The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork. Psalm 19:1
Since the very beginning of our homeschool journey I have loved the idea of Nature Study. Charlotte Mason was a firm believer in a lifestyle of learning which included ALOT of time out of doors learning from God's creation. I have tried to implement this in our learning many times over the past few years, with varying degrees of success. Mostly, I just didn't stick to it. :) It is much easier to open up our science book and read about what I want them to learn. But the thought is always with me, how much more would they learn if they were instilled with a love of learning about the world around them. How better to cultivate a love for what God has created than to be amongst his creation on a regular basis? So, with the purpose of actually applying some of the knowledge I have gained from reading about this method, I have decided to challenge myself to spending one hour every week doing some type of nature study with the kids.
As I mentioned above, I have read alot about this idea of nature study. Three years ago I read "A Pocketfull of Pinecones" by Karen Andreola. If you are at all interested in nature study or learning about what it looks like on a daily basis being used in a family this is a GREAT book to read. It is a fictional story that follows the day to day life of a period homeschool family who uses the Charlotte Mason philosophy to teach their children. It is an easy, fun read and really helpful in letting you see what nature study is all about. Anyway, after I read this book I purchased the book recommended to help with nature studies by Miss. Charlotte Mason herself and subsequently recommended by Karen Andreola in her books. It is Anna Botsford Comstock's "Handbook of Nature Study". Sounds harmless enough right? Imagine my surprise when I opened the curiously heavy packaging and found this.
Yes, it is as thick as it looks. Almost 2 1/2" thick. After catching my breath and picking my jaw up off the floor I began to look through the book and found that it isn't quite as intimidating as it looks. I still don't know exactly how to use it. It really does have alot of information in it that I will more than likely never need. But it is a helpful tool and I plan on making the most out of it.
So yesterday was the perfect day to get started. It was Dustin's birthday and the weather was beautiful! After all the snow and bitter cold I was ready to get out of the house and enjoy it. We walked down the road to the creek that wreaks such havoc on our pasture and road when it floods. I figure if we are going to have to suffer through it when it is overflowing it's banks we might as well enjoy it while it is behaving itself.
We found a nice little spot where we had a clear view of the opposite bank and the water below. We noticed right away that there was a deer path down the bank directly in front of us going down to the water's edge. They noticed that where the water had been probably days before had left a neat pattern in the mud, and you could see a few deer tracks leading up the creek. The roots on the trees of the opposite bank were exposed by years of water rushing around them and provided something really interesting to look at and talk about.
I had brought along with us their scetchpads and coloring pencils so the kids sat down to draw what they were looking at. As I tried to explain to the kids yesterday, the point of drawing what you are looking at is not really about the finished product. Although I have seen some amazing drawings in other children's nature journals that I have really enjoyed looking at. I do want their drawings to be as accurate as possible and I want them to give their best effort, as with anything. But it is really about training them to notice things. As we sat there studying the scene in front of us, things that were not obvious to us at first began to come into view. Dustin noticed that the water below the trees was darker than the rest of the water and asked why. Kelsie noticed that behind the trees there was another small stream of water that flowed into the creek we were looking at. Using the handbook I looked up the chapter about brooks and it provided us with more things to talk about like where this particular creek originated from and the fact that the contents from even these small bodies of water will eventually wind up at the ocean. We decided we wanted to come back to the creek after the next rain and see how the water levels change after varying amounts of rainfall.
So today we learned a little bit of science, a little bit of art, and laid some groundwork for the habit of really seeing the world around us, but more than anything we had fun and made memories. I hope there will be many more of these days to follow. Stay tuned for our next adventure!