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Nature Study

I always feel so refreshed after a Charlotte Mason support group meeting.  It was so enlightening to have such a wonderful group of women in our living room for the evening.  When we are gathered I often feel like I did as a kid after a day of playing hard when I would come inside and my grandmother would have a veritable feast of wonderful foods laid out for the family to enjoy.  There was always enough to refresh, satisfy and energize and so much left over afterwards that you just wanted to eat up because it was so good but you couldn’t because you were stuffed full.  Each woman who comes to these meetings has areas of expertise that I want to glean so much from.  This evening was no disappointment.  I am filled and trying to digest all of the yummy stuff that we were able to chat about this evening.
Tonight we chatted about math and of course I blathered on a bit too much but we also got to dig into the topic of “Nature Study” and had a great discussion. 
Since Charlotte Mason’s goal in education was to experience and appreciate God and his creation, she felt that “the only sound method of teaching science is to afford a due combination of field or laboratory work, with such literary comments and amplifications as the subject affords.” (Philosophy of Education, pg. 223)
We tend to think of good science education as encompassing lots of great experiments and focusing on the scientific method and though she thought that that was important she also advocated lots of time in the field “observing and chronicling” (pg. 220) but she reminds us that students “shall not depend upon their own unassisted observation.” (pg. 220)  Field guides and other “carefully selected books on natural history, botany, architechture and astronomy” (pg. 220) were useful companions.  And of course, as always, she advocated a more literary approach to science, making time in the schedule for the reading of complimentary literature that was inspiring and informative.
And what better way to record and show knowledge but by way of the trusty nature notebook.  Miss Mason wrote, “Certainly these note books do a good deal to bring science within the range of common thought and experience; we are anxious not to make science a utilitarian subject.”  (pg. 223)  It is so true in our household, indulging in some time with the nature notebooks has become one of the favourite parts of our structured learning time.
Here are some of the notes that I gathered:  (We were also so thankful to Kendra this evening for sharing from her expertise as a naturalist and her background in outdoor education and ecotourism.)
Laboratory work of literary value:
Apologia’s Exploring Creation with… Young Explorer Series by Jeannie Fulbright
Complimentary field guides and the like
*a tip from Kendra in choosing field guides: drawings are better than photos as they can better capture poses and appropriate colours.*
Handbook of Nature Study by Anna Botsford Comstock
Recommended first guides to invest in:
1) Field Guide to North American Birds By Roger Tory Peterson
2) Lone Pine’s Bugs of Ontario by John Acorn and Ian Sheldon
3) Forest Plants of Central Ontario by Brenda Chambers
Also check out:
other Peterson Field Guides
Stokes Guide to Animal Tracking and Behaviour by Don and Lillian Stokes
Living books that might accompany nature study:
Nature’s Everyday Mysteries by Sy Montgomery
A Country Diary of an Edwardian Lady by Edith Holden
The Burgess Bird Book by Thornton W. Burgess
The Burgess Animal Book by Thornton W. Burgess
Other books by Thornton Burgess
picture books by James Herriot (be advised that some of his novels have adult content and should be reviewed first)
Owls in the Family by Farley Mowat
And other books by Farley Mowat
for young readers: Christian Liberty Press’s nature readers series
Besides nature walks here are some interesting programmes that homeschoolers might participate in:
The Great Sunflower Project
The Outdoor Hour Challenge
And don’t forget about the value of local events like bird counts, municipal garbage cleanup days and the like….
Wow!  I am really looking forward to getting outside again with my little tribe….
I hope that you can use one or two of these ideas to make science and specifically nature study a much anticipated time in your home.
Happy hiking!

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