How We Do Nature Study

Nature study in our home is mother-planned, student-directed.
Here's what I mean by that;

First, Mom creates an Environment of Discovery:

Our Nature Table ~ September 2011


I have a small table set up in our school room (dining room).  It is actually an antique wash stand I have owned for years and moved with us all over America.  It has had many uses;  wash stand, display table, toy storage, book shelf.  Currently, the inside holds my watercolor supply and the top serves as our nature table.


The table always has binoculars, magnifying glass, labels, pen, tape measure, & small dishes or jars to hold specimens.

Changing monthly, according to the theme; field guides, charts, reference books, photos & specimens.


Nature study is scheduled every day of the week for younger children and four times a week for my middle and high schooler.

I have learned that if I do not devote a concentrated time to the table it is sadly neglected.  So I make it a point to "assign" the table once a week to each child for their nature study.  The other days are devoted to outdoor study/walks & nature reading (more about that below).

  1. Choose 1 specimen to study from the table.
  2. Draw the specimen from at least two different angels (ie, front and back, top and bottom, etc.) in personal nature journal.  Coloring is encouraged.
  3. Locate the specimen in one of the field guides.  
  4. Record two facts about that specimen in your field guide.  Record which book and what page your facts came from.
  5. Create a label with common and scientific name of specimen.  Place next to specimen on the nature table.
  6. Before credit is given for the work (sticker for younger, credit points for older) the student must explain their entry to Mom (narration).

    8 year old
    15 year old
    10 year old


    Two days a week are devoted to "nature reading".  Over the years, we have amassed quite a collection of nature books.  Some favorites are:

    ~Thornton Burgess books; Adventures of Johnny Chuck, Blacky the Crow, The Burgess Bird Book, etc.
    ~Among the Pond People, Among the Meadow People, etc.  | Clara D. Pierson
    ~ Christian Liberty Nature Readers 1-5

    Among the Forest People | Clara D. Pierson

    1. The student will read one of the stories (usually 8-10 pages), with or without Mom, depending on the reading ability.
    2. Younger students will narrate orally to Mom, then copy a sentence or two from the reading and draw a companion illustration on a page like this.
    3. Older students use Publisher to make a nature page about the reading's main subject (dragonfly, duck, clam, rose, etc.).  Must include the following:  
      • Title of the subject
      • one or more images
      • brief summary of the reading
      • section containing 3-4 facts about the subject.

    8 year old..lots of help from Mom as he is just learning to use Publisher
    Narration was dictated, Mom typed and helped with some structure

    10 year old ~ Done on his own


    Two days per week are devoted to nature walks &/or outdoor study.  Here are some examples:

    • Take a walk in neighborhood, collecting specimens, taking photos, or field sketching.  Journal entry must include a sketch, date, time/temp, weather, & related poem verse or scripture.
    • Find a specimen (one or a grouping) to draw in the yard or area directly around the house.  Journal entry requirements same as above.
    • Take a nature field trip away from home and proceed as you would for a neighborhood walk and journal entry.

    10 year old

    13 year old

    15 year old

    EXAMPLE SCHEDULE (for 10 year old):

    Monday ~ Burgess Bird Book p. 44-49, "Longbill and Teeter"; Nature Page on The Sandpiper

    Tuesday ~ Nature Table; Journal Entry

    Wednesday ~ Burgess Bird Book p.57-61, "Drummers and Carpenters"; Nature Page on Woodpeckers

    Thursday ~ Outdoor Nature; Journal Entry

    Friday ~ Nature Walk with Mom & brother; Journal Entry

    I understand that this is not pure Charlotte Mason.  This method works for us.  Hopefully, you are inspired to do some nature study...any amount is beneficial!


    Composer Study ~ George Frideric Handel

    Photo: Pixabay


    • The study sheets I made to help us through composer studies: 

    • Living Books/CDs

    Handel, Who Knew What He Liked  |  Anderson & Hawkes

     Classical Kids Hallelujah Handel  | available on i-tunes

    Looking forward to another great composer study!

    Poet Study ~ Dante

    Botticelli's Dante c.1495


    • Poet Profiles ~ study sheets I created to help us organize our Charlotte Mason-style Poetry study

      • Living Books

      Dante:  Poet, Author, & Proud Florentine | John C. Davenport

      Dante's Journey; An Infernal Adventure  | Virginia Jewiss

      • On the Web
      1. Divine Comedy, Longfellow's Translation, Project Gutenberg
      2. Encyclopedia Britannica, Dante

          Artist Study ~ Sandro Botticelli

          Sandro Botticelli (c. 1445 - 1510)  Florentine Painter,  Early Renaissance

          Detail from Botticelli's The Birth of Venus, c.1486, tempera on canvas


          • Artist Profile Pages ~ a tool I created to help organize our Charlotte Mason-style artist studies


          • Living Books

          Getting to Know the World's Great Artists; Botticelli |  Mike Venezia

          • On the Web
          1. Olga's Gallery
          2. Encyclopedia Britannica

          • Images to print ~ I will hang these on our school room (dining room) wall.

          The Adoration of the Magi 1470-1475, Tempera on Panel


          Portrait of a Young Woman

          For more general information on   how we do artist studies visit   HERE.

          Visit the School Room for other fine arts studies and more CM ideas.

          Thanks for Stopping By,


          School Days 2011 ~ Week 4

          A quiet week...

          ~Learning about Chaucer:  His father and grandfather were wine merchants.

          ~Drawing Giotto:  He was not just a painter, but also an architect.  He designed the bell tower at the Florence Cathedral.

          ~Listening to Vivaldi:  He trained orphan girls to become world-class musicians at the Ospedale della Pietà.

