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Nature Journals for Homeschool Science: Part I

by Jessica Parnell | Jun 05, 2018 | 3 min read

The wind rushes through the trees. Each night, we venture out to hear the crickets chirping at dusk and watch the fireflies dance in the moonlight. Summer is upon us, and with it comes a sensory playground! What better way to understand nature and enjoy summer than by capturing the many new sights and sounds? Take your homeschool science outdoors and deepen your love for nature with nature journaling!

What is a nature journal?

Homeschool science is all about hands-on experiences and adventure. Because we set our own schedule and can choose the topics that most interest us, using nature as your curriculum is a great way to engage in homeschool science in a meaningful and creative way. A nature journal allows your child to use his or her senses to explore the world around them. It’s also a good way to teach them the scientific method as you examine, hypothesize, and record all of your experiences and observations. To create a nature journal, all you need is a notebook, pencil and other art supplies, and an abundance of curiosity!
But why should you lug around your kids and a paint set while you hike? Let’s dig deeper into the benefits of nature journaling as part of your homeschool science and summer routine.

Four benefits of keeping a nature journal

Nature journals encourage creativity.

Nature journals are about beauty, expression, and observation — all of which are individually experienced! Use nature journaling as a way to boost your homeschool science and homeschool art at the same time. Bring out the colored pencils, the markers, and pens. Have your student experiment with watercolor or charcoal. Bringing the drawings to life exposes your student not only to nature but art as well. Encourage them to change up the mediums as they see fit.

Learn to appreciate local wildlife.

At the core of nature journals, we want to expose our kids to — and enrich our kids with — the beauty of the world around us. And that starts in your local area. There are plenty of places around your community that are perfect for nature study. Find a local park, a local farm, or an arboretum, and have your child take note of local birds, insects, and plants. Interacting up-close-and-personal with nature makes homeschool science anything but boring!

Develop observation and documentation skills.

A nature journal should reflect what the author experiences and enjoys about their surroundings. Not every child is a natural artist, but skills of observation are inherent in all of us! Through nature journaling, you’ll all get better at using your 5 senses to experience the outdoors. Your child will learn to record what they see, and over time you will see progress on how they document the world around them.

Respect national parks and their importance.

There’s no better place to explore the wilds of nature and homeschool science than on a field trip to a national park. And visiting a national park is a great opportunity to discuss conservation and the dos and don’ts of nature (Don’t pick at that bark! Don’t bring in firewood from another location!). From caves to forests to deserts, there’s no shortage of observations to make.  The National Park Service has a list of parks by state that you can browse.  Have your child research the park beforehand to find out the history, natural landmarks, and wildlife. For example, the Grand Canyon National Park in Arizona has a section on their website on nature. Your child can watch for any wildlife or fauna that they may run across. They may fill more than a few pages of their nature journal on this trip!

Keeping a nature journal is a unique homeschool science study that easily adds to the current curriculum. You don’t have to be an “outdoorsy” person to enjoy nature journaling. We encourage you to do it as well, along with your student! It’s a fun way to dig deeper into learning about the world around us. Stay tuned for Part II of Nature Journals for Homeschool Science, where we talk about how nature journals can actually benefit your homeschool portfolio and routine!

Will you start nature journaling? Why or why not?
Jessica Parnell
Hello everyone! I’m Jessica Parnell — mom, homeschool evaluator, teacher, and CEO of Bridgeway Academy. In my 20+ years of experience as a homeschool mom and evaluator, I have had the privilege of meeting homeschoolers that take a variety of approaches to their education. It is their many stories and successes that inspire me in my own homeschooling and I love to pass on the knowledge that I have gained from them to other homeschooling families. The one constant that always remains true is that there’s no such thing as a “cookie cutter child.” Each child is fearfully and wonderfully made and as a result, learns and functions differently. It’s our job to ensure that we’re raising each child to fulfill their individual purpose and when we can teach in a way that inspires them, we are on our way to homeschool success. When I’m not writing or teaching my children, I like to ski, write and participate in triathlons. I graduated from Kutztown University with a Bachelor of Science in Education and a Masters in English and I am currently pursuing a degree in Neuroleadership.
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