Thursday, September 20, 2012

Nature Study

"Never be indoors when you can rightly be without." ~ Charlotte Mason

Nature study is one of the most exciting aspects of a CM education for me. I adore being outdoors. I adore my children being outdoors. We love to watch bugs, catch frogs, and observe the changes of all the plants and trees around our house. Nature study is only hard for me when I try to narrow it down to a specific area to focus on.

Being only observant, I have not taken the time to know the plants, birds, and insects that I see around me. Just this summer, I spent more time becoming familiar with the birds in our neighborhood. I actually enjoyed sitting out with a mockingbird that perched on the corner of our house each morning. It is true, when you know more about the “thing” you are observing, once it has a name and you know it’s habits, you feel like you know it and are acquainted with it.

I have always been very attentive to nature and I believe our children have naturally picked up on this. Nature “study” does add some aspects to what we have always done while just enjoying the outdoors. Nature journaling and sketching what we see is very new to us. While sketching can be very intimidating, I have managed to make a best effort and found it really isn’t that terrible. My favorite part of nature journaling is the idea that one day after the habit has been formed that we will have these personal recordings of what we see with scripture or poems attached to supplement the relationships we are making with nature.

What will nature study look like in these early years in our home?

After doing some sketching on loose-leaf copy paper, I invested in some sketchbooks for Lily and myself. In our sketchbooks, we simply use Crayola colored pencils and a regular lead pencil to record what we see, feel, hear, and smell. (The idea is that as the children get older they can explore with more artistic ways to record their observations, such as with watercolors. Since we are both only beginning, I was not ready to invest in this pursuit at this time.)

We have recently begun participating in the Outdoor Hour Challenge. This month we are observing insects. The blog that hosts this challenge is also aiding me in learning to use The Handbook of Nature Study by Anna Bradford Comstock. I’ve created a Nature Study binder to go along with our sketchbooks.

Our binder includes:

  1. The Outdoor Hour Challenge: The Getting Started E-book
  2. Seasonal scavenger hunt lists from Hearts and Trees
  3. A copy of the Monthly Outdoor Challenge Grid (another copy is on our fridge)
  4. Sketches we have completed in sheet protectors.
One of my main objectives right now is to not get in the way of the children experiencing nature for their selves. I don’t want to talk to them too much or lecture them about what I’m learning but merely give the information they are looking for right now. They are so very young; I believe this is the time for them to just establish the habits of observation and appreciation. I have a strong desire to learn all I can and must monitor how much information I let them have right now.

Now, hopefully next time I have a Nature Study post it will be more specific about the wonderful things we are exploring!

1 comment:

  1. Love this post, Michelle. And I do want to emphasize the importance of beginning nature study early to develop the habit as you said. Marcus (9) LOVES nature and notices everything. We live on a farm and he's seen chicks hatch, calves be born, butchered chickens. His 8yo brother was adopted from Shanghai and didn't come here til he was 6. He has no interest in nature and I really believe it is because he was never around it. Because we live on a farm he's around nature all the time as a default, so I'm hoping some of it will rub off. :)