If you bring up the subject of “when to do nature study,” different moms have different ideas in mind. “Yes, how old should my child be to start nature study, and how long should we spend outside?” one mom asks. While another mom says, “This will be helpful; I’ve always wondered which seasons of the year Charlotte did nature study.”
So let’s address both sides of the subject. Here are Charlotte Mason’s comments on when to do nature study.
Begin when your child is young. “There is no knowledge so appropriate to the early years of a child as that of the name and look and behaviour in situ of every natural object he can get at” (Vol. 1, p. 32).
Younger children should have hours outdoors daily; while school-age children should have at least one half-day a week outside. “It is infinitely well worth the mother’s while to take some pains every day to secure, in the first place, that her children spend hours daily amongst rural and natural objects” (Vol. 1, p. 71). “It seems to me a sine quâ non of a living education that all school children of whatever grade should have one half-day in the week, throughout the year, in the fields” (Vol. 3, p. 237). Which leads us to number 3 . . .
Do nature study all year round. Charlotte had some great ideas for year-round nature study.
Keep a nature calendar throughout the year. You can record the children’s observations of all the “firsts” — the first oak leaf, the first snowfall, the first robin, the first ripe blackberries. Then the next year they will know when and where to look for their favorites. (See Vol. 1, p. 54.)
- Do month-by-month studies to discern how the same nature object or location changes as the seasons progress. (See Vol. 6, p. 219.)
In winter months, learn to identify birds and their songs. Charlotte explained, “Many birds come into view the more freely in the cold weather that they are driven forth in search of food” (Vol. 1, p. 86).
Select a few trees to follow throughout the year. “Children should be made early intimate with the trees, too; should pick out half a dozen trees, oak, elm, ash, beech, in their winter nakedness, and take these to be their year-long friends” (Vol. 1, p. 52).
Do you have any other ideas for year-round nature study or comments on involving all the children? We’d love to hear from you!