Cindy West is a homeschooling mother of three and the author of the NaturExplorer series. She joins us on this episode of the podcast to share her contagious enthusiasm for nature study.
She discusses the importance of this sometimes-neglected subject–how nature study helps us develop keen observation skills, teaches us important truths about our Creator, and gives us opportunities to make connections to subjects like science, geography, and math.
Cindy has an impressive list of simple, meaningful ways to spend just a few minutes of Morning Time on nature study. So, whether you are a seasoned nature enthusiast or someone who prefers to enjoy the great outdoors from the comfort of your air-conditioned living room, you will be sure to find some great ideas in this episode.
Links and resources from today’s show:
- Our Journey Westward (Cindy’s blog)
- Shining Dawn Books
- NaturExplorers books
- Shanleya’s Quest by Thomas Elpel
- Into the Forest, Nature’s Food Chain Game
- Audubon field guides
- Handbook of Nature Study by Anna Comstock
- Harrington Harmonies (Stephanie Harrington’s blog)
- Cindy’s Nature Notebooking Pinterest board
- Set card game
Shanleya’s Quest: A Botany Adventure for Kids Ages 9-99Ampersand Press Into the Forest, Nature’s Food Chain GameNational Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Birds: Eastern Region, Revised EditionHandbook of Nature StudySet: The Family Game of Visual Perception (Cover art may vary)
Pam: This is Your Morning Basket where we help you bring Truth, Goodness and Beauty to your homeschool day. Hi everyone and welcome to episode 11 of the Your Morning Basket podcast. I am Pam Barnhill, your host, and I am so happy that you’re joining me here today. Well, today we’re talking about something a little bit different on the Your Morning Basket podcast. We’re talking about nature study and what makes this different is when most of us think about doing nature study in our homeschools, we actually think about going out into nature to do it, and that’s a good thing, unless you’re like me and you don’t like to go out into nature. Yes, it is a weakness of mine, I’ve actually written about it before on the blog, about how much I’m not so much a nature person. But I do enjoy looking at nature through my window and I enjoy studying about nature, and I thought ‘well, I’ll marry that particular joy of mine with a little podcast about how to do nature study in Morning Time, when it’s not always practical to get out.’
Now, I am by no means advocating that you should never get out into nature. I do take my children outside a couple of months out of the year when it’s not too hot and not too cold and not too buggy, and I also send them to nature camp every summer, so I do outsource that part. But for people like me, or for additional nature study that you would like to fit into your Morning Time, I think this is going to be a podcast that you’re really going to enjoy. Cindy West from Our Journey Westward and Shining Dawn Books is joining me here today. Cindy has an extensive knowledge of nature study and she just has a whole passel of great ideas for us on how to do nature study in Morning Time. So without any further ado, let’s get on with the podcast and hey, come back and join me at the end, I’ve got a great Basket Bonus for you, for this particular episode. And I just think you’re going to love it.
Cindy West homeschools her three children who are ages 18, 15, and 8. And, actually, that oldest one has graduated and is heading off to college this fall. They follow an eclectic style but identify mostly with the Charlotte Mason method of homeschooling. Cindy is also the author of the very popular NaturExplorers Series which can be found at ShiningDawnBooks.com. NaturExplorers books are a unique blend of in-depth science and living literature that bring families closer to nature. Welcome to the show, Cindy.
Cindy: Thank you. It’s so good to be here.
Pam: I am just happy that you are joining me this evening to talk a little bit about nature study.
Cindy: I am so excited. Nature study is my passion.
Pam: Why do you think nature study is such an important practice for families?
Cindy: Because it encompasses so many things. I first thought it was really important once we started Charlotte Mason’s style homeschooling. And then as I got into the why’s: why is this so important? I found in the Word verses that God has really taught us things through nature. And so I realized our Creator has given us all of this wonderful stuff, you need to go learn about it. And when we started first really digging into nature study I began to realize ‘Oh my goodness, all of the things that we can learn beyond about our Creator, science, history, geography.’ There were just so many things. It’s just all encompassing, it’s fresh air, it’s sunshine. It’s just awesome for our school.
