Nature Study For The Not So “Outdoorsy” Mom

Before I had children, I spent most of my time working in big cities.

New York.


San Francisco.


Los Angeles.

If I walked, it was a few blocks to the office, to the coffee shop, or to the nail salon.

I enjoyed that life. It suited me.

I haven’t gone camping since I was 15 years old.

I like air conditioning, a lot.

I prefer floors that stay clean, with the outside things staying outside.

I am not what one would call “outdoorsy.”

My youngest son LOVES being outside.

He loves bugs.

He doesn’t even notice dirt.

He loves the ocean, the lake, the mountains, and the desert.

He lets the dog lick his face (ugh) and the tortoise crawl all over him.

When he was 18 months old, I lost him for a few seconds in a corn maze on Halloween. I scrambled around looking for him and then walked around a corner. I found him as happy as could be, rolling around in the largest mud puddle I had ever seen.

This is a picture of him taken a few weeks ago.

Not much has changed. 

This same boy was in the hospital for more than a week late last year.

It’s safe to say that it was the worst week of both of our lives.

One night, the sun was going down and my son was staring out the window from his hospital bed, four floors up.

I miss the grass on my feet. I miss the trees. I miss the smell of the air outside,” he said, tears streaming down his face.

That was the moment –

The moment I became an outdoorsy mom.

Sure, I had tolerated, placated and even, at times, encouraged his “boy-ness.”

I had allowed him to get dirty and just looked the other way.

I had done what I could to make sure he got to the park to play and get all that energy out.

But I never really understood until that night in the hospital how visceral his need is to connect with nature.

It’s how he relates to others and to the world at large.

It’s how he learns and makes sense of things.

It’s an essential element of his very soul.

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Since then, I have been intentional about not only getting this child outside as much as possible, but nature study as well. Up until recently, I have always thought of nature study as something all those really cool, calm moms do with their cool, calm kids.

Determined to fake it until I make it, I tried to incorporate a specific day of nature study in our homeschool routine since January. And I get my youngest outside for as long as he likes, every single day.

Nature Study For The Not So “Outdoorsy” Mom

This is what has worked for us  –

Keep It Simple

I think nature study is something I always thought was kind of complicated. The nature journals I admire have intricate drawings with watercolor accents, detailed descriptions of birds and their anatomy, and perfect handwriting.

We just collect things we find beautiful along the way and sometimes draw pictures of the scenery.

It may not be as extensive, or even as educational, but my sons and I are both enjoying this easy approach.


Give It A Day

The only way I have found to really make this work is to dedicate a day to it every week or two. Instead of trying to squeeze it in and stress out over how to make it work, I simply pick a day without any other requirements, clear the school schedule and go.

Last week, we went to the beach. It was heaven.

A couple of weeks ago, we planted a garden. Beautiful.

We have also gone on local hikes, started a butterfly kit, and gone on a “night walk” to look at the stars.

None of these activities required any planning on my part, other than simply picking the day and prioritizing the time.

Let Someone Else Do The Work

A friend of mine is naturally “outdoorsy.” She makes regular hikes and trips to the beach for her own spirit as well as her children’s. At first, I just thought about her week and did what she did.

Then, my friend Colleen offered to send me a copy of her new book all about nature study in your own backyard. It has 100 activities that are right up my son’s alley. And, we can do it all from the comfort of our own home. It’s brilliant and has made my commitment to nature study so much easier to actually pull off.

In short, let someone else help you think of ideas if this is not your strength. There are plenty of moms out there who are killing this nature study thing (Colleen is definitely one of them).

Allow Yourself To Breathe

The most surprising development in all of this is how much I am enjoying it. I find myself breathing deeply, soaking it all in, and honestly, relaxing.

The more time I spend paying attention to beauty, marveling at Creation, and seeing my sons’ joy in it, the more I want to do it.

I just might be “outdoorsy” after all.

Who knew?

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