so that’s where I began. We started small
with what was in our yard: the plants,
animals and insects that made their home
near ours. I tried to create a sense of wonder and asked the questions: Who, What,
When, Where, Why, and How?
Reading the Charlotte Mason Com-
panion by Karen Andreola, inspired
me further, as she talked about Nature
Notebooks, unit studies by Beautiful Feet
Books, field guides and other resource
books. I particularly liked the idea, “If
we give our children regular opportuni-
ties to get in touch with God’s creation, a
habit is formed which will be a source of
delight throughout their lives.”
A bird who awakened us with its sing-
ing at 4am became our reason for study-
ing local birds. We finally saw it singing
in daylight and identified it as a mock-
ingbird. Why is it called a mockingbird?
How big is it in relation to other birds?
What does it eat? What does its bill tell
us about its food? What do its feet tell us
about where it lives? Does anything eat
it? Where does it nest, and what kind of
nest does it build? How long does it incu-
bate its eggs?
A friend in the neighborhood found
an alligator lizard living inside his
sprinkler control box. He asked, “Would
your boys like to come and catch it?”
Thus began yet another pet adventure.
Shall we keep it? What kind of animal
is it, reptile or amphibian? What does it
eat? What kind of habitat does it like?
Does it need a heat lamp?”
An inch-long insect landed on the
screen of our patio door one June eve-
ning. “My, what is type of insect is this?
Go get the camera to take a photo. Why
would God give it all those lines on its
back? What kind of wings does it have? I
can’t get it off the screen, so what is hold-
ing it there? Go get the magnifying glass,
so we can look at the legs. Oh my, it just
hissed at me. How did it do that?”
One day while learning about owls
at our local nature center, I spied a flier
about a Nature Bowl Team Competition
for children ages 3rd-6th grade sponsored
by the California Department of Fish
and Wildlife. The coaches’ workshop
was inexpensive and fit in my schedule,
so I attended. I was pleasantly surprised
to discover that our classroom was pic-
nic tables under oak trees, where we had
a great view of a deer family eating the
acorns. I love learning by application, so
this method was my kind of classroom.
As our sons outgrew the Nature Bowl
competition, they continued to help with
setup and design of some of the weekly
Nature Study co-op activities for the
younger students. They and other alumni
accompanied our group on field trips,
and I was delighted when they occasionally shared some of their own knowledge
with the younger students.
During the junior high years, our sons’
science curriculum involved the physical
sciences, much of which they explored
on their own. As they transitioned from
Cub Scouts into Boy Scouts, Dad participated more in their nature education, as
they spent weekends on Scout outdoor
adventures. Their Scout advancement
A bird who awakened us
with its singing at 4am
became our reason for
studying local birds.