Nature is everywhere! This is great because everyone has access to it. This means nature can be the most affordable part of our curriculum, but it can also be hard to teach.
There’s so much to learn and I want our kids to learn it all. (Just me?)
My homeschool vision included hiking miles everyday, knowing all our native trees, and making meals out of the woods. Along with, of course, Math, English, Music, Art, Bible, and Social Studies.
Now some families can do this and that’s wonderful. For our busy family with a theater kid, a work-from-home mom, and a dad in grad school (not to mention Girl Scouts, co-op and other weekly activities), this vision does not work right now.
Instead, I’ve adjusted our vision to everyday nature. The vision that Julia Rothman shares in “Nature Anatomy”:
While I live in the middle of the city, in Park Slope, Brooklyn, I am only a few buildings away from the entrance to Prospect Park, which I visit on a daily basis, most often for a dog walk or a long run. While it seems a far leap to call these tiny journeys ‘nature walks,’ I cherish being surrounded by greenery for just a small period of time each day. […] I really look around the park, wanting to know more. What is that tree with the beautiful leaves called? When will those flowers I saw last year show up again? Are those really bats flitting above our heads?
Her seeds of curiosity resulted in a beautiful book. If we expose our kids to everyday nature (even if it’s what we see out the window!), imagine where those seeds can take them.
NATURE ON THE BOOKSHELF
WildCraft!: The second edition of this loved cooperative game was released last year. A great way to take a “walk,” you’ll work together to pick plants and use them to help each other. A great jumping-off point for plant identification and teamwork, too.
Nature Stories: So many choices! Thorton Burgess’s Old Mother West Wind and Bird Book for Children are gently paced and very informative. We also enjoy nature poetry (Song of the Water Boatman) and Calpurnia Tate books in both hardcover and illustrated chapter books.
NATURE IN YOUR HOME
Potted Plant: Start a seed, or grow vegetables from kitchen scraps. Can you measure it everyday? Move it to see where it grows best? An easy way to introduce kids to plants.
Insect Habitat: We have hatched butterflies & praying mantises, watched ants make tunnels, and maintained a worm habitat– all in the convenience of our home. Helpful hint: Decide on long-term commitment & have a release plan. Our community garden was thrilled to have praying mantises!
Aquarium: Our betta aquarium fits on the bookcase, takes tap water (with drops), and has a $10 betta heater. As a result, our oldest has read fish books, researched how to maintain the tank, and is saving money for extra tank accessories. So neat! You can also keep snails, frogs or other small animals for very little money.
OUTSIDE YOUR WINDOW:
Bird Feeder: We love this squirrel-proof feeder, but are using nuggets this winter. They’re easy to refill & less mess, especially if your feeder hangs over a lower outside living area. Hummingbird feeders are also fun.
Thermometer: We have this wireless weather thermometer. By watching it everyday, kids form a greater understanding of temperature and weather conditions, like snow! Graphing the daily temperature is a fun way to sneak in Math practice. For older kids, chart your humidity, too!
Nature Journal: Can you see a tree out your window? Give it a name. Make a habit of watching it everyday. Draw it in your journal once a week, or a few times a month. This helps grow observation skills and empathy (yes, really!) for the world around us.
Related: Easy Peasy Beginner Nature Journals for Kids
Hopefully, this list can help you add more nature studies into your homeschool right away! Pick one thing to include today, then grow from there. When nature becomes a bigger part of our everyday, it’s amazing what we learn.
We can’t identify all our native trees yet, but we’re up to five. It’s a small step, but that’s the best place to start.