Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Blogging Through the Alphabet: N is for Nature Study

Nature study is something we have always done in our family, but it is not something we have made a regular part of our homeschool week. That is something I am making an effort to change.

What is nature study? One definition is "the practical study of plants, animals, and natural phenomena, especially as a school subject." I would agree with this meaning one hundred percent.

We are outdoor people! We love to be outside. Everyday we go outside and play, explore and learn. I don't always make nature study a "school subject", as that would take the fun out of outdoor exploration. I do, however, seize opportunities to explain things or ask my children questions. "Why is the bee moving from flower to flower?" or "Why do leaves fall off of trees?" are examples of questions I have asked. More often than not, they surprise me with their answers! They have picked up more information than I realize, and their observations are often accurate.

When we are outside, we take the time to notice the different birds singing, the butterfly fluttering through the yard, the ants marching in a straight line, the way the flowers are blooming. We love to watch the clouds move and try to make pictures out of them. We watch the squirrels running and jumping from tree to tree, the birds hopping around looking for bugs, our cats prowling and pouncing in the yard. We examine the budding leaves and flowers in spring, the dry, crispy, fallen leaves in autumn, and the evergreen trees in winter. I try to point out anything I notice, and my children follow suit.

 Sometimes, however, I do make nature study more formal. We made nature bracelets one day, and the kids really loved that! I wrapped packing tape around their wrist, sticky-side up. We walked around, picking up leaves and flowers, feathers and pebbles, and the children stuck their treasures to their "bracelets".

We make bird feeders out of different materials: pinecones and peanut butter rolled in bird seed, painted tin cans, or store-bought wooden ones the kids paint. They love to feed the birds and watch the birds as they eat!

We have had scavenger hunts with items found in nature: find a yellow flower, black bug, bumble bee, piece of bark. There are many free printable scavenger hunts for nature walks.

We will sit and listen to the birds, trying to distinguish which birds are singing which songs. We have several bird guides that we use to identify the birds in our yard.

We have lots of books on trees, plants, animals, insects, and weather. I bought the children each a sketchbook, and we are reading through these books one at a time each day, and drawing diagrams, labeling the parts of plants, and writing information in our sketchbooks. We are doing this in lieu of a formal science program right now.

Nature study can be experienced in a number of ways, and no way is right or wrong. Do what is right for your children, their ages, and their skills. Even something as simple as a leaf or bark rubbing can be nature study. You could have your child draw the parts of a leaf, the parts of a tree, or the parts of an insect. You could go outside and count the bugs you see in the grass. You could examine the parts of a flower or observe one tree every day for a year. The possibilities are really endless.

I hope I have given you some ideas for implementing nature study in your homeschool.

Linking up with Meg and Cristi and Blogging Through the Alphabet!


  1. We are trying to stay on top of a weekly nature study, but it has been hard with all of the intense weather lately. Our nature study came to us this week by way of a tree falling into our yard.
    Blessings, Dawn

    1. Yes, the cold weather puts a damper on outdoor time!

  2. That's awesome! I didn't really learn to appreciate nature until I was an adult and realized I love outdoor adventures. Now I am constantly observing and appreciating the beauty of Creation!

    1. I am also always noticing the beauty and complexity of Creation!