Testing the Waters

I have a confession to make: nature study absolutely terrifies me. I love the idea of having my children explore the outdoors and learn about science as they observe and ask questions. But truthfully, it also makes me a little uncomfortable because I often don’t know the answers.

Last summer, our nature study consisted of using our senses. I was okay with that. All I was really doing was moderating their experiences of taste, touch, sight, sound, and smell. But this summer, as we tip-toe toward REAL nature study, I feel a little hesitant. So as I relate our summer to all of you, I’ll really be sharing how I am overcoming my nature study insecurities. Hopefully, some of you will chime in with your own experiences and cheer me on a little.

(That was my disclaimer. Now for your first installment of my rather insecure start to this summer’s nature study.)


The other day, my oldest asked me if he could do a craft outside. Inside, I panicked. I saw scissors on my sidewalk, melted crayons in the grass, and tiny bits of paper floating on the breeze. Then, I snapped out of my nightmare and offered my son a more mom-friendly alternative: nature study. I pulled out his nature journal from last year and his box of colored pencils. He happily trotted off to sketch the great outdoors. He came back in a few minutes later with this.

This, folks, is a picture of a mushroom; and, of course, he wanted to know the name of this creation so that he could write it in his journal. I could feel the anxiety surfacing, but instead, I led him to the computer where I typed into google the name of our state and the word “mushrooms.” A university website came up in the search, and we scrolled down through the photos until we found the one that matched his picture: purple-spored puffball.

He copied the name onto his page and went back outside. A few minutes later, he dashed back inside with a new sketch and a new question. Once again, we headed to the internet and discovered the white clover flower. (Sad, friends, isn’t it? that I didn’t know the name of that flower without the aid of the internet? I am ashamed. But I’m hoping my honest confession will inspire someone else who feels totally inadequate when it comes to nature study.)

My first day of nature study, and it was all that I feared it would be: lots of questions that I didn’t have answers for. But I realized that through my ignorance, I’m teaching my children a lesson even more valuable than mushroom and flower identification.  I’m showing them how to learn and how to find the answers they are seeking. And, Praise the Lord! Google is coming through for me.


Published by Tracy
Our life is creative chaos, and our homeschool is loud and busy and distracted and challenging and lovely. My name is Tracy, and I homeschool my crew of three kids with ADHD/dyslexia, finding creative ways to use their strengths to teach their weaknesses. As a homeschooled homeschooler, I love customizing curriculum and making adjustments to incorporate fun, hands-on projects for out-of-the-box learners. Stop by growingNgrace.com to find grace for the messes and mistakes, and knowledge to pick up the pieces and make something special. Let’s grow together!