Sunday, October 24, 2010

Nature Studies: Is this cheating?

When I first started thinking about homeschooling, I was drawn to many aspects of the Charlotte Mason philosophy and approach and I knew that I definitely wanted to incorporate into our lives regular opportunities for art and poetry appreciation and also plenty of nature studies. 

However, when it came to nature studies and getting out and about - we just didn't. The reality being that the humidity and heat of living a few degrees north of the equator, is simply is too oppressive for us and it drives us indoors. On our last visit to the local tropical nature reserve, we ended up with huge welts of mosquito bites (despite copious amounts of insect repellent being applied) and drenched in sticky sweat. Not only that, after scaling the heights to the top of the hill, my toddler decided he had had enough and I had to carry him all the way down. It will probably be a while before we brave that again!

How I long for lovely balmy summer days, crisp cool autumns, delicious wintry weather and glorious spring days - but alas, in the tropics, that is only a dream. So, those long leisurely walks in the pleasant sun-dappled parks and forests will have to wait. The rainforest is a fascinating place to explore but how does a heat and perspiration averse family find a way to spend time enjoying more of God's beautiful creation? 

Well, first I decided that I would start small and try to incorporate nature studies in small and creative ways. Plan A was to get the girls to explore the fauna and flora in our local vicinity. I told to them to find and photograph any beasties they could within our small plot of garden and the landscaped gardens of the condominium we live in.  I equipped the girls with a camera and tasked them with the challenge of finding creatures big and small and photographing them if they could.They had fun and it was pretty successful in getting the kids out.These are some of the critters they caught on film.

Unfortunately, we found it difficult to identify the particular species of insect or animal and we got frustrated and lost heart a little. Also, as the weather got hotter and more oppressive, it became harder to persuade my girls to head out (they really don't like the heat). So, it seemed like our nature studies were doomed to be neglected.

I then hit upon an idea - nature studies don't always have to  be outside, do they? It is, after all, the study of nature and I can bring it into the home. So I planned a study on fruit, something easy and doable, an achievable goal we could build on. I would assign half an hour each week to the study of a particular fruit. 

The first week the girls looked at, sketched, and cut open a Papaya. We then went online to look at Papaya trees and I prepared a little note page on papayas which they read and stuck into their nature journals. They enjoyed it, stayed cool and happy - so I'll count it as a success.

The next week was followed by a study of a starfruit. 

It seems to be working well and I plan to carry on for awhile and spend time observing other tropical, local fruit like the Rambutan and Mangosteen.

It is not quite the getting out into the fresh air and observing nature in its natural surroundings (hence the cheating?) but I think it still counts as an opportunity for my children to observe and appreciate the natural world. What I have noticed is that the children are paying attention to their surroundings more, and they'll stop to watch a bird in the tree pecking away at the bark or a grasshopper perched on our window sill, which is lovely.

And who knows, we might still get out that door and brave the heat for another foray into nature in the not too distant future..  


Erin said...


What a beautiful blog! so pleased to have found you:) I found you from the CM blog Carnival. Not too sure where in the tropics you are, we are in Australia, I can tell by your fruit you are in the Sth Hemisphere too!:)

Look forward to having a further look around:)

Katey said...

Awesome!! We have cold snowy winters and don't get out much...I have them observe from the front window.

Nancy said...

This sounds like a wonderful nature study! We did pears a few years ago, and my kids still talk about that day. I can't imagine all the amazing opportunities you will have with nature study. Thanks for sharing your experience with us!

Anonymous said...

Beautiful photo's and a very creative way of solving your too hot outdoor-nature studies.
Any idea about the name of that adorable cute dove like bird?
It looks like our Oriental Turtle Dove, that lives in South Europe:

However, your bird seems bigger.
Drawing nature is a lovely way to study nature. Keep going!

MamaChi said...

Hi Paula, we decided that it looked like a Peaceful Dove (native to Australia) but I can't be sure! On days like these, I wish I could carry a bird-watching expert with me in my pocket. :)

Bethany said...

What a great idea!

Besides apples, I never thought about fruit. It is perfect timing with the cold coming.



Amber said...

I agree -- sounds like a good idea for winter to me as well. Neat photos and drawings, too!
Found you through the CM Carnival.

Kimberly said...

I love your blog! And I love Charlotte Mason! I have quite a few of her books. Have you read, For the Children's Sake: Foundations of Education for Home and School, by Susan Schaeffer Macaulay?

I am going to send the link to your blog to Amy Eckrote. She will love it too!

Big hugs!


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