Getting to know the living world around us has been a wonderful part of homeschooling for us all. Londoner that I am, nature was not an automatic part of my life – I suspect I spent more time reading about it than actually watching it. I think that marrying Bertie helped open my eyes a bit more. He loves walking in the countryside and we did a lot of that in the early years, but he also brought it close up, with his passion for gardening and farming. Moving from our little council estate flat with its balcony to our huge garden here has also allowed me to make a huge jump in observing the world around at close quarters.
My main aim with Nature Study has been to open the eyes of the children to the beauty of nature, to awaken their interest and begin them on a path of observation and enjoyment that hopefully they will choose to follow in later life. It has been great to see this developing, and LissaLou confided to me recently that when she grows up she would like to be a naturalist!
As to how we go about Nature Study, we start by choosing a theme for each term – this year has been trees, birds and now insects. The idea is that each week we choose something from that theme to observe and draw. I would love to get on to water colours and other mediums but right now pencil suits us just fine. Finding a regular slot for it in our week can be challenging, so I am working on that – if we manage it every other week we are doing well!
We know that it our interest in an activity inspires our children and I personally have just as much to learn as they do so after observing and discussing, LissaLou and I both get our notebooks out and start to draw. The other two are welcome to join in but don’t tend to, although they love the observation part. I am trying to encourage the girls to draw what they see, not what they think should be there, and it has been great to see them apply that. I personally love writing about what we have observed, but the girls don’t tend to put more than the date and subject.
There are some wonderful examples of Nature Books that are on various blogs, this one at Higher Up and Further In is particularly inspiring. Here are some of our own efforts from this year:
I have so enjoyed this activity – both taking the time to observe and see what we usually miss when we are rushing past, and trying and convey it myself on paper. It is very relaxing too and sometimes I will do it just for fun. I haven’t seen any of the children get to that point yet though!
And of course, even if we don’t manage an official Nature Study, we are constantly looking at what is around us. In the garden, walking along the road peeking into other people’s front gardens, in the park, all over the place there is something to spot and talk about, and the more we do it the more of a habit it becomes!