How To Study Nature With Children Of All Ages

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I am running a short series on getting started with nature study, here on the blog. We have already covered the first two topics:

Supplies For Nature Study

How To Set Up Your Nature Journal

Today I shall be sharing ideas on getting out of doors with all ages.

My aim in writing Exploring Nature With Children is to get families out of doors, enjoying nature study together. Children (and grown-ups!) of all ages benefit from being outdoors Here are some ideas that you may find useful:

• Go on nature walks together

Adapt the location and length of walk to suit your children’s ages. Half an hour to walk and talk about what you see in your own garden will benefit your family more than a day in the woods with a tiny tot, and mum having to carry along lots of nappies, changes of clothes, etc. There is no need to devote a whole day to nature study (unless of course, you want to!)

An easy solution for mothers of little ones, is to spread out a picnic blanket on the garden lawn, and sit there whilst the children have fun in the garden, seeing what nature treasures they can find. This makes life much easier in the sense that none of the usual baby paraphernalia needs to be carried around on a woodland walk; snacks, nappies, (diapers) changes of clothing, plus nature guides and journals can be kept right there on the blanket. Tired babies and children can nap when needed, and nature study time can be as short or long as desired.

• With younger children, you can keep the discussion light and away from too many scientific facts. Ask them a question to give them something to ponder and to think about.

• With older children, engage them in discussion about the main focus of that week’s nature study. Charlotte Mason saw ideas as food for the mind.Keep your eyes open to spot the focus of your study throughout the week, but allow your child the space to make their own connections.

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•Bigger kids can help littler kids 🙂

•If your child asks a question you cannot answer, do not be afraid to say ‘I don’t know – let’s find out together.’

•Give them books to read for further study on the topic.

I hope this post gives you some ideas! I shall be hosting a weekly ‘Explore-along’ on my Facebook page, to share our nature studies from Exploring Nature With Children. Each week I shall post what we got up to for that week’s lesson and I invite you to share your own family’s studies.

We shall begin on Monday 7th of September with the first week’s activity from Exploring Nature With Children: Seeds

Happy exploring!

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One Of The Secrets Of The Educator…

hold-hands

Please feel free to come on over to the Exploring Nature With Children FaceBook group. We shall be having an ‘Explore-along’ beginning on 7th September. I look forward to seeing you there!

How To Set Up Your Nature Journal

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“As soon as he is able to keep it himself, a nature-diary is a source of delight to a child.”

Charlotte Mason

Since releasing my new book Exploring Nature With Children: A complete, year-long curriculum, I have had lots of lots of feed back from parents who say they finally have a resource that will help them to actually get outdoors and do nature study with their children, instead of just reading about nature study. This is music to my ears!

I shall be hosting a weekly ‘Explore-along’ on my Facebook page, to share our nature studies from Exploring Nature With Children. Each week I shall post what we got up to for that week’s lesson and I invite you to share your own family’s studies.

We shall begin on Monday 7th of September with the first week’s activity from Exploring Nature With Children: Seeds

Please visit me at my Facebook page, to get ready for our first week!

Before then, I am running a short series on getting started with nature study, here on the blog:

Supplies For Nature Study

How To Set Up Your Nature Journal ~ You are here

Studying Nature With All Ages

So without further ado, here is Setting Up Your Nature Journal:

An important part of nature study is to keep a nature journal – a record of what you observe on your nature walks. It is just as important for the parent to have a nature journal as it is for the child. Be an example; show an interest in the natural world and your child will follow. Do not worry about your sketching ability; the point of a nature journal is to record scientific data, so accuracy is much more important than creating pretty pictures. Drawing skills can be learned along the way. It will also be encouraging for your child to see you learning something new.

Once you have chosen your nature journal (see Supplies For Nature Journaling) You will want to make sure that you include your name and perhaps a contact number on the first page, should your journal ever be lost.

Here are some details that are helpful to include in your journal:

Basic entries:

• The location

• Date

• Time of day (or night!)

• A brief note on the weather. I usually draw a small rectangle next to the above details and make a quick sketch to represent the weather, rather than writing about it.

Once you have sketched your subject, label it, though this may need to wait until you have looked up your subject in your field guide.

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More advanced ideas:

• Latin names of subjects

• Diagrams

• Notes on sketches – you may want to include further details, such as notes on textures,

or position etc.

• Measurements

• Pressed flowers or leaves

• Photographs

• Quotes

• Passages of scripture

• Poetry – use the weekly poems as a starting point.

• Photographs

• Lists – insects, wild flowers, mammals, trees, whatever appeals to the journal keeper.

Another authentic journaling activity would be a ‘calendar of firsts’.

It is a capital plan for the children to keep a calendar–the first oak-leaf, the first tadpole, the first cowslip, the first catkin, the first ripe blackberries, where seen, and when. The next year they will know when and where to look out for their favourites, and will, every year, be in a condition to add new observations. Think of the zest and interest the object, which such a practice will give to daily walks and little excursions.

