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Creating a Nature Study Atmosphere in Your Homeschool: Start With Your Attitude

Creating a homeschool nature study atmosphere does not need to be difficult, dirty, or uncomfortable. In fact, the best nature study is done without much effort and is guided by your child’s interest in topics that come along.

Creating a homeschool nature study atmosphere does not need to be difficult, dirty, or uncomfortable. In fact, the best nature study is done without much effort and is guided by your child's interest in topics that come along.
Photos by Amy Law

The nature study we talk about here is meant to be simple, a constant vigilance for something to be interested in right in your own neighborhood.


Creating a Homeschool Nature Study Atmosphere – It Starts With You

Nature Study- You can do this and your children will thank you. That really is my main message for this post and this Homeschool Nature Study website.

Nature Study Close to Home

Traveling to national parks can be a goal for everyone and I feel so very blessed to live in a part of the county where they are at my fingertips. But your own backyard can produce meaningful nature study if you are aware of things that come along…you need to be watching and listening.

Creating a homeschool nature study atmosphere does not need to be difficult, dirty, or uncomfortable. The best nature study is little effort and is guided by your child's interest.

No Need for Homeschool Group Learning

Participating in nature clubs can be a wonderful experience for a nature study atmosphere but having a few minutes with just your own kids outside each week can be just as wonderful.

Be Flexible With Your Time

Focusing on one nature study topic gives your family a full picture of that aspect of nature but don’t miss out on other subjects that come around because they are not on topic. Take a detour if needed and remember that nature study should be a life-long endeavor.

I have observed that families that make nature study a consistent part of their everyday life are the ones that feel the most satisfaction. Honestly, it warms my heart to see and hear about the times where families have an opportunity arise and they drop everything to pursue the learning more. A spider in a web, a bird’s song, the weather, rocks in pockets….take a few minutes to share it with your children.

dragonfly homeschool nature study

You may be surprised how your attitude changes with knowledge. 

In the end, what matters most is the way you view nature. Children are very keen observers and they will know when you are not excited about something. I can’t say I am always excited about every nature study topic…snakes and fish come to mind…but I do try to share my passion for learning new things and encourage my children to learn more about topics of interest. Funny thing is that once you start learning about things like snakes, the more interesting they become. The closer you look at a fish, the more beautiful it is.

Join us in Homeschool Nature Study Membership for a NEW Outdoor Hour Challenge each Friday!


You will find encouragement and resources to get your nature study atmosphere started. It is all done for you. Bring the Handbook of Nature Study to life in your homeschool!

Outdoor Hour Challenge Getting Started Guide – the beginning of so many good times with your children outdoors!

Creating a homeschool nature study atmosphere does not need to be difficult, dirty, or uncomfortable. In fact, the best nature study is done without much effort and is guided by your child's interest in topics that come along.

Be inspired. Be encouraged. Get outdoors!

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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.

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.
Photos by Amy Law

“From the time she was no higher than a daisy, Anna was wild about nature.”

Suzanne Slade

One of the most natural ways for people to learn is through story. This sweetly illustrated biography of Anna Comstock gives a glimpse into the life of the woman who wrote the wonderful book The Handbook of Nature Study. Knowing more about her life makes her writing even more special! – my friend, Amy Law.

Out of School and Into Nature: The Anna Comstock Story is a lovely book written by Suzanne Slade and beautifully illustrated by Jessica Lanan.

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.

The Anna Comstock Story Picture Book Biography Review

This post contains affiliate links. Please see our disclosure policy.

“This picture book biography examines the life and career of naturalist and artist Anna Comstock (1854-1930), who defied social conventions and pursued the study of science. From the time she was a young girl, Anna was fascinated by the natural world. She loved exploring outdoors, examining wildlife and learning nature’s secrets. From watching the teamwork of marching ants to following the constellations in the sky, Anna observed it all. And her interest only increased as she grew older and attended Cornell University. There she continued her studies, pushing back against the common belief of the day that implied science was a man’s pursuit.

