Saturday, January 26, 2013

A "no journals required" approach to nature study

Sometimes when I think of homeschool nature studies, I often think of pretty journals filled with sketches of plants and pressed flower petals. In my imaginary nature study scene, all three of my kids are also calmly walking down a dirt path through the woods towards a field of blooming wild flowers.

Nature study for our family looks more like this:

Instead of dreaming of an idealistic nature study with beautiful journal pages, we've embraced studying nature as simply a fun endeavor. We didn't necessarily set off with learning objectives, but we've learned a lot along the way.

How do we study nature?

Plan to spend holidays outdoors.
We're lucky to have warm weather so this year we hiked on both Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Eve. We also went exploring on Labor Day weekend. Instead of sitting around the house or going shopping, we look for someplace fun to explore.

Christmas Eve, Chiricahua National Monument
Thanksgiving Day, Saguaro National Park
Drag relatives along to enjoy the fun.
Since we're living in a new location this year, we've had family come to visit. Instead of just showing them the best places to shop, we've taken them to some of our favorite places to hike.

Papa and Nana with all three grandkids
Col Opa posing with Tim and the big kids
Oma and Lauren waiting at the bottom of the cliff

Pack a picnic.
Sometimes we have rather elaborate picnics. This year, I actually packed up our entire Thanksgiving dinner and took it to the national park nearest to our house. At other times, we just carry a camp stove so we can make fried Spam sandwiches.

Take time on vacation to explore a little.
We recently drove from Arizona to California for a short vacation. Instead of rushing through the drive with the sole intent of getting there as quickly as possible, we stopped along the way at the Joshua Tree National Park. Before we headed home, we took some time to walk along the beach and gaze out at the Pacific Ocean.

Remember that enjoying nature doesn't have to take a long time.
Sometimes when we've been traveling, we've had a little extra time in an area. I took both of these pictures last summer when we were driving across Texas. When we got to our next night's stop before we wanted to go get dinner, we looked up a few geocaches to go hunt for.

Texarkana, Texas (at least I think it was the Texas side)
Abilene, Texas
I never gave myself credit for being a "nature study" type of homeschooler until recently. I realize that I can teach my children about nature and about God's glorious creation without making them draw sketches in a journal or slow down to examine a flower petal. We're learning to enjoy the great outdoors, and along the way, we're learning an awful lot about the world around us.

Several members of the Schoolhouse Review Crew are writing blog posts about Winter Nature Studies this week. Since we don't really have winter here, I'm just sharing what we've been doing over the past few months. If you'd like to see what other homeschoolers are studying outside this winter, visit the Crew blog any time after Tuesday morning January 29th to see the list of what everyone else is sharing.


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  1. I love that first picture! Yup, that pretty much sums up us, too. No nature journals here!

  2. We don't 'do' journals either if the kids want to draw something they do if not we snap a picture! I have honestly never had a 'Spam' sandwich.



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