It seems many Moms find this idea of implementing Nature Study a daunting task. When the topic is discussed by Charlotte Mason Homeschoolers, I've noticed the conversation can easily go to guilt (for not doing enough Nature Study) and confusion (wondering how on earth to DO Nature Study). This makes me so incredibly sad because Nature Study is one of the most beautiful, natural, and down-to-earth parts of the Charlotte Mason Education.
Implementing Nature Study into your home can be incredibly simple. Sure, you can use elaborate programs, unit studies, nature journals, field guides, etc... but you definitely don't have to do any of these. You can reap many of the wonderful benefits of Nature Study by embracing a love of nature with your children in a way that is natural, easy, and burden-free.
Two Very Simple Steps to Make Nature Study a beautiful part of any day:
1. Live slowly - take time to get outside and notice the simple beauties of God's creation.
One of the reasons Nature Study is so important to me is because it points my heart and the hearts of my children towards our Awesome Creator. The Word says God has shown Himself to us through His creation... and how can we deny it?! His majestic fingerprints are on every living thing and His presence seems to be amplified in nature.
When I started a gratitude journal (about 4 years ago), my life was revolutionized. I started to really see beauty. And I started seeing things I'd never taken the time to notice before. That little lady bug crawling along the shelf in front of the sink. The Mourning Doves bobbing around the back deck. The sparkle of the sun when it hits the dew on just the perfect angle. I started looking for more and more beauty until I would be in complete awe of God's creation and my "Nature Study" would become an act of worship!
"All this beauty! That Sumac, that Black-Eye Junco, that tiny little insect - oh Lord, you created them all! I want to see, I want to notice your handiwork!"
Yes, I've really learned the beginning of sharing Nature Study with our children is embracing it ourselves.
2. Intentionally share the beauty you are seeing with your children.
So, if we are in genuine awe of God's creation, that awe and passion will spill over in our normal everyday life. We will be noticing interesting and unusual things in nature and our natural interest will rub off on our children. I'm sure you've noticed, children are very apt to reflect our tones and attitudes. If we are excited about something, that excitement will often be mirrored. (At least most of the time!)
Trust me when I say, your kids will pick up on our enthusiasm for nature if we are genuinely interested ourselves. Even if you don't think they are picking it up - you'll see the fruit soon enough.
When I get excited about Nature Study, the kids do as well.
I started when they were very young - I had very little real knowledge of Nature Study or nature in general! I just truly loved being in nature and tried hard to point out the interesting things I saw. The squirrel! The chipmunk - look at him, he's collecting nuts for the Winter, see him run to his home? Or I would just pick up a beautiful leaf or flower and show it to the children close-up, marvelling at the beauty together. We read some great books about nature, mostly picture books. And that's all we did for about 5 years. We went outside, we noticed beautiful and interesting things together, we read books.
And boy, did that time instil a love of nature in our children... it works!
Nature Study doesn't have to be complicated.An easy way to make Nature Study a part of everyday is to just live wide-eyed with your children. Take time as often as possible (every day if you can!) to get outside. There is no need for an amazing natural sanctuary or forest by your house to enjoy nature. The backyard or a local park will work just fine!
Take time to walk, to breathe deep. Point interesting or beautiful things out to your children. If you want to, you can try to learn together about those things that truly grab your attention; talk about them, observe them, enjoy them!
If you really want to delve further, grab a good book and read about whatever has peaked your interest. It's as simple as that. THAT is Nature Study.
Of course, you can take it further into journaling and more research and hands on activities, but you don't have to! This should not be burdensome. I think true, fulfilling Nature Study brings us closer to God, closer to each other, and fills our hearts and minds with peace and joy.
Don't worry about doing too much - just gaze out the window and point out a new bird at the feeder, or go for a simple nature walk. (Or take a trip to the local Apple Farm, like below!)
Keep it simple and you will be rewarded with days of light-hearted learning and a fresh awareness of the truly breath-taking world we live in!
In Charlotte Mason's words-
“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..."
"Do children keep tadpoles, and silkworms, and caterpillars in these days? Very few have given us the results of their own observations. We have many capital descriptions from books, and that is better than nothing, but the very essence of natural history is that it should, so far as possible, be drawn direct from Nature."