Eventually, Anna became known as a nature expert, pioneering a movement to encourage schools to conduct science and nature classes for children outdoors, thereby increasing students’ interest in nature. In following her passion, this remarkable woman blazed a trail for female scientists today.” –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.

“The nature story is never finished. There is not a weed or an insect or a tree so common that the child by observing carefully, may not see things never yet recorded.”

-Anna Comstock

Here at Homeschool Nature Study, we highly recommend this book for your homeschool! It is a wonderful way to learn all about – and be inspired by – the author of the Handbook of Nature Study. You might also like our Anna Botsford Comstock Quotes for Nature Lovers and Last Child in the Woods.

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

Learn More About The Handbook of Nature Study for Your Homeschool

We have some great resources for learning what The Handbook of Nature Study is all about:

You might also like my review of a Charlotte Mason Picture Book biography: The Teacher Who Revealed Worlds of Wonder – on our sister site, The Curriculum Choice. Charlotte Mason adored nature study!

My Homeschool Nature Book Report

In Homeschool Nature Study membership, you will find a printable nature book report page under your Nature Journaling course. Use this when you enjoy the Anna Comstock Story or any other nature book!

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.

Tricia and her family fell in love with the Handbook of Nature Study and the accompanying Outdoor Hour Challenges early in their homeschooling. The simplicity and ease of the weekly outdoor hour challenges brought joy to their homeschool and opened their eyes to the world right out their own back door! She shares the art and heart of homeschooling at You ARE an ARTiST and Your Best Homeschool plus her favorite curricula at The Curriculum Choice.

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Handbook of Nature Study Review of New Edition

Looking for a Handbook of Nature Study review? Wondering about the new edition of the Handbook of Nature Study by Living Book Press? Here is my full review and what I recommend for homeschool nature study families.

Here is a Handbook of Nature Study review of the new edition by Living Book Press  with honest recommendations for homeschool nature study families.

Handbook of Nature Study Review of New Edition

I recently wrote a review of the new Living Book Press edition of the Handbook of Nature Study.

I’ve used the Handbook of Nature Study for decades. To say that I love this book, would be an understatement. It has taken me on the journey of a lifetime and sparked my love and passion for all things found in the natural world. When I learned there was a new version of this classic book with full color images, I was excited.

Living Books Press has created a seven volume series of paperback books that take the original content of the Handbook of Nature Study written by Anna Botsford Comstock and updated the black and white images with full color images for every topic in the book.

I recently wrote a thorough review of this series over on The Curriculum Choice

You can read that review here: Living Books Press – Handbook of Nature Study.

I would love for you to click over and read that review.

Here is a Handbook of Nature Study review of the new edition by Living Book Press  with honest recommendations for homeschool nature study families.

Just in case you want the bottom line…..

  • I don’t recommend these volumes for my Outdoor Hour Challenge families. The price is what holds me back from giving them a thumbs up. At almost $100 for all the volumes, the investment is just not worth the benefits of having smaller books and colored images.
  • I would rather you purchase the version recommended for years here on the Handbook of Nature Study blog (cost is less than $30). Then, take the additional money and purchase some field guides to have as a supplement to the Handbook of Nature Study.
Review of The Handbook of Nature Study at The Curriculum Choice.

More Handbook of Nature Study Homeschool Help from The Curriculum Choice

The Handbook of Nature Study Book Here at Homeschool Nature Study

Which edition of the Handbook of Nature Study do you use? Where do you find The Handbook of Nature Study book?

The Handbook of Nature Study book by Anna Botsford Comstock is a staple in the Outdoor Hour Challenges we share. This is a wonderful reference guide for you, the homeschool teacher to use. We show you how, HERE!

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How to Teach Homeschool Nature Study

How to teach homeschool nature study? It is not as intimidating at you think! We share how to naturally share nature study with your child.

