On a recent homeschool birding hike, we loaded ID guides, nature journals, and binoculars into our packs to eagerly trek through forest and field. Maybe we were noisy or it was too late in the morning, but we had yet to find a single bird! As younger children searched for muddy tracks by the creek, an older child moved to a quieter place for birdwatching. Her patience paid off. She spotted a large owl perched in the trees.
Everyone took turns observing the owl’s pensive face in awe. Children flipped through field guides, excitedly trying to match the correct owl. One child proudly yelled, “barred owl,” explaining, “because it hunts during the day!” on the hike home, we spotted owl pellets on the trail and marveled over the delicate bits of bone hidden within — their origin a new mystery to unravel.
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It was March, week one, and the theme was nesting birds in Exploring Nature with Children, by Lynn Seddon
Exploring Nature with Children fits wonderfully into our nature-based homeschool, truly grows with the child, and can be adapted to fit varying levels of interest and ability (think mixed-age families and young children). Additionally, the curriculum is easy to use and provides opportunities for further study and enrichment, making it even more versatile. In fact, we had so much fun with the Signs of Spring Scavenger Hunt (free download) that we continued our studies throughout the week by mixing a nature palette and painting with the colors of spring.
If you haven’t yet incorporated nature studies into your routine, no worries, this is a gentle way to begin! This curriculum is beautifully written by a Charlotte Mason-inspired home educator who aspires “to deepen the connections both with your children, and with the natural world around you.” Even seasoned nature-lovers will enjoy prioritizing their time spent outdoors with both wonder and purpose.
Exploring Nature with Children is a complete, year-long curriculum that follows the natural rhythm of the seasons. Expertly organized by monthly chapters, each featuring four weeks of themed nature lessons. The 240-page curriculum opens with a table of contents listing weekly themes that is useful to print and post on a wall or within your homeschool planner. Seddon provides a guide on how to use the book and recommends additional resources and methods to enhance learning while cultivating a love of nature in your home.
The author thoughtfully arranged the book for homeschoolers to easily flip through for reference. For instance, you do not need to start at the first chapter in September to use this book all year long. Depending upon seasons in your area, it may make more sense to jump around to themes of current interest or accessibility (we see more caterpillars in late summer than in the first week of May).
Each weekly lesson contains:
- A nature theme and educational information on the topic of study.
- Nature walk activity.
- Page references to “Handbook of Nature Study” – recommended as a great companion resource, but not required.
- List of fiction and non-fiction books – ISBN numbers are included for easy planning.
- A poem to read and enjoy – fits perfectly into a poetry tea time or morning basket.
- Art to reference – I plan to print the art for a “featured art wall” in our homeschool.
- Extension activities – crafts, recipes, science, music appreciation, writing, and more. Listen to Vivaldi while creating a symmetry painting of a butterfly!
The curriculum is only available as a digital download only, but it is affordable and easy to print as needed.
In addition to the main curriculum, Seddon offers a few other resources for paid download:
- Exploring Nature with Children – a Guided Journal – I started with this journal for my kindergartner.
- Exploring Nature around the Year – 365 days of nature journaling.
- Celebrating the Seasons with Children – a guide for seasonal festivals and traditions.
- Phenology Wheel Guide
Free resources on Seddon’s website:
- Free Downloads – the Nature Notebook by Charlotte Mason’s House of Education is amazing to browse through.
- The Raising Little Shoots Blog – features weekly, themed links to printables, videos, drawing lessons, and more. We love the drawing workshops by John Muir Laws.
I love how Exploring Nature with Children emphasizes a strong family connection with nature through journaling, keeping a nature table, and modeling an appreciation for the outdoors. Seddon recommends choosing a regular place for nature study that can be revisited each week. She writes, “you will become experts on your own little corner of the world.” This sentiment could apply to a patch of garden in the backyard, a nearby field, walking trail, or anywhere you can manage.
We often use a large, lantana plant in our garden for nature study — observing the daily habits and life cycles of skippers and other pollinators. I am amazed at what my daughter has learned from a single plant!
Also, having nature themes already planned each week as our homeschool schedule gets crazy has been a welcomed inspiration. For instance, on our recent camping trip, we referenced the chapter on tree study to observe the emerging leaves and fallen flowers around our campsite. I have been using the Guided Journal for Exploring Nature with Children this Spring to explore with my Kindergartner who enjoys hands-on activities, and I know we will enjoy the curriculum for years to come as my child grows and develops different skill sets and interests. The curriculum works best for children old enough to keep a nature journal, but I find it easy to adapt through oral discussion and hands-on exploration.
This curriculum is also a favorite guide for group outings and co-op activities.
If you are looking for an open and go curriculum or self-directed nature study, this is not it. Exploring Nature with Children offers a plethora of resources to pick and choose from each week. While not much planning is required, some prep work is needed to fully utilize the curriculum. For instance, it helps to visit the library in advance for the themed book titles, search for recommended art or music, print off journal pages, collect supplies, plan nature outings, etc.
Also, it is recommended that the educator models a strong connection with nature. For instance, nature journaling is encouraged by both adults and children. Nature journaling can be intimidating for any age, and I hope to model simple techniques this year for first grade by printing parts of the guided journal to use alongside my child.
It also may be useful to review the weekly themes in the table of contents of the curriculum sample prior to purchasing. The themes are versatile, but it is worth noting that there might be seasonal differences in your area or lack of access to natural areas, like ponds.
Overall, if you are searching for a curriculum to help deepen your family’s joy in the outdoors while prioritizing nature study and exploration in your homeschool, look no further than Exploring Nature with Children.
As my daughter grows, the hours spent outdoors tracking bugs, touching flowers, following this or that trail, running wild in the creek, and collecting treasures along the way are some of our very best memories. Nature exploration inspires learning in a way that I have not found elsewhere, for what book could replace a live encounter with an owl, the tangible experience of sketching a flower, the unbeatable feeling of solving some small mystery in the world? Seddon’s curriculum is important because, above all else, it encourages your family to go exploring. What’s more, it provides the tools to do it in a way that incites curiosity and delight.
Lilly Vicens is the homeschooling mom of one artsy, imaginative daughter, a published nature writer, and self-professed hobby collector. She shares nature-inspired stories and homeschooling insight on her blog at Tulip Tree Homeschool. You can also find her on Instagram and Facebook.