning directly from nature and the environment is a primary source of learning. It’s observational, it’s experiential, it’s how esteemed naturalists and scientists still discover and learn.

Are you convinced yet?

The good news for you, for your children, and your homeschools is that:

On the contrary, please continue to spend this precious time learning outdoors because it is valuable and it is deemed necessary by many learned academics and naturalists.

Nature study in high school is one of the most perfect ‘labs’ available for experiencing and understanding high school science concepts so I urge to to dive deeper into your nature studies rather than dropping them out of your homeschools.

Studies Show Hands-on, Experiential Learning is More Effective

Many years ago, J. Dewey (1938) recognised the close connection between learning and experience. The question of how to efficiently bridge the gap is still occupying the attention of educational psychologists and researchers. (Kolb, 1984: Experiential Learning: Experience as the source of learning an development; Reigeluth & Carr-Chellman, 2009: Instructional-design theories and models: Building a common knowledge base – vol iii; and J.Roberts, 2018: The possibilities and limitations of experiential learning research in higher education).

I am currently finishing off my Masters degree in Pro Bono legal work – and it is entirely examined on reflections of hands-on legal work undertaken in law clinics.

Lawyers, medical professionals and many others have the textbooks but they also spend a great portion of their education getting hands-on experience and putting their head knowledge into practice. They move from the abstract to the concrete by actually DOING.

If educational psychologists and researchers recognise the value and spend hundreds of thousands of hours researching the importance of experiential learning – we really have every reason to keep up our hands-on nature studies throughout the high school years in our homeschools don’t you think?

Incorporating Nature Study Into High School Science

Okay, so we have now established that we have every reason (backed by those far more cerebral people) to continue our nature studies in our homeschools as we move into the high school years.

But HOW do we go from our carefree romps in nature to being a bit more purposful about it all?

Teenagers need to have a different sort of follow-up to their nature observations, something a bit more than just their nature journals – although don’t give this up!

They need to be more connected to their nature study by finding patterns and relationships between past experiences and new ones. Take what they already know and build on it with new observations so as to develop a real interest in knowing more.

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

There are three steps to nature study success with teens. You should aim for these in your nature studies

  1. Observation – encourage them to really see what they are looking at with direct and accurate observation.
  2. Reasoning – understand why the thing is so and what it means.
  3. Expression – their observations and reasonings should pique an interest in knowing more about the object.

Here is a real-life illustration of nature study with teens from Barb, the founder of Outdoor Hour Challenges:

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

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

Barb McCoy – Founder of the Outdoor Hour Challenge

Enhancing a Nature Walk with Teens

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

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

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

Nature Study and Studying Biology

Tricia, owner and editor of Homeschool Nature Study has given us a wonderful example of how her family’s Apologia biology studies complimented their homeschool nature studies.

Her family’s experience beautifully illustrates, in a very practical way, how you could approach high school biology in your homeschool. She has shared a full account in both these posts:

But to briefly summarize, you could take one of two approaches to homeschool nature study with high school biology. I must just say at this point that this same approach can be used with any of the Apologia science textbooks – or whatever textbook you use in your homeschool.

  1. You can choose to start with the Homeschool Nature Study challenges and supplement them with a text; or
  2. You can start with the text and supplement it with nature study.

Go over to Tricia’s post How Nature Study Enriches High School Biology In Your Homeschool. You will see that she has matched up the Outdoor Hour Challenges with the textbooks chapters.

Not only that but she has added in supplementary books and biographies for you to use!

If you are using Apologia Biology in your homeschool this year, you now have a wonderful lesson plan for the entire course which includes the nature study challenges that you have loved and used in your homeschools!

More Resources for Nature Study In Your Homeschool

We are fortunate here at Homeschool Nature Study to have homeschool moms who have successfully traveled the high school homeschool road through all subjects including science and nature. All of these families have continued to use nature study and field work as a useful tool alongside their textbooks in their homeschools.

We have collated some high school specific nature and science posts and resources from the archives of all out websites (Curriculum Choice, Homeschool Nature Study and Your Best Homeschool). We pray that these will be a blessing to you and an encouragment to keep up your nature studies in the changing face of your homeschools.

From the Archives

Apolgia Biology Curriculum Reviews

The Big Question:


We pray that this article gives those of you who are moving into your high school years the courage to stick with nature studies in your homeschool and to continue to experience the joy and blessing of hands-on, experiential learning.