“During autumn the attention of the children should be attracted to the leaves by their gorgeous colors. It is well to use this interest to cultivate their knowledge of the forms of leaves of trees; but the teaching of the tree species to the young child should be done quite incidentally and guardedly. If the teacher says to the child bringing a leaf, “This is a white-oak leaf,” the child will soon quite unconsciously learn that leaf by name. Thus, tree study may be begun in the kindergarten or the primary grades.” Handbook of Nature Study, page 622

How to Teach Homeschool Nature Study

I regularly am asked how to teach nature study. Should you read the Handbook of Nature Study to your child? Should you draw in other resources? Should you take your nature journal with you on your walks? Should you require a nature journal entry? How do you share information without it becoming a “lesson”?

These are all really great questions and I know for each family the answers will be a little bit different because you have different children with different learning styles. I try to keep in mind the principle outlined in the quote from the Handbook of Nature Study above.

Outdoor time is for the whole family! We share some simple tips for getting started.

The Handbook of Nature Study Book is Written for Adults

The Handbook of Nature Study was written for adults. Adults who were then to try to offer nature study to children. Anna Botsford Comstock knew that the key to great times in nature study depended on the interest and enthusiasm of the teacher/parent. She knew that even adults *needed* this time outdoors to refresh and to inspire us to teach homeschool nature study.

“She who opens her eyes and her heart nature-ward even once a week finds nature study in the schoolroom a delight and an abiding joy……She finds, first of all, companionship with her children; and second, she finds that without planning or going on a far voyage, she has found health and strength.” -Handbook of Nature Study, page 3

How to Naturally Share Nature Study With Your Child

The other key is to take things slowly and to over time incorporate vocabulary and labels for things you find in nature. This calls for a little work by the adult in the beginning. More on this in Nature Study: Creating Habits Young and Nature Study The Gentle Way.

“If the teacher says, “I have a pink hepatica. Can anyone find me a blue one?” the children, who naturally like grown up words, will soon be calling these flowers hepaticas….The child should never be required to learn the name of anything in the nature study work; but the name should be used so often and so naturally in his prescense that he will learn it without being conscious of the process.” Handbook of Nature Study, page 11

“The half-hour excursion should be preceded by a talk concerning the purposes of the outing and the pupils must know that certain observations are to be made or they will not be permitted to go again. This should not be emphasized as a punishment; but they should be made to understand that a field excursion is only, naturally enough, for those who wish to see and understand outdoor life.” Handbook of Nature Study, page 15

If you want more guidance on how to teach homeschool nature study, read the whole section on page 15 under The Field Excursion. I find that as my children are getting older, our time is more limited as far as nature study. I make it a priority to fit it in every week but the amount of time is more limited. We need our formal nature study to be concentrated and focused so that we can get the most out of it.

“It is a mistake to think that a half day is necessary for a field lesson, since a very efficient field trip may be made during the ten or fifteen minutes at recess, if it is well planned.” Handbook of Nature Study, page 15

Using your nature journal in your homeschool

The nature journal is something that is as individual as the child. My expectation for the simplest of nature journals has always been to include a sketch, a label, and a date. This simple formula works to help the child not be so overwhelmed with making a “pretty” journal entry. The journal is something that should bring joy to the child.

“When the child is interested in studying any object, he enjoys illustrating his observations with drawings; the happy absorption of children thus engaged is a delight to witness.” Handbook of Nature Study, page 17

How to Teach Homeschool Nature Study with Nature Journaling?

This means that if your child finds drawing a chore, skip it. Try again another day. Eventually, they will find something to include in their journal. Do not get in the mindset that only drawing is acceptable in a nature journal. Lists, photos, diagrams, thoughts, poems, a sentence or two, or a combination of those things will become a very nice journal over time. We do not make a journal entry every week and our journals are still precious to us.

How to teach homeschool nature study? It is not as intimidating at you think! We share how to naturally share nature study with your child.

Photo by Amy Law

The Handbook of Nature Study: Benefits of Homeschool Nature Study for All Ages

So hopefully I have helped you understand a little of what I get from the Handbook of Nature Study.

