I must admit – nature is not my thing! I know, gasp! What kind of homeschool mum am I!! Tongue in cheek but if you look online it does seem as if nature studies are a big part of what homeschool families do and it can put a lot of pressure on homeschool mums – it did me.
I enjoy being out in nature; I enjoy its peaceful rejuvenating qualities but to actually study it – no, that aspect is something that we just never achieved! I had moments of inspiration, where I was charged with enthusiasm but then reality hits and we’d settle back without nature studies.
Why do nature studies?
As with anything I struggle with, or anything I set up as an ideal, I ask myself “why do it?” I need to know what my reasons are; not someone else’s reasons, but my reasons for pursuing such a practice. This is particularly important when the topic cuts across my natural inclination because I know it is going to get hard, and if I know why I have the motivation to push forward on those hard days.
Read: Do you know why?
So here’s my list of why doing nature studies would be a good idea:
- Being outdoors is restful and refreshing, we need to establish the habit of slowing down
- Nature showcases God’s creative hand – the Bible says that we can know who God is by observing the world; His creation
- Being together, slowing down together builds relationships
- Nature studies teaches observation skills – one of the key skills for the study of science
- Nature studies would give opportunity for the kids to ask questions and find answers
Looking at these reasons sure is convincing! Remember, your reasons could very well be different.
Even with those good reasons I continued to be hesitant though as I looked at all the examples of nature journals we find online. Those mums who love plants and animals, who are inspired themselves by being outdoors – they are able to pass on their love for nature to their children. Though I have been able to pass on the things I am passionate about to my kids –I don’t think logically when I see the lovely drawings, the consistent entries and the variety of observations in their journals. Seeing these examples messes with my thinking!
One day my thinking about what nature studies could look like in my house changed. I was giving directions to find our house to a new family in town. She said, “Oh, we’ve been there – we went up your road bird watching and then realised it was private property and turned around.” I was stunned – bird watching? On our place! There are only cockatoos – and they are a menace! Her comments opened my eyes to what is really there should I just take a moment to be aware.
How to do nature studies when it isn’t natural:
After establishing why something is important the next thing is to consider the how. One thing I’ve learnt is that any plans I make – regardless of the topic – need to be my how – not just copying what others do. My challenge to you, if this whole conundrum of nature not being your natural thing is true for you, is to think through your own why and how and to go on from there.
Here are my thoughts on how we could become more aware of God’s creation in our lives:
- See opportunity beyond going for nature walks with my children (what about starting to notice those birds as we drive down the driveway?)
- Encourage my children to observe when they play outdoors, though don’t make everything a lesson (not long after this my kids came running inside to say they found an owl sleeping in their ‘fort’ they had made)
- Slow down, at least once a week, and enjoy the outdoors together, especially during the dry season when the weather is so lovely.
- Keep my focus on enjoying God’s world rather than Studying it
- When we do want to record our learning use learning tools and methods that are already established in our family and that are in keeping with the children’s personal interests (aka nature journaling in its traditional way is a new thing for us and adds extra stress and reluctance)
Quotes that made me think
In my processing this part of our homeschool I came across these quotes – they made me think.
No child should be compelled to have a notebook – Handbook of Nature Study
This quote pulled me back to thinking straight. My goal is not to have a lovely journal – my goal is to nurture a relationship with God the creator and with each other, and secondly to train the skills of observation.
It is, in fact, nothing short of a miracle that the modern methods of instruction have not entirely strangled the holy curiosity of inquiry. – Albert Einstein
Curiosity? How many times have my expectations and lectures dampened natural curiosity? Enjoying nature is a perfect opportunity to show my children by example, by being a role model of someone who can enjoy and observe.
We cannot measure the influence that one artist or another has on the child’s sense of beauty, upon his power of seeing, as in a picture, the common sight of life… – Charlotte Mason
Though Charlotte Mason was talking about picture studies isn’t God the greatest artist? What wonders can our children learn by seeing God’s world first hand, that is, experiencing it for themselves.
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
This is what I want for myself and for my children – a lifetime habit of being able to slow down, to appreciate God, to appreciate his creation, to appreciate human relationships. I can teach my children, develop in them a heart for these things, even though I am learning these lessons the hard way as an adult!
And one last thing – if you struggle with thinking you should be doing nature studies, but it isn’t your thing either – go away and work through why do it – and then come back and share your thoughts and ideas. Love to hear your whys and hows.
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