Pam: Well, you suggest a lot of literature and poetry selections in your nature study guides. So, why do you think it’s important to incorporate those kinds of things when learning about nature?
Cindy: Well, even before I was a Charlotte Mason homeschooler, when I taught in the public school system, I always thought anytime you could make a literature connection to something, anytime you can make any kind of connection between cued ? [**inaudible** 4:20] subjects to the other, you get to really build a better, more broad, more, I guess, indepth understanding. And so literature and the Charlotte Mason style is hugely important and when we can take something we’ve been studying outside and then read a poem on them, or read a book about, maybe, a squirrel that we had just observed in real life, it just really hits home for the kids.
Pam: So, it kind of makes the connection for them?
Cindy: Absolutely. It makes a connection in learning, but it also makes a connection in their joy, that’s probably not the best way to put that but they get excited after they have read something in literature when they really have seen it in nature as well. It’s sort of an extra level of connection beyond an academic connection.
Pam: OK. So kind of their whole feeling about what it is they’re reading about and connecting that with what they’re studying?
Cindy: Absolutely, yes.
Pam: Well, what are some simple ways that a mom might be able to do nature study, more in a Morning Time setting, because I know a lot of times when I think about nature study, I think about ‘I’ve got to pack everybody up, I’ve got to pack the bags and grab the water bottles, and the field guides, and now we’ve got to go out on this great big long nature walk’ …
Pam: … but what are some things we could do instead in more of a “we’re simply going to do this in our home a couple of days a week?”
Cindy: OK. Well, I’ve got lots of great suggestions for that. Obviously, getting out for the big long nature walks is a goal at some point. We, definitely, in our Morning Time hit nature study about weekly, just sitting around the kitchen table. Oh gosh, I’ve got all kinds of ideas, do you want me to just start listing them?
Pam: Yes, ma’am, I do. Let’s give those [**inaudible** 6:11] something to go on.
Cindy: Alright, let’s do! So many moms during Morning Time will do a “calendar time” where they note the day, they note maybe whether it’s sunny outside or cloudy and several other things that are math related with “calendar time” but I have always suggested that you note something having to do with nature, daily. So, what we have tried to do during that “calendar time” is each day of the week has its own theme. So Monday it’s insect day, maybe Tuesday is tree day, maybe Thursday is flower day. Did I say Thursday? Thursday may be bird day. And you can have maybe five days of those or 10 days, so that every week or every two weeks through every season of the year you would be observing the same thing. So let’s talk about trees for a minute. If Wednesday’s your tree day, then on Wednesday, for the first week, go outside in your yard to a tree and make a quick observation. You might make that in words, you might make that in a quick picture and put it in your calendar. The next week, or the next two weeks, depending on whether you’re doing five days of these observations or 10, you’re going to observe that tree again. May or may not see much change, but over the course of the school year you’re going to notice that that tree definitely has different seasons and different things that happen during that season, as do the insects that maybe you’re studying every Monday, or the flowers that you’re studying every Thursday. Does that make sense?
Pam: That makes perfect sense. And I think that as you’re doing that with your children, you might, at first, have to model exactly what the kinds of things are that you’re looking for.
Cindy: For sure. And that’s a really good point. In our home we like to draw. We like to just look out the window, and this is not a big thing, this is just … even with [**inaudible** 8:09] ‘well, gosh, I’ve got to go and find an insect?’ No! Look out your window. Today is summer, I see some flies, or I see some bees. And just really quickly on an index card a type of [**inaudible** 8:20] that you see. For the tree? Just really quickly, what does the tree look like today? In two weeks, what does it look like again? Two more weeks, what does it look like again? So then you’re documenting this throughout the year, and you can go back and see ‘alright, that’s when we started school what the tree looked like, this is its entire seasons school year and all of the changes that happened through that.’ It really helps with observation skills. It’s just a quick look out your window, it’s not a big deal. It doesn’t take a lot of time.
Pam: OK, I love that. Keeping an observational calendar of various things throughout the school year and it’s just a quick look, a quick observation, and keeping track of that during Morning Time. That’s a great idea.
