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Taking Your Homeschool Winter Nature Study Indoors

Taking your winter nature studies indoors when the weather outdoors is proving to be a challenge may be just the thing you need every once in a while. We have a lovely post from the archives to inspire your homeschool nature studies indoors for those days that you can’t face getting outdoors.

Taking Your Winter Nature Studies Indoors

I knew as I posted the challenges each of the last few weeks that there were families who were buried under snow already and those that have really cold temperatures to deal with. I received a personal email from several of you letting me know that you are suspending your Outdoor Hour Challenge (OHC) participation until spring and it made me a little sad. I have been thinking hard about how to help you to keep up a system of nature study while you are living a more indoor centered life until the temperatures warm up.

Taking your winter nature study indoors

Believe it or not, although my photos are not showing it, we are experiencing cold temperatures here in Northern California. I know that in perspective that they are not as cold as some parts of the world right now but still we have had ice and frost every morning this week and yesterday on our afternoon hike it was 37 degrees. My nose and ears were cold because I took off down the trail without my knit hat. We occasionally will get snow that lasts a few days which is just enough to make it fun and not a chore. I share all this so you don’t think of me as sitting outside in my shorts in the sun under a palm tree just because I live in California.

What can you do to bring a little nature study time to a cold winter’s day?

Long lists of nature study ideas always seem to overwhelm me so I thought I would share just a few really *great* ideas that could get you started in taking your winter nature studies indoors.

  • Hang a bird feeder outside a window where you can sit inside and look out at your daily feathered visitors. A simple seed or suet feeder outside your window will bring years of enjoyment as you get to know and learn about your local birds.
  • Keep a window sill garden. One of our OHC families wrote about their window sill garden, its a great and inexpensive way to enjoy nature.
Taking Your Winter Nature Studies Indoors Keeping a Window Sill Garden

Here is her photo of their window area. Doesn’t it look inviting and make you really want to take a minute to not only look out the window but also take a peek at the plants? They would make great subjects for a nature journal as well. Thanks to Mama Stories for letting me use her photo.

  • Grow a Tabletop Garden. Last year a lot of families tried an indoor gardening project and had great success. It is something easy and inexpensive and so interesting to grow. I was thinking that it was about time to plant another dish garden using root vegetables.Here are the instructions and photos at Hearts and Trees – Tabletop Garden Instructions and Notebook page

This is a really easy project even for little ones to manage. The results are fantastic and will brighten up a winter day for sure. Here is what the tabletop garden looks like after it starts growing. Update #2

This was our tabletop garden last year and it always cheered me up to take a minute to view its progress. We had great results even in this not so very bright window, in a room where we don’t keep the temperature very warm. Things to learn about: roots, leaves, and then eventually flowers. Grow the garden and keep up the notebook pages and you will bring a little nature study into your winter.

  • Another activity that we do around here is to play nature journal catch-up when the weather is too cold or wet to go outside. Items that we have on our nature shelf can be brought to the table and sketched or painted into the nature journal on a long winter’s afternoon. Many times this activity will spark a memory or a question that we had that we never took the time to research before. This is a perfect time to dig a little deeper into subjects that interest your child. A stop at the library the next time you are out running errands can provide the opportunity to look for books on the birds, trees, and wildflowers of summer.
  • Plan next summer’s garden. Okay, I admit it. I love gardening catalogues. One favorite winter nature-related activity that we do in our home is plan next summer’s garden. Browsing and dreaming over the seed and garden catalogs warms your heart in a way that brings optimism and hope during a bitterly cold day. The promise of a garden full of green things can help pass the time as you stare at the starkness of a winter’s scene out your window. Sketch the garden out on paper with colored pencils. Ask your children to participate. Designate one catalog as the cutting catalog and let the children cut the photos of flowers and veggies out and glue them to paper.

My favorites: Burpee, Park Seed, and Pinetree Garden Seeds.

