As the days grow colder and shorter, the first subject that falls by the wayside is our nature study. Since our homeschool is Charlotte Mason influenced, we try to fit in nature study at least once a week. Winter presents challenges in keeping this goal, but I’ve discovered that it takes a little planning, embracing technology, and making the most of the season.
Digital Nature Study
One of my favorite ways to study nature when the weather is less than accommodating is to use photos that I have taken. Whenever we travel or take walk through the neighborhood, I try to snap photos of the local flowers, trees, wildlife, etc. I try to capture close-ups from different angles and a full shot if possible. Then when outdoor nature study is not going to happen, I can pull up a picture or two, see if we can determine the plant or animal’s name, and learn a little bit about it. The important thing to remember is to save your photos with a date and location. For example I took these photos of a wildflower on October 27 in Boxley Valley, Arkansas:
Having date and location should help us identify the plant when we use it for nature study in the coming months.
Nature documentaries are wonderful to use in the winter months, especially if they are ones about warm, tropical places. Choose a documentary and study everything you can about that topic for a couple of weeks or a month. Recently our family enjoyed the David Attenborough documentary, Africa. We extended the movie by reading books about the featured animals, learning about the savanna/grassland habitat, and even worked in some geography by locating the places on a map of Africa. If you need some movies to get you started I highly recommend any of David Attenborough’s films, the Disney Nature series, and Winged Migration (if nothing else, watch this one because the cinematography is AMAZING!)
Nature Study Museum
Throughout the year I look for things to add to our nature study museum. It houses interesting things that we grab during the year that can be preserved for study. During the winter months I’ll grab something out of the box, and we’ll study it. So far we’ve collected a wasp nest, a very large pinecone, maple tree seeds, bird feathers, cicada exoskeletons, and some acorns. The kids love to help add things to the box and to choose something out of the box to study. I love using the nature study museum because it helps all of us practice our sketching as well. It’s a great way to bring nature inside to you when you don’t want to go outside!
Instead of dreading the winter months, embrace them! Use cold weather to focus on things that happen in the winter months in the natural world. Study snow, ice, and snowflakes. Explore what animals and plants do to survive the winter months. Place a bird feeder to two in your yard and try to identify any visitors you have. I enjoy studying the moon and stars in the winter months because the sky is crisp and clear. The summer haze and humidity are gone giving a fabulous view of the night sky. We pile into the car, drive out of town into the country, and park along a road. Then we look up and observe through the sunroof while still keeping toasty warm.
Make winter work for you and your homeschool. Nature study doesn’t need to stop just because the temperature drops!