Cindy: Yes. And you know, you could even have a little blank calendar for each month, the one with big boxes, they don’t have to be huge, but bigger boxes that may be filling up the entire paper, and that’s where you note that, rather than index cards, and then at the end of the year you have your August, September, October, you have all of those and you can go through each thing and see maybe the connections even between all the different things you’re observing each day of the week and the changes that were made.
Pam: That’s a great idea. And then if you wanted to do those little, I know those index card a day things are so popular now, those little i-cad practices. If you wanted to do a series of index cards, you could put them on a jump ring, and then kind of flip through.
Cindy: Oh sure! Absolutely. To me, I like to have less stuff laying around so the calendar in a three-ring binder is a really, I guess, handy way to be able to put something on the shelf and not have it laying around or cards just to find or flip. You know? It’s a little easier.
Pam: OK, so either one would work.
Cindy: OK! Another idea would be a daily or weekly, what I would call, table observation. And this takes just a tad bit of preparation by mom or dad, and you just go out and you get something, maybe the night before, from nature, and then all your kids are sitting around the table and you observe it. You could have them draw what they see, you could have them label their drawing based on some little discussions that you had. You could say, “You guys have to figure out what this is” and put a field guide on the table and let them research and find out what that is. You could even have them do notebooking, which is to me a little bit different than drawing; you draw, you’re drawing. Maybe you’re drawing more for detail, you’re trying to get the line to shading just right. Notebooking is more of you draw this because you’re going to use that as you write just a little bit of detail about it, or as you label it. So, you could put this little table observation piece on there for simple drawing practice or for notebooking which would be writing about what you see, or labeling what you see, or you could get out a field guide and lay it on the table and have them research it. So, simple ideas of what to grab, gosh, anything: a flower, a pine cone, leaves, a leaf, a twig, a clump of grass, an insect that you find, a dead butterfly lying on your porch- just anything small that you can lay on the kitchen table and that everyone can really observe. One quick thing: you may have a magnifying glass around, because if you’re bringing in small things everybody really likes to dig in with the magnifying glass.
Pam: Oh yeah, they do. Yeah they do. OK, so the difference between the artistic drawing and the notebook drawing: the artistic drawing is, you’re doing it more for practicing, your drawing skills and your shading and things of that nature, and then the notebook drawing would be more of a scientific drawing for labeling and because you’re going to add some written details about that object.
Cindy: Exactly! And if you have time in your Morning Time to do both, you could certainly say we’re going to artistically draw this and then we’re going to notebook about it. It just depends how much time you set aside each morning.
Pam: Table Observation was idea number 2. What else do you have for us?
Cindy: Yes, right. I have some really fun games that I have found and that I have made. A lot of our Morning Time is spent in game time, because I like to wake my kids’ brains up in the morning. So I usually call our Morning Time “Brain Training” rather than “Morning Time” or “Circle Time.” So a couple of games that I have found and purchased: one is called Shanleya’s Quest. And it is a print card game, and through this game (I think you can play it several different ways, but we usually just play it one way) but basically, your kids are learning about the types, the plant groups. Several plants are in the nightshade family or the parsley family. This card game helps them understand that and the characteristics for each classification. It’s a super, super fun game. It takes not all of five or 10 minutes to play. Another one I have purchased is called Into the Forest, Nature’s Food Chain Game, again it’s a five or 10 minute game. Essentially, you pass out these cards that have different animals or plants, or decay, things like that on them. It’s almost like you’re playing a game of war and whoever’s at the top of the food chain gets the cards. Obviously, you’re learning about everything from the food chain to different animals and plants. It’s a great little card game. Those are two I’ve bought. I have some others on my wish list that I don’t even know their names right now, but they’re in my Amazon cart on a wish list. So there are more nature card games out there, but you can also make your own. You can play Memory, you can play Bingo, you can play Go Fish, when you just simply print off things from the internet. So, there’s something I’m thinking of in particular right now is animals with their animal tracks.
Pam: Oh fun.
