Nature Studies

Nature Study: the Beginning of Loving Our Earth, by Briana Elizabeth

Earth Day is approaching, and as I pondered what to write, I thought about the barrage of recycling projects public school children do each year and tried to remember what made me a natural conservationist from the time I was small.

img_0107 One of my very first memories is sitting in a meadow of violets and picking fistfuls of them for my Nana. Some were white with dappled purple, and others were solid purple. I was entranced at the beauty of those colors.

These are slate falls that go straight up the side of the Appalachians – you can see the gorge cut as you drive. We had just hiked to the top, and as we came down, I told them the story of how I had fallen down at the top and my father had to slide down the mountain, catch me, and then grab a tree to stop us both.

I would spend hours flipping over rocks looking for Red-backed salamanders, and my favorite Red Efts. The Yellow-spotted salamanders were a prize to find also, but to this day I think the tiny feet of a Red Eft are pretty close to magical.

He’s now 15 and still loves to be mucking about outside. This year he’s staffing at a Boy Scout camp and swimming in a lake all summer.

Nana had a beautiful flower garden. In the early spring I hunted for Lily of the Valley, and in the summer the garden would erupt in purple iris and scarlet poppies. We spent hours watching the birds that came to her feeders. The first photograph I ever took was of a black-capped chickadee in flight.

a little fledgling we found on our lawn

Today the thought of frogs being disfigured from the polluted waters in is deeply troubling to me. The Colony Collapse Disorder that’s destroying the honeybees is impacting my family directly because the pollinators weren’t coming to my vegetable garden. A few years ago, I had to hand pollinate many rows of vegetables. Even with my intervention we didn’t get a good harvest that year.

Have your children grow a garden and harvest their own veggies. Even a patio tomato plant is exciting when you get to eat the tomatoes. These are heirloom purple cherokee and brandywine. I had to save them from the deer.


Here on the east coast, we’re losing huge colonies of bats, and as a project this year my kids will be building bat houses like the ones we see in the woods on our hikes. (Did you know – one bat will eat 1200 mosquitoes every HOUR!). Thankfully I still have the one little bat that flies in a set pattern all over my backyard at night. I know that when I see him (or her) Spring has truly sprung!

Every year we have a sac of mantis that hatches near our pool. All summer long we watch them grow.

The former owner of our house cared for his lawn with tons of chemicals. The first years living here we had so few fireflies, I could count them on one hand. Now on summer evenings, my yard is a firefly wonderland. Did you know that you can tell what kind of firefly it is by what height it flies at?

In the summer we spend many afternoons fishing. Which turns into turtle catching, water strider spotting, frog catching, and dragonfly watching.


If you’ve been keeping up with any nature news, you might have learned that we’ve lost over 90% of the Monarch Butterflies due to unknown reasons. Scientists are asking people to plant milkweed to help feed them and give them places to lay eggs and attach their chrysalis.

a monarch at Kittatiny State Park


We become conservationists by learning to love nature, and there is no better way to do this than what Charlotte Mason called Nature Study. In her books, she talks about taking a day trip to let the children spend the afternoon in a meadow, while mother sat and read a book. I don’t know about you, but that sounds like a perfect afternoon to me. (Of course I’d probably flip over a few rocks; old habits die hard.)

One of the best books for nature study is Anna Botsford Comstock’s Handbook of Nature Study. It is huge. It looks imposing and intimidating. Don’t let it be. It’s broken up so it’s easily useable; it has relevant poetry and projects to do. Somewhere in a binder I have every subject broken up into season, and I will get that typed up and posted here for you all. It is SO much fun, truly.

A swallowtail butterfly on butterfly bush in a neighbor’s lawn.

Another wonderful thing to do is to start your own Nature Notebooks. I picked up some cloth-bound blank notebooks at a big chain store and that is what we use.

Children can color them; they can watercolor; they can just leave them as pencil drawings. It is their own space to record what they see!


Another delightful book is The View from the Oak. It is wonderful for explaining the environment of creatures through their senses, not our own. It might be hard to track down, but it’s a wonderful asset to the family library.

Cultivating a conservationist doesn’t start with knowing how to recycle. It starts with loving nature so much they couldn’t imagine not recycling.  Then we wouldn’t need one single Earth Day because we would be living earth day every day.

Even dogs love nature study days!


Briana Elizabeth has been at this homeschool gig since her 23 year old son was in 7th grade, and his psychiatrist told her that he had to be homeschooled. Her son never went back to public school that year, and the following year, she pulled her 4th grade daughter out of public school. Her five other children have all been homeschooled entirely. It was baptism by fire, but she wouldn’t trade it for the world. Through the years, she has in the end, not only educated her children, but herself, and homeschooling has brought about a whole paradigm change of living for her family. The education that had seemed only possible for the elite was possible through classically homeschooling.


14 thoughts on “Nature Study: the Beginning of Loving Our Earth, by Briana Elizabeth”

  1. Smashing article & I am loving the photographs!
    Also holding you to this:
    “Somewhere in a binder I have every subject broken up into season, and I will get that typed up and posted here for you all. It is SO much fun, truly.”



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s