Handbook of Nature Study high school studies

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

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

Be inspired. Be encouraged. Get outdoors!

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A Homeschool Mom’s Best Tips for Organizing Your Nature Library

Using good nature study reference books and literature will be a huge help in nudging along the seeds of a love nature in your child. To help you find what you need when you need it, these are our best tips for organizing your nature library. As the seasons and years pass, they will dig deep into your nature library and become familiar with so many things.

“Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts. There is something infinitely healing in the repeated refrains of nature — the assurance that dawn comes after night, and spring after winter.”

― Rachel Carson, Silent Spring

Creating a love of beauty in nature is something that develops over time with encouragement and nurturing. Each of us has a way of looking at things and learning to see an object in nature through someone else’s eyes will expand your own vision.

To help you find what you need when you need it, these are our best tips for organizing your nature library.

Photo by Amy Law

Tips for Organizing Your Nature Library

As you add to your library, you may wish to incorporate some of these ideas that have stood the test of time in my own nature library. I have more nature books than the average person, first because I love them all and second because I support my nature challenges with great information found in books.

Divide Nature Books into Categories on the Shelves and Then Try to Group Books by Topic

Field Guides

I love having a variety of guides all lined up on one shelf…or now it is actually two shelves.

Reference Books

These are books that are a little more scholarly and provide meaty information about a topic for nature journal pages. I have my Handbook of Nature Study on this shelf because it is a ‘go to” book for me.

To help you find what you need when you need it, these are our best tips for organizing your nature library.

Children’s Literature

I am a big collector of nature-related children’s literature. I try to group the literature by topic: garden, insects, ocean, etc.

Travel Guides and Hiking Books

These are used over and over as we explore different areas of the world both near by and far from home.

Coloring Books

I have quite a collection of coloring books that my children have used over the years and I still use as a basis for drawing in my own nature journal.

Series of Books

When there is a series of books from an author, I group them together so I can find them easily. Books in this category include the One Small Square series, the Discover Nature series, and the Golden Guides.

To help you find what you need when you need it, these are our best tips for organizing your nature library.

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

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

Be inspired. Be encouraged. Get outdoors!

by Barb McCoy, founder of the Outdoor Hour Challenges.

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Summer Insect Nature Study

As the warm weather brings flowers you might find more insects flying around. It’s a great time to plan a summer insect nature study. There’s such a wealth of knowledge about insects in the Handbook of Nature Study by Anna Botsford Comstock. Using the lessons along with the Outdoor Hour Challenge will make you confident to tackle an insect nature study this summer. You won’t need to travel far to find an insect to learn about with your children!

Insect Nature study

Homeschool Nature Study: New Member Resources

Homeschool Nature Study Members can print a few new resources added to your dashboard to go along with your insect studies! Print: My Spider Journal, Bug Scavenger Hunt, and My Bee Journal – these are perfect for younger learners.

Insect Observation Tips

It’s fun to observe the 6 & 8 legged creatures, but can feel scary for children. When studying insects be careful ! A few helpful tips:

  • Wear garden gloves.
  • Do not touch stinging or biting insects.
  • Use a net or container to observe insects and be sure to release them.
  • Turn on a light at night and observe the bugs that stop by.
  • Never catch a butterfly in a jar – they can damage their wings.
  • Find fireflies in meadows, yards, edges of forests, and around streams.
  • Ladybugs like forests, gardens, and weed patches.
  • Bees dislike the smell of peppermint and eucalyptus.
  • Always bring a sketch pad and draw what you find!

More Bug Activities And Resources

We have shared the buzz of these great resources! Be sure to read these posts for more ideas!

Become a Member!

Not yet a Member?! Spring has sprung and it’s the perfect time to incorporate Nature Study into your homeschool. We offer many tips, ideas, nature studies, worksheets & helpful downloads, plus encouragement along the way! Homeschool Nature Study is perfect for preschoolers, elementary, middle schoolers, and high schoolers! Yes – we believe Homeschool Nature Study works for ALL AGES. Join the community!

Stef started homeschooling her boys in 2008. She quickly adopted a hands-on learning homeschool style and graduated her oldest tactile learner in 2021. Stef started the Hands-On Learning column in Homeschooling Today magazine. The Laytons currently reside in the foothills of Colorado where Stef also teaches yoga. The family loves to hike trails, stand-up paddle board, and chase sunsets. Stef shares travel and homeschool tips on IG at @LaytonAdventures.

