I need to give you all something for being so patient with me – and that is to share with you Karla’s beautiful nature study time with her children. This is epic, to me. I hope it is for you all, too! Take a look at these gorgeous images!
Nature Study in Our Home
“Adults should realize that the most valuable thing children can learn is what they discover themselves about the world they live in. Once they experience first-hand the wonder of nature, they will want to make nature observation a life-long habit. All people are supposed to be observers of nature and there’s no excuse for living in a world so full of amazing plants and animals and not be interested in them.” Charlotte Mason Volume 1
It is kind of ironic that I find myself writing this post about Nature Study. I was raised in a city that had a few trees in it left and it was safer to stay indoors. All bugs looked the same, all trees looked the same, the wind was too windy and the sun too hot. You get the idea. Soooo, if I can do Nature Study, anyone can!!!
How we make it happen?
One of the things that help us make Nature Study happen in our home is making the effort to go out on a Nature Walk everyday if the weather permits. We are NOT perfect about doing this and some weeks we just go out to walk twice or thrice. The kids do go out by themselves to play in our backyard but taking the walk together helps all of us to see, hear and connect with our surroundings.
Here are a few things that help us:
Our Nature Table is right next to our front door. It has the majority of the things we need to do our Walk a success: Binoculars, magnifying glasses, earphones for my autistic son who has trouble with barking dogs, a compass (you can’t see it in the picture), several field guides, and containers to put our discoveries.
If by any chance we haven’t gone out the day we are doing our Nature Journal then I will ask the kids to go to the Nature Table and choose something from there that they would like to record on their Journal. This is very helpful especially when the weather is too cold or too hot.
I also keep our Journals, calendar of firsts, watercolors, and coloring pencils all together close to our school table so we can grab them and start working.
The Nature Walk
Going out in our Nature Walks is just as easy as walking! We do the same route every time and it never gets old. We always find something new to discover and learn something new about old friends.
This particular day we found a beautiful colored caterpillar. Sometimes we look things up as soon as we get home and sometimes we just enjoy interacting with nature and leave it at that.
We also “rescued” an earthworm. My kids love to play heroes and “rescue” the poor earthworms by putting them back on the grass when we find them “lost” on the pavement because we know that when it gets too hot the poor worm can become fried worm!
Then my son found a Praying Mantis. From looking at it we believed it was a female and my daughter decided to take it home to draw it on her journal. While we were walking back home she stopped and showed me a little larva that was on her hand and I asked her where she had gotten that. She responded that the Mantis was having babies so we stopped and put the Mantis on the floor and watched as these larvae were coming out of the abdomen of the Mantis. Now I know that a Praying Mantis DOES NOT give birth to live larvae but at the time I didn’t have time to think and well, didn’t you read the first paragraph where I said I was a NOT an expert on this? Anyways, the kids were excited and happy thinking that these are Mantis babies and can’t believe they were there to witness it. I know, very disturbing, just be glad I decided not to show you the pictures of the whole event! Here is the poor Praying Mantis (a Carolina Praying Mantis in case you were wondering) after the whole ordeal:
We went home and started working on our journals as soon as we got home.
The journaling part is simple: we look at our specimen and record what we see and write about it and about the walk in general. I remind the children that this is not a drawing class and the point of this journal is not to make beautiful drawings but to record, as a scientist would, what they are observing.
For those of you wondering what on earth where those creature coming out of the Praying Mantis (do you really want to know?) it turns out these were some kind of parasites. I will give you time to let that sink in. After I found out what really happened I had to go back and tell the kids that we had been wrong on our theory that these were Mantis babies. They were shocked, sad, and my daughter even called the parasites “the mean guys.”
We learned a bigger lesson here than if we had just seen a Praying Mantis putting her eggs: science is always changing, there are new discoveries all the time and what we think is “right” today might be not so right in ten years. We need to be open minded and remember that the only one who knows everything is God…and of course, we learned that parasites are definitely the mean guys.