Nature Study, FIMBY Style

I love the idea of Charlotte Mason nature study. No doubt other educators and naturalists advocate this approach but I hadn't heard of it before investigating CM philosophy.

Picture this: a child in the woods, with a drawing pad and pencil. Diligently sketching a leaf, stone, tree, flower or butterfly. We actually tried this once or twice last year.

Our reality: three kiddos running through the woods, building forts and fairy houses, pretending to be drunken pirates (my son's latest fascination).

We are city folk so when my kids are in the woods I am less than inclined to require then to sit and sketch. In fact I WANT them to run around like crazies, minus the drunken sailor bit. Don't get the wrong idea, we are all over nature study at our house. It's an everyday occurance but it looks more like this:

  1. The kids find a couple pieces of brown felt and some fleece from the fabric bin.
  2. A copy of the ancient vintage sewing book "The Big Book of Soft Toys" by Mabs Tyler inspires an afternoon of tracing, measuring, cutting, stitching & stuffing.
  3. Behold, "Silent Sam" and "Cocoa" are born.

Laurent and Silent Sam

Laurent and Silent Sam

Celine with Cocoa
Celine with Cocoa

Based on the kiddos current interest I decide to scour the local library shelves for squirrel books. We start a new bedtime chapter book The Adventures of Chatterer the Red Squirrel. We learn all about the habitats and traits of little mammals, birds (& little boys) while reading the antics of Chatterer and his forest friends.

We read other books about squirrels and these are a couple favorites - The Squirrel Wife and Nutmeg and Barley: A Budding Friendship - weave natural science with folklore and story.

Reading these books teaches us about neighborliness, kind-heartedness, friendship, sacrifice and love. Our lives are enriched by good reads and snuggles on the couch.

We spend time over several days playing in the leaves. The kids build homes and burrows and generally goof around. Is goofing off part of nature study? It is in our house.

There are a lot of squirrels running around this time of year. What are they doing? We recall all that we've read about collecting and storing for winter.

On our weekend hikes we find acorns and admire the gorgeous golden oak leaves. Earlier in the season, at our state museum, we discovered that the US Constitution was written with oak gall ink. I fantasize about making ink and quill pens with the kids. But other creative opportunities present themselves, maybe some other year.

Golden Oak leaves: hike at Bates-Morse Mountain Conservation Area

Lone Acorn : hike at Bald Pate Mountain 

Our treasure collections from our walks around town and hikes in the woods just beg us to make acorn, leaf and pine cone critters.

So, no we didn't sketch a squirrel or leaf. Right now the kids are more interested in sketching motorcycles.

But... Are we learning something about the natural world? Certainly Probably.

Are we appreciating creation and its Creator? Definitely!

Are we spending time together? Absolutely. Nature Study, FIMBY style

More great fall and squirrel study reads:

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  • Karen

    Karen on Nov. 18, 2008, 12:57 p.m.

    If children can look like squirrels, Laurent has that wonderful cheeky expression on his face that I think reflects a squirrel's character. In Nana-speak, that's a precious photo. I don't remember my elementary science classes being this exciting or enlightening - can I register for a repeat in your 'classroom"?

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  • beth @ brew*crew

    beth @ brew*crew on Nov. 18, 2008, 4:18 p.m.

    Hi Renee,

    I can so relate to this delightful post! AS a matter of fact, I've been composing an "impromptu nature study" post in my own head these last few days, but alas, a crank/teething baby has taken precedence over writing in my world! Your impromptu squirrels are so adorable, what treasures! Our most favoritest squirrel book is definitely B.Potter's Tale of that naughtiest of all squirrels, the obnoxious Squirrel Nutkin. What fond memories we have of laughing and scorning over his antics.

    Thank you for commenting on my blog! I've so enjoyed hearing from you and perusing your inspiring blog. I love your phrase, "notions of homesteading" and would have to concur that would more accurately describe my aspirations as well, as opposed to "aspiring agrarian" as I do seem to fail at more that I attempt than I do succeed at... and it IS indeed hard work. My husband and I laughingly thank God that our livelihood doesn't depend upon our efforts! Hah! But what fun to learn these lost arts. I have read all of your soap posts with great interest (another half-arsed effort of mine), and you've offered me fresh insight and inspiration. Notions... yes, perfect, I may have to compliment you by hijacking that phraseology.

    I'm glad you found me too, and now I've found your blog as well. I've subscribed and do look forward to keeping up with you. How talented you are! Thanks so much for your encouragement, and I voted for you as well!

    Blessings to you and yours~ Beth *who is drooling over your lucious photography and SU-weet camera, fantasizing about getting her own dslr camera (hopefully sooner? than later), trying to choose between a Nikon or Canon, though it'll probably be awhile due to fundage.

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  • Carla

    Carla on Nov. 10, 2012, 5:05 a.m.

    Thank you for this post! I found it many years later, but so often I am frustrated that we can't "do" Charlotte Mason nature study while we are at our "nature site" -- with our three energetic boys! Yet somehow we do learn about science... I just have to not give up and be discouraged since I don't have three "victorian" gentlemen willing to work on a nature notebook in the middle of the woods.

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  • Sean

    Sean on Dec. 7, 2012, 6:30 a.m.

    I could have sworn that when i was little these books were made into a cartoon. Is that true? Or am i imagining things?

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