Nature study is something that I always feel a bit guilty that I’m not doing more of in our homeschool. I have good intentions and have tried various formal methods. I love the ideas and resources at Barb’s blog. I’ve considered using them in the past and am considering again for the fall. But somehow I always fail at the formal methods.
What has worked for us is to return again and again to a place that we all love. For us, this is a wetlands park near here. There is a wooded area with multiple trails, a wetlands preserve crisscrossed by a boardwalk, and some rare (for this area) meadows. We go through periods where we go frequently and when we go less often, but we know it well enough that we’re able to easily see seasonal changes.
True, the kids mostly enjoy climbing on the trees and running wild and just being outside. But that’s part of nature study too. If nothing else, they learn that being outside is fun. But the reality is they learn more than that. They learn to be observant. As they are climbing they find lizards and spiders. They hear the birds, they see the lichens. They watch the butterflies in the meadow of milkweed. They spot the snapping turtle and see what’s new at the beaver lodge. They identify the heron (that I couldn’t identify).
I’ve also tried using nature journals and having the boys sketch. I’ve failed at this also. I forget the journals. John doesn’t particularly enjoy drawing and I haven’t pressed it. This is also something I’ve finally just decided isn’t us, at least right now. Maybe one day we’ll all be out there happily sketching away. What I have realized is that the camera can serve some of the same purpose for us. None of us (except H.) are particularly good photographers or really know what we are doing with a camera. But both boys enjoy it. John took the photo above along with an exceptionally blurry photo of a blue and green lizard. The act of taking both photos made him stop and look.
Now if you’re someone who doesn’t do nature study either and you read this thinking it sounds idyllic you should know that they did all that while running up and down the paths screaming and scaring away more wildlife than they saw. They did it in between asking for snacks and sword fighting with sticks and yes, climbing on the trees. It’s not what I envision nature study as being when I read other homeschooling blogs. But it’s fun. And it works for us.