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Nature groups can provide an enriching communal experience for homeschoolers, offering the opportunity to cultivate relationships with like-minded peers. That’s why our friend Joy Cherrick is here today to talk about how she started her group and how it helped her to grow and find support as a homeschool mom.

By creating a nature group (or any other kind of group), homeschoolers can build a supportive community that enriches their growth and understanding of the world.

Key Takeaways
  • Homeschool communities can be a great way to find support and companionship.
  • Nature groups offer a chance to cultivate friendships for kids and moms.
  • Starting a homeschool co-op for nature study doesn’t have to be stressful.

Links and Resources

Listen to the Podcast:

How to start a homeschool nature group transcript

Pam: Joy Cherrick is a homeschooling mom of seven. She has five school-aged children with a preschooler and a baby, which totally keeps it interesting at her house. She writes Nature studies support guides, and is joined by her children on her podcast, Naturalist Kids. Joy’s love of nature and community, led her to create the How to Start a Nature Group Live workshop where she shares the best way to set your group up to succeed.

And we’re gonna be talking about how you can access that workshop at the end of the podcast. But for now, Joy, welcome. It’s so good to have you on. 

Joy: Thanks for having me, Pam. 

Pam: Okay, so you kind of proposed this idea to me. You come into my community, the Your Morning Basket plus community and teach our members all the time about wonderful nature lore, and you proposed the idea that all moms needed to have a nature group. And I thought you had such an interesting take on this. Why? What are the benefits of having a nature group? 

Joy: Yeah, so I think commonly, you know, if we’re in a subdivision and are a little bit more city-fied, you know, and as a general rule of our culture, then a lot of people are having a hard time getting outside regularly and learning the names of things, even just in their neighborhood, even in their local community. So this is kind of a fun way to do that with friends. 

But then, you know, it doesn’t, that’s kind of like for me, like that’s the sneaky reason I really have a passion for cultivating community. And when you have a common thing that you’re doing together and you are kind of in the habit of it, then that actually helps cultivate friendship. But then again, I keep saying it’s kinda sneaky because you are learning together and then you become co-laborers. It almost becomes an opportunity where not only are your kids getting enrichment and you’re learning about God’s creation, but then there is this mentoring kind of mom fellowship that’s going on in the side. 

What we found over the several years we’ve been doing nature groups is that during the lunchtime, so we have kind of a liturgy that we follow. You know, we’re doing a lesson, we’re doing nature study, we’re drawing in our nature journals, but then at lunch the moms are chatting, what’s happening in your homeschool? What are you struggling with? What is it that, how do I make math not so hard? You know, those types of questions. But then you’re talking to someone who knows your child or knows you and is able to give you encouragement or say, oh, well this is what I do. And it really becomes this support group.

And I just love that component, that kind of mentoring. You know, you’re kind of all, you’ve got these coworkers, a colleague really, and then the kids kind of have the same thing going on because they’re able to share with other people who have the same lifestyle. And you know, then you are cultivating those friendships with your children, with their peers, and then with your own peers. And it just makes life so rich. 

My kids look forward to it. Oh, today’s nature group day. Yes. You know, they’re so excited to see their friends and they really start to have that comradery. But then also what’s fun, you know, the homeschool part that’s fun is that then the kids are starting to share and get excited about God’s creation together.

They’ll teach one another the names of different flowers, so the names of different trees that they have come to know over the years. And to me that has been, it’s like compounding. It’s like one thing is good and then, you know, you bring a friend and it’s compounding it, it’s, it’s kind of like what Piglet said, “It’s much more friendly with two.”

Pam: I love it. I love it. Okay. There are so many things to unpack in what you said, and I think I wanna focus on what I think is probably the most important thing that you talked about. And you may not even think of this as being the most important thing. You were talking about moms talking to other moms about their homeschool issues and the moms know their kids.

I can’t tell you how huge this is because I see so many people go online and ask for advice and they try to give a little bit about the situation. I’ve got this 14 year old, I’ve got this seven year old, I’ve got this nine year old, and they kind of try to explain what’s going on. But there is nothing like talking to a mom who knows your children, who knows you, who knows all the personalities in play and who has witnessed some of the struggles and the strengths and weaknesses of your kids and stuff like that for them to be able to, to say, Hey, have you tried this? Or have you thought about this? Or maybe this is something that would work. And I think so often I see moms asking for advice online and not realizing that, and we try to help each other out, but just not realizing that it’s so hard when you’re giving advice in a vacuum and there’s so much that you don’t know. So I don’t know if you thought about that, but to me that was one of the biggest things about this is you’re building that local community of people who can see you, can see your children, who know both of you. And this is where homeschool fellowship happens. 

