As a Charlotte Mason educator, nature study is a big part of our homeschooling and that includes free time for the children to explore, discover and observe on their own. It was during these times that my oldest son feel in love with snakes, despise my fear of them.
It was from his love of snakes that I learned that importance of knowledge and being able to identify snakes in your area and the following tips are what we use in our own family.
Here is how to study snakes
Learn to Identify the Snakes from Your Area
When my first son was about five years old, he became very interested in snakes. At the age of eighteen that hasn't changed. For a mommy of a young boy who goes looking for snakes under rocks, it can be a very scary thing.
I realized then that knowledge is power.
I contacted the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fishery. I talked to them about how I could find out about the snakes in our area, specifically the venomous snakes. When they heard that I homeschooled, they sent each of my children their own handbook of snakes from Virginia.
This has been a great resource. Each page had one snake and at the top it was green if they were non-venomous and red if they were venomous. This was perfect for a non-reading snake lover.
That year for school, I required him to read that book again and again, being sure he knew how to identify these snakes.
Imagine my joy when just a few years later, he was able to correctly identify a snake before an animal control man could and was able to tell the volunteer at a local museum more about the snake on display than he knew.
Learn Their Diet
When this journey first started for us, I was not liking it at all. However, when my son began to educate me on the diet that different snakes have and seeing how beneficial it would be to have certain snakes living around the outside of our home, I soon learned how to tolerate them.
We have always had cooper heads on our property and for a mom of a snake lover, the stress involved with him seeking out these creatures is difficult to handle. However, when he told me that some snakes eat cooper heads, I was intrigued!
So now when I see a Black Racer or a Rat Snake slithering across my yard (at a good distance) or find the many molts of their skins laying around our property, I smile because I know that not only are they keeping the cooper heads away from my children and my dog, they are doing their best to keep any rodents from entering my house.
Learn Their Habitat
Part of learning about a snake is knowing their nature habitat, especially with venomous snakes. You will want to be aware of your surrounding when walking in woods, high grass, rocky areas and such, as well as what venomous snakes habit that area.
Journal As You Learn
Rather your children go looking for snakes or just enjoy learning about them through books or online, I would encourage you to give them journals to enter their learning, facts and improve their skill of drawing.
These are some of the best ways we have enjoyed (or tolerated) learning about snakes. Boy, I have a list of stories that I could share about the nature studies that my children have had, the frights that have resulted from them and the humor that still lingers, but then I would have to change the title of the post.
You would come to expect that as a Charlotte Mason homeschooling family, nature studies are part of our routine. I have so many amazing memories of my older son finding frogs all the time. I was still developing into a nature lover at that time, so it was grossing me out to see him holding the frogs with bare hands, I mean they give you worts, right? So, as you can see in the picture, I made him wear working gloves when he picked them up, because they pee on you as a defense. I'm completely serious here!
How to Study Frogs
Learn about Frog Habitats
If you don't know where to look for frogs, you may still be lucky to come across one because they seem to be everywhere. I still can't tell the different between a frog and a toad, but my children can and that is all that matters. My children laugh at me if I point out a frog and it is a toad.
Spring time is a great time to find tadpoles at the edge of fresh water. You may even want to take a few home to see if you can watch them morph into a frog.
Learn to Identify the Different Kinds of Frogs
There are a few frogs that your children may want to learn about that can be poisonous, however they are only in certain areas in the world and most people will never see one in real life. My children loved learning about them still.
There are many different kinds of frogs. Some live in water and others live in trees. I love seeing tree frogs because their feet are so different from a frog that lives in the water. They are some frogs that grow to be very large and sound amazingly deep voiced, while other frogs can sound quiet and high pitched, unless there are a lot of them and then you can enjoy a night's chorus.
Yes, I came a long way from requiring work gloves to hold a frog, to taking a picture of my toddler kissing one. Note – it did NOT turn into a princess! But that child later had worts, where the one with gloves didn't get any.
Learn What They Eat
Like taking care of turtles, my boys have loved to catch and observe frogs. They always have a place to keep them. They build up a habitat for that specific frog and sometimes they have learned from trial and error, but they have conquered the skills of caring for a frog for a few days.
Some frogs eat vegetation and others eat insects. If you plan on keeping them to observe, you need to be sure you are providing the right food for them or you may harm them instead.
