Nature Study Resources in the Early Years
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Nature study preparation goes beyond books and journals. I have found outdoor gear preparation to be part of my planning every year. Before our school year officially starts I put all of last years cold weather gear in a pile and ask my children to try them on to see what fits. Sometimes younger children will get a hand me down, and other times I have to donate items and buy new to us gear. I only pay full price for some items. I like to go to resale shops and garage sales and look for the items on my life. I have an ongoing "garage sale list" here. Over the years there are a few items that I have bought new that have lasted. I will only recommend products that I really love and see benefit in.
By far this is my number one shoe recommendation. These boots have lasted us at least 3-4 years now and they are AMAZING nature study shoes. All of my momma friends that know me on a day to day basis often see my little ones in these boots. These boots are completely washable, bright for easy detection, and once cleaned they look brand new.
Although they are kind of pricey, I have put aside money to buy these for my little ones. I am extremely frugal, but when it comes to good shoes to be outside for hours, the cost is worth it. I always buy a bigger size so they will last for the next season and we can put wool socks on under them. Perk: When you are at the park or somewhere you will always be able to detect your child easily with these bright boots! My kindergartner currently wears the bright yellow ones :)
Remember this year to plan for good foot gear.
A magnifying glass is so needed for teaching children the habit of observation. Sharing one magnifying glass is okay, but when each child has their own the benefit is two-fold. They will be learning the habit of observation and cleanliness. If your child has their own nature bag, teach him/or her to put away their nature study items and take good care of the contents. If they do, you will have your supplies year after year. Here are 2 we have:
Shatterproof 3X magnifying glass: A good one for two and three year old children. My two year old is using this just to prompt her to look closer at nature. Isn't that interesting? A tool in their little hands can prompt a habit!
Using a blanket with a waterproof back is so beneficial. Charlotte Mason said we should eat outside with our children as much as possible. As a busy mom, outside picnics are helpful for clean up reasons and the ants get our crumbs. There are a few picnic blankets on the market. I like this one because it's large and multiple children can sit on it and sketch, eat, or watch clouds.
We have a lot of mosquitoes where we live until about November. I have to plan for repellent but I refuse to put Deet and chemicals on my children daily. Did you know the CDC approved Lemon Eucalyptus oil as effective as Deet?
I like Plant Therapy as a brand. Their oils are therapeutic grade and low cost. Read this article for more details.
Quality drawing pencils are not expensive and work different then regular pencils. As a homeschool family we go through SO many pencils for everything it seems. If I could help you in one way with supplies: get good pencils! I like these
This are so neat! I could never find anything like this when my eldest were little. You can bring insects indoors and sketch them or lay outside and sketch in your journal. These boxes are multi-use. We have put small bones, pieces of bark, random leaves, animal fur, and much more in these. Made of high quality acrylic. A memory comes to mind. Our third year homeschooling, we forced a bee into hibernation. We gently captured him, and put him in our refrigerator for 10 minutes. Soon, he fell asleep. We look him out of the refrigerator and watched him wake up! Friends, that was one of the neatest experiences for us. I didn't realize how CUTE bees were until this activity. He woke up, shook his head and his cute little eyes opened. All for us to see. We let him fly away but all of us were touched and vowed to protect our buzzing friends from that day on.
We have been through a lot of nets. Even the ones from the Dollar Store. They do not hold up well to daily outdoor nature studies. The spine always breaks in 2-3 weeks. To capture insects correctly, we don't want to harm them in any way, use insect nets. Teach your littles to be gently with insects. They have a delicate structure. God made them so wonderfully, each little part is worth observing. Have you looked at a Dragonflies wings? WOW! Beautiful. The love of nature prompts respect for all living things in a child's heart. I have noticed through the years, my children refer to animals as, "Mr. and Mrs. Robin" or "Mr. and Mrs. Toad" in such an endearing way. Sometimes I think the problems we have today are related to children not being afforded time in nature and outdoors. Your children will be known as "Science or nature kids". Mine are. My older ones can name birds, mammals, reptiles, and other critters by sight. I never sat down and drilled them on any of that. Self education prompted Christmas lists that say, "Bird field guides" and "homing pigeons" ( we are in the process of getting homing pigeons to train) Isn't that neat? Charlotte Mason was 100% right! "Self education is the only education". Charlotte Mason
A place for momma to just relax outside
This idea occurred to me after nursing so many babies and always setting up a place for me to just sit and take care of newborns in the early weeks. You know, constant feedings and diaper changes. I called it my "island". Charlotte Mason said children need hours of un-guided outdoor times. Some days I like to do yard work and gardening during these hours, other days I just want to relax and read. I drink coffee and tea. I pray for my children outside. Look at the sky and clouds like I did when I was little. Make a place like that for you. A nice folding chair with a drink holder and a place to put your legs up. Karen Andreola says we have to find mother culture, "along the way". We can't always leave the house, but we can plan for time for ourselves along the way. Set up boundaries for your little ones. "Don't go past this point". They need to obey you so you can enjoy homeschooling. My Charlotte Mason planner has a section in the early years that says " consequences" for a reason! I have to make solid predetermined consequences for negative behavior. Your children need to understand these consequences. Once they understand, the responsibility is on them. My consequence for disobeying this rule is privileges removed.
Without rules, you will never enjoy nature studies. Rules are there to protect our children. The other day my two year old was running towards a street. We have a field between our home and the street. I ran after her! What kind of parent would not set up boundaries of protection? God also gives us rules to live by because He loves us. The ten commandments are because of love. God knows if we lie, murder, and steal we will be miserable. Rules are a good thing. Rules are based in love.
So many Charlotte Mason educators forget about the sky and astronomy. A few years back I went to a college one evening just to hear a lecture on Classical Astronomy. The Doctor said, "Astronomy isn't studied Classically anymore because we have lost a love for it". I asked what he recommended for night time observation. I thought he would say a telescope to my surprise, he said a red beam of light is much more useful for pointing out stars and planets than an expensive telescope. I am glad to pass this on to you! Some clear nights, sit outside together and look at stars. Take turns with your light beam pointing out your favorite stars and patterns. Charlotte Mason Kindergarten is working on a beautiful resource for night time watching.
This compass currently has a flash deal. Charlotte Mason's list of 18 attainments includes compass comprehension. Using a compass is a life skill. This particular one is high quality and glows in the dark. Let your little ones walk around and look at their compass. They will learn so many about direction from just using a compass.
This is my list of 10 non-book nature resources. I have used these items. I have also used items I would never pay a penny for again. Remember to train your children to take good care of their nature supplies and respect all of your boundaries. Enjoy being outside, these are critical, life changing days!
Encouragement for you: Matthew 11:28 28 Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened,and I will give you rest. 29 Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.