Making School Fun: Using Nature Walks to Homeschool

This week, our little piece of North Carolina had a slight break in the oppressive heat and humidity. Instead of high 90s and heat indexes above 105 degrees, this week has been in the lower 80s, with one day even in the mid-70s! So what better time to try out our first nature walk as a homeschool lesson, than during our cold front this week! 🙂

My intentions were to pack a picnic lunch, head to a gem of a park we’re fortunate to have practically in our back yard, read our read-a-loud chapter from Charlotte’s Web while we ate in the shade on our blanket, and then head out for a walk on some of the trails. Cue the heavenly choir! One day we WILL achieve this, but it didn’t happen that way today, my friend. The baby had me up quite a bit last night and this mama got a slower start that intended this morning. So while my 7-year old did his math and Spanish work for the day, I managed to get me, the baby, and my nearly 3-year old ready, wash and fill bottles, pack the diaper bag, and pack “nature-walk” bags for the oldest two. Soon we headed out the door for “our adventure,” as my 7-year old referred to it all morning.

When we got to the park, I sprayed us down with bug spray and strapped my 6.5-month old into his baby carrier so I could “wear” him. Then, we made the wise decision (as every parent knows) to hit the bathrooms first before finally starting on our walk.

While I don’t think all of the following details are necessary for learning on a nature walk, my kiddos always enjoy when I make things like this feel a little more exciting. This was easy to do for the 7-year old. I gave him a bright clipboard equipped with a pencil and a scavenger hunt list of nature items to try and find while we walked. He loved this!

I also found my old digital camera the other day, so I gave it to my son to share with his sister and take pictures of things along the hike. He was so excited and so was I because I didn’t have to leave the fate of my phone’s camera in his hands! Win-win! And since my 2.5-year old is perfectly content as long as she gets to do what big brother does, I handed her the same materials, except instead of a bright blue clipboard, her list was attached to one sporting her favorite color: hot pink, of course.

We took a long walk among several of the park trails. My son has recently expressed an interest in photography, even saying he wants to be a nature photographer when he grows up, so he thoroughly enjoyed snapping shots of different things we saw throughout our 1.5-hour hike. It was also a great opportunity for me to teach him some about how to use a camera, like how zooming too close or moving while taking a photo makes the picture blurry. Even though his career choice is likely to change, maybe even being something different tomorrow, we took advantage of that interest today and made it a learning opportunity as well. Check out some of his photos below:

We saw several frogs, butterflies, dragonflies, flowers, turtles, lots of leaves, poison oak, ants working together to carry off a large bug for lunch, birds, and because I’m trying really hard to not pass on my legit arachnaphobia to my kiddos, we even marveled at several spider webs along the way. Ok. Maybe “marveled” is a bit of a stretch for what I did. “Looked at a spider web without cringing” is probably a more accurate description of what I did, but it’s not nearly as poetic.

We had conversations about the rings of a tree trunk being used to determine a tree’s age, different times of year being the season for different animals to be born, and how nature is such a testament to The Great Creator. My son took lots of pictures, while his sister was perfectly content to pick up every rock she found beautiful, which was basically every rock she could see.

We worked up quite a thirst on our hike so we took advantage of the concession stands at the park afterwards. It was the perfect first homeschool hike for my crew and I’m so glad we decided to do it. I’m looking forward to our future hikes at other locations and have so many great things to try out soon! There are tons of great ways to make a nature walk not only fun but incredibly educational. Today was just the tip of the iceberg for our team and I’m looking forward to sharing more of these experiences on here in the near future.

What about you? Do you incorporate nature walks into your homeschool year? What are some of your favorite ways to do this?

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Geneva

Geneva is some weird combination of a failed Southern Belle and a white girl with a Latino heart. She's married to her stud muffin husband from El Salvador and is the mom of (almost) 3 awesome kiddos. She's quirky, sometimes (often times) socially awkward, and full of corny humor. She loves to write about Jesus and her Faith, being a mom, and bridging the gap between Christianity and mental health. Her blog posts are sometimes serious, sometimes aspire to inspire, and sometimes just a public display of laughing at herself.

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