Cindy: Yeah! So you can easily find that printable animal tracks and you could find it free all over the internet. Print two or three, four copies of those off, depending on what type of game you want to play. Laminate them if you want. Print them off on cardstock, then you just play Memory, Go Fish type thing. And they really get to know. Even if you’re not drilling like a flash card, they’re still very much getting to know intimately whatever subject you’re playing.
Pam: My kids would absolutely eat that stuff up. They would love to play games like that.
Cindy: And that’s so super motivating. Number four is flash card drill. But those are not nearly as motivating as games. So, anytime you can find a game or turn something into a game, it is just so much more motivating for kids.
Pam: Right. And we’ll put links into the Show Notes to some of those games that you can purchase that you mentioned, so everyone will be able to find those there. OK, so it sounds like we do have a number four.
Cindy: We do! And that’s just flash card drills. At least one morning a week, and I won’t say that we always do nature flash card drills, but at least one morning a week during our Circle Time is flash card drill of some sort, and nature things can certainly be turned into that. Again, simply print mammals off from the internet or insects, or plant types, or tree leaf, leaves from your tree. And basically, you just turn this into flash cards. You can print them on card stock, cut them out, and then you could have your children identify them, you can have them take these cards and sort them into groups, especially the leaves. Sort them, categorize them. I guess, that could almost be number five, really, because flash carding is sort of counting or what group this belongs in. And then number five would be take these same cards, you can sort with them.
Pam: Right, and make [**inaudible** 17:00] categories then.
Cindy: You can break them down into categories, you can break them down by characteristics, you can break them down into species, and then from that, we could call that part of number five, or you could call that number six. And that would be taking those same things and using it to graph with. So you make a math connection.
Pam: OK, so graphing.
Cindy: I think we will call that number six, because I have some more stuff with graphing.
Pam: OK, tell me about graphing.
Cindy: With graphing, again, takes just a tad bit of effort by the parent beforehand, but go out and collect some leaf, or have the kids do it the day before or the morning before, or if they’ve got some energy and some time, go out and collect some leaves, go out and collect some flowers, collect whatever you can find and sort those, hands on sorting of those, and put them into a concrete graph. Do you know what a concrete graph is?
Pam: I’m thinking it’s probably a graph using real items.
Cindy: It is! It certainly is. It’s things you can touch. So, you actually collected some leaves, you have your kids sort those into like leaves and then they have to make a bar graph, or a circle graph, actually using the leaves. Or if you’re using the flash cards actually using the flash cards. You could, during Morning Time, or as an extension to your math time, you could say, “Let’s leave this graph here because later, or right now, I want you to take a piece of paper and then I want you to draw this graph. I want you to create a concrete graph as a picture graph, or as a bar graph.” So I love whenever I can make connections between subjects I am all over it. And graphing and nature go really, really well together.
Pam: So, tell me a few more things. What if I’m not a very nature-y person? And let’s say I really don’t know the names of trees or any of the characteristics of leaves or what makes a rose different from a daisy, or anything like that. What can I do about that?
Cindy: That’s a great question! Well, that was going to be another suggestion I had and maybe you start with this instead, and that is get a couple of field guides. I really like the Audubon field guides. I think it’s called National Audubon Society of Field Guides or there’s several. Each one of these Audubon field guides focuses on something in particular, like birds or flowers or trees. So you might have to get several of them if you want to talk about several subjects. Another book that is super popular with the homeschool community is the Handbook of Nature Study by Anna Comstock, and these books are fabulous for teaching about nature to your kids in short spurts and they’re also going to teach mom. So, if you’re not really comfortable with the official words, the official vocabulary, sorting and distinguishing what you’re sorting, these books will help. And you could take them and you could say, “Well, for the month of August I know we have tons of birds that are flying around our house, so we’re going to spend our Morning Time focusing on birds. And, for the first week, every day we’re going to read a little bit out of The Handbook of Nature Study on birds. And it’s going to be five minutes. That’s our Morning Time for birds. The next week, then maybe we’ll start incorporating some of these other ideas. Plus, the field guides. So we keep learning about birds but it doesn’t get so boring doing the same thing every single day. And then I think by the third or fourth week, you’ve got so much information in your brain that these other ideas won’t be a problem at all.
