Nature study is not a subject we teach—it’s a way of life.
A way of life initiated by a habit we must instill in the early years.
Nature study builds into our children something that cannot be attained through any other means—a spirit of freedom and a sense of awe—a depth of understanding of God’s beautiful creation and a curiosity that stays with our children their entire lives.
A hundred years before science showed the incredible benefits of nature on a child’s mental, physical, academic and social health, Charlotte Mason urged her readers to take the children out of doors every day for hours of unstructured play.
“Let them once get in touch with nature and a habit is formed which will be a source of delight through life.”
It’s important we release the stronghold that completing the academic work has on us and choose that which is better for our children.
Let them sit at the feet of God’s creation and learn the lessons He has for them there. They should be allowed to dig and explore and collect and wonder in awe over all they discover.
Studies reveal that spending time outdoors supports a child’s creativity and problem solving. Creative nature play enhances a child’s ability to focus and reason, which contributes to his overall intellectual development.
Research also shows that time in nature equals improved academic performance in social studies, science, language arts and math. A particular science study revealed an increase in the students’ score by 27%—just by doing science outside while making it real and bringing it to life.
Further, it’s been discovered that unstructured time outdoors improves a child’s social relations. They get along better and experience more cooperation, exhibiting greater self-discipline in their thoughts and behavior.
Being in nature reduces children’s stress level which contributes to peace in their interpersonal relationships.
You may be thinking, “We can’t afford to spend hours of our homeschool day outside.” But with these benefits, how can we afford not to spend time outdoors?
Ample time adventuring out in nature is foundational to a rich Charlotte Mason education.
She tells us,
“The knowledge most valuable to the child is that which he gets with his own eyes and ears and fingers in the open air.”
Charlotte Mason recommended allowing children absolute freedom to run, shout and express themselves with energy while outdoors. Yet she also believed children should be trained to “see.” To have their eyes opened to the natural beauty around them, “igniting in them the curiosity to look, notice and observe.”
Ms. Mason encouraged her students to keep a nature notebook as soon as they were able. Spending ample time in nature each day, the children would create their own living book of life outdoors.
Nature journaling utilizes art, science, and language arts to increase a child’s enjoyment of nature and train his powers of observation. Time outside should be first and foremost filled with free exploration.
But sometimes, the children should slow down, sit down and focus their energies on the close and precise examination of an object, scene or interesting phenomenon that can be recorded in their nature journal.
When our children understand nature more fully and are trained to notice its intricacies, they’ll enjoy it all the more and will be truly in awe of God’s beautiful creation each time they encounter it.
If you make nature study a part of your daily routine, you’ll build in your children a lifelong interest in and love of the beautiful world God created them to enjoy.
All it takes is a little intentionality and planning to bless your family with the nourishment nature offers our heart, soul, mind and spirit.
For more Charlotte Mason insight read here.