Nature study, at least for me, is one of those things where I tend to live in my head with what I want it to be, but very rarely make it a reality in my homeschool. I am kind of ashamed to admit it, but it is true. I have a tendency to be so focused on the ideal of a thing that sometimes, I have trouble bringing it to earth. Nature study is one of those things. I want to know for sure that my practice is working towards virtue and wisdom. So I keep studying and looking for resources, understanding, and ideas that help me to see not only how to practice, but shows me that the practice connects with the cultivation of wisdom and virtue.
I do realize that at some point I just have to practice even if I do not understand it all and that understanding and being able to explain something is not a necessary thing all the time. I am getting better at accepting this, but it is a process. Nevertheless, my heart jumps for joy when I do find resources that do show me those connections. They are few and far between, but now and then someone shares something with me that does this. I think that is why I love Jenny Rallens blog so much (which is sadly under construction for the next few months). Every practice she shares does that. She reminds me that my pursuit of the ideal is not in vain, and that connecting practice and virtue is more than possible.
Recently, I was made aware of another resource, which I believe fits this category as well. Lynn Seddon’s new Nature Study Curriculum, ‘Exploring Nature with Children: A Complete Year-Long Curriculum.‘ I have not finished working through her complete curriculum since I have only had it for a few months, but from what I have experienced of her and her curriculum, it has brought tremendous relief into our homeschool. I think a big part of it is that I know she has lived this out. She wrote a guest post for me about a year ago about ‘Playing with Watercolors.’ I also follow her posts on her blog Raising Little Shoots, where she regularly posts pictures of her children walking about in England, where they live, exploring nature, discovering new delights, and responding beautifully with skilled paintings and notebook entries. I see the joy on her children’s faces with each one of their discoveries. It is beautiful, but it is also real, as all beautiful things are.
That is the next reason I love this curriculum. She lays out a sound pattern for nature study, so you learn how to do it for yourself. You get a guided mentor for a year and then I think I will be equipped to imitate her pattern in subsequent years with new topics. Not only that, but you can participate at various levels of depth.
Each week there is one topic to be explored, that is fitting for the season. For example in September, one of the lesson’s is the harvest moon, which was a such a fun lesson. Lynn also mentions any supplies you need for the season, so you don’t find yourself starting the lesson and not having what you need. Next, she includes a quality list of children’s books that go along with the topic and the correlating pages from Ann Comstock’s book ‘The Handbook of Nature Study’. Furthermore, she gives a few suggestions in the beginning for how to integrate nature study into daily life. This is an excellent idea since part of what we are aiming for in classical, and Charlotte Mason education is for our children to develop a relationship with what they are learning. The more what we teach is part of our family culture, the stronger the relationship will be that is developing.
A few of my favorite features of ‘Exploring Nature with Children.‘
* Nature Walk activities that fit the season
* Instruction and things to consider when doing the assigned nature walk
* Safety concern notes, when applicable
* Simple supply lists
* ‘Handbook of Nature Study’ by Ann Comstock references
* Suggested books, poems, and art that harmonize with each nature walk activity
* Optional extension activities
* How to adapt books for mixed ages
* Instruction on how to set up your nature journal
* A list of ideas for more advanced students
* A few great suggestions for making Nature Study part of your family culture
Best of all the year-long curriculum is only $15.00! Plus, until March 6th, 2016, you can receive an additional 25% off by using the code ‘EXPANDINGWISDOM’ at checkout. Crazy, I know. This resource is worth so much more. I definitely recommend checking out this curriculum. Also, so that you know, I did receive this product for free in exchange for my honest opinion. I was not required to give positive feedback. All comments and opinions in this post are authentically my own. Learn more about ‘Exploring Nature with Children’ here.
In closing, I thought I would share a few tips about Nature study that I have learned from others in my pursuit of becoming a better leader for my children as we embark on nature study.
* Give my children space
* Draw their attention to beautiful things as an extension of my delight
* Be ready to answer when they ask, but do not force all my thoughts on my children when they are not asking
* Let them notice patterns on their own
* After the invitation, then the lesson. “facts come after ideas.”
* “Lay up images of things familiar.” CM Vol 1 p.66
If nature study is something that is going well in your homeschool, I would love to hear about what you do. Join the conversation in the comments section below.
Expanding wisdom, extending grace,