She walked with a slight limp when leaning over her cane, and sometimes I could tell she was out of energy when stopping to rest. But these were the only signs that she was dying of cancer.
She was magical in my seven-year-old mind. A geologist and professor, she had discovered me at church, and because she had no grandchildren and I had recently started a rock collection, she took me into her tutelage.
Mrs. Linda. I don’t remember her last name or her husband (although I know he was present), and honestly, I don’t remember her face. But I remember how she used her cane to point out a fossil on our “expedition,” and I remember her museum-like living room, lined with lit cases displaying a stunning array of fossils and minerals. I remember how she took me to Olive Garden after our expedition, and I gorged myself on bread sticks. And how I returned home with a box of my own specimens, many of them labeled. A few we had discovered together, but most she had given me from her own collection.
Oh, how I wish I knew what happened to that box. It was my prized possession.
For the first twelve years of my life, I wanted to be a veterinarian. But thanks to Mrs. Linda, my back-up plan was to be a geologist. It’s so funny how our interests change as we mature and accumulate new life experiences. I was always a strong reader and writer, but natural science maintained my fascination all the way through high school biology. And I was pretty good at it too, even winning an award in my freshman physics class.
Then there was my junior chemistry teacher. As a former lab chemist, she clearly considered the job below her, and in her disdain for her career—and for any student who didn’t intuitively understand chemistry—she singlehandedly challenged my love of science and my belief that I was any good at it. While I suffered through chemistry, I excelled in Honors English. My junior and senior English teachers were two of the best educators I ever encountered (including college). I dropped out of science altogether my senior year, and ultimately won the English award upon graduation. My trajectory was set.
In hindsight, I know that the study of words and ideas, of poetry and prose, has brought much meaning to my life. And of course, I loved being an English teacher. Even still, I can’t help feeling like I’m recovering one of the greatest delights of my childhood, a forgotten joy.
One of the main characteristics of a “Charlotte Mason Education” is the significance placed on nature study. In fact, Mason believed that “a love of Nature, implanted so early that it will seem to them hereafter to have been born in them, will enrich their lives with pure interests, absorbing pursuits, health, and good humour” (Home Education 1: 71). I can’t help but agree. Surround a child with nature, and there is never cause for boredom, as her innate curiosity and playfulness becomes ignited.
This is why we commit one day a week to nature study. I wrote about our daily themes earlier this year, and shared some books that we’ve enjoyed, but until recently, I still felt we lacked a single unifying book—ideally something simple and beautifully illustrated—to organize our nature study curriculum. My hopes were answered when I discovered Nature Anatomy! Truly lovely and inspiring for the budding (or even experienced) naturalist, this book offered exactly what I needed.
Originally, I had planned to progress chronologically through the book, but then I realized that this would not follow the seasons, and therefore, not easily correspond with what we were seeing and experiencing on our nature walks and in our nature journaling. So I decided to come up with a schedule that would do exactly that. Below you will find our plan. This plan can be followed by using Nature Anatomy and the internet alone, but I still intend to supplement with the other nature books we already enjoy. Feel free to print and adapt it to your needs!
You can download a PDF of the document here: Nature Study Schedule
A few notes about the schedule:
1. The idea is to cover one topic a week (with the exception of moon phases).
2. I’ve omitted December since many homeschooling families take off the entire month.
3. This schedule follows the seasons pretty closely in my part of the country (South Central); feel free to tweak if it’s not aligning with your region.
4. I noticeably left out ocean study because we do not live near the ocean, but if you do and want to include it, simply replace one of the weeks in August with this topic from Chapter 7.
5. For each month, I also suggested an optional project or extension study/activity (see parentheses at the end of each section).
Hope you enjoy!