Interest-led, Unschoolish, CM-style Nature Study

Interest Led, Unschoolish, Charlotte Mason Nature Study

Although Scout will happily tell you that she is now homeschooled, I’ve done nothing at all structured with the little ones because:

A) It’s summertime.
B) Even after just one year of public school, Scout clearly needs some de-schooling.
(That’s a post for another day.)
C) They are still little kids! What they need most right now is a whole lot of play.
(Stability, too, but that’s related to adoption rather than schooling.)

Nature study is best when it’s relaxed and fun!

In the past couple of years, we’ve had so many other things to deal with or adjust to that nature study fell by the wayside, and when we did it, it felt forced and hurried. Not relaxed. Not fun. The joy wasn’t in it.

Simply by spending a great deal of time outside lately, the kids (Kathryn included) have become involved in all sorts of interest-led, unschoolish nature study — which is actually very much in line with Charlotte Mason’s recommendations for children this age. Kathryn has taken the lead in much of this, simply because she enjoys nature and enjoys being the one to get them started in these vital relations.

“Education is the Science of Relations: that is that a child has natural relations with a vast number of things and thoughts.” – Charlotte Mason

Nature Walks:

What began as a promised incentive to keep Scout from being loud and waking Kathryn up far too early (since they share a bedroom) has turned into something they all seem to look forward to each day: a little morning walk. They’ve seen geese at the lake, brought back HUGE poplar leaves to press, inspected berries and different kinds of leaves and plants, and even saw a coyote one morning!

Flower Studies:


Kathryn has taught the little ones how to make clover chains, and she and Scout will sometimes do this for hours. They wear them, use them to decorate the play set, and often bring me a little bunch to put in a tiny vase in the kitchen. In the process, they talk about flowers and grass and bees…

The kids have helped me weed the flower beds and can name quite a few of our flowers. We’ve talked about how bees get pollen to take to other plants, and we are all eager for our blueberries to get ripe!

Tree Studies:

Maybe, just maybe, I’ve finally convinced Jem that peaches do not turn into apples when they get big. {This kid!} He and Scout have helped pick up rotten peaches off the ground, have helped look for bugs infesting peaches on low-hanging limbs, and have watched as the peaches have grown bigger and more peach-colored. They know which apple tree grows which kind of apples and they are eager to eat one from their own back yard. The kids say they’ve never had apple pie, so I hope for enough good apples to bake one!

They’ve collected leaves of different sorts, from maple to magnolia. Both kids have started asking what kind of tree is what, and can correctly name some of the trees in our yard. They have spent time playing with maple keys and with Kathryn’s help, took the seeds out of the keys and [quite successfully] started their own little silver maple tree nursery on the porch; soon they’ll transplant the baby trees to a hill in our back yard.


Kathryn has even been inspired to spontaneously do a few nature journal entries for a self-imposed tree study.

Bird Studies:

The kids have been learning about birds by watching the robins on the back porch. We’ve seen them build a nest and raise babies, and the kids were outside when the baby birds flew the nest. We watched when the robin pair decided to use the same nest for a second brood of babies, and we are eagerly waiting for the eggs to hatch. They’ve started asking more questions about the birds we see on the bird feeder. They can even identify a few now — although Jem makes up some crazy imaginary bird names!

Insect Studies:


On one of their nature walks, the kids brought back a few ladybugs and Kathryn dug the ladybug habitat (from InsectLore) out of the garage. She set them up happily in their habitat with food and water, and soon we had mating ladybugs, and no long after, we had dozens of ladybug eggs.


Last week, when the eggs hatched into nymphs, Kathryn released the adult ladybugs and the kids got to have a little ladybug fun in the process. Now we are watching as they (we hope) successfully grow into adults.

As usual, WonderDog got in on the nature study fun.


This is just a smattering of what they’ve been learning without any coercion from me.

All I want for the little ones in particular right now is to fuel their natural inquisitiveness about the world around them. I see that happening with what we’re doing, and I’m delighted to see Kathryn’s passion revived as well.