With the temperatures cooling around the nation these days, I know that a lot of us are tempted to buckle down and stay in the house, but it’s the PERFECT time to get outside and get into nature (can you all tell me what PBS Kids show that line comes from?) With our students – three of them to be exact, we notice that natured focused homeschool lessons also allows them to get their wiggles out and makes for a better-focused learning environment once they are back inside a building. Whether that’s our home, a library, or some other building where they are sitting and learning, doesn’t matter. Nature-based homeschooling doesn’t have to be hard, or expensive.
It’s been shown that nature-based homeschooling lessons have encouraged a desire of preserving the environment and increases the relaxed nature of learning in children. Finding ways to not be stressed while educating your child is one way that we’ve learned to love learning together.
Here are 5 things we do to nail our nature-based homeschooling studies each year.
I found these great Nature Walk checklists browsing Pinterest, and ended up in Ms. Makinson’s store on Teachers pay Teachers, printed them out and got out of the house. Working from home and homeschooling can become a bit constrictive during the cold months, so I end up getting out as soon as we can when the weather is warm enough to do so.
Using your Pinterest boards as an organizational tool helps in these matters. Make sure you add information into the description boxes to let you know where and what you’re saving because sometimes the descriptions don’t match the item you are saving.
Join A Nature Based Museum
We are members of a local museum – Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum and love it. Money-saving hint – make sure to follow these museums on Twitter and Facebook because they often offer huge discounts around the holidays, and we’re able to buy a 2-year membership for the price of one. With the exhibits changing almost quarterly, we are able to focus our nature studies each year, without having to bring in a ton of manipulatives into our home. The museum also has a lending library for teachers, including those who homeschool, and we’re able to take bins of books, projects and all of the supplies that we would need home to use in an extended lesson if we desire. It’s definitely a great way to expand on the membership cost and really get deep into a nature-based lesson without having to drive out to a museum or another location daily.
Find a Nature-Based Show or Documentary You Love
Yes, I’m suggesting that the kids get a bit of screen time. If that’s not your jam, cool. We love series such as Nature Cat, Wild Kratts and other shows that we are able to stream via Netflix or Amazon Prime. The Planet Earth shows that air are some of our favorites, but I do find that if your child is sensitive to things like animal death or attacks, you may have to wait until they are older or just skip altogether.
Take A Nature Walk
And take it with nothing in mind but to take in as much of the natural environment in your neighborhood as you can. Also, think about taking the road less traveled. We tend to get into a routine even on walking routes, so try to explore an area that you haven’t before.
We’ve found on our walks the things that I would totally ignore as an adult because that’s how we roll these days. Being able to see the world from the POV of your children often gets us to slow down and appreciate the things they are interested in learning about as well. But we all knew this right? Homeschooling isn’t just for the children, but for us to expand our joy of learning too.
With nature walks, we started with small notebooks that the kids could draw or write in to keep track of what they saw. Now, one of them has moved up to carrying my first camera along with her so that she can take photographs and then research what she’s seen. I’ve also downloaded a plant app that helps us identify a lot of the plants we see during our walks because let’s face it, trying to remember descriptors of plants one hour after seeing them can be tough on the brain.
Let the Seasons Guide You
The same way you should shop for produce to maintain a great grocery budget is the way that you should organize your nature-based homeschool units. This doesn’t have to be a single season only unit, and can always be interwoven with other subjects that you are teaching. Use pinecones in the fall for math lessons. How about estimating the number of dandelions in a square foot for that same subject? Want to know the history of trees? Check out which regions have which trees and how they came to be! Art class can be as simple as sitting in a forest preserve with a canvas or sketchbook from your local craft store and recreating the landscape in a medium that the students use, or in a style that you’re learning in art history.
Don’t forget to also use your public library for inspiration and texts so that you don’t buy too many books (is that possible) while teaching!
We don’t have to overthink nature when it has given us so much inspiration already.
How are you incorporating nature-based homeschool in your lessons this year?