Nature study is an important part of homeschool science, but sometimes it is difficult to get outdoors. Maybe mom or a child is recuperating from an illness and cannot easily move about. It could be a season of extreme weather that makes going outside terribly unpleasant or even dangerous. Or possibly a family is temporarily living in an urban area without nearby parks or even a small backyard.
How can you study nature when you can’t get outdoors? Although there is no substitute for first hand experiences in the open air, there are several alternatives to continue nature study without leaving home at all.
Read Books or Watch Videos
Whether you like modern books full of glossy photos or traditional tales in the public domain, the choices for books about nature are endless. At your library, look in the 570-590 section of the Dewey Decimal system for non-fiction books about nature: animals, plants, and ecosystems. Novels with nature themes are great for reading aloud. A few favorites are Kildee House, Rascal, and My Side of the Mountain.
If you have an eReader, download the classic, public domain storybooks by Arabella Buckley and Thornton Burgess.
The Internet is full of free, educational videos about wildlife. There are many parts of nature that we can never see firsthand without extensive travel, but video brings those ecosystems right into our homes without ever stepping outside.
Bring the plants inside by growing kitchen scraps in pots. Root carrot tops and avocado pits in water. Sprout potatoes and then plant them in soil. Don’t discard the bottoms of green onions. Place them in a pot of soil and watch them grow in just a few days’ time.
These simple botany experiments use what you already have – fruits and vegetables – to bring nature study indoors where it can be observed. Have your children make hypotheses and keep experiment logs with their kitchen gardens. These window sill experiments can become very rewarding science lessons.
Pet or Insect Study
If you have indoor pets, they can be the focus of nature study. They are animals, after all. Instead of the normal pet and human interactions, have your child carefully observe the animal behaviors, taking notes in a science journal. Expand on the observations with Internet research and writing assignments.
It may be embarrassing to admit, but you probably share your home with quite a few insects, especially spiders and ants. Catch them in a jar and do some scientific observation with a magnifying glass.
Indoor Bird Watching
If you have birds in your area, a pair of binoculars by the window can provide easy nature study. Coaxing birds into your range of vision is easy with bird feeders. Then enjoy the show, comfortably inside. Birding is a great hobby for children and translates easily into homeschool nature study with the aid of a field guide and an observation log.
Don’t let a season indoors stall your nature study. There are ways to continue enjoying nature even inside your own home so that you can pick up right where you left off once you can resume your outdoor explorations.