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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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Handbook of Nature Study Newsletter – October 2015 Reptiles

Handbook of Nature Study Newsletter October 2015 reptiles

Handbook of Nature Study Newsletter

October 2015 – Reptiles

When I was preparing ideas for this newsletter, my husband and I were up in the mountains on a camping trip. One afternoon on a hike, we happened to encounter a snake on the trail. Well, apparently I almost stepped right on him without noticing. My husband saw him and shouted a warning to me. I screamed and jumped up and promptly ran further along the trail. Then, I calmed down, gathered my wits and went back to see the snake…a mountain garter snake. He had stopped just off the side, near a log. His amazing coloring blends in and provides such protection in the rugged habitat. We snapped a few images and decided to leave him in peace, probably searching for his next meal.

sugar Pine Point aug 2015 (38) garter snake

As always, my initial reaction to a snake encounter is fear but then it turns to admiration upon closer inspection.

Please read the following explanation outlining how to get this month’s newsletter.

The newsletter link is not in this email but will come separately. There may be a delay in your receiving the email so please don’t email me until the second day of the month if you haven’t received the link on the first. For some reason, some email providers take longer to receive the newsletter email.

If you don’t receive the separate email with the download link, you probably aren’t subscribed to the blog yet. This will take less than a minute to do if you follow the steps below.

If you are a subscriber and you haven’t received your newsletter email yet, check your SPAM inbox. Some subscribers have found the email buried in SPAM inbox.

If you need to subscribe:

  • You will need to go to the Handbook of Nature Study, look to the top right corner for the box to type in your preferred email address, and then confirm the email that comes to your email inbox.
  • Once you subscribe, you will receive a thank you email from me with the download link.

This month’s newsletter link will be available only during the month of October so be sure to download it before 10/31/15.

Remember! All of the archived and current newsletters are available as part of the Ultimate Naturalist Library…every level!

Contents of this edition of the newsletter include:

  • Reptile nature study tips and resources in the form of links to the Handbook of Nature Study website, contributor’s links, and Pinterest. This month’s featured contributors are Heather Woodie from Blog She Wrote and Alex from Life on a Canadian Island.
  • October Nature Study Planning Page printable – don’t miss the little extras I have added this month like nature photo ideas, field trip ideas, and a special 15 minute challenge for parents.
  • I have written an article entitled, Learning About Local Reptiles, where I encourage you to learn more about reptiles using your own personal style.
  • Reptile Study Notebook Page – This page includes a prompt at the top to help your family go more deeply into a leaf study this month or in the months to come. It can also be used as a nature journal topper if you want to cut and paste the prompt into your own nature journal.

Members: You may also wish to download the April 2013 Newsletter from the archives. You will find additional articles, printables, and links to support your tree nature study. Note: All levels of membership here on the Handbook of Nature Study include all back issues of the newsletter.

Handbook of Nature Study Newsletter April 2013 Cover

Please note that Ultimate Naturalist and Journey level members have access to members only printables each month in addition to the newsletter printables. You will need to log into your account and then go to the “Other Releases” section. There is a reptile related notebook page that has been created to go along with this month’s newsletter theme. Look for it in the printables section of your membership.

Getting Started FAQ Button
Need help getting started with your nature study using the Handbook of Nature Study? Check out the fresh “Getting Started” page here on the website!


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Lizards! Our Lizard Observations

We have seen lots of lizards since the OHC – Lizard Study posted but they are very hard to capture with a camera.

They are quick and really don’t want you to get too close.

But yesterday, a friend of mine pulled up and I spied a lizard on the back of her car! She had apparently brought the lizard all the way from her house, giving the lizard the ride of his life.


My husband also found a shed lizard skin in our front yard when we were trimming up our lavender. What an fabulous find! I was interested to see this up close and to realize that it was pretty much all intact.

I think it is a California Alligator Lizard.

Lizard shed skin @handbookofnaturestudy Lizard shed skin @handbookofnaturestudy

So the lesson is to not ever give up and to keep your eyes open to things all around you every day, not just during your OHC time.

Have you observed any lizards, geckos, or anoles?


