An environment-based education movement–at all levels of education–will help students realize that school isn’t supposed to be a polite form of incarceration, but a portal to the wider world ― Richard Louv,
There are no ‘rules’ when it comes to nature study so you can relax now mama! Charlotte Mason painted a picture through her philosophy, of freedom to learn, education for the heart, mind and soul as well as a wonderful foundation for a whole measure of academic connections that come from ‘merely’ being outside, observing and paying attention.
If you haven’t seen it yet, go check out my Periscope broadcasts on nature study, you can watch the replays on Katch.me/leahvboden.
Although Miss Mason especially advised mothers with young children to be outside 4 -5 hours a day (I know…when does the laundry get done right?!), we have to bring her philosophy (a guiding principle) into our 21st century lives and learning. I like to frame the facilitation of nature study in our home around these three guidelines:
- Be convinced that being outdoors is vital to their education and character.
- Create a daily rhythm which includes it
- Instruct, let them BE in nature, then reflect when you get home…not too much talking!
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 – Charlotte Mason
Ten Top Tips
- Put down the nature study books and just get outside!
- Start with your garden or backyard – can your children name the trees and flowers, bird and insects that appear in your space everyday?
- Be prepared – nothing worse than being 5 minutes into your walk when your 5-year-old starts complaining of cold feet and being hungry! Wear wool socks, wellies, bring a backpack with snacks, bring little bags so your children can collect ‘treasures’.
- Take LOTS of photos – you can reflect when you get home
- As you’re reflecting on your walk make a list of sensory experiences; ask your children (and write down) what they saw, heard, smelt, tasted (!) and felt.
- DON’T SWEAT THE SKETCH! For some children It takes time to develop a passion and skills to draw ‘what they saw’ – don’t cry over their wrong use of paints or their incessant desire to paint trees blue! Check out my friend Lynn’s post on nature journaling if you want to take steps towards bettering what you do…but take your time!
- You have my full permission to use tracing paper! Taking steps towards drawing from nature requires confidence and enjoyment. If you have children who breakdown over the thought of sketching, give them a beautiful nature book, a pencil and some tracing paper and let them go to town…and watch the smile appear back on their face (and yours)! I encourage my children to free-draw one of their traced pictures at the end of the week to help move them forward, go on – give it a go!
- Create a nature table, cupboard, tray or small space in your home or homeschool space to display the treasures from nature that your children bring home – remember, you’re creating an atmosphere!
- Be intentional. We walk our dog everyday and take a family walk on a Saturday afternoon, but once a week I take my children on an ‘intentional’ nature walk where I give instruction, then let them be in nature, then we reflect when we get home.
- Don’t be a slave to the nature study resources or books; make them work for you, your family and your part of the world. Have an array of choices which you can dip in and out of when you spot birds in your garden, trees on your walk or insects crawling along the wall in your yard!
Let them once get in touch with nature and a habit is formed which will be a source of delight and habit through life – Charlotte Mason