It's funny that a mom in our group asked ME this week about nature studies! It's my weakness, but maybe because of that, I took action, and in just a month I'm enjoying a qualitative change because I listened to Pam (thank you friend!), she tells us to start SMALL. Truly small. So here I'm offering you just a few basics of how to approach this, difficult for many, but so rewarding aspect of a Charlotte Mason education.
First of all I hope you want to incorporate this because you understand its value. It's not just a fade nor something enjoyed by a few 'natural' ones. For so long I thought it was a good excuse that we are not near an amazing natural park, or that we don't live in a farm or exotic land, nor even by a decent forest area. To realize the importance of this, it's recommended that you read, if not all the original work of Charlotte Mason where she writes about nature study, some highlights of why this is so key. Several bloggers like Pam have lots of her quotes in their nature posts, and they can help you understand the why of this, that will help you to gain conviction and it will inspire you to make a feasible plan. I was lucky enough to translate two lessons on this that had summaries of Charlotte Mason's original writings on nature walks and studies, journals and nature tables, so this year I WAS COMPLETELY SOLD on the idea of getting better at this.
Before you think about HOW YOUR CHILDREN ARE GOING TO DO THIS, do it yourself. And when you think about inspiration, do not pair it with the word automatic. Their motivation or interest can be as slow as yours (though I doubt this, for children are born naturalists, we are the guilty part who don't give them the space and opportunity to observe). But don't get the whip out either, I'm sure you have turned a nice mom who wants her children to do better than her if it's the case you are not that great nature connoisseur.
Short term goals:
Set realistic goals about time and place. I'm not going to make it more than once a week, and if it has to be that I need to get in the car to do the walk and study after, FORGET IT! So I said that Monday it will be our nature readings from Ambleside, and that we'll go that day and JUST AROUND THE UGLY HOOD. If it doesn't happen Monday, we have the rest of the week to decide on a night short walk, or a morning short walk... you get the picture.
On some occasions, maybe once a month, try to take pictures. Her husband and mine think we look funny, like tourists snapping pics at our walks. But when I'm interested on knowing what something is, it helps to have a picture of it, although it's not absolutely necessary you come back with Natural Geographic pictures every time either.
Then last Tuesday the unexpected happened. We did not walk on Monday, so we went with my husband on Tuesday evening for our walk, I call it nature walk, ha! We saw and heard much more. I have the pics piled up waiting to delve more and find out the names of things we don't know yet what they are. I was absorbed in my listening, watching, feeling... My youngest and I heard a noise, looked in the tree, and saw a cicada, beautifully still.
My neighborhood is not ugly after all. And you know what. It's within a step's reach, and we'll be able to see the changes, mostly in the cars and houses :) but in the little bit of surrounding nature too!
I'm also reading some chapters of Anna B. Comstock book, and I'm very proud of what I'm learning, so much I'm narrating it to my husband when he comes from work!
Anything, for small than it is, is a step into nature study. When your children spot a simple spider at home, or when in the car you see as we did yesterday two beautiful butterflies (I believe Tiger butterflies), flying together so close to us.
Long term goals:
You don't have to spend to do nature walks and studies. But in time, it's nice to have some books in your library. Think about library sales and used books stores to buy books on nature, field guides and anything that may help you. Do also think about beautiful books about flora and fauna of your region as presents for special occasions, not only for your children, but for you. Use the library too. Set up a small but consistent goal of reading Ann Comstock chapters on what interests you or if you follow AO the suggested chapters, or make some reading time for some short nature reading. It will surprise you how much more interesting you'll become to everyone around!
As for equipment, the same. Binoculars, magnifying glass, insect boxes, nets, waterpaints and paper for the journals, all those are nice. But you already have, I'm quite sure, a camera, google, the Comstock book I mentioned, maybe color pencils, and the DESIRE TO OBSERVE, LEARN, and have regular natures studies at your home. With that, the rest starts coming to place at its right time.