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Top Picks for Field Guides for Homeschool Nature Study

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

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

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

What is a Nature Study Field Guide?


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

Find out more about The Handbook of Nature Study book!

Three Field Guides To Use Alongside The Handbook of Nature Study


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

Audubon Society Field Guides

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

Peterson Field Guides

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

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

Golden Guides

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

More Nature Themed Books to Enjoy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Be inspired. Be encouraged. Get outdoors!

by Barb McCoy, founder of the Outdoor Hour Challenges.

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Picture Books in Nature Study: A Parent’s Guide

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

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

Photo by Amy Law

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

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

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

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

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

Nature Book Recommendations

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


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

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

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

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

Nature Study Books to Enjoy In Your Homeschool

Here are some specific books we’ve enjoyed:

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

More Nature Picture Books

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

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

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

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

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

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

Be inspired. Be encouraged. Get outdoors!

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

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The Homeschool Mom’s Charlotte Mason Summer Nature Study Guide

Our Charlotte Mason Summer Nature Study Guide is perfect for this time of year.

Are you dreaming of summer yet? Soon we will be winding down our homeschools and taking advantage of the warm summer days ahead of us. Weeks of picnics and walks, weeks of sunshine and warmth. Lovely!

Closing the doors to our schoolrooms brings a time of rest for all of us, and of consolidation. The break from regular studies seems to help the children’s brains to consolidate what they have learnt and cement tricky concepts that they struggled with, for I often found that when we returned to studies in the autumn, they can tackle these things with ease.

Let's tuck into an array of learning opportunities with this homeschool mom's Charlotte Mason Summer Nature Study Guide.

But as we know, learning does not stop in the school room. For life and the great outdoors remains the best classroom. Summer is a time that I like to really focus on my children’s education in a different way.

Opportunities For Charlotte Mason Summer Nature Study

I like to place before them a smorgasbord of opportunities. Things like visiting galleries, museums, camping, and spending as much time outdoors and visiting as many different ecosystem’s as possible.

“On fine days when it is warm enough to sit out with wraps, why not take tea and breakfast, everything but a hot dinner, be served out of doors? For we are an overwrought generation, running to nerves as a cabbage runs to seed; and every hour spend in the open is a clear gain, tending to the increase of brain power and bodily vigor, and to the lengthening of life itself. They who know what it is to have fevered skin and throbbing brain deliciously soothed by the cool touch of the air are inclined to make a new rule of life, Never be within doors when you can rightly be without.

Charlotte Mason – The Original Homeschool Series.

I found it rather interesting from the quote above that Charlotte Mason spoke of the symptoms of stress being so prevalent in her own Victorian society. She speaks of them being an ‘overwrought generation’, just as are we today. She knew the remedy for overwrought nerves.

It’s a secret that many of us share but perhaps you don’t yet know it. Well I’ll let you in on the secret…its spending time outdoors. Nature has a calming and healing affect on our mental well being.

And so this summer, let us make it a practice of giving ourselves and our children plenty of purposeful time outdoors

The Charlotte Mason Approach: Where to Begin

Charlotte Mason says that a good starting place is for meals to be taken al fresco. Why? Because they are joyous and there is “nothing like gladness for converting meat and drink into healthy blood and tissue“.

Imagine every meal being one that is joyous and an event to be stored up in our childrens’ memories. I love Charlotte Mason’s sentiment on alfresco eating:

The Charlotte Mason approach: where to begin

Now that seems to me to be as good as reason as any for making this summer one to strive to have as many meals al fresco as possible. I love the thought that decisions I take today will stand my children in good stead far into the future.

Picture Painting

Some of my most precious, vivid, and lasting memories of my happy childhood shared with my parents and siblings, are of times we spent outdoors together. I clearly remember one particular day hiking out in the mountains. We found a natural pool in a clearing surrounded by trees. The sun was beating down, we were hot from our walk.

We decided to take a swim in the cool, clear water. Afterwards I lay down on a large warm rock at the side of the pool to dry. I remember closing my eyes and being overwhelmed by the peace and tranquility of my surroundings. The warm sunshine, the sound of the birds and my family talking and laughing. The feel of the gentle breeze drying the cold water droplets from my skin. When I opened my eyes, the sight of trees stretching up into the blue sky that was littered with fluffy white clouds slowly moving across the skyscape.