 Charlotte Mason

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Sunday Walk & Nature Journal Entry

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Our family afternoon walk, in our local woodland.

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Here is my nature journal entry that I completed upon my return home:

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Ink and water colour paint. I always add a little splatter 😉

The 30% discount code for Exploring Nature With Children is still available to redeem August 31st.

Study Nature

orangememe

I shall be hosting a weekly ‘Explore-along’ on my Facebook page, to share our nature studies from Exploring Nature With Children. Each week I shall post what we got up to for that week’s lesson and I invite you to share your own family’s studies.

We shall begin on Monday 7th of September with the first week’s activity from Exploring Nature With Children: Seeds

Please visit me at my Facebook page, to get ready for our first week!

Supplies For Nature Journaling

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This post is part of a series, on getting started with nature study:

Supplies For Nature Study

Setting Up Your Nature Journal

Studying Nature With All Ages

Since releasing my new book Exploring Nature With Children: A complete, year-long curriculum, I have had several questions about the best supplies to use. We have used different journals and art materials over the years, but here is what is working for us now.

Journals

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This is a very personal choice. You need to find a journal in a size you find comfortable, and you may also want to consider whether you wish to use a bound book, or a spiral bound book. Spiral bound books lie completely flat when opened and they cope better with items being glued into the books, such as feathers and photographs. You may find a bound book will struggle if you add in a lot of items that add to the thickness of the book.

The weight and texture of paper is important; choose paper that suits the media you use. Generally speaking, if you use a lot of coloured pencil, a smooth texture is best, whereas if you tend toward water colour, a ‘toothy’, rougher texture will cope better with all that lovely, juicy paint.

We are currently using the Leuchtturm 1917 sketchbooks in medium (A5). The paper is a decent weight, and very smooth, however the paper is really too thin for watercolour, so I have found that once I have completed my painting & it is dry, I miss a page, & glue them together, so I get a double weight of paper.But I like the journals a lot, and we enjoy using them.

In the past we have used much cheaper journals with great success, so if possible, choose your journal in person; you will have the opportunity to touch the paper and feel the weight of the book in your hands.

I really recommend popping your nature journal in a strong ziplock bag. Accidents happen!

Water Colour Paints

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We tend to prefer watercolour in our journals. The girls use Winsor & Newton paints, I use a selection of Winsor & Newton and Daniel Smith paints. Winsome & Newton offer a smashing little travel set.

Above, you can see my paint tin along with a little swatch card that I made to help me remember my colours, as they look so very different in the palette.

Brushes

When nature journaling, I really recommend water brushes. Such a clever invention, you simply unscrew the brush part, fill up the barrel with clean water, screw the brush back on nice and tightly, and you are all set! You squeeze the barrel lightly and this releases a little water into the bristles. No need to take jars of water out with you for nature study! When you wish to clean the brush, simply squeeze to release a little water, and wipe the bristles on a clean tissue. Genius!

Coloured Pencils

Stay away from hard, brittle pencils and choose ones with soft, creamy leads instead. This way you will get glorious colour and coverage. Experiment by layering your colours to get the rich hues that are found in nature.

I use Prismacolor pencils, they are beautiful, but, must be used with caution as they are so soft and creamy, they are extremely fragile. They are also very expensive. Mine were bought for me several years ago as a gift and they are still going stong. For my girls, I bought the Staedtler Ergosoft pencils. Still a lovely colour ‘pay-off’ but much stronger lead, and so much cheaper too.

A Mechanical Pencil

These can be picked up very cheaply; they negate the need for a pencil sharpener and usually have an eraser on the end too.

A Good Non-Smudge Sketching Pen

I love my carbon pen and use it all the time for quick, watercolour sketches, but I wouldn’t recommend this for a child.

A Jeweller’s Loope

A smashing tool for nature study; small and light-weight, a loope will allow you get really close up to your specimen and to engage with it on a whole new level.

A Bug Box

We have used well-rinsed yoghurt pots in the past, but a special bug box with a magnifying glass in the lid is extra-special 🙂

Paper bags

For collecting other specimens, such as a feather, a fungus, or a few leaves.

A good, local field guide

I am in England, and I use this one a lot.

Handsanitiser

Sunscreen

A Penknife

Handy for cutting off small sample branches and such

A Torch

I know…sounds OTT? Let me tell you about the afternoon we went for a winter woodland walk, became completely absorbed, and suddenly realised it was dark! That torch was very useful!

A Water-bottle And Snacks

To keep up the energy of your wee naturalists!

A Mini First Aid-Kit

A few plasters, antiseptic spray, and something to treat bites and stings.

Something To Carry It All In

I carry my own stuff in a backpack. For the girls, I have found those insulated lunch bags really useful. Something like this.

These are the basic items we take out on most nature walks. Please share with me in the comments below what you consider to be your nature study essentials.

