nature study books
Nature Study

Our Favorite Books for Nature Study

Here’s the thing: there is not a used book store, regular book store, library, book pile at a rummage sale, or Scholastic sale I can walk by without stopping and stacking up more books than two people can safely carry. I have a weakness, and her name is books.

It has always been, and will always be so. I’m pretty sure that’s why the Charlotte Mason philosophy resonated with me so strongly. I want shelves and shelves of books. And I want the rolling ladder so I can do that “Belle move” every morning as I swoon over my shelves and shelves of books.

Nature-inspired books are the deepest part of this weakness. I cannot get enough of them: local bird guides, nature lore, picture books about butterflies and bumble bees, John Muir essays, Thoreau… I probably need to build a little library-in-the-garden tiny house just to store my nature books some day. But amongst the ever-growing collection, I do actually have favorites–books I turn to on a regular basis in our nature-based homeschool. I thought I’d share those with you today.

nature study books

The “One Small Square” Series*

I begin with the “One Small Square” series, and an asterisk. *I don’t really love the format of the information. It feels overwhelming sometimes, and I’m not sure how to use the materials. However, that being said, these books have inspired so many lessons, nature journal entries, and adventures with their gorgeous pictures. While I rarely “use” the text, we refer often to the illustrations–enough, in fact, to justify their presence on my list of favorites.

nature study books

The Queen Mother of Nature Study References: Anna Botsford Comstock’s Handbook of Nature Study

It’s enormous, it’s hefty, it could double as a door stop, but you would never do that because it’s amazing. Once you get past the initial vertigo from the sheer volume of information and settle into the “use as needed” nature of it, this book will quickly wriggle its way into your Charlotte Masony heart. Need to know how to turn that beetle discovery into a teachable moment? It can help with that. Unsure how to explain the difference between conifers? It’s got you covered. This really is a must-have for a serious nature library.

nature study books

This Beautiful Series From Dianna Hutts Aston and Sylvia Long

This entire series, which includes several more books than what is pictured above, is jaw-droppingly gorgeous, full of excellent information, and easy to read to multiple ages. We’ve used them for unit studies, bedtime stories, and as the basis for some our Book Seed issues. If you’re reading to younger ones, you can stick to the larger pieces of text. Older children will love the additional details provided on each page. I’ve managed to collect this entire series between used book stores and my mother-in-law, and I’m so glad I did! They’ve quickly become beloved favorites.

nature study books

These Beauties From Joanne Ryder

I’m still digging around for copies of Chipmunk Song and Dancers in the Garden, but I found these two at two different used book stores and fell in love on the spot. These stories are enchanting, educational, and full of breath-taking illustrations. Highly recommend!

nature study books

The “Backyard Books” Series

I have yet to find books I love as much as these for teaching my girls about insects. This fairly large collection features books on everything from honeybees to grasshoppers. They’re told as if speaking to the reader as the insect, and full of great information on the life cycles, habitats, and behaviors of different insects. If you want to cover a particular insect, these would be a great “spine” for a short unit study!

nature study books

Arabella Buckley Books

We use these for nature lore and for unit studies, and they are a delight! The short chapters go over well with older and younger children and inspire so much discovery during our free time outdoors. Plant Life in Field and Garden could easily be an entire semester of nature study all on its own!

nature study books

Field Guides for Our Current Location

We snatched up these Rocky Mountain bug and bird guides on a trip to Rocky Mountain National Park in 2015, and they’ve been loved on so much that they’re falling apart. Every time we find something interesting while exploring the woods and creek behind our house, we pull these out of our hiking backpack and look it up. We’ve learned so much using these guides, not just about insects and birds, but about how to learn more about things that interest us. Since once of my goals as a homeschool mom is to raise children that love to learn, and know how to do it, these guides are invaluable to us in our nature-based homeschool!

nature study books

The Lost Art of Reading Nature’s Signs

This one is for the parents (and the older children.) This book is hands-down my favorite nature study book for myself in our collection. You could read it from cover to cover, or just open it up to any chapter and start reading. I’ve learned more from reading this book than I could have ever imagined. It’s fantastic.

nature study books

Clara Dillingham Pierson’s “Among the People” Series

There is no book I love more for nature lore than this beauty. I love it so much that I wrote it into Blossom and Root First Grade as a significant part of the curriculum. These stories are delightful, quick reads full of delicious, informative tidbits. My daughters adore them, and beg to hear “just one more” every night. If you haven’t discovered it yet, do yourself a favor and order it now.

nature study books

Books By Gail Gibbons and Jim Arnosky (Not Pictured)

I scrounge through piles at rummage sales and used book stores looking for anything by Gail Gibbons and Jim Arnosky. Like many of the books in this list, these collections are fantastic for unit studies, nature lore, or bedtime stories / morning baskets. I’ve managed to build a pretty nice collection, but I’m still missing over half of both author’s works. Luckily, the library keeps them in stock, so in the meantime we can just borrow them. 🙂

nature study books

The “Take-Along Guide” Series

We mostly use these as references during unit studies. They feature lovely illustrations, and some good information. Comparable to our local nature guides, they make a nice resource for looking up things we’re curious about in our backyard world.

nature study books

Last, But Not Least, Old Faithful: Nature Anatomy by Julia Rothman

I foresee a lot of clear packing tape in this book’s future. We use it so often that I keep it in the same cart as our notebooks, paper, pencils, and paints. We use it for unit studies, we use it in Blossom and Root First Grade, we use it with our Book Seed issues, we use it for modeling with clay and beeswax. We even open it to just be there when we’re learning about something and want to make the table lovelier. It’s a delightful book, and a treasured favorite in our homeschool. I definitely want to add her other two volumes to our collection in the future, but for now this one ranks pretty high on our list of beloved books.

I know, I know–it’s a long list. The thing is, there were a lot of books I didn’t include that we adore. The Burgess books, Robert McCloskey books, Peter Spier’s books…the list goes on. And, because you can never have enough nature-inspired books, I welcome you to add your favorites in the comments as well! 🙂

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