I have in mind a whole new idea for a summer’s garden. It was sparked by this family’s idea and blog entry at Understanding Charlotte. Make sure to pop over to her blog and view her photos of how they brought nature study up close during the summer. This is such a great way to attract nature right up to your window. This idea could be started next spring and kept going for next winter as well. Many times if we just leave plants in the ground over the winter, creatures find a way to use them. I still have sunflowers…very dead sunflowers….in my garden but they provide food and shelter for visiting birds. I think this is such a great concept for families that have limited space or need to contain their garden in pots on a patio. You can use your imagination and plan your own window accessible garden for next spring and summer and winter.

  • Last but not least, don’t minimize the power of a quick walk outdoors if the weather cooperates. Seize a few moments each week to step outdoors even if you are bundled up and initially not excited about the thought of getting cold on purpose.

One of my favorite moments in the winter are those few minutes after the snow stops and everything is covered in whiteness. The stillness and quiet of that moment are priceless in our modern world. It is as if everything has stood still and you can capture the clean white slate that snow gives…even in the city or in a neighborhood.

The time before all the kids head out to play and enjoy the winter games of childhood is one of the gifts of winter. As an adult don’t forget the delight you had as a child when it snowed. Muster up some enthusiasm and view the winter weather from your child’s point of view. It can seem like a miracle to them.

“There is enough to see outside in winter to satisfy any poet. In fact, winter may be even better because there aren’t so many things going on in nature that they crowd each other out. It’s easier to notice what’s there.”
Charlotte Mason volume 1, page 86

If you are buried under a blanket of snow which makes getting outdoors a challenge, then consider taking your winter nature studies indoors.

Join the Homeschool Nature Study Membership For Helpful Tips Year Round

We have an exciting winter nature study program planned for the balance of our winter Outdoor Hour Challenges during January and February full of more simple ideas to spark your family’s love for nature at this very challenging time of the year. Plenty of ideas for taking your winter nature studies indoors!

These plans are available right now for our members along with a nature study calendar full of links to explore. Both these are exclusive to our membership so if you are not yet a member please do consider joining our Outdoor Hour Challenge membership…we would love to have you become part of the family.

An image showing the full collection of Nature Study courses

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Winter Nature Study Resources

Here are some of our favorite resources for winter nature study!

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Outdoor Hour Challenge: Table Top Garden

Outdoor Hour Challenge:
A fun way to learn about plant parts is to grow a table top garden with a few root vegetables. This week I challenge you to make a table top garden with your children. Keep it simple and start with one veggie and see the way it grows roots and stem and leaves. This is an easy project for any age. 

Instructions on Hearts and Trees: Indoor Nature Study Idea: Table Top Garden 
These instructions include a free downloadable notebooking page to go along with your table top garden.

Add your table top garden to your nature table as an on-going nature study experience.

Activity Suggestion: Create a Garden Flowers Nature Table
Free Printable Nature Table- Garden Flowers

Getting Started Suggestion:
If you already own the Getting Started ebook, complete Outdoor Hour Challenge #3. Use this challenge to help you draw your table top garden as you make your observations. Use the notebooking page in the ebook or the free one noted in the challenge above. 

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Forcing Spring Buds – Leaves and Blooms Update

Forsythia blossom (1)

Have you tried forcing twigs to blossom? It is the perfect easy late winter nature study project for any family.

This is an activity that we enjoy every year.  In February, we cut and bring in forsythia twigs to force the buds to bloom indoors. This year we added some additional twigs and buds to our collection and they are starting to unfold. The project is so easy and it is not too late to try your hand at some twigs from your yard.

Birch leaf

This birch leaf is from our Twig Study earlier this winter. It has little spring green leaves opening…love the texture and the shape.

Buckeye leaf and bud (2)
We also collected twigs from one of our hiking trails and even though they all looked a little different at the beginning, we realized now that they are opening that they are all from buckeye trees.

Buckeye leaf and bud (1)
It is such a simple project with some fascinating results. We cut the twig, placed it in a jar of water, and then set it in the window sill. After that, you just need to be patient.

We have had such amazing results that we are going to cut some more twigs today. I think the plum tree would be a great candidate for this project. I will post our results when we see some blossoms. 🙂

Tabletop Carrot

So did you start a tabletop garden of your own? We have been watching our carrot first grow roots and now it is putting lots of energy into making leaves. This is another simple and fun project that your family can try at any time.