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Question From Reader: How to Get Started

Questions from a Facebook Fan: 

Would you be able to offer any tips on how a family just starting out doing it should approach it? Or maybe what inspires you and how you make it work with your family?

Nature study is something that started rather slowly in our family. We had always been outdoor sorts of people but the desire to learn more deeply and routinely about the things around us spurred me as a mother and home teacher to schedule time each week to focus on something of interest to my children.

At first, I would send the boys outside to find something to draw in their nature journal. They would obediently pop out into the backyard and find a little something to sketch and label. It was a good start but this kind of “nature study” didn’t reach their hearts.

We gave up on the nature journal idea for at time and with some pushing from the ideas of Charlotte Mason we began spending more time together in the backyard and hiking on local trails each week. I found that just immersing ourselves in the outdoor life helped grow the seeds of nature study more than anything else.

As we began noting changes in our backyard and along our favorite walking trails, the boys became more interested in coming home to look up and identify things like mushrooms, birds, and trees. I think their eyes needed to be able to see things before nature study meant much to them. I became more passionate about nature study and purchased the Handbook of Nature Study so I could use it in our studies. I was totally and completely overwhelmed by the book and actually gave it away.

The nature journal came back after a period of time when the boys realized they could journal things that interested them, in a way that meant something to them. For our family, notebooking pages helped us over the hump. Not needing to feel overwhelmed by a blank page was a relief to them.I was happy they were keeping a record of their observations and discoveries.

Eventually I found a copy of the Handbook of Nature Study again and I was determined to use it with my family. It was from that process that this blog was born. I stopped trying to use the HNS as a field guide and began using it more as a teacher’s guide like it was intended to be. It helped make nature come alive for our family. We used the suggestions in the lessons in that book as the basis for our exploring creation in our backyard and neighborhood.

I always suggest that families start with the first ten Outdoor Hour Challenges, making sure to read the pages in the introduction of the Handbook of Nature Study as suggested in each challenge. Anna Botsford Comstock’s words there are what created in me a better method of teaching “nature study”. She showed me the simple way to offer nature learning opportunities to my children. She really did become my mentor.

Just get started even if you just work through the first five challenges. After completing those challenges, you will start to see the pattern that I use here on the blog and with my family to create a nature study atmosphere.

Over time, our family developed a way of life that encourages nature study every day. There are field guides in various places around the house like bird books near the window where we hang our birdfeeder. We regularly take walks together.  I still keep a nature journal but my children have not kept up that habit as young adults. They prefer to take photos and then share them on Instagram and on Facebook. It warms my heart to see my children still taking time to notice the natural treasures that come their way like sunsets, wildflowers, butterflies, birds, and rocks.

This is what I encourage you to remember if nothing else:

Nurture a love of the outdoors and the interesting things you find there with your children as they are growing up. Train their eyes to see what is there in front of them….stop and look and listen. These are skills that will make them happier people and better students in all areas.


1 thought on “Question From Reader: How to Get Started

  1. Thanks so much for your posts…your ideas inspire and encourage us as we study and enjoy nature.

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