Pam: So you’re telling me that all I need to do is to spend about five minutes a day, you know, starting by reading some of these things about birds and looking out the windows and observing, and that’s going to be enough over the course of a month. I’m going to have a lot of great information?
Cindy: Absolutely, absolutely. And you know, even if you have kids that are really bored with field guides or they’re younger, you can get library books and five minute library books are plenty of time too. And I guess I should tell you my philosophy really quickly. We pack a lot into Morning Time, but we’re moving, so I’m not spending 30 minutes on Nature Study indoors in the morning. It’s a five minute thing just to reinforce the concept. So 5-10 minutes tops.
Pam: And then it just adds up over the course of a long period of time.
Cindy: Absolutely, especially if after you are reading and been playing off some word pictures for birds, and then maybe you turn those bird pictures into flash cards that you actually identify the birds. Now, over the course of a month then not only are you going to have the background of the information from the five minutes of reading that you have done, but then they’re really going to start recognizing and connecting, and by the end of the month maybe you’re looking out the window and going, “Oh my goodness, I just saw three Blue Jays” and none of you even knew what a Blue Jay was before. You see?
Pam: Right, yeah.
Cindy: Very cool.
Pam: Exactly. Did you have any other ideas for me?
Cindy: Let’s see. Memory Work. When I say Memory Work I probably should use the word recitation instead.
Cindy: And that is where I mean you can grab a poem or a Bible verse or something that is nature related. I like to use these seasonally. So, I believe Stephanie Harrington or Harrington Harmonies puts out seasonal poetry on her website. And I’ll pull one of her poems for the season or a couple of poems and maybe one week I read the poem to them, and then the next week we might work on trying to put at least some of it to memory, because some of the poems are long, and then doing some recitation through that month as part of our nature time. I wouldn’t do that every day. That would probably be a once a week sort of thing for us but you can definitely tie some nature into Memory Work.
Pam: Those are all fabulous.
Cindy: Cool. Good, good.
Pam: Yeah. My thing was “Well, we could put something on the table and draw it” and you just took it and ran with it!
Cindy: Yeah, but that’s perfect! If that’s all you did, that would still be perfect because there is so much learning in observation. And when you ask your kids to observe and then draw there’s even more observation than you could imagine.
Pam: So, let’s talk about that for a few minutes. Why is observation an important skill for a child to have?
Cindy: Oh mercy, for so many reasons. We want our kids to be observant about everything later in life. Think about yourself. If you’re not a good observer you’re not going to make good decisions because there’s so many things that happen we need to be aware of. And that includes the news that we watch, the car that we drive, the things on the stove that are cooking. We just need to be good observers. So that’s the first important skill. But second, when we teach observation, your kids are able to dive deeper and understand more, because they’re used to, not just looking at something and moving on, they’re really looking at something and noticing the details, and to me, then I create kids who know how to notice details. I think I create smarter kids in that they’re inquisitive, they become inquisitive, they want to learn more, they don’t just want to know the surface level stuff, they want to dig deep and they want to know why and how and who, and that’s a good learner.
Pam: Right, the learner who’s going to ask questions.
Pam: OK, so I know one of the ways that you foster observation through your NaturExplorers Series is through either nature journaling or nature notebooking, so that is a great practice for a Morning Time setting. So what advice do you have for a mom who’s wanting to get started with a little bit of nature journaling or nature notebooking?
Cindy: Well, that’s a great idea. And I would think that the best place to start would be that daily observation time. And so, to me, the words are interchangeable, a nature notebook and a nature journal are the same things. Some people tend to think that a nature journal revolves a little bit more around the art side of it while a nature notebook revolves a little more around the labeling, jotting down observation side of it. To me, you do what you want to do each day. If you draw one day, awesome. If you write one day, awesome. If you label one day, awesome. You don’t have to do the same thing every day. Nor do you have to do the same kind of observation. So, daily or weekly, however you’re going to incorporate nature study into your Morning Time, you decide ‘OK, today’s going to be a table observation and that’s where mom goes and gets something and lays it on the table for everybody to observe’ and then you keep a three-ring binder or you keep some kind of spiral notebook where they keep their notes or their drawing or whatever you’re asking them to do in that nature journal, they keep their notes there. The next time you go to meet, maybe you’ll look outside and choose a whole new thing to observe really quick, and they keep notes in that. Make your notebooking typically revolves around the observation of something. And during Morning Time that’s going to be a quick observation on the table, out the window, because you’re likely you don’t want your kids to get outside and be completely distracted from the rest of your day because they want to be out there.