  • The Handbook of Nature Study (HNS) is for the adult to read and be inspired from.
  • The HNS is for gleaning information and observation ideas for nature study.
  • Young children will learn the proper names for things naturally if you use it in conversation.
  • Older children will need a bit more preparation to begin to focus their nature study time.
  • Nature journal entries are not required after every outdoor experience.
  • Nature journals include a variety of information.
  • Nature study refreshes and inspires the parents as well as the children.
  • Regularly read the Handbook of Nature Study to refine your skills as a guide for your children.

Dust your copy of the Handbook of Nature Study off today and read a few pages of the introductory chapters. Scan the Table of Contents and see if anything catches your eye for a nature study this week. Join us in completing a series of Outdoor Hour Challenges. Do something this week to get you outdoors with your children for even a few minutes to have some fun and refreshment.

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

How To Get Started With the Outdoor Hour Challenges

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

Homeschool Nature Study membership bringing the Handbook of Nature Study to Life!

Join Our Homeschool Nature Study Membership for Year Round Support

You will find a continuing series for the Outdoor Mom in our Homeschool Nature Study membership. Plus 25+ continuing courses with matching curriculum that will bring the Handbook of Nature Study to life in your homeschool! In addition, there is an interactive monthly calendar with daily nature study prompt – all at your fingertips!

First published September 2009 by Barb. Updated January 2022 by Tricia.

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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.

The Handbook Of Nature Study: Perfect For Your Homeschool

This is a BIG book and can be a little intimidating!

Don’t worry, I felt the same way which is why I want to share how The Handbook of Nature Study might be helpful in your homeschool.

Don't be put off using the Handbook of Nature Study, read our top tips on how to use the handbook of nature study in your homeschool.

The Pros And Cons Of Using The Handbook Of Nature Study As A Guide In your Homeschool

What made me not want to use this book before:

  • 1. Size-over 800 pages doesn’t transport well in my backpack
  • 2. Black and white photos
  • 3. I was trying to use it as a field guide.
  • 4. I wanted to just start at the front and work my way to the back like a “regular” book.
  • 5. I thought it would take too much time to use this book in our nature study because of the size and the sheer volume of information.

The Benefits Of Using The Handbook Of Nature Study As A Resource In Your Homeschool

Here are some thoughts that I have now that I took the plunge and started using this wonderful book:

  • 1. Read the pages at the beginning of the book that talks generally about nature study.
  • 2. Pick a topic to focus on and read the introductory pages for that section only. We are focusing on insects this term but you can pick anything that seems appropriate for your family. You could change your focus each season if you wanted to. 3. Take the time after your nature walk to look up things that you saw on that nature walk. I turn to the table of contents and just scan down the list and see if I can find what I want to research. For instance, you might have seen a honeybee and it is very easy to skim down and find honeybee and turn right to those few pages.
  • 4. Read the small section (usually 1 or 2 pages) that pertain to that object or creature.
  • 5. Write in the book……gasp. Yes, write in the book as you go along to highlight the little bits of information that you want to share with your children.
  • 6. If you don’t have time after your nature walk to look something up and share it right then, research it in the Handbook before your next nature study session and then share it the next time.
  • 7. Realize that nature study is a lifelong project, or at least I think it should be. You don’t need to cover every aspect of everything you find.
Tips for Using the Handbook of Nature Study

Making Homeschool Nature Study Easy And Effective

Anna Botsford Comstock suggests that nature study be only 10 minutes to half an hour in length. (page 6) I am finding this is a wonderful way to spend a few minutes outside with my boys each day….yes we are committing to 10-60 minutes outside per day. We all feel so much more refreshed and it has actually helped us be more focused when we are doing our indoor homeschooling.

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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Helpful Tips For Incorporating The Handbook of Nature Study Into Your Homeschool

So you have The Handbook of Nature Study on your bookshelf. Are you wondering how to use it? Having used it for a number of years in my homeschool I have a few tips to share with you to help put this fantastic resource to good use!

Tips for using the handbook of nature study

Disclosure: Affiliate links in some blog posts. If you click through and make a purchase, the owner earns a small commission at no extra cost to yourself.