Journal the Turtle
Once a frog was found, even if they provide a homemade habitat to observe it, we would take a photo of it, so they could journal about it later and write the name of the kind of turtle in their journal to help them remember it. They would often times add their foods they ate and the habitat they found the turtle in while exploring.
As a Charlotte Mason educator, studying flowers is a requirement for my children. I absolutely love having them study flowers with journaling and with photography. Having nature study time around flowers is not only pleasant but a perfect way to welcome spring after a long winter.
Here is how to study flowers:
Flowers have so many things to teach about and getting close is the first step. Having a magnifying glass is a fun way for preschoolers to get involved with a learning and beginning to learn the vocabulary of a flower.
Bring a Field Guide
Learning what a flower's name is important. We use a field guide to learn their names and anything particular about the flowers that we come across.
From the photography that my older children took or from field guides, nature journal assignments were given to the younger children through middle school. They were to label and identify which flower it was and often times, label where we found it.
Living Books about Flowers
Learning about the parts of a flower, pollination and the unique kinds of flowers, we would use living books to learn as much as we could about the flowers in our area or in other area (throwing in geography).
One method of the Charlotte Mason way is nature studies, and they are a perfect opportunity to get some outdoor time, while allowing your children to learn how to observe and learn all about the world around them.
There are so many benefits when you study nature as a family, even if your children are spread apart as much as ours. Many homeschooling mothers are worn out when they attempt to get all the subjects done with all of their children and their different subjects. When you study nature as a family, you can really eliminate the need to have separate subjects and divided attention.
Having time together as a family is always a good thing and something many families strive to do on a normal basis. Many of the ideas are something that they would spend a lot of money to do, but when you study nature as a family, it is as simple as walking at a nearby nature trail or maybe just time in your back yard. Many families do just this, but are they taking time to study nature as a family or just get some exercise in the open area? Not usually and they are really missing out on a wonderful time together!
Here are some ways you can study nature as a family:
Take a camera on the walk – Many children today love to take digital photos and there are so many benefits in nature to really capture the things around you.
Go with a plan – If you know that there are great things to see where you are heading, be sure to talk about what to look for when you have arrived. If you already have some knowledge of the nature you are going to see, be sure to share it naturally when you are walking together.
Go without a plan – Many wonderful things are waiting to be observed and noticed all around you. Impromptu walks are wonderful ways to study nature as a family and gain inspiration for the things that thrive in your area. Don't be afraid to say, ‘Look at this!' while admitting that you have no idea of what it is. Having a camera on hand is a perfect way to capture what you find and learning more at home.
Read about nature together – I love to read great books about the creation around us and open the wonder of our children's minds. Having a good collection of books are always a great way to deepen your family's knowledge of nature together.
Another great resource is Simply Charlotte Mason that offers a large collection of nature study resources, among other things. One of their books is 106 Days of Creation Studies, which is a great way to study nature as a family. It is geared towards grades one through six and can easily be done together as a family. This award-winning book includes living stories, nature study, science experiments, Bible verses and other assignments to help your family study nature together.
Digging into nature can be so rewarding for children of all ages, and help them build observation skills. The Charlotte Mason way is perfect to helping so many families find the help they need to study together as a family, while providing learning on many levels.
I love the dogwood trees, because it means nice weather is here. If you enjoy studying nature, the dogwood tree is something you should take some time to learn more about. Some has said, it has a symbol of the crucified Christ, as each petal bears an imprinted mark. Me, I just think it is beautiful and that all nature shows evidence of Christ.
Here is how to study dogwood trees:
Look closely at the flower – Pay close attention to how each petal has that distinctive mark and lines down the petal. Count the petals together. Look at the green to yellow center of the flower.
Observe the insects on the flower – Plants host a large number of insects and can be a great way to introduce them to your children. Some insects feed on certain kinds of plants only. If you look at the lead picture of this post, you will see the holes that are left from the insects that were eating on this tree.
Dissect a flower – My children love to see inside flowers, so we have open up our share of them.
Observe the leaves – Ask questions about the shape of the leaves and if they are similar to others leaves on different trees.
Observe the bark – Drawing attention to the bark of the tree will help them be able to identify a dogwood tree long after the flowers are no longer there.
Journal all the parts of the tree – Once you have had a good time of observing and learning about the trees, take some time to journal all the parts of the tree and having the child label it in their journey.
Dig deeper with books – I love introducing books about something that the children have just learned about.