Working Nature Study Into Your Homeschool Routine

I had planned every other Thursday to be our Nature Day where we go somewhere wild, play outdoors, and try to spy a new bird for the kids’
bird books.

Yesterday arrived, however, and I really didn’t feel like going on a road trip. I had to get ready for my son’s 3rd birthday and the first day of co-op, and the whole thing just sounded like a lot of work. Good thing I had planned to do this with a friend. She was up for it, so I hated to wimp out on her.

Especially since it was my idea in the first place.

We decided to go.
It looks like we’re packing for a trip on the Oregon Trail, doesn’t it? Nope, just a morning at the beach.

In hindsight, I needn’t have bothered with the potty. Next time, just the essentials: swimsuits, towels, sunscreen, beach buckets (forgot
those), nature backpack with bird book, lunch/snacks, wipes. Still a lot of essentials.

Now, this whole trip was fun for me since I got to sit on the sand and hang out with my friend while the kids more or less played cheerfully.

But the best part is, it totally counts as a full day of school. Here are some ways we worked learning in:

1. Creative/Imaginative Play (Logic/Spatial Reasoning)  – The three big kids (my two plus their friend) built a castle and intricate moat system. The two boys had a heated discussion over whether the moat should be connected to the water (so boats could come in) or not (so the water didn’t go out), but eventually decided, at my suggestion, that the imaginary boats could go up on wheels to get over the land, then back down when they arrived at the moats. This was amenable to all.

This is why Apple and Google executives spend big bucks to send their kids to private schools that emphasize free and creative play. We want to raise the kids who will ask the right questions, right? We want children who know how to come up with
the ideas, not just know how to use technology.  We want world-changers.

And a great place to start is with sandcastles and moats.

2.  Literature – On the hour-long drive there and back we listened to Sigourney Weaver’s reading of Hans Christian Andersen’s The Snow Queen. It gave me goose bumps. I was worried it would be too creepy for the kids, but they sat spellbound. (Well, my toddler didn’t really care for it, but that’s to be expected.)

Anyway, I want to get more Hans Christian Andersen stories on CD if the library has them. Captivating.  (And I just want you to know, I wasn’t organized enough to check it out in preparation for our trip. I happened upon an overdue CD I’d forgotten about, so hooray for us!)

3. Science – While at the beach, I alerted the kids to the birds I saw and looked them up in our Birds of Oklahoma book. (I like this book because the birds are organized by color, which is all I know about a bird when I spot it.) Eventually I want the kids to do this, but for now, I have to be the bird enthusiast.

We saw a Great Egret, possibly a Blue Heron, and some kind of hawk, but I couldn’t tell which kind. Also the kids found a mussel in the lake and lumps of clay buried in the sand, so we talked about those a bit.


4. Some more free play. If someone insisted, it could be called “socializing” – the kids played on the jungle gym to dry off. (I was hoping they might knock some
sand off them and track less into the car, but this did not seem to have happened.)

Our friend’s dad had been showing him pictures of the landing on Mars, so the kids pretended they were landing on Mars for a good thirty minutes.

They were quite intense. My favorite quote:

“Look it’s a baby!”

“But human babies on Mars are actually giant spiders!”

So in case you ever make it to Mars, beware of huge spider babies.

5. Writing/Art/Science – I was actually going to skip having the kids do a page for their Bird Book, but then I remembered we were supposed to do some reading for co-op the next day. It was the first five pages in the Apologia Flying Creatures book, and it talked about how animals are given Latin names. (Our CC memory work is already paying off because the book talks about Kingdom, Phylum, etc.)

I decided we should go ahead and do a Bird Page, so that we could practice writing the English name and the Latin name.  (Excuse the dinner debris in the photo. Also, excuse the sharp knives flung haphazardly about.)

I just got out regular white sheets of printer paper and asked the kids to write the English name, Latin name, date and location (I helped with spelling), and then copy the picture from the book.

Here is my daughter’s.  She named the bird “Yelo Bec” (Yellow Beak).

I punched holes in them and plan to put them in one of those folders with brads. That will be our Bird Book. I’d love it if the kids to have 15-20 birds in there by the end of the year.

We might possibly collect insects (deceased ones) for a bug board, but I’m not sure if I want to open that can of worms yet. Do I really want to invite
dead insects into the house?  I don’t
know that I do.

Let us not forget what happened to Sukey (may she rest in peace).


So that was our first Nature Day of this school year. Getting everything packed up was a bit of a pain, and taking baths afterward and washing out the sandy towels was a bit of a pain, but it was worth it.The sand was actually good for my son, who has some sensory issues, and gets irritated by textures easily. Playing in the sand is a great sensory exercise.

So even though it feels like a “day off,” it’s really a day full of learning, exploring, and adventure.

How do you make time for nature study or outdoor time in your school?

4 thoughts on “Working Nature Study Into Your Homeschool Routine

  1. Do you know about Story Nory? There are a handful of Hans Christian Anderson fairytales that are downloadable for FREE….yes, FREE (and I heart free). The gal that reads on the site also reads lots of other great books that I’m sure you and the kiddos would love! Check it out!

    • I thought I replied to this but I don’t see it here. I’m sure you won’t see this, but THANK YOU! That’s awesome.

  2. We do a lot of nature study. I have to agree that some days it is hard to get up and get out there but in the end, I always love it!!