Charlotte Mason picture painting

The impact of that day and its lasting memory had a profound affect on me. So much so, that my lovely mother bought a poster of the mountains and forests with a scripture verse, so that I could hang it in my room as a wonderful reminder.

The truth is, I didn’t need a poster to recall each and every detail my surroundings because I had taken in every feature and detail of that landscape that I could narrate it perfectly to you today had we the time and space for me to do so rather than a short post to write about it.

Charlotte Mason calls this ‘picture painting’. Here is how it is done:

  • Get the children to look well at a patch of landscape, then shut their eyes and narrate the picture before them (are seeing a correlation here to picture study?)
  • If any part of it is blurred, they need to look again.
  • When they have a perfect image before their eyes, let them narrate what they see in great detail.

When we engage all our senses: Seeing, hearing, feeling, smelling, coupled with a joyous atmosphere and yes, good wholesome food, we are doing more for our children’s education than any expensive textbook ever can.

Heading Outdoors

Are you beginning to see how we can continue our summer nature studies Charlotte Mason style? So this summer we are going to do much ‘sight-seeing’, ‘picture painting’ and ‘al fresco’ dining as we can. Try and include as many different ecosystems as possible.

I recommend getting out into the country in the meadows and farm-lands, a visit to the beach, a river, the mountains and a woodland. I’ll give you ideas for each setting but first, lets get our field haversack/backpack’s prepped for our summer studies.

Pack Up Your Haversack

When you go out on field work you will need to take your collecting apparatus with you.

  • A haversack/backpack for each child
  • pond net
  • trowel
  • collecting jar (to collect insect and water creatures)
  • basket (to collect plant specimens)
  • scissors
  • field note book and pencil

In addition to this field kit, your little naturalists will most certainly appreciate a lovely picnic, plenty of water and of course, sun hats and sun screen. Read this Outdoor Hour Challenge (OHC) post on planning your picnic.

Let's tuck into an array of learning opportunities with this homeschool mom's Charlotte Mason Summer Nature Study Guide.

Now that we have covered all the basics, lets focus our summer exploration and nature studies and walks.

I have collated a collection of posts from my own blog as well as from the archives that will hopefully inspire you to just get outdoors this summer and explore these different habitats and biomes. You may find that one day you are simply enjoying being outdoors together and other days may lend themselves for a more in depth exploration/study.

If you are planning on traveling at all this summer then be sure to read our Nature Study and Summer Travel post from the archives for some great tips on how to prepare.

Whatever you decide to do, above all, please just enjoy creating memories of long summer days spent outdoors.

A Seaside Walk: Perfect for Summer Nature Study

Have you ever looked down into the sea on a clear, still day from the side of a boat – as you cross over the rocks below? Imagine yourself looking down into this watery picture. You might see anemones opened up with their tentacle-like petals waving as waves rush in over the rocks.

Or perhaps you will see a starfish or a sea-urchin crawling along the bottom of the rock pool, or a crab rush under a rock the moment it sees your shadow.

There is no end to the delights that the seashore can offer up. It may be a bit of a drive for some but if you can, plan for a fun beach day-trip to explore this amazing habitat.

Charlotte Mason Summer Guide to Exploring the Seashore

Be inspired by these posts from the archives.

Summertime Stroll in the Meadows and Fields

In early summer-time there is more sunshine and we see that the grass is growing long in the fields. Let us lie in the grass of a field and keep very quite. What happens in this grassy jungle?

We shall see many different kinds of grasses and many common wildflowers and weeds. Insects and other little creatures often make their homes here.

Do you see any patches of bubbly white stuff which sticks to grass stalks? We call them “cuckoo spit” but it’s not made by the cuckoo bird. Have look at a post from our archives to find out just what it is!

Exploring the meadows and fields Charlotte Mason nature study guide

Be inspired by these posts from the archives.

A Wander Through the Woodland

Who can resist a woodland walk! Woodlands always seem so magical don’t they? To be surrounded by great towering trees, to explore the delicate mosses and lichens, some of which look like pixie caps on stalks.

What plants can you find? What creatures can you spot. Can you hear the woodpecker drilling?

Or wouldn’t it be fun to collect pinecones and acorns from the woodland floor to make fir-cone birds and people? Or perhaps collect different leaves and make leaf-prints.

