“The question is not, – how much does the youth know? when he has finished his education – but how much does he care?”
I think that as home educating parents, we want the absolute best for our children. We are well aware of the heavy responsibility that we have taken on in educating our children at home, and we strive for perfection in all that we do.
Whilst this is obviously a good thing, it can definitely have it’s downsides. We want everything just so before we can begin, all our ducks in a row.
I receive so many messages from mums. They love the idea of studying nature with their children! They so desperately want this to be a part of their family culture. They want to know the best pens, paints, and journals to use. How to set up a journal page, how to engage their reluctant wee artist, which field guide. These are all excellent, and very valid questions, but sometimes, we become so ‘frozen’ by getting everything just right, we never take that first step to actually begin Nature Study, or we find that after a few lack-lustre attempts, it doesn’t meet our expectations, and we give up.
If this describes your own experience, take heart dear friend! Let me make some suggestions:
Start small: Pencil in 5 minutes for Nature Study in your diary each day. No need for any big announcements to the children, simply take then for a quick peek in the garden as a reward for paying good attention to their maths lesson. Is the sun shining? Where in the sky is it? Will it be in the same place tomorrow, I wonder? What a gorgeous flower that is! Can you hear that bird singing? You get the picture, I’m sure.
Even better, perhaps you have a dog? The dog must be walked each day, so there’s the perfect opportunity for you all to get out of doors. Stop calling it Nature Study, start calling it ‘the time of day when the dog must be walked’. Enjoy being together as a family, and talk about what you see.
Eventually, you, mother should begin to keep a Nature Notebook of some sort. Maybe you’ll commit to sketching something that you saw on your walk, just once a week. Let the children see you struggle to learn a new skill. It will boost them no end (& remind you just how hard it is to learn something new!) You may decide to simply write something that you see each day on your kitchen calendar, for all the family to see. Don’t know the name of something? All the better! Write a brief description, and keep looking out for the same creature/tree/plant etc. Your knowledge of it will be enriched for the lack of a name, and the time you spend observing it regularly, trying to figure out what it is.
Miss Mason spoke about giving an ‘object lesson’ to our young charges, which is the whole basis for the Nature Study curriculum that I wrote: Exploring Nature With Children. The idea is to keep our walks focused on getting to know one aspect of nature; honing in the attention on one thing.
There are many reasons to study nature, and we each have our own. But one overarching reason is to form a appetite within our child; an appetite for what is good and beautiful. To care about the natural world around us. To have reverence and respect for God’s creation.
Keep this in mind, dear mother, as you set out to explore nature. Begin small, and keep in mind that
‘From Little Acorns Do Mighty Oaks Grow’.