Anytime nature is mentioned in homeschooling, the conversation goes directly to very formal and structured things, such as nature study, journals, classes, nature-based books and guides, and the like. If you search “nature homeschool” on Pinterest or Google, it’s the exact same thing. Believe me, I checked. Many homeschooling parents spend hours researching and lots of money buying these resources for the children to use (or not — that’s a whole other blog post). But, why? Have children changed? Have they become less curious and adventurous? What did they do before all of these resources were around and widely available? I surmise that children have not changed, but OH, parents have, especially homeschooling parents. 😳 While having all of these resources at our disposal is wonderful and helpful at times, they aren’t a requirement for your child to learn about nature. So, what is?
That’s it. Plain and simple. Getting outside is the only true requirement needed for children to learn about the natural world. Once they’re out there, nature becomes the teacher. Here’s how I know.
A little background first…
I was that homeschool mom who wanted to do fun, engaging, and educational nature studies with my children, but they weren’t having it. It could’ve been their ages, my insistence on “doing it right,” a combination of the two, or something else. Whatever the case, and in almost every case where I’m hitting a brick wall with my children, I have learned to do one thing: Let go. In letting go, I find that they do and learn things no nature study (or myself) could ever teach.
In almost every case where I’m hitting a brick wall with my children, I have learned to do one thing: Let go. In letting go, I find that they do and learn things no nature study (or myself) could ever teach.Camille Kirksey, The Intuitive Homeschooler
Here are two ways my children benefit from this simple, hands-off approach:
They’re empowered and excited to learn.
There is nothing like watching my child’s eyes light up when they’re immersed in self-directed learning. That’s what naturally happens when they’re out in nature. When I give them space, time, and the proper clothing for the weather (even if they don’t want to wear them at first — grrr), I set them up for a successful time in nature, and that leads to wide and deep education. I just get out of the way after that. But, if they *really* need some inspiration, I use ideas like what’s in this article on what things they can to do on a nature walk to get them going.
They see themselves differently.
Explorer. Acrobat. Detective. Architect. Maker. Scientist. Engineer. Artist. Those are just some of the roles my children have taken on while out in the woods. Nature offers so many opportunities to try on different “hats,” irrespective of their age, that otherwise might just be only something they watch others do (mostly adults) or in books they read. Getting to do something in nature leads to thinking they can do more, and when they think they can do more, they find they can BE MORE. Having a childhood full of experiences that are hands-on, somewhat risky, and naturally engaging, and educational can only lead to becoming thoughtful, confident, intelligent, and curious adults.
Before I end this post, let me be clear: there’s nothing wrong with nature study and everything that goes with it. What I want is to encourage you to recognize that it’s only an add-on and not the standard. The best thing you can do is just get your children (and their friends, too!) outside, and get out of their way, Mama.
By the way, have you heard of the 1000 Hours Outside challenge? It was created by a homeschooling mama of 5 who wanted to “ditch the screens” and get her kids outside for 4-6 hours daily. Say what?! A lofty goal, but a transformative one just the same. Her blog offers tons of resources, activities, and even trackers to get you started and keep you going on the mission of getting your family outside more often. My family will be joining the challenge in 2020. Hope your family will, too!
Happy homeschooling! ❤
8 thoughts on “Why I Don’t Use Nature Study in My Homeschool (& What I Do Instead)”
I tried formal nature study with my children but it was a bust for us. It was way too much work (on my part) for the very little bit of interest they showed. Now we just get outside and play. When they want know about something they have discovered, I direct them to the reference books on our shelves or we add it to their library list. Simple! 🙂
Absolutely! I’m right there with you.
I plan a hike/walk with other homeschool friends once a month. We tried doing a guided walk or book but now we just stop and look at whatever is interesting. And the Seek app by iNaturalist is awesome for kids and adults who really want to know what something is called.
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Kids will let you know that your plans are just that: PLANS. LOL.
Thanks for the app recommendation. We’ll have to check it out!
I love challenges! 1000 is lofty for this city girl, but I do value outside time and I want my daughter to as well. I have outdoor play on our schedule for three days a week even if it is just time in the backyard or a walk around the block.
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Yes! Any time outside is better than no outside time.
Pandemic was actually going pretty well for us until it got too hot to be outside 🥵 now we are all cranky and sweaty when we go places and the water at the beach is too warm to be refreshing.
I am excited to be able to do some longer hikes again! Love your content!
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Thank you! And yes, the pandemic has messed up so much for us, too. I can’t plan anything away from home for the next 6 months at least. Grrrrr