The woodland has so much to offer that it would certainly make for a lovely afternoon out.

Exploring the woodlands in your homeschool Charlotte Mason style

Be inspired by these posts from the archives.

Summertime Walk by the Pond, River, or Lake

When last did you wade into a shallow stream and turn up some of the stones on the stream bed? If you do so, you may find some interesting creatures on or under them.

You may find caddis worms, which are not really worms at all. They are larvae of the caddis fly and the build little homes for themselves out of tiny stones or little sticks or hollow stems. The river or pond will provide hours of exploration fun for children.

Make sure you go armed with a net and some collection jars for this visit!

Exploring rivers, ponds and lakes Charlotte Mason nature study guide

Be inspired by these posts from the archives.

Outdoor Hour Challenges Are Perfect For Charlotte Mason Summer Nature Study

Rather than give you formalized Outdoor Hour Challenges, we hope that guide provides you with an inspired springboard of ideas for your own summer nature adventures that Charlotte Mason would have approved of.

Be Inspired, Be Encouraged and Get Outdoors!

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A Nature Themed Book List for Easy Summer Learning

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

This nature themed book list includes beautiful and engaging options for all ages. Perfect for summer learning!

Photo by Amy Law

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.

Cultivate the Habit of Reading Nature Books

“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

Young Children – Create a Nature 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

¨ 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.

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

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: 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.

Discover Nature at Sundown: Family Summer Nature Study: 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 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.

Take Along Nature Guides: No, nature study is not something we take a break from during the summer.  So naturally, I’m always looking for appealing books to help us out in our nature study to help spark my kids’ interest in all things outdoors.  When I found my first “Take-Along Guide” at a used book store, I was interested so I purchased it.  But it was later when I began really reading it that I became really interested.

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

Beautiful Charlotte Mason Picture Book Biography – This lovely Charlotte Mason picture book biography tells the story of Miss Mason, painting a picture of the time she lived, her knowledge of how children learn and her passion for children to love learning.

These books are so perfect for any part of nature you are studying!” 

The Handbook of Nature Study

7 Top Tips for Using the Handbook of Nature Study in Your Homeschool – Have you ever wondered how to use The Handbook of Nature Study? Does one look at it have you feeling completely overwhelmed? Here are 7 top tips to help you use The Handbook Of Nature Study In Your Homeschool.

Handbook of Nature Study: Friend or Foe? There it is… The Handbook of Nature Study, sitting on your bookshelf. Now what? It can be intimidating to say the least. Is The Handbook Of Nature Study a friend or foe in your homeschool?

Nature Book Report and Nature Book Project Printables

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

More Summer Reading Resources for Your Homeschool

Summer Reading Inspiration for Your Homeschool – at The Curriculum Choice. Summer is fast approaching and while you may be taking a break from any formal homeschooling, summer is a great time to indulge in reading great books. Here I have collected a bunch of summer reading inspiration. Everything from reading lists, to fun book clubs, book related activities and more!

Summer Ideas: A Chalkboard List – simple prompts to keep creativity going!

This nature themed book list includes beautiful and engaging options for all ages. Perfect for summer learning!

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

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

Be inspired. Be encouraged. Get outdoors!

Nature Book Project started by Barb McCoy, founder of the Outdoor Hour Challenges. Updated by Tricia.

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Living Science Beyond the Books

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

Homeschool moms do not have to fear teaching science class! Try a Living Science Beyond the Books approach to enjoy hands-on learning.

Jeannie Fulbright, Apologia Science Writer, inspired me to think about a living science beyond the books type of education and hands-on experience. To stop putting a time slot on the schedule for “science learning” and to start exploring the world with curiosity. To invite opportunities of discovery regardless of where we are or when it is during the day.

Homeschool moms do not have to fear teaching science class! Try a Living Science Beyond the Books approach to enjoy hands-on learning.

For our family, providing the opportunities for science as part of our every day life has been as easy as opening our back door and doing some exploring together.  Books are a wonderful window to the world but true heartfelt science learning takes place when you learn about things you can see, touch, smell, and hear. You might enjoy some tips from our post: 30 Backyard Family Activities.