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Outdoor Hour Challenge – Using the Reptile and Amphibian Grid Study

We have been blessed with many lizard sightings in the past few weeks. Just this past Sunday we saw four lizards on our hike and on Monday we saw three! They are all the same kind of lizard, the Western Fence Lizard. They look like little alligators with really big feet. They are super fast when they want to get away but many times they will sit on a rock in the sun like a statue and pose for the camera. These lizards made a great subject for the start of our Reptile and Amphibian Grid Study.

Here are a few of our images from these encounters.

Love the feet!
I have been keeping my eyes open, looking on rocks as we walk.

Here is what I gleaned from our reptile field guide and recorded in my nature journal.

  • From the family, Iguanidae
  • They are often found on rocks, on logs, in wood piles, and on rails and rock fences (confirmed by our sightings).
  • Females lay up to 25 soft-shelled eggs anytime between mid-may to mid-July, hatching about two months later.
  • Dormant in winter.
  • Diet consists of beetles, flies, termites, ants, and spiders.
  • Throat and belly are blue. (We have not seen this so we need to try to take a closer look.)
  • Range is the length of the Sierra, primarily in the foothills.

For our Amphibian Study:
We also found a spot that has a lot of frogs eggs…a small pool of water alongside our walking trail. We will be watching and waiting for tadpoles to arrive.

Other Reptiles:
No snakes yet….I know the last time I said that here on the blog we saw a snake that very next day.

This was a great start to our Reptile and Amphibian Grid Study this month and I hope to continue finding interesting subjects to add to our journals.

 Don’t forget to visit my blog sponsor and use the discount code “sweet” to receive a 30% discount on your order for any of her lovely products.

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Outdoor Hour Challenge Newsletter – Reptiles and Amphibians Edition

Handbook of Nature Study Newsletter April 2013 Cover

April 2013 – Reptiles and Amphibians

We have arrived at a study of reptiles and amphibians just in time for perhaps some spring observations of tadpoles, peeping of spring peepers, and the awakening of our more cold-blooded nature friends. Whether this study is of real-life subjects or preparation for future observations, I am confident that your children will benefit from learning more about reptiles and amphibians using the Handbook of Nature Study and the Outdoor Hour Challenge.

Contents of this edition of the newsletter include: 

  • 4 encouraging articles to help with your study of reptiles and amphibians
  • Contributors from India, Australia, and England – such a privilege to hear from so many kindred spirits from around the world
  • April Study Grid to help your monthly nature study
  • Show and Tell from OHC Participants
  • Recommended study links and field guides

I have attached the newsletter download link to the bottom of my blog feed so if you are a subscriber you will receive the link to the latest newsletter at the bottom of every post for the month of April. If you haven’t subscribed yet, you can still subscribe and receive the newsletter link in the next post that comes to your email box. You can subscribe to my blog by filling in your email address in the subscription box on my sidebar.

April Blog Sponsor

Note: You can download your newsletter from the link in two ways:


  • If your link is clickable, right click the link and then “save link as” to save the file on your computer.
  • If the link is not clickable, cut and paste the link to your browser, open, and then save your newsletter to your computer.


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Extraordinary in the Ordinary: Our Fabulous Five

A few weeks ago I wrote about finding something extraordinary in the ordinary as far as things we see in our own backyard and in our own neighborhoods. We have done some follow-up work on our five subjects and I wanted to share a little about what we learned and didn’t learn. 🙂

Morning Glory (Handbook of Nature Study page 519 reference to twining)
We learned that it is closely related to the sweet potato. It is called a morning glory since the blossoms only last one day. It grows in just about any soil, doesn’t like too much moisture, and will thrive in full sun.

I love the way the vine curls up the poles and then into the trees.

Alligator Lizard (reference and photo of alligator lizard and fence lizard, Handbook of Nature Study, pages 210-211)
We did some research on our alligator lizard but guess what? We saw an even bigger and more glorious lizard last week.

How is that for a lizard? I love his feet!

I think he might be a Northwestern Fence Lizard which we have had in our backyard before but he also may be a Sierra Fence Lizard. He has lots of color on his back and we have always just called these guys “blue bellies”. I am not definite about who exactly he is but still enjoyed observing him with his wonderfully long toes on his feet and his inquisitive eye.

We learned from reading on different websites that lizards can have ticks! That is something we definitely did not know before and for some reason we all found it very interesting.

