I was recently given the opportunity to do a review for The Old Schoolhouse Magazine. I received their e-book Creative Nature Study for free in exchange for my honest review of the book and how well it worked in our home school. If you are interested in the e-book, you can find it here at their website. For information on the Schoolhouse Review Crew, click here.
We love nature around here, even though the desert landscape is a far cry from what I envision when I am thinking about nature. There are no fall leaves falling right now, no snowflakes on the horizon. The green is sparse and both the wildlife and the plant life here have built in defense systems. It’s hard to find something native that isn’t sharp, poisonous, or tough-as-nails. Still, God created this desert too, and it can be beautiful as well.
I wanted to look over this e-book as a way of freshening up our nature study. My kids have always helped me garden, investigated bugs, birds, and lizards in our yard, and we hike regularly when we can. We only don’t spend time outdoors when the temperatures peak over 110 outside. However, there are always new ideas out there, and I was sure I could find something to get my kids excited about being outside again after a long, hot summer.
First off, it is a really long e-book. There is a load of information packed into this thing! I was initially a little overwhelmed at having to read the whole thing and then figure out what to incorporate into our week. A few pages in, I realized that it was very different than I had expected. Most e-books I have read in the past are a page talking about a theme, then a series of worksheets geared around that theme. Wash. Rinse. Repeat. This e-book is different. It’s set up as a series of stories or short articles told by different authors and they all talk about how they use nature study in their homeschool. It was very easy to read, conversational, and I really liked it. I finished reading it in record time and only at the end, after the author credits, did I see an appendix with just a few worksheets in it.
I love thinking about school as being more than just paperwork and writing things down. Even when talking about nature study, a lot of teachers would advise having worksheets or a notebook on hand so you can do “actual” work. Many of the authors in this e-book just endorse being outside, talking to your kids in an intentional way, and learning by doing, not by writing. It is not an assumption that you are going to need lots of paperwork to give your children so they can learn. I really like that.
I chose to start doing nature walks with my kids each day this week. Every day our walk was based on a different theme, and we talked about and looked for different things along the same route. I loved being in the fresh air every day, and I think it really helped all of my kids to get some exercise before we sat down for more academic work. Yes, we do that too. I just think that some subjects are best approached a little differently.
I am looking forward to using some of the more unusual ideas ideas from the book that really struck my fancy but require more preparation than I was able to muster this week. There is a great article on setting up a bird watching station with tips on what to have on hand. My kids love the birds that visit our yard, and I know they would enjoy learning more about them. There are also links to some great online resources for bird watching, bird calls, and other nature-related things also. I haven’t had time to visit them all, but the ones I did go to were very good and I will spend more time on some of those pages in the near future.
Whether you have kids that dig in the dirt, bring in worms, and hunt lizards, or you are brand new to investigating God’s beautiful earth with your little ones, you will find something in this e-book that you can use. It’s a great resource for books to read, websites to visit, zoos and aquariums, gardens, seeds, and many more things. That, plus the stories of how nature study has impacted the home schools of many women, make this e-book a winner.
*This post originally appeared on BlogHer November of 2014.*