Living Science Beyond the Books

Birds in a book are great but birds in your very own feeder are a living and breathing example to learn from. We have found what works best is observation first and then facts. For example, we learned more by trying to identify these feathers…using a feather identification key for the first time, reasoning on which birds we see in our backyard, and then narrowing it down to a few bird choices. We had to learn the different kinds of bird feathers and make careful observations about color and pattern. So much to build on from just this simple feather find from our backyard.


Homeschool Nature Study Members can print this Feather Coloring Page to try and replicate feather patterns. Or find more Bird Activities and Learn About Birds for Preschoolers.

Learning about pollen in a book is interesting but seeing it on a flower, watching a bee covered in it, and then perhaps looking at the flower pollen with a hand lens takes the lesson on pollen to a whole new dimension. Suddenly you care about the pollen…it means something. My son noticed the little yellow specks on flowers in our yard, so we brought them inside for closer inspection…pollen! No wonder the bees are swarming around this plant in our yard!

Fearful of Nature?

Homeschool moms do not have to fear teaching science class! Try a Living Science Beyond the Books approach to enjoy hands-on learning.

My youngest son hates spiders. He found a spider on a leaf and we spent some time watching it together. Direct observation of a spider takes the fear away and allows the awe to settle in for such an amazing living creature. Living science beyond the books is the best kind of learning for science. Books are there to support and generate interest! But remember to get outside to observe it.

“Nature study, as far as it goes, is just as large as is science for “grown-ups”. It may deal with the same subject matter and should be characterized by the same accuracy. It simply does not go so far.”
Anna Botsford Comstock, Handbook of Nature Study

She supports the idea that beginning with nature study and observation we can build on those ideas and experiences and go farther with more formal science. For a complete picture of how she outlines nature study for families, read the introductory pages of the Handbook of Nature Study (pages 1-24).

“Adults should realize that the most valuable thing children can learn is what they discover themselves about the world they live in. Once they experience first-hand the wonder of nature, they will want to make nature observation a life-long habit. All people are supposed to be observers of nature and there’s no excuse for living in a world so full of amazing plants and animals and not be interested in them.”
Charlotte Mason, Volume 1

So, I think we are in good company. We can provide or support science education in our homes if we remember to take advantage of opportunities that present themselves. Open eyes, open hearts, and then open minds to enjoy living science.

Homeschool Nature Study Membership

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

Not yet a Homeschool Nature Study Member? We’d love for you to join us and take advantage of the numerous studies – already planned out for you, craft ideas, free worksheets, and #outdoorhourchallenge fun! Become a member and bring the love of learning nature and science easily into your home.

Be inspired. Be encouraged. Get outdoors!

Written by Barb McCoy. Updated and new resources created by Stef Layton.

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Learning About Seeds Preschool Activities

When spring time rolls around it’s the perfect time to start learning about seeds. We want to share a handful of preschool activities (dirty fingers as well as clean and dry ones) we think you can easily incorporate into your homeschool to help with learning about seeds.

Learning About Seeds Preschool Activities

1. Plant seeds!

We purchased some seed kits from the dollar spot at Target. We do this every year because my toddlers love planting and taking care of their seeds and they usually end up loving these seeds to death. My 3 younger girls each planted different plants: basil, sunflowers, and poppy flowers.

2. Seed sort nature activity

Use 3 -5 different seeds (depending on your child’s ability) and have them sort the seeds by like kinds. What do they notice about seeds? Are seeds all the same shape? Same color? Same size? Homeschool Nature Study Members can print the Seed Sorting Worksheet from their dashboard to compare 4 different types of seeds.

Look around your vegetables and fruits to find seeds. Notice seeds we eat and seeds we discard (cucumbers vs peppers). Notice seeds on the outside of fruits and seeds deep in vegetables. Compare little seeds of an apple to a big seed of an avocado.

4. Make a seed collage

Using an assortment of seeds, glue seeds on a heavier piece of cardstock or cardboard. Arrange seeds to spell out your children’s names. I promise it’ll be, F U N !

5. Learn plant vocabulary

Homeschool Nature Study Members can print the Parts of a Plant and Tree Life Cycle worksheets from their dashboard to learn and match plant vocabulary.

6. Make a flower craft (also can be used as a Bible lesson.)

Print the Don’t Worry Flowers. Children can learn about how God knows what they need and cares for them.

More Nature Resources For Preschoolers

Our monthly membership has everything you need for studying nature together as a family. Learn more about our creative and engaging resources.

Written by Maureen Spell. Updated and new resources created by Stef Layton.