Confessions of a Nature Study Drop-Out (And What I Do To Fix It)

Let me sing my song of woes about all of the nature study things I have bought. Unit studies? Check. Notebooking pages? Check. Anna Comstock? Check. Picture books? Check.

Confessions of a Nature Study Drop-OutI’ve subscribed to all the best nature study blogs and read them faithfully every week. I click on all the forum threads about nature study and soak up the wisdom. I even have a nature study Pinterest board pinned with all the coolest things.

I have yearned for the perfect resource to get me off my bottom, out the door with my kids, and engaged in a meaningful way with nature. It’s time, though, I face the cold, hard truth. I am just not a naturalist.

I largely think this has to do with the fact that I really don’t like to be outdoors all that much. I mean, sure, give me a hammock, a book, a glass of sweet tea, and a non-humid 75-degree-day, and I’ll be outdoors all you want.

Start adding heat, humidity, cold (below 60), bugs, poison ivy, snakes, anything remotely icky, or requiring more than moderate physical effort, then no thanks. I’ll just stay inside.

So I have come to the conclusion that I am a nature study drop-out (even though one can make a great argument that I never really started in the first place).

 That being said, I am determined not to pass on my feelings to my children by default. If one or more is naturally inclined to be like me anyway, I am not going to fight it. I’m sure we’ll have a great time discussing books we’ve read and playing board games.

If there is a child, though, who leans the other way as an outdoor-lover, I am determined that my attitudes and actions not stymie their love of the outdoors.

My mother loves the outdoors and prefers to be there over anywhere. When I was a kid she sent me outside until dark and took me camping and fishing. It wasn’t for lack of effort on her part that I ended up this way.

What I am not going to do (even inadvertently) is discourage the kid, who might be predisposed to be more like GG instead of mom, from enjoying nature just because I don’t.

So here are a few ideas I have come up with to make nature study more tolerable and doable for me, so we just don’t throw it over altogether:

 Outsource It 

The older kids are signed up for two nature day-camps each this spring. They will also be attending week-long camps at our local nature park this summer. As long as they are interested in attending, we will encourage them to go.

My goal is to seek out opportunities for them to participate in on a regular basis. Maybe then they will have memories of all of the nature activities they did and somehow forget they didn’t do them with me.

Fake It 

I really like to look at nature things from the comfort of my home. So far from our windows we have seen squirrels, chipmunks, a hawk, cardinals, and any number of unnamed birds that I really should look up in the birding guide.

I point them out to the kids every time. We look things up online and read books about them. I even pull out the camera and the long lens to get shots. That’s my kind of nature study there.

Do It My Way

I like to take pictures instead of sketch. I prefer to put them in a blog instead of in a book. If any of the kids express an interest in sketching or keeping a written journal, I will do everything in my power to help them.

In the meantime, I think it is pretty futile to get them to enjoy something I don’t even like myself. As beautiful as those sketched pages look, I am not so sure that Charlotte Mason herself would have hit the trail without her camera, iPad, and field guide app if she lived today. She was a pretty forward-thinking kind of gal.

Just Do It Anyway

Then there is this. Some days I just need to get out and walk in the woods, the park, the yard, anywhere. Even if I can’t name all the things we see or know anything about what we find, just the fact that we are outside together experiencing wonder has to count for something.

So my goal is to just do it two or three times a month. No plans, no units, no journaling — just a walk to see what is out there and enjoy each others’ company. If I don’t give up, maybe one day I’ll get lucky and they’ll start teaching me something.

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  • Nicole says:

    GREAT post! I often feel the same way, especially in Summer and Winter. I try to take advantage of Spring and Fall outdoor activities. I am a HUGE homebody, and my kids are too (thankfully). But we do TRY to get out there every once in a while. Usually a unit study helps, like right now we are reading The Secret Garden. That has us getting outside some.

    • Pam says:

      I think there are so many folks out there like us Nicole who are afraid to fess up. Loving nature study seems to be one of those hallmarks of homeschoolers. Thanks for stopping by!

  • Gillian says:

    Letting go of homeschool perfection is SO hard! We’re really bad at getting out there for nature studies, keeping nature journals, etc. I think I just need to get my kids outside to appreciate nature, maybe with sketchbooks, maybe with cameras, maybe with only a field guide. Plus we WILL be gardening this year, so that will help. I love the idea of the Outdoor Hour Challenges, using the Handbook of Nature Study, and so forth, but in reality, it just isn’t getting done.

    Love this post – thanks! It is always good to know it is not just me 😉

    • Pam says:

      Yep, the idea sounds so good. The reality — not so much. It’s one of those things I think I SHOULD do. I’m just not that interested…

  • ElizabethW says:

    Pam,
    I have lots in common with you– I’m just still in the denial phase! I’m so glad I read this post, though. Your words are refreshing. And your windows are super clean.

  • Sarah says:

    This is so good, Pam! I’m a nature study dropout, too. Thanks for the ideas (and the validation). 🙂

  • Tammy G says:

    I don’t want to be a nature study drop-out yet I have such a hard time getting out on a lesson day to enjoy the outdoors and my children. I am like you in that I have a lot of great resources but fail with good intentions of using them. So I decided I would just walk outside with the children one day a week and then journal it the next day. Well, last week we did the walk and not the journal and today is the day for the walk but I don’t know if we will make it. Keep trying and we’ll make it. My other idea is to read the Smithsonian Back yard books at our leisure and then when the topic arrives on our walks we will already know the animal and just enjoy the day. Blessings and thanks for sharing.

  • Researcher says:

    Here from WTM And just wanted to say nice blog and I voted for you!

  • Mandy says:

    🙂 same here…but we so enjoyed the day today at the park, outside, I am going to try to put more effort into it…let’s turn some of our park days into nature trail days for sure! (oh and I wish blogs had “like” features like FB 😛 lol …like your posts, like your comment folks’ posts LOL)

  • Elizabeth says:

    Great post! I’m slowly coming to the realization that I’m not much of an outdoor person myself. We recently took a trip over Spring Break to Broken Bow, Oklahoma. I had envisioned spending most of our time walking around enjoying the scenic beauty. Instead, our little troop was happiest just hanging out in our cabin, playing games, reading books, crocheting, even watching movies our last evening there. AND I REFUSE TO FEEL GUILTY ABOUT THIS. 🙂

  • Amanda says:

    AHH!! I can so relate! I was good about this, though only weekly, rarely daily, when my older two were under 10. We had a garden, and plenty of time to take walks or meet friends for nature field trips. As we head into high school, it’s much harder to make time so my youngers get the same opportunity, especially since I have a million excuses! Allergies, heat, drought, urban living, blah blah blah. Thank you for your honesty and the inspiration to find ways to overcome the excuses and find our own ways to explore creation!

  • Lynn Ashburn says:

    Thank you, I so needed to know I am not alone. I really can’t tell you how much I appreciate this.

  • cindy says:

    Oh you struck a chord! It’s not that I don’t enjoy being outside – but like you said, add the heat, bugs, etc. and I’d rather not.
    I love your ideas of seeing it differently – pictures instead of sketches.
    We can all experience the great outdoors in our own way 🙂

    • Pam Barnhill says:

      Yes, I understand. My porch on a cool, non-humid morning is a lovely place to listen to the birds. Most days that’s enough for me. 🙂

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