Pam: What are some other resources? What are some of your favorite resources for nature journaling, do you have any?
Cindy: Do you mean resources on how to do it, or things that I use to do it?
Pam: Either one, both.
Cindy: There are all kinds of things. I have a Pinterest Board on nature notebooking and it’s got all kinds of examples of what this is. So if you’re struggling to understand what in the world is she talking about, you could definitely hit that Pinterest Board, I think it’s Pinterest CindyKWest.
Pam: We’ll include a link to that in the Show Notes.
Cindy: OK, very good. And just look for the Nature Notebooking Board, and that will give you tons of “this is what a nature page could look like.” As far as what resources I have around the house to complete that, basically, it’s whatever art supplies float your fancy. Sometimes I’ll just provide them pencils. Sometimes we’ll have colored pencils. Sometimes we’ll have crayons. Sometimes we’ll have water colors. It depends on exactly what your purpose is for them that day. If we’re just doing a quick sketch and then you want them to do some labeling, a pencil or colored pencil is just fine. If this is a little bit more about being artistic, then pull out some more artistic materials, like water colors or colored pencils or markers or oil pastels or something. I think it also depends on what your kids’ desire. So some days you’re going to say, “All we’re doing today is pencils and we’re going to draw this really quick and we’re going to label it and we’re going to move on.” Other days you might ask the kids, “OK, we’re going to observe such-and-such and what kind of materials do you want to use to do your drawings? Let’s have fun. Let’s vote on the materials.” So, go into your art cupboard- that’s the best resource for me.
Pam: OK. Tell me a little bit about your own Morning Time Cindy, how do you do it in your home?
Cindy: OK, well, Morning Time for us is essentially our 8th graders and younger. We all meet around the table with Daddy at breakfast time and we do a little bit of Bible, we do a little bit of discussion, we kind of talk about the day ahead. And then my high schoolers move on and get on about their daily schedule. Eighth grade and below, we actually, I think I told you this, we call our Morning Time “Brain Training” and it’s just this challenge to my kids that we are there to wake up their brain and have a lot of fun. So I approach Morning Time with a game-like attitude; not everything is game like, and not everything is fun, but they get over the not-so-fun stuff because they know we’re always going to do fun stuff. Each day we typically do 1-3 or 4 activities and I try to hit the gamut throughout the week of varied subjects. So, for instance, if we are going to do a nature study for Morning Time, we’re likely not going to do that every single day that week, because we’re also getting in geography, logic, math flash cards, we’re doing a ton. I will give you a day’s sample here: so on Monday morning, for instance, we will (the 8th graders and below) sit around and maybe the first thing we do is I’ll challenge everybody who can remember the Bible verse from last week, and the first person to say it (I mean, they don’t get anything) but it’s just like, “Yes! You’re the winner today!” and I’m not a big rewards, but we do try to make it fun.
Pam: But the competition is its own reward.
Cindy: It’s just the competition, that’s right, just a competition. And then if I’ve done something that’s competition-like, we’ll do something that everybody can potentially win the next time. So let’s say we’ve done our Bible memory from last week really quickly and then maybe we’re going to play a really quick geography card game, and then maybe I’ll pull out the nature observation thing, and they will sketch it really quickly and label what they’ve done. If we’ve studied it before I will expect them to label without help. If we’ve never studied it, I’ll pull out a field guide and say, “Figure it out.” My older kids, my middle school kids, I’ll say, “Grab your phone, figure it out.” So, it’s a little bit of a research moment in there too. OK. So the next day, if we’ve covered that Bible memory from last week and geography and nature, then tomorrow, the next day, might be, let’s start off with a logic game, and that could be something like the game Set, and then I’ll say “Alright. Let’s go through these 50 Latin root flash cards and the first person to tell me the definition gets the card, at the end we’ll see who has the most” and then right after that I’ll say, “Alright, let’s go through our president song and list all the presidents.” And that’s it for the day. So literally we’re taking maybe 15 minutes to do all of those activities, and then we move on with the rest of our day.
