Nerd Alert - Or Summer Vacation Nature Fun

I promise I'm almost done talking about vacation. Almost, but not quite. Just bear with me please :-)

So this past year I really wanted to focus on getting closer to the Charlotte Mason's idea of 4 or more hours outside. At the time that seemed impossible to do, I just didn't think we could fill that much time. And I was right, we couldn't back then. One day I forced Lucy to play by herself outside (I was outside with her but wasn't willing to tell her what to do or read to her) without whining for 20 minutes and it took her over 2 hours to do so. That was our low point but we got better!

Slowly but surely we started to enjoy it. Then I started adding in nature journaling for myself and giving Lucy the option of joining in when she felt like it. In terms of "Nature Study" I still felt like I was just making it up as I went along. I didn't know the names of almost anything she would ask me about unless it was a roly poly or a dandelion. I know my area was biology but in school it was all micro level or anatomy, we just didn't learn about this stuff.

I got some resources from our state conservation department and started learning things. I remember being so excited when I figured out what a shag bark hickory nut was! A few months later I got an actual nature journal for myself so I wouldn't just be working on loose sheets and while I haven't made a ton of entries, I have really enjoyed the ones I've done so far. They have covered a wide span of topics from astronomy to plants and even baby chicks and I've learned so much.

Fast forward to last week and our vacation and wow, what a difference. I think we did some sort of nature study or exploration every single day. Not because I felt like we should or even because I thought about it, just because its such a natural part of our life now. Jeanne over at A Peaceful Day used the phrase "tainted by Charlotte Mason" in describing an upcoming trip and when I read that phrase it just jumped right out at me. It fits what I was thinking about nature study perfectly. I have been tainted by CM (and I mean that in the best way possible) and now I'm tainting my kids. Nature - it's addictive. So much so we can't even take a vacation from nature study on our vacation. So what did we do on this trip?

We took a carnivorous plant hike and with the help of a park ranger saw four different types of bug eating plants including these Venus Fly traps. Did you know that they are only found in nature in a small area of North Carolina? Or that a trap will only close 3-5 times before that part dies? Well, you do now!

trip2 026

trip2 056

trip2 047

On our stop at the Smoky mountains we did some tree hugging

trip5 139

and bug watching. Jonah spotted this really cool millepede. I thought it was a caterpillar at first because of its coloring  We all watched it for a while but he wasn't ready to keep walking until it had walked off the path and into the leaves to hide itself. 

trip5 141 - Copy

trip5 143

Jonah's our bug boy so he also spotted some ants. Nature study with little ones is fun because I've seen ants enough that I know I wouldn't have cared about them but he insisted. And yet, we watched them for a few minutes, carrying their food into the trunk and it was pretty cool. 

trip5 157

And you always have to take time to stop and smell the roses, literally!

trip5 109

But the best place to have nature study time when you take a beach vacation is - the beach, of course! I hadn't planned on the kids journaling but Lucy saw me get out mine and insisted on joining me so I grabbed a clipboard for her and she spent probably 30 minutes drawing. My favorite picture of that time was a floating Craig head. But she did dark blue behind him and light blue in front of him and we talked about how the water got deeper. Other conversations that week involved horizons and the earth being round and the moon and tides. Lucy was quite interested in high tides, mostly because she wanted to make sure the water didn't come up and get our stuff (or her!) wet. 

aquarium 008

And we did lots of shelling. The kids insisted that each find was a treasure but I did some secretive pruning while we cleaned them up. Then at home we washed and did a general sort. It wasn't until then that I really started to pay attention to the shells but once I did, I realized they were fascinating.

trip2 063

So after the kids went to bed one night, the real fun began. I found this neat site and was able to identify several types of shells, what type of shark our shark tooth came from (tiger shark) and a couple of our other neat finds.

nature 011

Forgive the bad lighting. I'm working at night after the kids are asleep, remember? I've got most of the shells identified but I want to go back and learn more about the animals that lived in them and add those notes to my drawings. This is really the first time I've ever thought about them. I mean, I knew animals lived in shells but I never really thought about what they were like, what they ate, etc.

I was really excited about finding this page that describes some of the holes and markings and what could cause them. I had thought most of those random lines were just from water etchings or something but no!  Craig keeps walking by my looking at youtube videos of bristle worms and boring sponges and I think its creeping him out a big. I will refrain myself from going on and on about it but its pretty cool.

nature 014

nature 015

nature 017

Here is a worm rock Craig found. I'm still looking for more information about how it came to be but at least we have a name now because as this picture shows, when Craig found it, he didn't have a clue. 

aquarium 005

I've still got lots more I want to research. I've put in an ILL request for The Burgess Seashore Book for Children (for the kids! No really. Okay and me too!) because it isn't available as a free e-book like some of his others and I'm finding more stuff on the internet whenever I have a chance to look. I really wish I had learned a bit more before we went on our trip but better late than never. I guess we'll just have to go back again someday!


  1. I just have to say, you have seriously inspired me to start nature journaling with the girls! I've been considering it on and off forever, always thinking it was a great thing, but never actually *did* it. After reading your post yesterday, we threw together some handmade journals and spent time in the front yard. The girls were so excited at all things they found and kept drawing what they remembered even after we came inside. Yay!

  2. Glad to hear it! I would love to see some of your stuff - and you, we need to get together sometime!