Ah, summertime sun and lazy days at the beach! Some of my favorite times during the year. Besides relaxing at the beach and sleeping in, I had the honor and privilege this summer to speak at Christian Homeschool Education Association (CHEA) convention in Southern California (Pasadena, CA to be exact). It was a blessed weekend of wonderful reminders of why we homeschool and how to follow God’s leading as we live out this call to homeschool.
This mid-summer post is a continuation of one of the sessions I presented at CHEA on “Nature Studies for the Nature-Deficient Family.” Whether you were able to attend the session or not, I pray this blog will help you “Jump Start” your science studies this year!
If you are looking for a way to do science this year that is stress-free, text-book free and guilt-free, try Nature Studies! If you are looking for a way to do science this year that doesn’t require an expensive curriculum or expensive outside science classes, then I strongly suggest you do Charlotte Mason style Nature Studies this year!
What are nature studies? In a nutshell, it is using God’s creation as your inspiration for scientific exploration. No boring textbooks are needed. No expensive science curriculums are needed. No hectic outside science classes are needed. It’s you, your kids, a backpack, a few journals, and the great outdoors! (Click the Nature Explorer handout for ideas on how to put together a nature study backpack: Nature Explorer’s Handout )
NATURE STUDY IN A NUTSHELL:
- Explore nature (backyard, neighborhood walks, parks, gardens, zoos, hikes, etc).
- Stop, sit, and draw what you see.
- Learn about the plant/animals you saw when you get home.
- Add info to your drawing (facts, labels, quotes, verses, thoughts, etc)
Yep, it really is that simple! If you are not sure how to get started or you have always wanted to do nature studies with your family but haven’t tried it yet, summertime is the BEST time to try it out! If you plan on doing nature studies for the first time this coming school year, summertime is the BEST time to ease into this new and fun way to learn science.
BEACH DAY: First, plan a day at the beach! Any beach will do. It can be a coastal beach, the shore by a lake, or even a stream in a local canyon. Actually, plan to spend the day at a local beach once a week for the rest of the summer (or as often as you can). Even though that sounds like a lot of time at the beach, trust me! It is well worth the packing, the sand in your car, and the extra meal planning. Your kids will love you for it (and you will thank me later).
EXPLORE: Don’t bring your nature study backpack with you. It’s ok. (If you are new to this, you probably don’t have one yet anyway!) Just leave it at home as you start learning how to do nature studies. The whole idea is to get you and your kids used to exploring nature for fun (and seeing God’s handiwork and handprints everywhere)! Besides, you are still in summertime “non-school” mode. No need to turn beach day into a school day!
- Pull up a blanket, slap on the sunscreen, and start splashing in the waves.
- Build sandcastles (and your kiddos will notice some very interesting little critters in the sand).
- Collect sea shells (and bring them home).
- Pick up the washed-up kelp on the beach (and let them “pop” the blooms). Search through the mounds of kelp. You will be amazed at how many little animals live in it.
- Notice the sea birds flying overhead (and trying to eat your picnic lunch). Take pictures of the different birds you see with your iphone.
DRAW: Once you come home (or the next day if everyone is sun-whipped), pull out your child’s nature journal.** Ask your child what was her favorite thing she saw while at the beach. Whatever it was, have her draw it in her journal with colored pencils. If she liked the shells the best, she can simply put some of her favorite shells in front of her and draw them. If it was the squishy kelp, you can pull up a picture of kelp on the internet and let her look at it while she draws. If she liked one of the sea birds, let her look at the photos you took on your iphone. The drawing doesn’t have to be perfect! Drawing in her journal should be just as much fun as playing on the beach and collecting the seashells. If your child wants help or is older, here are a few online instructions, worksheets, and book resources she can use.
INVESTIGATE: One day during the week, investigate the item she drew. There are tons of online sources, field guides, and books you can use. Your library will have TONS of Audobon and DK collector guides. Amazon has some great books too. There are laminated field guides specifically for California birds, seashells and marine life. The internet has some great online classification guides as well to help you and your child identify the beach object she drew. There is even an app you can use on your phone. Just take a picture of the shell, and the app gives you the name, classification, and description of the shell.
WRITE: Keep this simple and keep it age-appropriate! If your child is younger, she can just write the name of the object next to or under the drawing. If your child is a little older, then she can write a sentence or two about the object. It can be a description of it or it can just be where she found it and why she likes it. Older students can label the drawing, include its scientific name and classification and more details about it. For added fun, you can search for a bible verse or a famous quote that relates to water or the beach to add to the page or you can find a poem about the item to write next to or below the drawing.
READ: Get your hands on as many picture books and/or information books as you can and share them with your family. During the summer, libraries and book stores have numerous beach and water-themed displays. Read, read, read and have fun!
START OVER! Yep! That’s it! Start over! Spend another day at the beach. Build sand castles, collect seashells, interact with the birds, squish those sea kelp buds, and have fun in the sun. When you get home, start all over. Pick something to draw. Learn about it. Write a few things about it and read a few more books about the beach. You are dipping your feet into the cool and relaxing science “curriculum” of nature studies. Once you get your feet wet this summer, you can dive right into making nature studies your whole family science curriculum for the year!
May God richly bless your summer exploration for His glory,
**Nature Journals: All you need is a notebook, journal or sketchbook for each child (and yourself). The $1 store has old fashion lined composition notebooks. Michael’s sells sturdy spiral art sketchbooks, which you can usually find on sale. Bookstores like Barnes and Noble sell beautiful lined and unlined journals. Make sure each child picks out his/her own nature journal. If you don’t have colored pencils, pick up a pack while you are at the store. Don’t use markers or watercolor. They bleed onto the other pages.**
MARK YOUR CALENDAR! We hope you can join us for our annual special weekend for homeschooling moms on March 28th-29th, 2020. Visit our “UPCOMING EVENTS” tab for more information on the weekend and how to register!