The Value Of Nature Study In Our Homeschools

There are the obvious benefits of adding time in nature to our homeschool days (think kids outdoors and burning off all that extra energy!). But more than just getting some fresh air and taking an outdoor break, there is significant educational value in the study of nature.

It’s a wonderful way to study science, develop attention to detail, and encourage exploration and self-directed learning.

One of the best resources I have found to help guide and cultivate our homeschool nature study is this guide!


Helpful tips for using The Handbook of Nature Study

  • Don’t carry it on your nature hikes. It isn’t a field guide so you will more than likely not pull it out anyway.
  • When you come indoors from your nature time, pull it out and turn to the index to see if something you saw that day is covered in the book.
  • Quickly skim the information in the book that talks about the subject you observed.
  • Share a few points with your children.

Try those steps as a good place to start until you get more familiar with the book. Are you ready for more?

Tips for using the handbook of nature study

Additional Tips For Using The Handbook Of Nature Study

  • If you find a subject that your interested in covering with your children, read the introduction to yourself. Make pencil notes of anything you want to share.
  • Take a few minutes and share those points and then help your child make a nature journal entry using those points.
  • If you want to make a more in depth study, turn to the end of the section and use the suggested activities or just pick out one or two items to try.

Purchase Your Copy of The Handbook of Nature Study

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The Handbook of Nature Study: Friend or Foe In Your Homeschool

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?

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The Handbook of Nature Study can Seem Daunting at First

My own copy of the Handbook of Nature Study sat on my shelf for a couple of years and I finally sold it on eBay. Yes, you heard me right. I got tired of dusting it and feeling as if I should be doing something with it when I couldn’t figure it out at all.

I absolutely saw it as a bit of a foe in our homeschool.

You must be wondering what happened to bring me around to where I am now? Simply put, I stopped fighting it!

The Advantages Of Using The Handbook Of Nature Study For Your Homeschool Nature Lessons

I decided to check it out from the library and took some time to page through it. I read blogs where families actually used the book, encouraging me to give it a real try this time.

We already had a love of nature in our family but we really wanted to have a better way of studying things in nature in a little more systematic way. Maybe it was not the book that was the problem for us.

Since I trusted Ambleside Online’s ideas for many subjects already, it was a natural fit to try their system for nature study. I went to their nature study page and read the whole thing, then I read the information in the Charlotte Mason volumes about outdoor time and nature study.

Finally, I read other blogs that used the Handbook of Nature Study. In other words, I did a little bit of homework and came up with a plan for our family.

Tips on Using The Handbook of Nature Study In Your Homeschool

  • Pick three sections of the book to cover in your school year….four if you want to cover one over the summer too. Try to think of things you will actually be able to observe in your course of everyday life. If you have a birdfeeder you could learn about which birds visit your garden. Perhaps you have a budding meteorologist who enjoyes Keeping track of the weather. It could be as simple as beginning with your families pet. Pick something of interet.
  • Start with something you will enjoy.
  • As the parent/guide, read the introduction to the section you are going to study a few times over. I have found that just reading these few pages opens your eyes to a lot of ideas for further study on the topic chosen. Use the information and suggested activities as a place to start your study of a particular animal or aspect of nature.
  • Make notes in the book or in a notebook with ideas for your study.
  • Go through your personal library and check for any reference items you may have on the subject of your study. I was surprised when I did this to find that I already owned quite a few books to go along with our fall study of insects. Check your library for books and field guides too.
  • Our family enjoys identifying things we find on our nature outings. This means we need to have a basic field guide to go along with our study since the Handbook of Nature Study is NOT a field guide.

Yes, I finally purchased the Handbook of Nature Study for the second time! I am happy to report that this time around it is getting used weekly. I had tried to use the online version by printing out only the pages I needed but that was too much work. Having my own copy at my fingertips has been a blessing this past term. Our nature study has taken on a new level of interest.

The Handbook Of Nature Study has truly become a friend in our homeschool.

Get Your Own Copy of The Handbook of Nature Study