‘We are all meant to be naturalists, each in his degree, and it is inexcusable to live in a world so full of the marvels of plant and animal life and to care for none of these things.’ — Charlotte Mason
For those of you who have known me since I was small, the mere fact that a whole tab has been designated to ‘Nature Study’ will perhaps surprise you! As a child I didn’t even want to go for a walk but now as a parent myself, going for walks is just who we are as a family. We love exploring the outdoors and I am learning so much alongside the children. Homeschooling has given us the time to get outside away from the rush of life and savour all the seasonal sounds, smells and intricate design that surround us daily.
I plan to post books, ideas and resources that we have enjoyed to help us in our appreciation and understanding of the natural world.
I read aloud to the children everyday and I like to include some stories that help us better understand the wildlife around us. I have benefitted greatly and see the outdoors with new eyes.
The Brambley Hedge Complete Collection by Jill Barklem: Adorable seasonal stories with some families in the hedgerow. 4-8 yrs
The Brambledown Tales by Geraldine McCaughrean: A series of short books for animal loving children. 4-7yrs
The Tales of Oakapple Wood by Jenny Patridge: Both the soft detailed illustrations and the characters’ wonderful names bring smiles to my children. Read about the adventures of Peterkin Pollensnuff, Mr Squint Hopfellow, Colonel Grunt, Dominic Sly, Harriet Plume and others. 3-6yrs
Little Grey Rabbit’s Story Treasury by Alison Uttley: Lovely short stories involving a rabbit, a squirrel, a hedgehog and a hare. Lovely illustrations. We love Alison Uttley. Perfect for early readers as well. 4-7 yrs
Nature Lover’s Book by Enid Blyton: A year long adventure of a family of children going on monthly walks with their neighbour, Uncle Merry, who brings the outdoors to life for them as he teaches them all about the birds, animals and plants as they walk. A wonderful ‘read aloud’ book. I read each chapter in the story in the corresponding month of the year, so this is a book we dipped in and out of once a month, but we all really looked forward to the next month. 5+ yrs
The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett: This is a must read children’s classic. Such wonder and awe at life in the outdoors for children with unlikely friendships. Do try and read a copy with beautiful illustrations – my children really appreciated them. 6+yrs
The Animals of Farthing Wood by Colin Dann: An insightful British story written in 1979 about the dangers our wildlife face from development, pesticides and natural disasters. A wonderful band of animals take a treacherous journey to reach the White Deer Park Nature Reserve. It is gripping and heartfelt. 6+ yrs
The Complete Book of the Flower Fairies by Mary Cicely Barker: Beautiful short and descriptive poems about individual plants and trees with stunning detailed illustrations. We also use the illustrations to help us in plant identification. 4+ years
Around the Year by Elsa Beskow: Short and simple seasonal poems for each month of the year with gorgeous illustrations. 3+ years
Exploring Nature with Children: A year long nature curriculum for all ages. Great for families or groups with an age range as there is something for everyone. We have loved this over the past few years with children aged 8,7 & 3. Each week we have gone for a walk looking out for the weekly topic and followed it up with some sketching or using field guides to identify plants. It includes a painting and a poem for each week. Just wonderful! I stuck the painting up by our kitchen table to appreciate together each week. You can view a sample of the curriculum here.
We love playing board games at home. They are a wonderful opportunity for us to all be together around the table, enjoying one another’s company and often learning new things without even knowing it! Here are a few related to the natural world:
The Wild-Flower Game: British game. No longer produced but have a look for second hand ones on eBay and Amazon.
The Bird Table Game: Same as above. These two games are rather dated but simple in their desire to teach us more about the flowers and birds around us.
Bug Bingo: Beautifully illustrated game of bingo with 64 world-wide species.
Bird Bingo: Same as above but birds instead of bugs!
RSPB Guess Who?: A special edition featuring British wildlife, instead of different faces.
The web is full of places to search for ideas but if you are short on time here are some that I have found helpful to look for ideas of things to do or places to visit:
The Wildlife Trusts Great website to find your local nature reserves.
Bucks, Berks & Oxon Wildlife Trust Your local Wildlife Trust group will advertise events and groups here, as well as local reserves.
National Trust Full of ideas of beautiful houses and gardens to visit across the U.K.
Earth Trust An educational and environmental charity in South Oxfordshire. A year round calendar of events for all ages.
Woodland Trust A vast array of resources and information on trees, as well as the ‘Nature Detectives’ section. Highly recommend having a look here.