As a lover and explore of nature, I wanted to share some of our favourite books. We use these books for reading and also for references. The books are beautiful, fun and packed full of information. Books that make learning fun are our favourites, and we wanted to share with our friends over at Nature Pal Exchange.
Amy (October 2015):
Growing up in a small town on the Central Coast of California, I spent almost all my time outdoors. At school if it was cold, we wore a jacket. If it was hot, we lined up at the drinking fountains. If it rained, we always got wet walking from classroom to cafeteria. Summers were spent camping, playing at the beach, or running on our backyard hill. Nature was my life, because I knew no other way. With each passing year, I fell a little deeper in love with the world my God created. But I wanted to know more, not just appreciate its beauty. How excited I was to discover Nature Pal Exchange! Here was an opportunity not only for my children, by also for myself to learn more about the environment around us. I had no idea though that it would introduce me to a family who would become real-life friends. And here’s that story.
When we were assigned Calli (@calli_sparrowandlillies) and her girls as our Nature Pals, I was thrilled to see she would also be attending the Wild + Free conference in Portland shortly after our exchange. Well, at least that would be one familiar face to search for in a sea of strangers. I am definitely extroverted in small-group conversations, especially when there’s good food and coffee. But when it comes to crowds and introductions, I fit more into the “awkward conversationalist” category. The closer I got to the conference, the more I began have thoughts such as “Oh shoot, what was thinking going alone. I don’t know know a soul there.”
But it turned out that Wild + Free mamas are lovely, and I also found my Nature Pal Mama almost immediately. Glory be! I had barely entered through the doors when I saw her walking right past me. My arm shot out and grabbed her, and quite a loud and excited “Calli!” flew out of my mouth. We had a fabulous two days together, meeting other nature-loving mamas like the awesome @alison_winter, who of course co- founded NPE. Since then, we have texted about curriculum (or rather I have asked Calli’s advice), my boys have written letters to “their new friends,” and ultimately, we planned a special family meet-up for Wild + Free in Williamsburg, with a side trip to Jamestown! And the best part, my kids will get to meet “their new friends”—their first ever Nature Pals.
Calli (January 2016):
Reconnecting with Amy (@mamalamoo) at the November Wild + Free conference, and then spending an entire day together with our families was a highlight of the season for me and my girls! Our children knew each other immediately, and while they romped around Jamestown—exploring wigwams, watching demonstrations, chasing roosters—it felt like Amy and I had so much to talk about, so much ground to cover.
Because the thing is, as most homeschooling mamas know, entering this world of home education can be a daunting and isolating experience, so to find a friend who shares your passions and struggles, someone you know can be a sounding board on a stressful day—now, that’s a treasure indeed! While I’ve helped Amy with curriculum,
she’s advised me in creating a weekly rhythm for my home, and her guidance has become a model for me this year.
Although we both have enjoyed subsequent Nature Pal Exchanges, excited to meet new pals each time (all of which have been wonderful), I think we agree that something special happened with our first exchange. Instagram pals turned into real-life friends.
The Nature of Winter
When I was fifteen we moved into the country for the first time. We found a one hundred year old two story farmhouse with some victorian touches sitting on ten acres of mostly untamed woods. We named the place Wildwoods. It was a new era for our family and even as a teen I was excited to soak in country life. A big garden, chickens, my little brothers running in the woods, my sister and I gathering all the mulberries we could pick. Into the woods I went with my trusty Saxon math book, a notebook full of story ideas, whatever classic I was currently deep into, and a blanket to lay on under a tree in a secluded and quiet corner. I wish I had known about nature journalling then because it would have added a great touch to days like that. But instead I was a reader, a writer of many unfinished novels, and a very average mathematician.
Winter came to Wildwoods. My little brothers played in the snowy woods, my sweet mother hummed while she cooked and cleaned up melted snowy puddles and piles of discarded outerwear, my hardworking father shook his head and then gave an optimistic shrug as he checked out the heating bill for that big old house, my sister and I cozied up in the freezing attic with books, games, hot cocoa, and lots of blankets.
I have thought about that chapter of my life a lot lately. Our little family is experiencing a new era too. We just found and moved into our first country home. Our boys are running the woods, we picked apples off our own tree and are excited to see what else is growing here in the spring, we are dreaming of chickens and gardens, and Felicity has already been seen on a blanket out under a tree with a sketchbook.
But now it is winter. So we are caught up with the cozying, the cookery, and the puddle cleaning. We are finding the balance of life and learning in a new spot.
It has been on my heart to find a more natural rhythm with our Nature study and journalling. When I sat down and planned for the year I saw us collecting and then journalling our finds on a weekly basis. But it didn’t always work out that way.
It seems like we did a fair bit of adventuring and collecting during summer and autumn. But we didn’t always take as much time time sitting indoors to journal it all. And now winter is here. We live in Nebraska and the walks and finds are harder to make during inclement and freezing weather. Nature is mostly resting in our part of the country.
So with the seasons change I have been brainstorming ideas to incorporate nature into our days. So here are a few ideas if you too are somewhere where hikes and finds are a little scarcer this time of year or maybe you are simply in an era where something else in life makes it harder to get out as much:
Journal finds from past adventures, trips, walks, seasons – We will spend the next
couple months catching up and filling in where time didn’t allow for a full study and
journal entry of specimens we found in the fall.
Journal from a story – Many of the books we read aloud include references to nature so I
hope to be a little more aware of those and quick to jump into looking them up, giving the
kids a pictorial reference and a name to go on, and we can add to our learning that way.
These may be seasonal stories or found within our literature choices this winter.
Journal from a great reference book – We love our Nature Anatomy book and it includes
sections that are relevant to cold weather topics. Even if we can’t always see the real life
articles because they are hibernating out of view, are not common in our region, or are
too rare or out of reach for us we can still learn about what nature is doing this time of
Journal simple interactions with nature in the Winter – We view and experience nature
during everyday life. We see wildlife, scenery, weather, stars, cloud patterns, sunsets out
our windows. We pass interesting sights and creatures as we drive. We play in the snow,
splash in the rain, slide on the ice while we play outside. These can all go in our journal.
The key is not to get locked into thinking we have to study and journal nature in the same particular way all the time. Because Nature itself is diverse, our lives have varied flow patterns, seasons change. So we have to be flexible. We have to merely commit to look for nature in everything we do. Then we will see more than we realized was ever there. Because Nature is all around us. We have to look. We have to find our spot, spread our blanket, and soak it up. Wherever we are. Sometimes doing math under the trees. Sometimes inside where it is warm.