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.