Nature Studies

The Next Child in the Woods, by Angela Berkeley

It’s common these days to lament the lack of direct experience with nature that children are growing up with. Other authors have elaborately made the case for why this is important. But how, just how exactly, can someone who has perhaps also been nature-deprived begin to introduce their children to wild nature? Actually, it’s easier than you might think and richer than you might imagine. Here is a great way to start.

1. Look for local natural history museums and parks that sponsor nature walks. Is that cheating? No, it’s a stepping stone. Go on one of those walks–try to pick one that is beautiful. Hear the wind in the trees and the water in the streams. Watch the birds. Learn something you didn’t know before about one plant and one animal.

2. Go back to that site a week later with a picnic lunch. Walk around by yourselves. Look for the plant and the animal you learned about last time. Enjoy your new special spot.

3. Repeat a week later.

4. Repeat a week later. Notice how you love the familiar sounds and smells. Is there anything new this time? Bring along a magnifying glass or a pair of binoculars so you can observe things more closely.

5. Repeat a week later. Notice the seasonal changes that are starting to happen by now.

6. Get curious about another animal or plant. Go on the same nature walk again. This time ask questions. What is that plant? What has it been used for? Are medicinal or edible plants in view?

7. Go back to the nature center and look up these plants in the field guides. Then try to find them on your next weekly visit.

8. Invest in simple rain gear–a tarp to sit on and one to hang from low tree branches for shelter. Have a picnic outside the next time it rains and notice how exciting that can be! Be sure to dress warmly in layers.

9. Time to branch out! Return to the nature center and ask about natural hazards in the area. Learn how to avoid local snakes or poisonous plants or predators. Then range more on your next visit to your special spot–hike about twice as far as the nature walk. Enjoy the solitude. Notice how much more birdsong there is once you get beyond the populated trails.

You are off to a great start in your own area! Don’t stop there – keep learning, keep exploring, keep returning, keep observing.  You will be so glad you did, and your child will be richer for it.


Angela Berkeley–Although Angela Berkeley wanted to homeschool her daughter, she was unable to find others to partner with in this endeavor and felt that it was unfair to homeschool an only child; so she enrolled her in kindergarten. However, because the family was facing a mid-semester cross-country move during their daughter’s first grade year, she pulled her out to homeschool until they settled into their new home. This went so well, and her daughter liked it so much, that they ended up homeschooling through 8th grade.  Using an eclectic classical style, this was an extremely successful process, producing a confident, personable, and academically well-prepared entrant into a local high school.


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