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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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Getting Started with Nature Journaling in Your Homeschool

Are you new to nature study, the Charlotte Mason philosophy and getting started with nature journaling in your homeschool?

Getting Started with Nature Journaling in your homeschool.

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. If you click through and make a purchase I will receive a small commission at no cost to you. Please see our disclosure policy.

How to Get Started With Nature Journaling

Every student of Charlotte Mason’s was encouraged to keep a nature notebook or nature diary. I had the privilege of visiting the Armitt Museum in Ambleside a few years ago and having a look at some of Charlotte’s student’s nature journals.

Have a look through some of Charlotte Mason’s Students Nature Journals

If you would like to have a look yourself you can have a look at the Charlotte Mason Digital Archives HERE and HERE.

Students nature journals were inscribed with poetry, observations and seasonal notes. The paintings are of course beautiful and I think this is where we can get a little tough on ourselves and not want to produce anything that looks less than perfect.

The Importance of Keeping a Nature Journal

At the beginning of our homeschooling journey in keeping with Charlotte’s way, I began keeping a nature journal myself and led my children to do the same. Bit by bit over the years we have each created treasured keepsakes and we can see the progress we have made from our rudimentary first entries. We have also grown in our knowledge and understanding by observing nature in our Outdoor Hour Challenges.

The field notebook is a veritable gold mine for the nature-study teacher to work in securing voluntary and happy observations from the pupils concerning their out-of-door interests. It is a friendly gate which admits the teacher to a knowledge of what the child sees and cares for.

Anna Botsford Comstock ~ The Handbook of Nature Study

Many people don’t know much about nature and the years’ natural rhythms because they don’t observe it. If we give our children regular time outside to get in touch with God’s creation we are gifting them with a habit that will be a source of much delight all through their lives.

Getting Started with Nature Journaling image of nature journal

What Do I Need To Start a Nature Journal?

Any kind of blank book will do for this, except that it should not be too large to be carried around in the pocket, and it should always have a pencil attached.

Anna Botsford Comstock ~ The Handbook of Nature Study

Anna gives sound advice on what is needed, a small blank book that is easily taken with you on your nature adventures. You do not want anything cumbersome for children are adventurous creatures and should have every freedom to explore the great outdoors.

A graphite drawing of what is observed is easily done and is in Anna’s opinion far better than a long description of a natural object.

My Nature Journal Recommendations

My personal recommendations are the Speedball Art Journals. The paper is thick enough to take watercolor and the size makes it easily transportable. I currently have the square journal but I’m keen to try out the 5.5X8.25 next.

If you have a reluctant journaler consider just providing blank paper which can be easily replaced if their drawings don’t go to plan. Some children (and adults) can find it very intimidating to commit to putting pencil to paper in a new journal.

A Word on Watercolors

I bought each of my children a small set of watercolor paints at the beginning of our homeschooling and they lasted years! Don’t be tempted to buy something that has too many colour options, it’s amazing what colors you can achieve through mixing.

Do make sure that you have invested in good watercolors as the cheap and cheerful ones just do not do your work any justice and in keeping a nature journal you are creating something that will be treasured for many years to come. This particular set of watercolors costs around £11.00 – so about $14.61.

Anna Botsford Comstock’s Advice On Nature Journaling

Remember that a nature journal or field notebook is to be a joy to the child. In The Handbook of Nature Study, Anna lays out a few rules to be observed to make nature journaling a success:

  • The book should be considered the personal property of the child and should never be criticized except as a matter of encouragement; for the spirit in which the notes are made is more important than the information they cover.
  • The making of drawings to illustrate what is observed shall be encouraged.
  • The notebook should not be regarded as a part of the work in English. The spelling, language, and writing of the notes should all be exempt from criticism.

Anna also believed that no child should be compelled to keep a notebook and although I agree, I believe that we can encourage our reluctant journaler in other ways. Perhaps instead of drawing what they observe they can take photographs which may be printed out and pasted into their journal. I think that it is natural for a child that feels their drawing is ‘not good enough’ to want to shy away from drawing what they observe.

Book Recommendation

Have you read Karen Andreola’s book “A Pocketful of Pinecones?”

If not I would highly recommend that you do. Karen is the author of the Charlotte Mason Companion, another book to add to your booklist. A Pocketful of Pinecones is a story written especially for homeschool moms who are feeling discouraged in their homeschooling as well as a lovely guide to nature study.

It is written as a diary of a homeschooling mom who is in her first year of homeschooling using Charlotte Mason’s gentle art of homeschooling. There are some beautiful chapters on what nature study looks like on a practical level in her homeschool and which gave me the confidence to implement the same into my own homeschool. You don’t have to be an expert instead you can learn alongside your precious children and learn together, creating a treasure trove of precious memories spent in God’s glorious creation at the same time!

This book is honey for the homeschool mothers heart and I would encourage you to get a copy. I have found that I read this book each year, I never tire of it and always feel encouraged and inspired to lead my children in their adventures in discovering and forming connections with nature.

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