Natural Nature Learning

by Deborah Taylor-Hough

Our family hasn’t been blessed with acres of property off in the country for our children to frolic to their hearts content. But a small city lot and many local parks have offered us tremendous opportunities for outdoor learning activities.


To make up for the lack of open natural space in our neighborhood, we go to various local parks at least two to three times per week. We don’t go to the parks for the play equipment but for the exposure to a more natural setting. We are about half-an-hour driving time from Puget Sound so we often frequent parks with direct beach access. Continue reading


Habits: The Mother’s Secret to Success (new book)

320_4517182Habits: The Mother’s Secret to Success
Print: $9.99
Download: $4.99

Charlotte Mason was a British educator from the last century whose ideas are currently experiencing a revival, especially among American private and home schools. Her ideas on the formation of habit are a key to understanding how to make lasting change in a child, or even yourself. This book is an excerpt of her teachings specifically on the topic of habits. Introduction and editing by Deborah Taylor-Hough.

Nature Notebooks

Copyright (c) Deborah Taylor-Hough. Used with permission. All rights reserved.

Nature Notebooks (also called Nature Diaries and Nature Journals) are essentially artist sketchbooks where the children can draw whatever natural items strike their fancy.

The more options you offer the child, the more likely they’ll find one or more ideas that spark their interest. The Nature Notebooks should be voluntary, by the way–not an assignment or a plea from the parent (“Now, draw the pretty bird for Mommy, honey. . . .”).

  1. Information from first-hand observation the child has done themselves (not things they’ve learned from “teaching” or in the classroom).
  2. Drawings of leaves, flowers, birds, insects or anything else discovered by the child in it’s natural setting.
  3. Labels for their drawings—both English and Latin names if applicable.
  4. Notations on where the object was found.
  5. Notations about the temperature or weather conditions, dates, etc.
  6. Life cycles of plants. Draw the bare tree in Winter; the Spring buds; the Summer blooms; the Fall colors and seed pods. Or in a backyard garden you could draw a seed; draw the sprouting seedling; draw the full grown plant; draw the stem, leaves, flower, etc.; draw the fruit, vegetable or flower; draw the new seeds for starting the cycle again.
  7. Draw and describe an ant hill or a bee’s nest.
  8. Take out a hand-held high-power magnifying glass and draw the intricate details of a bee’s wing, or whatever else might be fascinating viewed through a magnifying lens.
  9. Science experiments the child has actually performed. Set-up, observations, results, etc.
  10. Pressing and mounting leaves or dried flowers.
  11. Samples of different types of leaves: divided, heart-shaped, fluted, needles, etc.
  12. Samples or drawings of different types of seeds: nuts; seed pods; seeds that fall to the ground; seeds that float through the air; etc.
  13. Parts of the flower: petal, sepal, stamen, etc.
  14. Sketches of animal tracks.
  15. Sketches of the lifecycles of animals. Caterpillar to cocoon (or chrysalis) to moth (or butterfly); or egg to tadpole to frog (or salamander).
  16. Nature-related poems or quotes. The poems can be ones found during the child’s reading time, or poems composed by the child.

For an outstanding example of a fully developed Nature Diary, take a look at the beautiful book The Country Diary of an Edwardian Lady, 1906. This book was out-of-print for a number of years, but recently became available once again.

I also highly recommend the book, Keeping a Nature Journal: Discover a whole new way of seeing the world around you, by Clare Walker Leslie and Charles E. Roth. The book is written and illustrated by science educators who use Nature Journals as their primary way of teaching people to learn about nature firsthand. A beautiful book! It totally changed the way we approached Nature Journals — the first day we looked at the book, my oldest daughter and I spent two hours at the local beaver pond sketching red-winged blackbirds, Canada geese, rough-skinned newts, turtles, and wildflowers.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Deborah Taylor-Hough (author, freelance writer, and longtime homeschooling mom of three) is the editor of The Charlotte Mason Monthly and Simple Times e-newsletters. She’s also the author of A Simple Choice: A Practical Guide to Saving Your Time, Money and Sanity; Frugal Living for Dummies; and the popular Frozen Assets cookbook series. Visit Debi online at:

An Educated Person

John Taylor Gatto’s writings are filled with 30 years of experience teaching in public schools and should be read by all parents who home educate their children, no matter which method(s) of homeschooling they use.

Here are some of Gatto’s ideas about what it means to be an educated person.

An Educated Person
by John Taylor Gatto

Hey, I’ve used the old-fashioned “he”, but mean both sexes.

  • An educated person writes his own script through life, he is not a character in a government play, nor does he mouth the words of any intellectual’s utopian fantasy. He is self-determined.
  • Time does not hang heavily on an educated person’s hands. He can be alone. He is never at a loss for what to do with time.
  • An educated man knows his rights and knows how to defend them.
  • An educated man knows the ways of the human heart; he is hard to cheat or fool.
  • An educated man possesses useful knowledge: how to build a house, a boat, how to grow food, how to ride and hunt.
  • An educated person possesses a blueprint of personal value, a philosophy. This philosophy tends toward the absolute, it is not plastically relative (*altering to suit circumstances). Because of this an educated person knows at all times who he is, what he will tolerate, where to find peace. But at the same time an educated person is aware of and respects community values and strange values.
  • An educated person can form healthy attachments wherever he is because he understands the dynamics of relationships.
  • An educated person accepts and understands his own mortality and its seasons. He understands that without death and aging nothing would have any meaning. An educated person learns from all his ages, even from the last minute of his life.
  • An educated person can discover truth for himself; he has intense “awareness” of the profound significance of being and the profound significance of being here.
  • An educated person can figure out how to be useful to others, and in trading time, insight and service to meet the needs of others he can earn the material things he needs to sustain a wholesome life.
  • An educated person has the capacity to create new things, new experiences, new ideas.

(Excerpted from A Different Kind of Teacher: Solving the Crisis of American Schooling by John Taylor Gatto)