Pam: OK, so you kind of have a brief ‘get you up, and get you started’ kind of Morning Time.
Cindy: Exactly. And I do weigh this out, so I will plan that Monday is Bible memory from last week, geography, and nature. Tuesdays are going to be … whatever I just said, I don’t even remember what I just said, but I will lay this out so I’m sure every single day of the week isn’t always nature, always logic, that we’re getting in the geography, and we’ll practice that pretty much for a semester, and then I usually change it up the second semester. We’ll throw some different things in or rearrange or whatever.
Pam: It sounds like you keep them on their toes.
Cindy: Oh yeah. Well, I keep me on my toes, because I get really, really bored with the teacher if we’re doing the same thing all the time. I don’t know if they get bored or not I’ve never let them had the chance.
Pam: That’s awesome. Well, Cindy, tell everyone where they can find out more about what you’re doing and also more about nature study.
Cindy: OK, the best place to keep up with me is OurJourneyWestward.com. That is my blog. I’m actually getting ready to move all of my NaturExplorer studies and other curriculum over to Our Journey Westward and just make one big website out of it all. There at Our Journey Westward you will find me blogging frequently about things like my favorite curriculum, how we implement an eclectic Charlotte Mason lifestyle, how we also include classical learning with our Charlotte Mason style, or unit studies with our Charlotte Mason style. I try to be really encouraging. I want people to have happy, creative homeschools. So that’s kind of my goal; have a happy, creative homeschool and I’ll show you how we do it and give you some ideas. As far as nature study, I have written more than 20 nature study e-books on various topics. The NaturExplorer Series has 19 and that’s 19 different topics in that series, and those are going to guide you. We’re going to give you nature walk ideas and a lot of people buy them just for the nature walk ideas, but we’re also going to give you a whole second section of turning nature study into more in your home, so they’re going to give you follow up activities like science experiments, model making, and research projects. They’re going to give you the literature to include in your home, poetry, composes that it would fit along nicely, artist study that would fit along nicely with the topic, Bible study that will fit along nicely. There are even ideas for co-ops. So if you have a co-op and you’re doing a nature themed co-op there’s some group activity ideas there. They also include several notebooking pages that you can print off and you can just use. If you’re needing ideas for Morning Time these books would have ideas for that for you as well. You don’t necessarily have to be outside to do many of the activities in those books.
Cindy: Find me at OurJourneyWestward.com. Right now, you can find the NaturExplorer Series at ShiningDawnBooks.com, but eventually they’ll be over with me at Our Journey Westward.
Pam: That sounds great. And yeah, we have used a couple of your nature study books and they are very thick with lots of great information. One of the things I love about them is I don’t have to go looking elsewhere for the science information about the topic, it’s all right there in the book.
Cindy: Yes. My friend, ex-partner, she’s still a great friend she just chose not to be in the business anymore, she and I sat down and we said, “You know, we want this list to be that a parent can pick up and go with it. You don’t have to do it with a bunch of extra research.” So the book actually starts with usually about three pages of necessary background information for the child or the parent. So you read it really quickly. That way you know to say to your kids and how to lead the discussion and things like that without a bunch of extra research on your part.
Pam: Exactly. So, love them, love them, love them. Well, Cindy, thank you so much for joining me today. You have just given us so many ideas for incorporating nature study easily into our Morning Time and I really appreciate it.
Cindy: Oh, thank you so much for having me. This has been a blast.
