Down Home

The SLOCA Blog

Bringing Nature to Our Home Days

March 21st, 2017

{photos by Jessica Pahl}

“Earth and sky, woods and fields, lakes and rivers, the mountain and the sea, are excellent schoolmasters, and teach some of us more than we can ever learn from books.”

~Sir John Lubbock

Yesterday was the official first day of Spring – hurray! Around this time of year we always like to turn our thoughts toward venturing out in nature a little more. Call it Spring Fever, or just a healthy desire to soak in more sunshine and fresh air, but let’s dwell on the positive and celebrate Spring with extra outside time. 

Today we have the privilege of hearing again from SLOCA mom Jessica Pahl, who has 4 kids on Track A and a passion for being in the great outdoors. Read about how she combines home day studies with getting out in nature, and be inspired to try more of this yourself! 

One of my very favorite things to write about are ways to get families connected with nature consistently.  Not only does having children outside impact them in a positive way physically but emotionally as well. Here are a few ways our family brings our love for the outdoors into our homeschool curriculum. 

First, going on hikes or walks.  The central coast is packed full of amazing and diverse hiking trails.  With so many to choose from you can find one at your comfort level.  Not only that, but you have the options of beach or mountain.  Just because a hike is four miles does not mean you have to go all four miles.  I don’t know about your family, but especially with two 3 year olds, what should on average take an hour, will take us at least two.  Along the way talk and learn about all the things you see.  Take a field guide or two.  Take pictures and then research them at home together.  We have learned about trees, plants, insects, birds, reptiles, fish, etc., just by being outside together.  

Another idea is to bring the outdoors in.  When we are at the beach or even outside our own house, the kids love to collect things.  Shells, rocks, plants, etc.  Many times my boys will have small bags that the put their “treasures” in to take home.  You have to be conscious of what you have depending on where you are.  Some places like National and State Parks are strict about not taking anything from the parks.  Also, something to keep in mind when collecting feathers is the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918 which makes it illegal to have certain bird feathers in your possession. One of my kids favorite things is placing all their finds on the table and comparing.  

One of my personal favorite things to do is nature journaling.  Not only is it a way to be creative with colored pencils and paints but you learn so much as you’re doing it.  Herbs, native plants, birds, trees, can fill up your journal making it a beautiful book of knowledge and memories of where you’ve been and what you’ve seen.  Many times, we will pull out field guides and I’ll put on a documentary about a particular animal and we will nature journal about it at the same time.  You don’t even have to have the actual plant or animal in front of you! 

Another way to get nature into your curriculum without actually being outside would be visiting museums.  Santa Barbara has an amazing Museum of Natural History.  There you can walk through exhibits of insects, birds, fossils, and so much more. There are hand on exhibits where children can touch different furs of animals, they can look at insects under the microscope or learn how birds fly.  

And last, just taking your books outside on a blanket or picnic table.  Sometimes we need some fresh air while reading our history and literature.  A change of scenery.  It’s particularly helpful if you have young children who will busy themselves digging in dirt or playing on a rope swing while you work with the older children.

For us, making sure we have lots of outdoor time each week makes schooling a little easier.  Homeschooling is still challenging of course, in many ways, but letting the kids get some of their wild side out is good for everyone!    

Thank you, Jessica – so many encouraging and wonderful ideas! 


How about you? In what ways do you take school outdoors, or bring the outdoors in? Leave a comment if you want to join in the conversation!