How to do Nature Study

I am trying to add some Charlotte Mason’s methods in our homeschooling. I have been searching about Nature Study through the internet but I still feel a little lost. Many people use handbooks, follow plans or focus on specific topics for a while. Other use pre-printed notebooks. I would like to know how homeschoolers do it.

What supplies do I need to buy?
How long does it take?
What to put in a nature journal?
And any other suggestions you have for getting started.

My kids are going 4th, 7th, and 8th grades.

Thanks for reading!


Hi there @Elizabeth! We have kiddos in similar grades! My oldest two are 4th and 6th this year. We love nature study and have been learning a lot about it over the past several years. A few resources that have helped us a lot are Exploring Nature with Children (this is very Charlotte Mason friendly) as well as The Handbook of Nature Study. Shining Dawn books (which appear to now be called NaturExplorers) also have thematic nature studies. Ambleside Online has a nature study schedule for users of their curriculum, but anyone can follow that schedule, and Simply Charlotte Mason has a few wonderful resources at that link as well!

As far as supplies, we keep a small plastic container along with nature notebooks (for sketching, taping in things we find, etc.), some good sketching pencils and kneadable erasers (which are great for removing sketch marks), and various sizes/types of magnifying glasses (including a jewelry loupe magnifier which is great because it’s tiny and has a great lens) are things we keep in the plastic container (notebooks are either carried out separately or more often left inside to sketch in after we’ve explored).

One other item we bought was a wooden adjustable drawer organizer like this one. It is great because we can bring in our treasures and drop them into slots (and even resize slots as needed) so we can keep them to look at through the week.

Nature study can take as long or as short a time as you need. If it’s something you’re new to, start with short walks, periods of observation, etc. The Handbook of Nature Study has a website with some outdoor hour challenges here that they suggest you start with. So that might also be a helpful place to look!

In our nature journals we do animal sketches (there are great online tutorials) as well as general outdoor sketches. We love using watercolor pencils and blender pens because it creates a great watercolor image without soaking the page or getting out messy paints. But my oldest always prefers to just sketch with pencil. :blush: One great tip I read once though was to always include the date and general weather on every sketch page so you can remember what it was like on the day you observed those things.

Feel free to ask any questions–I hope these resources will be helpful! Good luck!!

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@Elizabeth Somehow I missed this post.

I love your suggestions @Forchristandkids!

I recently purchased a download of The Good and the Beautiful’s Nature Notebook ( ) and I printed it twice and gave it to my two oldest children (11 and 7). It is a good way to give them an idea for how to journal about nature. My 11 yo has been nature journaling on her own for a few years, she loves nature. She adds pressed flowers, leaves, drawings of what she finds interesting, notes, etc. She now wants to add printed pictures that she takes of the bugs or animals or plants she finds. There is so much out in nature. I found that once we studied botany her eyes began to open up to what is actually out there. She also did some studying on birds. These things have been the most helpful to her.

We have this wooden box with a glass lid that we found at Hobby Lobby, and the handheld microscope (found online), magnifying glasses, binoculars, and some other things, including these little clear plastic containers (found at the dollar tree store) for placing dead bugs into so that you can see them from all angles.
Also, has some inspiration and recommendations that I have appreciated. (Do a search on her “gift guides”!)

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We are studying botany and birds this year! I think my 11 yo will love it! Yes, binoculars! We actually keep a pair on our big picture window and the kids are constantly using them to look at bunnies, enormous groundhogs (like the size of dogs! lol), and birds. We’ve seen red-tailed hawks and heron that way in addition to the enormous turkey vultures we have here. So cool! I love your box with a lid! That’s fantastic! I’m going to checkout the link you mentioned, too–I haven’t heard of that I don’t think! :smiley:

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Wow! :hugs: @Forchristandkids and @GC123, thanks so much for all the great suggestions! You are really helpful! I will look into all the links.
I haven’t even bought notebooks but we already started with some walks, sketching and identifying trees and birds in plain paper. The kids are enjoying every moment outside!
I have a question for both of you. How do you combine guided lessons with free observation? I would like to focus on botany for a while, but I don’t like the kids look at this as another subject. How often should I prepare a topic to focus on and how often just let them explore and observe freely?

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So glad the suggestions were helpful @Elizabeth!
So cool that you’re studying those subjects with her @Forchristandkids! It’s really fun!

As to your question, you might try telling them you are going to do some adventures together this year. Then go to the local State Park of your liking and explore. Point out the things you see, such as pinecones that have been eaten by squirrels, tiny acorns, lichen, moss, tall roots by the water, footprints of animals, dead dragonflies or other bugs, etc. Take some leaves home and press them under some heavy books, then after a few days put them in their (or your) notebook. Visit the Nature Center and take notes of what is there. Do a treasure hunt, nature related.
You can take a blanquet, some picnic food, and your botany books and begin to read. They will recognize many of the things they saw and begin to get curious about what the book has to say about those things. Eventually the lessons can’t be outdoors but they won’t mind it at that point, I don’t think!
This is how it went for us, actually! It was a lot of fun and we are continually adding to what we have started, even after our botany study. My children are constantly picking and pressing flowers, finding snails, salamanders, ladybugs, frogs, tadpoles, butterflies. They catch and release them.
We go to the park a lot but this can be done at the beach, too, or in your own backyard!

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Oh, and I couldn’t stop my daughter (11) from doing her own nature exploring. I still can’t!