It’s so easy to start your homeschool journey as an idealist. Beautifully-lit Instagram photos and Pinterest-worthy homeschool rooms are exciting to look at, and passionate, seasoned speakers have hundreds of podcasts for you to excitedly devour. Before you know it, you’ve ordered vintage chalkboards, antique schoolroom desks, and picked up a natural wood abacus.
Visions of nature studies flood your imagination as you picture your children wandering with awe through old-growth forests, carefully inspecting lichens and balancing dragonflies on the tips of their excited fingers.
Then reality hits. You live in an urban townhouse and it’s hard to find nature opportunities. Or, you realize how easy it is for a child to derail the day’s plans. Or, the math curriculum you ordered just doesn’t seem to be a fit and it’s overwhelming to even think about nature study.
Before you know it, you’ve traded in the idyllic ideas for the pressure and panic of stressed homeschooling. Despite your best efforts, you constantly worry that your children aren’t learning as much as they should (even though they probably are), and out of insecurity you begin trimming your homeschool plans. Sadly, this often means that nature studies are tossed to the side, usually in favor of something with a textbook and answer key.
I’m here to tell you, dear friends, that you needn’t sacrifice nature studies in an attempt to streamline, shorten, or strengthen your homeschool. You only need to change your perspective!
How to Fit Nature Study Into the Schedule
Often times nature study is seen as a plus, a bonus, an extra, or something that can be enjoyed now and then or tacked on at the end of a lesson.
Viewing nature studies as a treat and not a meal, however, robs your homeschool of the powerful and impactful lessons that can be learned when you treat them as real science. Maybe even the science for your homeschool.
Using nature studies as the spine of your science studies, not an extension, allows for hands-on learning opportunities that would have otherwise been missed. Especially when homeschooling elementary-aged students, studying nature offers a wonderful science lab to satisfy natural curiosities.
My NaturExplorers series for 1st-8th grades offers you plenty of subjects to explore out of doors, from plants and ponds to snow and spiders. It is entirely possible to use nature studies as your homeschool’s sole source of science for several years, and to rely upon the lessons and experiences from nature study for years to come!
Whether you build your schedule around time spent in nature or plan supplemental outings, the experience and skills will continue to benefit your learner far beyond grade school, and even far beyond science.
Consider, for instance, the skills of observation and comparison that a child strengthens as she ponders the differences between the damselfly and the dragonfly in front of her. Imagine how she applies these skills to other areas of her life – comparing and contrasting writing themes, styles, tools, or seeing geometry and mathematical patterns in the natural world.
Nature Study Doesn’t Have To Be All or Nothing
The temptation is great to feel like what is only casually done is not done in earnest, but nature and children both gain so much from their time together that any amount of time outside is worth doing. Even if the opportunity to study nature only presents itself once a week, once a month, or even once in a while, it is still important.
Finding time to fit nature study in once a week isn’t as hard as it sounds. Most textbook science curriculum can easily be completed in 3-4 days a week, which leaves a day of science time for nature study! You don’t have to go far. A quick jaunt outdoors to complete a simple, creative nature walk or a nature notebooking page is just fine.
Do you enjoy a family morning time in your homeschool? Nature study can easily fit into 5-20 minute lessons during morning time and you don’t even have to go outdoors if you don’t want to! You can add nature study as a weekly morning time activity or slip it into your loop of lessons.
If weekly is truly too much, why not add a day of hands-on nature experience onto the end of a science textbook unit? Your children will be able to practice their newly learned knowledge in the field!
Or, consider joining a local nature club or starting one of your own. Joining together with other families not only alleviates some of the stress and work of planning activities, it also holds you accountable to actually venturing outside once a month or so.
If it still seems overwhelming to schedule a regular nature study time, keep a small journal in the car so that you are always ready to observe and explore at a moment’s notice. Maybe an unplanned trip to a new park, a scenic lookout during a road trip, wildlife that you happen upon, or even just the landscaping around your church or friend’s house will turn into an unexpected nature study lesson.
Still unsure where to fit nature study into your schedule?
Let me teach your children! Seriously. Let me come into your home through the computer a couple times a month to take the burden of nature study and nature journaling off your plate. You can be sure that the time your children spend with me will be serious science lessons!
There are plenty of ways to explore and learn from the outdoors, don’t miss the opportunity to enjoy nature study because you feel you don’t have enough time for it. Give yourself the freedom to enjoy nature studies regardless of how much time you think you should devote to them.