Pam: And there you have it, episode 11 of the podcast. Now for your Basket Bonus today, we have for you a nature observation sheet, and this is a sheet that you can hole punch and stick in your Morning Time binder. It has 31 lines on it so you will be able to use one a month, and the idea is that you simply look out your window every day during Morning Time and you record one sentence, one thing that you’ve seen in nature onto your sheet, for the day. And at the end of the month you’ll have a great record of what you’ve seen outside your window during that month of these observations that you’ve made. And over the course of a year or two years you’ll even have a record that you can start comparing months to each other. So what should you write on this sheet? Well, you could note the first hummingbird of the season, the first azalea that’s in bloom, the fact that the bird bath was frozen over or that there was snow or icicles or there’s a squirrel or a red tail hawk, or a chipmunk or a cardinal, any kinds of things like that, even a glorious spider web would make a wonderful one-sentence observation for your nature observation sheet. If you head on over to the show notes for this episode, that would be EDsnapshots.com/YMB11 you can get access to your Basket Bonus and download that, and you’ll also will have all of the links to the resources, books, and websites that Cindy and I talked about today. And, if you would like to leave a rating or review in iTunes of the Your Morning Basket podcast, we would really appreciate that. For those of you who have already done so, thank you so much for taking the time to go out and do that. We’ll be back in a couple of weeks with another great episode of the podcast, and until then keep seeking Truth, Goodness, and Beauty in your homeschool day.
Key Ideas about Nature Study in Morning Time
- Through nature study, we hone our observation skills and learn important truths about our Creator. Nature study pulls together content from many different subjects or disciplines. In the context of nature study, we encounter opportunities to deepen our understanding of science, apply math skills, and even enjoy beautiful literature.
- Nature study is not only for the hard-core lover of the great outdoors. Nature study can be done in our own front yard, from the living room window, or even at the kitchen table. While all day expeditions into the wilderness can be fun, we can also practice meaningful nature study by setting aside just a few minutes at home
Find what you want to hear:
- [2:58] why nature study is important
- [3:53] making literature connections when learning about nature
- [6:15] simple Morning Time nature study activities (window observations, table observations)
- [12:45] nature study games
- [15:58] ideas for using nature flashcards
- [17:16] nature/math connections (graphing)
- [18:46] what to do if mom’s background in nature study is not strong; how just a few minutes a day adds up over time
- [22:27] nature-related memory work (poetry, Scripture)
- [23:43] the importance of developing good observation skills
- [25:04] nature journaling/nature notebooking
- [26:58] Cindy’s favorite resources
- [28:51] Cindy’s Morning Time, which she calls “Brain Training”
- [34:13] Cindy’s nature study ebook
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Thanks for your reviews
- Thank youby mrsbeliever from United States
I take my walks outside two times a day. I enjoy listening to all the knowledge you have on your podcast! I am a mom of 7 and have been homeschooling for 18 years! I’m not a novice but have loved all your advice and input! Thank you for everything you do! I love it!
- Always a favorite!by Lizzie O' from United States
Pam continues to do an amazing job with this podcast. She is a wonderful host, never hurried, asks great questions and really lets her guest share his/her experience fully. The variety of experience & wisdom here is fruit for the homeschooling community at large. I’ve been listening from day one and this podcast continues to be a top favorite. Thank you Pam!
- Morning time will change your lifeby RachBoz from United States
I’ve listened to YMB and Pam off and on for years, and she literally changed my life 7 years ago when I was just starting to homeschool. I’m so thankful for her ministry and encouragement to homeschool moms of all ages! I highly recommend doing morning time!
- Life Affirmingby Logandinco66 from United States
This podcast is amazing and has helped me so much as recovering perfectionist homeschooling mama! Pam gives so much great insight into so many aspects of life and focusing on homeschooling.
- Life giving!by lapatita5 from United States
This podcast has been so great. It’s so practical and encouraging without being overly preachy or narrow. It gives ideas in a take-what-fits kind of way. I have used many of the recommended resources and ideas mentioned and been inspired by many others. Even the episodes that I found less relevant to me specifically, often had tidbits that I could use. Pam’s podcasts, books, and resources have been a godsend to me in my beginning years of homeschooling, helping me discover my own way to teach my kids in a way that prioritizes what is most important to us.
- You've made my school year!