Like many homeschool families inspired by Charlotte Mason, nature study is a major component of our curriculum. As I have a degree in science and was previously an elementary science specialist, I am very comfortable in the outdoors and can answer most questions my kids will pose to me. “What does a slug eat? Why is the sky blue? How is a rainbow made?” are just a few examples of inquiries my kiddos have initiated.
While I allow their interests to lead us, I try to incorporate a nature lesson each week. This begins with spending quality time outdoors – going for hikes or nature walks, playing in the creek near the lake, building imaginary worlds in the backyard, and even climbing trees.
We have been seeing a lot of ferns this spring, perhaps due to the more mild climate we have been experiencing. I’m sure it also stems from the fact that we have living in a new area and are exploring new trails. One of the April Outdoor Challenges focused on ferns – and we certainly have had many to choose from.
When we are outdoors … on a nature walk or a leisurely family stroll … I rarely instruct the kids to look for anything in particular. Generally, I allow their natural curiosity to lead them and take advantage of whatever crosses our path, so to speak. Each month, I print off the nature grid that Barb publishes in her monthly newsletter and we discuss it as we glue it into our nature journals. The kids thereby have an idea of what the upcoming topics are and this essentially sparks their interests.
When we return home and I can manage to sit them down for a formal lesson – to be honest, I frequently use nature study as the carrot to bring them to the table – I’ll pull out the Handbook of Nature Study and begin to read aloud excerpts as suggested by Barb. I will also gather our field guides and other resource materials and allow the kids to peruse the photos, read excerpts they find interesting aloud, and ask questions. The book and Barb’s Outdoor Hour challenges provides the framework for our studies but also allows for open-ended discussions and further exploration.