Although I have a deep-seated belief that Nature Study should be part of all homeschooling as we explore the Charlotte Mason Method in our homeschooling styles we are going to dive into how it is approached with this method. Immerse your children in the beauty of the outdoors and awaken their curiosity about the natural world. I’m going to share some simple tips on how to incorporate Nature Study into your homeschooling routine on a weekly basis, along with essential materials to enhance the experience.
Charlotte Mason and Nature Study
Why Nature Study? Nature Study is an integral part of the Charlotte Mason Method. It encourages children to develop a deep appreciation and understanding of the natural environment. It provides numerous benefits, such as fostering observation skills, nurturing a love for nature, instilling a sense of wonder, and connecting children to the larger world around them.
Mason had serval key principles and practices that formed part of her nature study element.
Mason emphasized the value of firsthand observation of nature. Children should engage their senses and carefully observe plants, animals, weather patterns, and natural phenomena.
Regular Nature Walks
Mason advocated for frequent nature walks as a way to engage children with the outdoor environment. These walks provide opportunities for exploration, discovery, and observation. Whether in a nearby park, garden, or wilderness area, nature walks allow children to encounter various aspects of the natural world and develop a sense of familiarity with their local ecosystems.
The Charlotte Mason method encourages children to keep nature notebooks to document their observations, sketches, and reflections. These notebooks serve as personal journals for your child to record their experiences, impressions, and thoughts about the natural world. Nature notebooks foster a sense of ownership and allow children to build a personal record of their nature study journey.
What’s more, they become citizen scientists in botany and zoology. Throughout history, nature notebooks have been kept and are so important to see the changes that are happening to our planet. Even with just a few years, you can see patterns and disruption to them due to climate change.
The nature study in the Charlotte Mason Method should be seasonal. By observing the unique characteristics and phenomena of each season, your children can deepen their understanding of the cyclical patterns of nature. They will develop an appreciation of the beauty and interconnectedness of the natural world as they witnessed the changes occurring throughout the year. Check out the ideas we have shared for simple nature study in July with Kids.
Living books and narratives are one of the core concepts of the Charlotte Mason method in home education, it’s one that I fully embraced within our curriculum. They make a great resource for nature study.
Find out more about Living Books and why we considered them important in our own home education journey.
If you look at our book collection near the nature table we have set up at home you’ll find an extensive collection of field guides for our part of the world to accompany the kids nature journals. They provide valuable information about the local species and aid in identification.
Over the last few years, we’ve also included the use of the Seek App from iNaturalist taking it out with us on our cell phones to help us on the move and make a photographic recording of what we see.
Conversations and Narration
As with all areas of the Charlotte Mason Method discussion, conversations and narration are so important. Encourage your children to discuss their observations, ask questions and share their thoughts and insights with everyone.
How You Can Include Nature Study in Your Home Education Routines
After reading the principles of Nature Study in the Charlotte Mason Method I’m sure you have some ideas of how you could include elements in your home education journey here’s a few of the ways that we have over the years.
Choose a Nature Spot
Designate a local park, garden, or natural area as your regular nature study spot. Ideally, select a place that offers a variety of plant life, animals, and natural elements to explore. We visited a local nature reserve with the Wildlife Trust once a month to observe the seasonal changes in that wide area.
Set a Weekly Nature Study Time
Dedicate a specific time each week for your nature study session. Consistency is key to forming a habit and allowing your children to connect with nature on a deeper level. Once a week we would have a morning session that was dedicated to nature study. It may have coincided with our nature spot visit, but it may have been a visit to an owl sanctuary, a walk across the farm lands or head to the beach to do some oceanography.
Observe and Document
Encourage your children to carefully observe and document their findings. Provide them with nature journals and/or notebooks to record their observations, sketches, and thoughts. They can document details about plants, insects, animal behaviour, weather patterns, or any other aspect that piques their interest.
Allow your children to explore the natural environment freely. Let them touch leaves, examine rocks, follow animal tracks, or simply take in the beauty around them. Encourage curiosity and provide guidance as needed. Know your own environment, and what to watch out for.
Discuss and Research
Engage in meaningful conversations about the observations made during the nature study session. Encourage questions and guide your children to conduct further research. Utilize books, online resources, and field guides to expand their knowledge and understanding.
I highly recommend doing a phenology wheel with your children, yes you as well. We have loved this tradition month by month keeping track of the seasonal changes
Essential Materials for Nature Study
If we’ve piqued your interest and want to get started don’t worry it’s not going to cost you an arm and a leg. Many of these you can pick up in the thrift store or charity shops but here are the essential items that you will need for incorporating Charlotte Mason style Nature Study into your homeschool.
Provide your children with a dedicated nature journal or notebook to record their observations, sketches, and reflections. I like using a watercolour paper sketchbook personally as I take some sketch pencils and a palette of watercolours with me in a small bag when we go. Watercolour pencils are also a great alternative.
Invest in age-appropriate field guides that focus on local flora, fauna, insects, or birds. These guides will assist in identifying and learning about the various species encountered during nature study. I have a set that I take which my teens now use as well, but we have spotter guides for them with stickers and things when they were little.
Magnifying Glass and Binoculars
These tools enhance the observation experience, allowing children to examine intricate details of plants, insects, or birds from a closer perspective. Although it can be tempting to purchase play binoculars I highly recommend that you don’t as they really don’t help with magnification. Instead you can get small normal binoculars that actually work meaning everyone will be able to see.
Camera or Smartphone
Encourage your children to capture photographs of interesting findings during nature study sessions. This can serve as a visual record and spark further discussions. Don’t forget to print out the images afterwards these can be added to the nature journal or form a nature journal in themselves. When I lived in Costa Rica I took photos of everything (on 35mm film, it cost me a fortune to process when I got home), those pictures I spent hours using to identify all of the wonderful creatures that I saw over there.
Nature Collection Supplies
Our Nature Table provides a way to observe nature everyday at home and for that we need to have some nature collection to add to it. So I always carry small bags or containers to collect natural specimens such as leaves, flowers, rocks, or feathers. Remind them of ethical collecting practices, such as not disturbing live creatures or endangered species.
Once home flowers and leaves can be pressed and then added to the nature journals as well as displayed on the table.
By incorporating Nature Study into your homeschooling routine, you nurture a love for the natural world and foster a sense of wonder in your children. Through regular observation, documentation, and exploration, they will develop a deeper understanding and appreciation for the beauty and intricacies of nature.