Friday, November 5, 2010

Learning Through Nature

David tells us in Psalm 19:1 that “the heavens are telling of the glory of God; and their expanse is declaring the work of His hands”. All of God’s creation is an expression of His love for us. His principles and truths are shown through observation of the things He has made. Object lessons from nature teach children concepts that their minds may not be able to grasp from books or school routine. Learning like the child Jesus did, at a mother’s knee and in the woods or fields surrounding a child’s home, gives each one the opportunity to gain the same knowledge of God and His character as Jesus observed. The book, Education, says “let the child from his earliest years be placed where this wonderful lesson book shall be open before him” [p. 101] By looking at the landscapes crafted by God as the artist, observing the change of seasons, and seeing all that God made, the foundation of true education is firmly given.
These were principles that my maternal grandmother and mother firmly believed in. Both were school teachers, and both used nature study as an integral and significant portion of their lesson planning and instructional method. In the classroom, Sabbath School, Pathfinders, and at home, the study of the planets, stars, moon, and sun were balanced with rock or shell collecting, finding and creating butterfly and insect collections, observing birds and their nesting or migratory habits, learning to identify trees and creating leaf crafts, or studying botany by roaming mountainsides and fields in a search for early spring flowers. Nature was left undisturbed, but small aspects were brought into our home for our continued enjoyment and learning. Stories and books about nature filled the gaps in between the moments spent outside. Art always centered around something found or seen in nature. Watercolor, pastel, and pencil scenes ranged from vast landscapes to tiny parts of a flower gathered in the woods. Stories from books like Benny the Beaver, Girl of the Limberlost, or A Tippy Canoe and Canada Too taught of nature’s lessons and fueled our imaginations. My sister and I received untold blessing from the influence of these two amazing women and the lessons they taught from God’s second book. Such a heritage becomes a part of who a person is, and that heritage is something that was passed along to my own children in our homeschool. Much of my instruction reflected that of my mother and grandmother. Sometimes Mother and Grandmother would come to visit our homeschool, and I would turn the reins over to them. They become honorary instructors for the day. Their lessons continued through the generations as four generations observed God’s creation together.

Time has passed, and the life cycle passed more quickly for some than for others. My mother’s lessons remain in my heart, as she is no longer here to share them with us. But Grandmother’s influence still is cherished in her 102nd year. A recent visit with her was spent with me pushing her in her wheel chair through the gardens at her pleasant Canadian nursing home. We would stop to smell the flowers, and I would pick one of each kind and gently tuck them into each buttonhole of her sweater and in the band on her hat. The common act pleased her, and as we wound our way through the garden paths, I was both joyful and tearful as I remembered the days gone by. Teaching and learning had gone full-cycle and the roles reversed. But the joy of sharing God’s creation remained a firm bond in our relationship. Nature provided many lessons which became a significant part of our family legacy. The children and grandchildren of the future will enjoy lessons that were established by the careful instruction of generations before.

What are you doing to implement nature as a part of your homeschooling? Are you creating a legacy for your children? Please leave a comment and share how nature is an integral part of your teaching method.

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