Sadly, I must admit, I’m a Nature Journal dropout. I’ve tried. Oh, how I’ve tried. But, I always end up feeling bogged down by it. I’m inspired by books like Karen Andreola’s Pocketful of Pinecones (listen to last week’s podcast for more books like this that inspire me!), and every year I buy the Charlotte Mason bundle from this online curriculum sale, but reading about nature journaling and actually doing it are two very different things.
In addition to my current status as a city-dweller, there’s the fact that I have a lot of kids, and taking a lot of kids on a nature walk and then trying to get them to journal about the six bazillion naturey items they picked up is worse than herding cats – it’s like herding cats…out in nature…in a field…full of catnip. GAH!
You are welcome to think less of me as a homeschooling mom now, but I’m ok with that. What I’m not okay with is allowing an inspirational idea to completely slip through my fingers without at least trying to tweak it to make it more doable. After all, that’s what Raising Arrows is all about – simplifying the big things so you can enjoy the little things…and the little people in your life! I don’t want to be yelling at my kids over nature walks and journals and anything else that is supposed to be “fun.”
That’s when I decided nature didn’t have to be all organized in a notebook to be educational – it could be observed, played with, brought inside and put on display!
A nature table isn’t some brilliant concept I came up with on my own. It’s a very Montessori/Waldorf Homeschooling thing, and being that I am a super-eclectic homeschooler, I tend to borrow from lots of methods and smoosh them altogether to create my own brand of homeschooling. I like it that way, and I can pretty much relate to every homeschool mom out there because of it…must be why God gave me a homeschooling blog!
So, down to the nitty gritty (literally) of my Nature Table…
The “table” is a small antique washstand that sits in our front entryway. To protect the top, I laid down a dark green pillowcase we weren’t using, but you could use anything. I do recommend putting something down even if the surface isn’t something you cherish because nature can get dirty, and it’s nice to be able to simply fold up a piece of fabric and shake it out or launder it!
Every week, we fully refresh the Nature Table. I take the kids outside with baskets in hand. We mostly stick to our own backyard, but sometimes we go elsewhere if I have the time, energy and gumption. We gather things that interest us, talk about our finds, decide what can and cannot go inside (cuz folks, when you have boys, they WILL try to bring bugs inside – every. single. week.), and we decorate our Nature Table. Last week’s table looked like this:
Our indoor Nature Table! Once a week, the kids refresh it with new outdoor items to play with and explore. I made the mobile from a stick, yarn, and felt. This is what we do instead of a nature notebook. I decided years ago it was too hard to put together notebooks for all the kids. This was a lot more fun! We look up any information we need to know about the things they have found, and they have all week to play and study! #naturestudy #homeschool #wildandfree #naturetable #unpluggedchildhood #outdooradventures #raisingarrows
We have some wooden people and trees that I do allow on the table, but for the most part, I like the kids to stick to nature-related stuff. (That isn’t to say that the occasional firetruck doesn’t end up in the middle of our table despite my best efforts. Again…I have boys.)
If they pick up something I don’t recognize, I usually search for it on the internet and give them a quick rundown of what it is. We also own Anna Comstock’s Handbook of Nature Study.
You might also notice the mobile hanging over the table. I ran across a similar idea for a nursery in a baby decor book, and I immediately thought of my Nature Table. The one in the book was WAY fancier, and at first glance was something I knew would require WAY too much work, BUT…you know me! Tweak it, and you have a perfectly simply, perfectly acceptable Sky Mobile to accent your Nature Table! And because I want to keep your life as perfectly simply as possible, I’m giving you a template and instructions to make your very own Sky Mobile! Enter your name and address below, and it will come straight to your inbox so you can download it and get your kids to help you make it right this very minute!