          ~Letters from a Roman Solider in Medieval Britain

          ~Showing the power of the sun's energy concentrated through a lens

          ~Living room jam sessions

          ~Waxing Poetic:  
                      The Prompt was, "Write a poem about a very small object."  My 8th grader's response:
                       My apologies to the squeamish among you.

          The Maggot

          Oh, the maggot,
          He really does have it;
          A warm shell and plenty to eat
          Poop and toe-jam from human feet.
          Not a worry in the world,
          Safe here in his tree;
          Until he hears a pecking.
          What could that be?
          Then the beak comes in 
          And rips him out of his rest,
          And the woodpecker flies him to a nearby nest.
          He falls down into a baby bird's mouth
          Where his body is ripped up and swallowed down south.

                                                                            By Nathan

          Extreme Banana Cake

          EXTREME BANANA CAKE (adapted from "Best Ever Banana Cake")

          For the cake~

          1 1/2 cups ripe bananas, mashed (about 4 medium)
          2 tsp lemon juice
          3 cups all-purpose flour
          1 1/2 tsp baking soda
          1/4 tsp salt
          3/4 cup butter, softened
          2 cups sugar
          3 large eggs
          2 tsp vanilla extract
          1 1/2 cups buttermilk

          • Preheat oven to 275°.  (Yes, you read that correctly.  The low temp keeps the cake from drying out).
          • Grease and flour two 9-inch round pan.  Note:  I also like to add a round of wax or parchment paper to the bottom of my pan to help with removal later.  Here's the trick:  Place your pan on the paper, trace around the bottom, cut out.  Lightly grease the bottom of the pan, place the paper cut out in, then grease and flour as usual.  This little step will keep the bottom of your cake nice and smooth which will help with decorating later.
          • In a small bowl, mix mashed banana with lemon juice; set aside.

          • In a medium bowl, mix flour, baking soda, & salt; set aside.
          • In a large bowl, cream 3/4 cup butter and 2 cups sugar until light and fluffy (about 3 minutes).
          • Beat in eggs, one at a time, then stir in 2 tsp vanilla.
          • Beat in the flour mixture alternately with the buttermilk.
          • Stir in the banana mixture.

          • Pour batter into prepared pans and bake in preheated oven for one hour, 15 minutes; or until toothpick inserted in middle comes out with slightly moist crumbs.  This may take anywhere from 1 hour to 1 hour, 30 minutes, depending on your oven.
          • Remove pans from oven and place on cooling racks for 15 -20 minutes. 
          • Hold rack on top of pan and flip them over to get the cake out of the pan and onto the cooling rack.  It will be upside down at this point.  If you lined your pan with wax/parchment paper, peel it off at this point.  
          • Allow cakes to cool completely before assembling with frosting. You can also let cool, wrap tightly with plastic wrap, put in a zipper freezer bag, and freeze for up to 3 months.  

          For The Frosting~

          1/4 cup butter, browned
          1/4 cup butter, softened
          8 ounces reduced-fat cream cheese, softened
          1 1/2 tsp vanilla
          3 1/2 cups powdered sugar

          • See the link above on browning butter.  Let the butter cool completely before you make this!
          • Cream the butters, cream cheese, & vanilla together until smooth.
          • Slowly add powdered sugar, beating well between additions until frosting is smooth and creamy. (You may need to add a little--1-2 tsp.--milk to get the correct consistency.)
          • Chill until ready to frost cake.

          For the Nut Garnish~

          1 cup chopped pecans
          2 TBS butter
          1 TBS brown sugar

          • In small skillet, on medium heat, melt butter and brown sugar together until sugar is mostly dissolved.
          • Add pecans and cook, stirring constantly, until pecans are shiny and start to smell toasty (about 2-3 minutes).

          • Remove pecans from pan, spread out in a single layer onto a sheet of wax or parchment paper to cool completely.

            How to Assemble the Cake~
            • Place one cooled layer onto a cake plate or stand.  Gently spread about 3-4 TBS frosting onto the top.  You want about a 1/8" thick layer of frosting.
            • Top with 2nd cooled cake layer.  Frost sides and top of layered cake.
            • Press cooled candied pecans onto the sides.  This step is messy.  I found that holding a paper plate under the edge of my cake stand while I pressed in to pecans was helpful for catching the ones that inevitably fell off.
            • Chilling the cake for a few hours will really help firm up the layers and make cutting easier.
            • Warning!  This is a VERY rich cake.  Think, small slices!!!  It will easily feed 15-20.

            Why I Love Scouts

            Tuesday is Scout Night around here.  Looking at my schedule for today I realized we have THREE different meeting times for our boys tonight ~ thankfully, the meetings are all at the same location!  Looking forward to a great night of "doing our best".

            Why I love the Boy Scouts of America:

            • Family Bonding
            • Great Friends~for scouts and parents 
            • Leadership Opportunities for boys
            • New experiences
            • LOTS of practice in Responsibility 
            • Values and Rewards Hard Work
            • It's FUN!


            Cub Scout Motto ~  "Do Your Best!"                                  Boy Scout Motto ~  "Be Prepared"

            Weekly Scout Tip:  What to do with all of those patches!

            In scouts there is a patch for just about every event, achievement, & milestone.

            Very few of the patches are allowed on the Class A uniform.

            So what to do with all of the rest of them?

            I've seen them put on vests, blankets, pillows, & plaques.

            We decided to make a banner. My fabulous mom stitched these up using inexpensive blue felt and customized them with iron-on letters.

            She fringed and beaded the bottoms (so cute!) and added feathers to the tops (three moves have left the feathers a little worse for wear).

            I have found that hand stitching the patches on is easiest.
            I use embroidery floss.

            These are great additions to the boys' room
            reminding them of the wonderful experiences they
            have had in scouting.

            Want More Info on Scouting?
            Check out the BSA Website