Kids love nature. Kids love learning. Combine the two for a homeschooling win! From baby birds in a nest to whales breaching in the ocean, nature is cute, amazing, mesmerizing, and extraordinary. And it is never boring! Studies reveal spending time in nature has both physical and emotional benefits like lowering blood pressure and reducing stress. Plus, children who spend time in nature have been shown to have increased self-esteem and creativity, and nature play fosters physical fitness and imagination. So, how do you integrate nature studies into your homeschool schedule? Here are some ideas based on our family’s homeschooling journey.
Nature schooling can be your sole method of home education, or it can be one of the many pieces of your homeschooling puzzle. Because nature schooling is multifaceted, it can provide a diverse education for your child. There are plants and animals to be discovered, paths to walk (or run), rocks to climb, trees to measure, patterns to notice, leaves to count, maps to read, and many more adventures to encourage practical and fun learning. One of the simplest ways to begin nature schooling is to unleash your kids into the great outdoors. You can send them to the backyard to play, or take them on a walk around your yard or neighborhood. When you take the time to observe using all your senses, there are so many things to discover, even in an area you feel you know well.
Nature schooling can be your sole method of home education, or it can be one of the many pieces of your homeschooling puzzle.
Of course, we like to incorporate nature study lessons from Firefly, but there are lots of great curriculum choices out there. Our lessons are mostly based on our observations of the natural world, things we notice or find interesting and want to learn more about. That’s the perfect place to start - curiosity precedes learning. We do lessons on a regular basis, usually one per week, followed by plenty of time outside for the kids to practice their new skills or add to their knowledge base. We love to find books that correspond to our lessons, and writing and drawing in our nature journals is a must. Choose lessons that inspire you, and that you can easily add to your other subject lessons (or use as a replacement), so you are more likely to actually do them.
Another of our favorite ways to study and spend time in nature is with our nature group. The kids and I highly recommend finding a group in your local area that gets outdoors on a regular basis (ask around or check Facebook). Ours meets weekly during the school year and every other week during the summer. We have fabulous coordinators that find cool places to visit and organize the dates and times for those visits. If you don’t have a nature group in your area, it would be beneficial to start one yourself. We have gone to so many places we never even knew existed or wouldn’t have ventured to on our own. Even if it starts out as two or three families, it will hold you accountable and inspire you to take your kids outside.
There are a million excuses to stay inside...it’s too hot, too cold, we are too busy, too tired, etc. But, watching your kids play, imagine, observe, take risks, make friends and become leaders right before your eyes is worth it both in the moment and for their future. So, start simple, surprise your kids, and go outside today. Or at least send the kids outside and watch from the window :)