CA Alligator lizard nature journal
This is an older journal entry my son did for a lizard we had in the backyard. He incorporated a photo and a sketch. We did some additional research this week on the alligator lizard and found that there are several species that live in our area. Now we are not sure which one we have so during our next encounter we will know more in detail what to look for.

Caterpillar (Handbook of Nature Study -lots of caterpillar info. We used page 299 for a drawing in our nature journal.)

We had no luck with figuring out what kind of caterpillar we saw on the sidewalk under our Sweet Gum tree. You would think that with its bright colors and outstanding horns and markings that we could find it somewhere in our field guide or online. Nope. We will be keeping our eyes open to see if we can observe more about these creatures right outside our back door.

Hummingbirds (Handbook of Nature Study section on hummingbirds starts on page 115)

We were still not able to figure out our dark headed hummingbird from a few weeks ago. We have been watching the feeder but the regular hummers are keeping it busy. Anna’s Hummingbirds are very common at our feeders all summer long and then even over the winter. We learned that they are *not* migratory which is really interesting since it gets very cold here in the winter and we even have snow. Where do they live when the weather is bad in the winter? You can be sure we will be keeping our eyes open to answer that question.

We have been working on taking photos of the birds in sports mode and we get much better photos…a tad bit clearer.

After some research and online digging, I think we have identified our migratory black headed hummer as a Black-chinned Hummingbird. I looked at the migratory map on and it looks like it is highly likely it could be just this bird. Here is more on their migration.

California Towhee

We read some more about this regular to the feeder, or more specifically…under the feeder. They always come in a pair. What is interesting is that the map does not show that we should have these birds but we have them year round in our yard. The other thing that is interesting is that the maps show that we should have Spotted Towhees all year but we don’t during the summer. Hmmm….don’t know what that means but it is interesting.

We also learned that California Towhees are sometimes called “car birds” since they like to run and hide under parked cars. We have actually witnessed this behavior several times and think it is quite funny. They also will sit on car mirrors and “fight” their own image. We have not seen that behavior but it wouldn’t surprise us.

Here is a link for reference on the CA Towhee.

Our Fabulous Five Ordinary Things
That wraps up our fabulous five ordinary things that we looked more closely at from our yard. This was a great exercise and we will be certain to do it again.

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Desert Walking Again….Just a Glimpse

I can always tell when I am ready for a road trip. It is a very good thing that we live in a place in the world that with some driving we can totally change our environment. From snow to the desert sunshine…I feel so much better.

The desert is getting really close to bursting out in blossoms. This is a cholla cactus putting out its buds.

Here is what the cactus looks like as we hike along in the desert.

I added this photo for those that know how much my husband is into alternative energy. He was amazed at the wind turbines out here in the desert.

A little rock climbing went on. Well, maybe A LOT of rock climbing. How about this natural arch?

Here is one critter that we saw while we were out hiking in the desert…he sat still for a very long time while I took a few photos. If you click on the photo you should be able to see his blue spots.

My husband spotted the desert cottontails in this area of the trail. Very, very cute little mammals to observe!

One last photo….here is the star of our desert hike. The Joshua tree is a unique plant that we are just now starting to get to know.

Winter will soon change to spring. Sigh.

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More Reptiles to Identify: Arizona Style

I am still struggling with my disgust of reptiles. Lizards are becoming a bit more palatable but as far as snakes go, I’m still struggling.

Good thing for me that we saw mostly lizards on our trip to Arizona.

On pages 210 to 213 of the Handbook of Nature Study there are many lizards and their descriptions listed. I think on page 213 that number 7 looks surprisingly like the lizards we saw in the photo below.

I did recognize this reptile but only was able to capture his hind end as he scurried under a rock. He was definitely some kind of iguana.

These two photos were taken while we were at the Arizona Sonoran Desert Museum. They had an enclosure where they used to have a bear but the bear has since been retired to a more comfortable place on the grounds. The enclosure did have these interesting, if not rather large, reptiles inhabiting it.

Climbing up the rocks

This guy was also at the museum and was making his way across the riparian habitat.

Now for something pretty to look at. I can only take reptiles for so long and then I need something colorful and beautiful to enjoy.

Close up of the spines

Are you proud of me? We are still working on identifying the reptiles for their nature journals but we are learning a lot along the way.