"Nature Study" evokes pleasant visions of children armed with crisp art pads and watercolors, serenely gazing at the pond reflecting sunbeams on their perfectly coiffed hair. The baby sits happily on the fresh linen blanket while you admire how the children churn out beautiful picture after beautiful picture of the winged water fowl and it's elaborate beak structure.
The reality is that as you hurriedly rush out the door you realize that your two year old has eaten the watercolors, although they blend nicely with the leftover peanut butter on his shirt, the three year old has ripped half the pages out of the art pads and the seven year old can only find one of his shoes. The nine year old is whining because it is "SOOO HOT out here" and the eleven year old asks, "Do we have to do this?"
Can I get an "amen"?
Every year I would think, "THIS. THIS is the year that nature study will work for us. And every year it has fizzled out before it has even begun.
I had to let go of those perfect and quite unrealistic visions of what nature study would be for our family, and once that happened, things went a lot more smoothly.
I realized that nature study for us is best done on the fly.
Not on an actual bug, mind you, but unplanned and unprepared. I'm the type of person that has to have every little piece of information before I do something. So, I thought I needed every tree identification guide, every art tool and read every library book on something before we could go out and observe it. Talk about setting yourself up for failure.
Here are several things we've done over the few months or so that were learning, but weren't planned....
- My son noticed a wood pecker in a tree in our front yard.
- We watched the lunar eclipse.
- A (creepy) spider made its home outside the window by my desk. We observed it for weeks.
- We went to the zoo.
- We noticed a squirrel storing away some nuts in our backyard.
- We picked and cooked some vegetables from a friend's garden.
- That same friend has chickens we observed.
- Observed worms, bugs and various creatures that have been in and around our house.
- The little kids looked at leaves changing for fall.
- We looked at a pond and the plant and animal life that lives there.
All of that was learning. It was nature study. And it was no stress.
So, nature study for us may never be that perfect structured and researched outing with beautifully illustrated and diagrammed notebooks, but I'm okay with that.