Exploring Nature With Children: A Complete, Year-Long Curriculum

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The last few months have been busy..very busy.

I wrote a book!

I have written the book that I have always wanted to buy; a book that really does take the hassle out of nature study, the book that I can just open and go.

I am so very excited to present: Exploring Nature With Children

Exploring Nature With Children is a complete, year-long curriculum, that will guide you step by step, through an entire calendar year of nature study. It has been a true labour of love, and one that I know will make nature study actually happen for many home educating families out there.

Inside Exploring Nature With Children you will find:

An entire chapter devoted to getting you up and running with nature study. This will get you all fired up and ready to go.
Forty-eight weeks of nature study; four weeks for each month of the year, organised by season. Exploring Nature With Children can be used as a whole year’s study, or dipped in and out of as you please. Each study comes with a complete list of
Each week’s nature study contains the following:

A themed nature walk.
Exploring Nature With Children will take you step by step through a themed, Charlotte Mason-style, nature walk. There is no need to hunt through various books and websites; all the information you need is there, leaving you free to enjoy being out in nature with your child.

References to the Handbook Of Nature Study.
Exploring Nature With Children is completely self-contained, but we have also included references to related pages in the Handbook Of Nature Study by Anna Botsford Comstock, should you wish to delve a little deeper.

A themed book list.
With books for children of all ages, you will find a comprehensive list of living books related to the week’s nature study theme. Again, Exploring Nature With Children is a self-contained course, so the book list is a bonus, not a necessity.

A poem
Related to the nature theme of the week; a classic piece of poetry that can be used for copywork, dictation, or simply to just read aloud and enjoy.

A piece of art
The name and details of a piece of art that relates to the nature theme of the week has been included. This can easily be looked up online, or in art books available from your local library.

Extension activities for your child
Here you will find a list of activities, written directly to your child, that will extend their nature study throughout the whole of the week. You will find ideas for crafts, writing, science and more, with absolutely no busy work.

I have written the book that I have always wanted to buy; a book that really does take the hassle out of nature study, the book that I can just open and go. I have tried to make Exploring Nature With Children as user friendly as possible for all families. The book gives you the necessary scientific information for each week’s nature theme, then the parent can present that information to each individual child as they see fit.

The extension activities included vary; venn diagrams, writing poetry, making models. A child that is old enough to keep a nature journal would get the most out of this book, however, the reason Exploring Nature With Children came to be written, was because I have been looking to buy something like this since my twelve year old was a toddler. I would have jumped at this book, even with such a tiny child, because it would equip me as a mum to talk with my child about nature, without having to go through a pile of different books first! To know what to be specifically on the look out for each week, with out a lot of extra information that overwhelmed me!

If you click on any of the blue links, it takes you to the page where you can buy the book. On that page is a preview page. Click on the preview (the top right-hand corner) and you can view the table of contents, plus a whole week’s activities. It should give you a good idea of whether the book would be a good fit for your family.

Exploring Nature With Children is currently available as a PDF. Click on one of the blue links in this post to see a preview of the book or to go ahead and purchase.

The regular price of the download is $15, but I have a coupon code for 30% off the price that runs until August 31 2015. Please enter coupon code: Earlybird15 for your 30% discount.

Please feel free to join my FaceBook page & do let me know what you think.

Update:

Here is a review from a happy customer:

I am so thrilled to be reading “Exploring Nature With Children: A Complete, Year-long Curriculum” by Lynn Seddon. It came out exactly when I needed it as well, being a first time home educator of a very spirited four year old boy. While Charlotte Mason advocates waiting a few years before starting formal education, I believed my child would benefit from learning about the rewards of patient observation and he could certainly make meaningful drawings for himself in a nature journal. Armed with two other wonderful CM based books on the subject of Nature Study, I thought I was completely ready to deliver Nature Study to my son.

However, I found myself overwhelmed when it came to trying to figure out where to start. I was afraid of missing very relevant details and was unsure about when to commence certain parts of study. For example, its said that winter is the best time for studying bird song. When exactly? What other activities could we be doing in winter? How often should I be taking my son to revisit pond study? What if I completely forget to do this particular nature craft which is holiday themed, in time for that holiday?

I learned a lot about Nature Study from my existing resources as an overview, but when it came to the week by week nuts and bolts of putting a comprehensive lesson plan together, I often found my enthusiasm for natural wonder waning, bogged under the practicalities of actually having to pull it off.

Lynn Seddon’s book solves a lot of problems for me. First, it is written with gentle, loving reverence for the study of nature which makes it an enjoyable read. At every step, she offers suggestions for adapting the lessons for younger children and then for older children. In Lynn’s lesson plans, she asks questions that encourages the use of all of the senses that invites more inquiry and curiosity. The lessons are all laid out complete with equipment lists of everyday, inexpensive items and additional related activity suggestions that build upon what’s being learned, using many different skills from many adjoining disciplines. I find the extensions engaging and I look forward to sharing these with my son.

JGC