Nature study is simply the practice of observing and recording our time in the outdoors. It’s one of the most well known areas of learning promoted by Charlotte Mason homeschoolers, although any style of homeschooling can enjoy the study of nature.
Nature study lays the basis for much of formal science study, particularly so with life science and earth science. I’m of the belief that science shouldn’t just be learned from books, and children will learn and retain better with a hands-on experience or encounter, and by observing and recording the experience.
For us, nature study is also creation study. It’s about intentionally looking at the handprints of our Creator all over the created world. Consider these:
For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities–his eternal power and divine nature–have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse. – Romans 1:20
The heavens are telling of the glory of God; And their expanse is declaring the work of His hands. – Psalm 19:1
But ask the animals, and they will teach you, or the birds in the sky, and they will tell you; or speak to the earth, and it will teach you, or let the fish in the sea inform you. Which of all these does not know that the hand of the LORD has done this? – Job 12:7-9
The Creator speaks to us through the work of his hands. How much more, as Christians, should we be connecting to the visible created world, and listening to His voice speak to us of his invisible attributes?
Sow a Habit, Reap a Character
Charlotte Mason said this: ‘Sow a habit, reap a character.’ But we must go a step further back, we must sow the idea or notion which makes the act worthwhile.” – Charlotte Mason
God’s voice is heard in creation – doesn’t that in itself make the act of connecting with nature worthwhile? I believe nature study also stirs the desire to seek out answers, and awakens a sense of stewardship towards the world we’ve been given.
We really desire to foster the desire in our children to worship God as their Creator, as well as the other aspects of who He is, and to know and understand this side of Him they have to encounter Him in this way.
As a culture we have become more inclined these days to be indoors, so it can be a discipline at first to get used to having time outside every day. Perhaps many of us do not realise just how disconnected we have become with nature. It’s amazing how some sunshine, fresh air, and a walk in the sand can lift our spirits, especially when we’re with our loved ones.
A good goal to set for getting outdoors is an hour a day, plus some time in the weekend as a family.
Can I suggest that this becomes about something you all do together, and not just sending the kids outside while you are indoors doing something else? You’ll be glad you did! Watch and listen to what He is speaking through creation together.
Nature walks and study can form some of these times outdoors, at just once or twice a week where you plan something specific to do that your children record in their journals.
Next time I’ll write on some ideas and topics for your nature studies, and places to visit that you may find in your local area.