Nature study is one of those aspects of the Charlotte Mason method that is often mentioned but rarely studied in-depth. Just what, exactly, did Charlotte mean by “nature study”? We’ve been combing her writings and compiling her comments, and a beautiful picture is unfolding! Over the next few weeks we will share that beautiful, encompassing picture with you.
If you had asked me, “Why do nature study?” when my children were young, I would have replied, “To get them outside and burn up some of that energy” (that we all wish we could tap into now at our age!). If you had asked the same question when they got a little older, I would have answered, “To increase their skills of observation . . . and the fresh air doesn’t hurt either.” Just last year my answer would have been, “To cultivate a love for God as creator.”
While those answers are all true, the reasons to do nature study are so much more! Let’s look at eight benefits that Charlotte wrote about.
- Nature study lays the foundation for formal science studies (Vol. 3, p. 281). The child lays in a store, as it were, of images and ideas to access and use in making personal connections when he reads about them in a science book later.
- Nature study makes science interesting. Charlotte lamented, “For the most part science as she is taught leaves us cold” (Vol. 6, p. 318). But a child who has the advantage of nature study, an “appreciative knowledge of things to begin with,” can easily reach the “living science” level (Vol. 3, p. 77).
- Nature study increases your child’s capacity to understand the unknown. “By-and-by he will have to conceive of things he has never seen: how can he do it except by comparison with things he has seen and knows?” (Vol. 1, p. 66).
- Nature study cultivates a love of investigation. And Charlotte encouraged mothers to “infuse into” our children, “or rather, to cherish in them, the love of investigation” (Vol. 1, p. 71).
- Nature study gives your child a sense of ownership and stewardship of the Earth. “Here is a duty that lies upon us all; for we all enter on the inheritance of the heavens and the earth, the flowers of the field and the birds of the air. These are things to which we have right, no one can take them from us; but, until we get as much as a nodding and naming acquaintance with the things of Nature, they are a cause rather of irritation and depression than of joy” (Vol. 4, Book 2, p. 97).
- Nature study prepares your child’s heart to worship God. “From the flower in the crannied wall to the glorious firmament on high, all the things of Nature proclaim without ceasing, ‘Great and marvellous are thy works, Lord God Almighty’ ” (Vol. 4, Book 2, p. 100).
- Nature study enriches your child’s life. “A love of Nature, implanted so early that it will seem to them hereafter to have been born in them, will enrich their lives with pure interests, absorbing pursuits, health, and good humour” (Vol. 1, p. 71).
- Nature study increases your child’s intellect and makes him a more interesting person. “Consider, too, what an unequalled mental training the child-naturalist is getting for any study or calling under the sun — the powers of attention, of discrimination, of patient pursuit, growing with his growth, what will they not fit him for?” (Vol. 1, p. 61).
Eight great reasons to make time for nature study! (It’s so easy to skip it, isn’t it?) Next week we’ll start in on the basics of when and how.
Why do you do nature study? Have you witnessed any of these benefits, or perhaps, others? We’d love to hear about your experiences!