Why Nature Study

20 Aug


With two small children in tow, exploring the woods is a luxury nowadays. But trail or no trail, city or country, in every place there are plenty of opportunities for nature studies:

The flowers on the vase in the dining room. The herbs in the pot by the kitchen window. The fresh produce from the farmers market. The weather. The scene after the rain. A leaf. The scene outside the window. A creature spotted in the backyard.

Why write all about them? In our family, nature or day journals are gems that we treasure. I started my own to be an inspiration to the children. I did not think it was going to feel that wonderful. I began taking my journal wherever I went. I was drawn by the view at a Mexican restaurant, and I sat there sketching while waiting for our food.

Immersed in a good read, I took a break to draw the scene while in the vehicle waiting for my husband.

An interesting field trip at a living history farm is thoughtfully recorded in a journal page.

What does nature study do for the children? I have not found a better answer than in Anna Botsford Comstock’s Handbook of Nature Study. She wrote:

[…] Nature-study gives the child practical and helpful knowledge. It makes him familiar with nature’s ways and forces, so that he is not so helpless in the presence of natural misfortune and disasters.

Nature-study cultivates the child’s imagination, since there are so many wonderful and true stories that he may read with his own eyes, which affect his imagination as much as does fairy lore; at the same time nature-study cultivates in him a perception and a regard for what is true, and the power to express it. […]

Nature-study cultivates in the child a love of the beautiful; it brings to him early a perception of color, form and music. […]

But more than all, nature study gives the child a sense of companionship with life out-of-doors and an abiding love of nature.

If nature study does not sound appealing to you or the child, it is worth noting:

[…] that the pupil’s lack of interest in nature-study is owing to a fault in the teacher’s method. She may be trying to fill the child’s mind with facts when she should be leading him to observe these for himself, which is a most entertaining occupation for the child.

I avoid at all cost to be critical of the sketches or the recorded observations. I have said that the Creator made everything thoughtfully, and with that in mind, we should also examine things solicitously, and write carefully about them. If available, I write down the Latin names of species in a piece of paper or the chalk board, and leave it up to the child to copy them in her journal as she wishes. My oldest also enjoys taking photographs of plants, flowers, birds and other things of nature. There is no need for chatter; a sketch speaks a thousand words. Words are hand-picked to tell the stories.

Have you been so busy that there is no time to pause and enjoy the small wonders? Why not do it today? Get out and smell the breeze, feel the grass with your bare feet, look closely at a leaf and its details. Have you noticed the clouds lately? Is it raining? Look out the window and enjoy the sounds.

Then write down all about it. It’s a beautiful day.

13 Responses to “Why Nature Study”

  1. hiddenart August 21, 2007 at 10:37 am #

    Between you and The Illustrated Garden (http://valwebb.wordpress.com/), I am sure getting that itch to sketch. Problem: I am too self critical. I’m sure I can change. Thanks for the inspiration.

  2. titus2woman August 21, 2007 at 1:15 pm #

    Love this, love this, LOVE THIS! I did a nature study post not too long ago, but yours is better than mine! LOL!

    I just saw your reply on Sally Clarkson’s blog and laughed out loud, because your response was almost identical to mine when I found her a week or so ago. Something like, “Is this THE REAL Sally Clarkson? WOOHOOO!” LOL!

    Would you please tell me more about what the quote you shared meant to you? “For the lack of biblical conviction, people go the way of culture.”

    (((((HUGS))))) sandi~doin’ better and hopin’ to blog about it!

  3. valwebb August 21, 2007 at 6:53 pm #

    This is such a beautiful post. I homeschooled our three girls (all grown up and married now, and two are mamas themselves) on a remote farm for many years. You bring back many sweet memories! Thank you, also, for your kind words about my blog.

  4. yielded August 21, 2007 at 7:30 pm #

    Oh, Amanda. You are given such an artist gift! I hope you would just get started. Then share it with the world!

  5. yielded August 21, 2007 at 7:31 pm #

    Sandi- thank you so much!

    Was finding her blog not like meeting a celebrity in person? lol

    I really don’t know how to articulate that quote better, but just change the word culture to “the world.”
    Without a solid foundation, we get easily entangled with the world’s system, and that quote solidifies that for me, especially as I see people fall into temptations as they seek to conform and to fit in the mold.

    In our house, we have a saying: “It doesn’t matter what everybody else is doing, if it is not right, I am not doing it!”

  6. Lynn August 22, 2007 at 1:14 pm #

    I guess I need to go back and re-think the whole nature journaling thing. It has been a while since we’ve done it. To be honest it was difficult getting them excited about it. I went from assigning something for them to draw or journal about, to allowing them free play outside and then choosing something for themselves to draw or journal about. I got resistence with everything I tried, so I just set it aside and contributed it to them ‘just being boys’ or something. There are so many other things that they love and feel passionately about that I didn’t want to feel guilty over this thing not ‘working’ in my homeschool……..anyway. These are just my meandering thoughts. I have several books that inspire me. I may start doing it again myself and maybe that will spark their interest.

    I love your blog by the way. I’ve been a lurker for a while. 🙂

  7. Tami August 25, 2007 at 6:04 pm #

    Hi Flo!

    I love your blog and I am linking to it! Yes, I miss our nature walks very much! You are such an inspiration.

    Encourage one another,

  8. 5wolfcubs August 26, 2007 at 12:01 am #

    Thanks so much for leaving a comment on my blog (gila woodpecker picture), I wouldn’t have found your blog without it! I am inspired by your commitment to your little ones & your nature journaling!

  9. shangrilewis September 17, 2007 at 12:12 pm #

    This is something I really want to focus on introducing this year. I just got a great book called Nature in the City: Seattle. We moved from the country where it was easy to find nature. But, I want to appreciate all the nature we have in the city even if it seems harder to find…in all actuality it’s right in front of us.

  10. keri November 14, 2007 at 12:10 am #

    Comstock’s Handbook of Nature Study…
    a wonderful book!
    We finished birds and are going to insects.
    It seems Nature Study comes so natural to kids!

  11. JacciM November 20, 2007 at 10:05 pm #

    Ah, a mama after my own heart 🙂 Thanks so much for submitting this to the carnival this week. I know it was a blessing to many CM moms, including me!

    Enjoy the day,


  1. Weekly Update, Rabbit Trails, and Personal Ramblings #2 « The Land of All Things Lewis - September 25, 2007

    […] Why Nature Study? at Yielded Heart. […]

  2. Charlotte Mason Carnival – Thankful Homeschooling | Our Journey Westward - January 31, 2012

    […] I’m never more thankful than walking outside in the fresh air taking in every slice of beauty that surrounds me.  Yielded Heart shares a lovely blog about the importance of taking notice of this beauty in Why Nature Study. […]

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