The first time I heard of Charlotte Mason, I was in my early twenties. I’d never heard of her or her methods prior to studying early childhood education. Yet somehow, despite my (relatively unromantic) public school education, I discovered that I had managed to have a Charlotte Mason childhood.
Between my parents and my grandparents, I’d grown up in a world richly infused with nature, literature, and the arts. I spent every moment I could outdoors, rambling over fields on my bike, exploring canyons with my dad, climbing trees and coming home sticky with pine resin. Many times, my adventures were fueled by what I had read, or what had recently been read to me.
I grew up nestled in laps, listening to the Burgess books, my imagination swelling with questions about the squirrels in my backyard and the birds swooping over the vast grasslands behind my home. These stories ignited my curiosity, made me look closer, and motivated me to investigate further. That is exactly why Charlotte Mason called for nature lore to be shared with children, especially in the early years.
“The real use of naturalists’ books is to give the child delightful glimpses into the world of wonders he lives in, reveal the sorts of things to be seen by curious eyes, and fill him with desire to make discoveries for himself.” — Charlotte Mason, Vol. 1, pg. 64
When I began writing Blossom and Root Kindergarten, it was important to me that nature lore be included. I wanted to inspire that rich landscape of wonder in the imagination of the outdoor child. I decided on The Burgess Animal Book for Children by Thornton Burgess (my personal childhood favorite) and Seed Babies by Margaret Warner Morley.
In truth, simply reading these books to your child and providing ample outdoor time to let their ideas take root would provide a delight-filled, richly imaginative kindergarten year. However, I also decided to include a weekly activity prompt, inspired by the stories in the books, and a corresponding nature journal for the child to record their discoveries.
Here is an example from the curriculum, from the week that we learn about beavers in The Burgess Animal Book for Children:
From the parent guide:
1) Nature Lore:
Read “A Lumberman and An Engineer” from the Burgess Animal Book for Children
2) Nature Study: Build a Dam
To further explore the story of the beaver in this week’s nature lore, your child will try their hand at being a beaver! This week, they will create a dam (on a miniature scale) by using mud, sticks, leaves, and grass, just like a real beaver! The best way to do this is to give them a large storage tub to play in, and ample materials. Have them build a dam, then pour water into the “pond” side and see if it holds up. You can also do it outside, right on the ground. Either way, let them experiment with the materials and try different approaches. Beavers are pretty amazing creatures to be capable of making such sophisticated structures!
3) Nature Notebook: A Beaver and His Dam
Have your child complete the notebook entry for week eleven. They will make a log entry about beavers, including a drawing of a dam. Help them by reminding them of the nature lore story this week, consulting a field guide, or looking up information online. Label and date their entry, or have them do so themselves.
The activity prompts in the parent guide are meant to inspire play, and there is always permission to go off-the-map and follow rabbit trails. Many times, as I was working through the program with my oldest daughter, she would become fascinated with one creature or another (prairie dogs come to mind) and would want to spend extra time investigating them, looking for them, and pretending to be one while we were outside.
For the notebook prompts, I stocked our home library with nature guides and books with lots of colorful pictures so she could refer to them while she drew. Nature Anatomy by Julia Rothman and the Take-Along Guide series by Mel Boring were excellent companions to the program.
In our little homeschool, our motto comes from Charlotte Mason herself:
“Never be within doors when you can rightly be without.”
So, naturally, we took as many of our lessons outside as we could. This made a seamless transition between reading our nature lore selection on a picnic blanket to being elbow-deep in mud for the prompt afterward.
There are so many great choices for including nature lore in your homeschool! Here are some of our favorites:
- James Herriot’s Treasury for Children
- Any of the books by Thornton Burgess, especially The Burgess Animal Book for Children and The Burgess Bird Book for Children
- The “Eyes and No Eyes” Series and Life and Her Children from Arabella Buckley
- Margaret Gatty’s Parables from Nature
- William Long’s books
- Madam How and Lady Why by Charles Kingsley
- The Storybook of Science and Life of the Spider by Jean Henri Fabre
- Robert McClung books
- Jim Arnosky books
- Eric Carle books
- Olive Earle books
- Charles Ripper books
- Millicent Selsam books
There are many great selections for older children and adults as well, including:
- John Muir’s books and writings
- Pilgrim at Tinker Creek by Annie Dillard (a personal favorite)
- A Sand County Almanac by Aldo Leopold
- The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate by Jacqueline Kelly
You can take a closer look at Blossom and Root Kindergarten by clicking here.
By popular demand, the nature study portion of the kindergarten curriculum can now be purchased individually. Click below to see it in our Gumroad store:
This week, we will be posting Five Days of Nature-Based Homeschooling with Blossom and Root. Be sure to following along by clicking here and bookmarking our collection.
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