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Nature Study

curious little kid in warm coat holding stones in hand on shore

What is Nature Study? 

It is infinitely well worth the mother’s while to take some pains every day to secure, in the first place, that her children spend hours daily amongst rural and natural objects; and, in the second place, to infuse into them, or rather, to cherish in them, the love of investigation.

We are all meant to be naturalists, each in his own degree, and it is inexcusable to live in a world so full of the marvels of plant and animal life and to care for none of these things.

As soon as he is able to keep it himself, a nature-diary is a source of delight to a child.

Charlotte Mason

Ms. Mason emphasizes the value of nature study in home education, beginning with the earliest learners. Nature study gives a strong science foundation, feeds childhood wonder and develops lifelong habits. Unhurried time outdoors is a gift for your children. Charlotte Mason suggests you should “never be within doors when you can rightly be without”. 

The study of nature includes nature walks, keeping a nature journal, reading nature lore, and hands-on object lessons. 

Nature Walk

Children should play outdoors daily, in all types of weather. It is good for them physically, spiritually, and emotionally. 

A nature walk is a time of intentional observation. Taking a nature walk is different than simply playing outside. Charlotte Mason recommends that your student take a nature walk one afternoon each week, with you. 🙂 The focus of the nature walk should be observing nature in an unhurried manner, including plants, animals, rocks, trees, bugs, weather patterns, etc. Some suggestions to enhance a nature walk include: 

  1. Dissecting a flower or a seed pod.
  2. Studying insects (release them when finished).
  3. Observing patterns of ants or small insects in their natural habitat.
  4. Using binoculars to observe animals.
  5. Climbing a tree. 

Nature Journal 

A nature journal is a place to record observations from a nature walk or an object lesson. Nature journal entries should include the date and location of the observation and a brush-drawing illustration of the observation.

Older students can include characteristics and species identification. Adding embellishments of poetry, quotes, and scripture make each journal unique.

Brush-drawing is a technique using a detailed paintbrush and watercolors. Your student should lightly tap their wet paintbrush on a paper towel after wetting the paintbrush with paint. Then they can “brush-draw” their observations into their journal. To start a nature journal, your student will need a nature journal and a travel watercolor set.

Nature Lore

Nature lore is literature written by a naturalist and is designed to pique interest in the outdoors. Quality nature lore is often vintage and best read at a slow pace. Charlotte Mason recommends one 10 minute nature lore lesson per week, reading only 4-5 pages per lesson.  Some beloved classics include:  

Object Lesson

An object lesson is carefully observing, listening, touching and smelling an object from nature. Object lessons can include observing plants, insects, leaves, bird’s nests, etc.
 
The result of regular object lessons include heightened observation in personal nature study, training of the senses and an increased interest in nature journaling.
 
Consider raising monarch caterpillars in your home, caring for them and watching them grow. When the caterpillars transform into a beautiful chrysalis, with accents of gold, you wait in expectation for new life to emerge. Watching them emerge and take their first flight is a powerful teacher.  

A valuable resource to guide object lessons at home is The Handbook of Nature, by Anna Botsford Comstock. 

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