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Joy: Right. And I think that we don’t exactly know how to cultivate that. You know? We want it and we’ve seen a huge need for it since the last two years happened. And I mean, we are having people move into our area and our nature group is getting so big. We’ve started three or four others just in our area because of how many people had that need. But what’s great about Nature Group in particular versus a traditional co-op where you’re doing different subjects what’s wonderful is that it can be useful to all different homeschool styles. 

We had a friend who was not the same homeschool style, very traditional schooling. And then we had some Charlotte Mason, we had just a big combination.

And it was so marvelous because we wanted a fellowship with one another, but we were trying, we had a hard time figuring out where we overlapped. And that is where we overlapped, you know, God’s creation, general revelation. That’s one of the ways God communicates with us is through his word and through his creation. And we’re learning about that so we had that in common.

So then we get out there and you know, I’d been studying and trying to learn as much as I could. So then I’m sharing, and then my kids, you know, I’m surprised at all the things that they end up knowing and they’re teaching theirs. And it was so wonderful to see that fellowship, that bond, even though, you know, usually it’s like, oh, you have to find somebody who has the same style in your home. You know? Right. But really we could find that to be a common ground. 

Pam: Because everybody experiences nature. Right? Everybody has some kind of experience with nature. Everybody might not do Plutarch and everybody might not have an interest in Plutarch. Which is a very Charlotte Mason thing. If you’re listening and you’re not familiar, but everybody you know, enjoys typically enjoys nature, you know, and starting a homeschool co-op, I’ve been there, done that. That can be really intimidating to like say, oh, how are we gonna figure this out? Now we’ve gotta find a place. 

Nature study as a point of fellowship and community. You don’t have to find a place. I mean, you really just could go in somebody’s backyard and do it though. 

Joy: Well, You really could. And you’d be surprised at how many things we don’t know the names of. Right? Just even in our, on our own property and how that curiosity, you know, I just wanna learn the names of everything on this plot of land. You know, that will take you down quite the journey itself. So, you know, even a little neighborhood could allow for something like that or the neighborhood park. 

Pam: Right. So then you’re not looking for a building, you’re not trying to get insurance, which has become the thing these days.You’re not trying to set up, you know, any kind of formal schedule or anything like that. And then you have great resources like Nature Study Hacking that you could use to help guide what you’re doing if you’re a little bit unsure, but field guides, those kinds of things. All of that comes in handy…Apps.

Joy: Yeah. It’s so easy to get started and actually that’s what I talk about in my live workshop. And what really encouraged me to make the workshop was, you know, I wanna share what I’ve learned. I have emails that I sent out that are kind of introductory, here’s what you’re signing up for. I’m gonna share those. There’s the liturgy that we found that works as far as the order, what, like what do you do once you get together that makes it feel valuable? And I’m gonna say, you know, Your Morning Basket, that Morning Time concept really is helpful in that group setting because you’re starting to develop a culture.

You have certain things that you’re doing and those, you know, you wanna engage everyone and not just have, you know, a teacher talking, you know, you want the kids to be involved throughout. So that Morning Time format really is helpful. 

Pam: So you’re gonna, And then You’re gonna give ’em the emails. 

Joy: Yes. 

Pam: And so this is like how you introduce the concept. You’re gonna give them kind of the order of what to do and then you’re gonna give them all the tips that they need in order to make this happen. Yes. For their own homeschool community. 

Joy: Right. And we’re gonna brainstorm a little bit of goals as well, because how frequently you meet and how you find your people to do this with you is actually gonna depend on what your goals are for the group. 

For me, I find my people all within my local church and then, you know, if there’s not a big enough demand there, then I go out from there. So it just kind of depends, you know, some, some have just really wanted to explore all the national parks nearby and so that would have its own idea. But for me, the goal for me has been cultivating community and really trying to strengthen those bonds with other colleagues. You know, those homeschool mom friends who can really be that support system. Cuz we need that. We need to know we’re not alone and we need to have that real life person who, you know, can get to know us and say, Hey, well you moved last semester so give yourself some grace and stop freaking out about math. 

Pam: I love it. I love it. Yes. Taking that, getting that camaraderie wherever we can And who would’ve thunk it? Like we thought Nature study was just nature study, but really it can be so much more. So we are going to include the link for the How to Start a Nature Study Together workshop. We’re going to include that link in the show notes for this episode of the podcast. So do come and check that out. That’ll be happening in April. And you’re gonna want to get all of the good, the good stuff that’s in there because Joy is very organized and she lays everything out for you very succinctly and gives you like all the things to do like just in this order.

And so if you’re looking for the easy button for starting your own Nature Steady group in order to build those relationships, she’s got it for you. Well Joy, thank you so much for coming on. 

Joy: Thanks for having me, Pam. It was wonderful.

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