We just purchased an annual membership to our local arboretum. It's a wonderful oasis of nature smack-dab in the middle of our town. Thursday nights often find us hiking or biking together as a family, and the woodsy trails of the arb provide not only a lovely backdrop for our evening strolls, but plenty of opportunity for nature study.
Since one of our "gentle schooling" activities is to complete a summer-long nature study each year, hiking trails often become our outdoor classroom. I'm not naturally a nature-girl, but, I've grown to love learning about God's creation right alongside each of my kids.
We have an embarrassingly large number of field guides and nature books and almost always have one packed for our family hikes. Although we have several shelves jam-packed with nature-themed books, there are a few that we seem to come back to again and again. If we don't currently own them, we borrow them from the library often.
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Nature Series for young learners
(Please note that each series featured is not limited to ONLY the books shown in the photograph.)
This is a science-based series of picture books each with a different theme. Most are nature-based and are graduated in reading level.
Don't let the crass title fool you. This is an excellent series of books that details the scat and tracks of specific animals. Each book features the wildlife of one of the major national parks in the country.
Each book in this beautifully illustrated series is one step-up from a traditional picture book, but not quite as thorough as a field guide. I would consider them a "my first field guide" type of series.
I love the premise of this series. One square of a particular kind of ecosystem is dissected from all layers and aspects.
Like most National Geographic books, this series is full of beautiful photographs, but is also littered with evolutionary points of view. As I am a young-earth creationist, I sift through these with caution. Many of them do not even mention a time-line of biological history, but a few of them do. That being said, the graduated reader-style writing and colorful pages make this series quite appealing to young learners.
In full disclosure, not all of the books in this series are nature...or even science...related. But, like almost all Usborne books, they are well-worth owning.
Similar to the National Geographic for Kids series, Scholastic Nature Readers are also photographed-based graduated readers for those in preschool through second grade.
Field guides for all ages
A quality field guide is a MUST for nature study. Although a young child may not be able to read yet, he/she can be encouraged to find similar characteristics in color, size, shape, texture etc. between a drawing on the page and a real life specimen.
My five-year-old received a regional-specific field guide a couple of months ago and has carried it around with him ever since. Recently, on an afternoon shopping trip to a local farm/feed store, he flipped through the pages of his new guide trying to identify the taxidermic animal mounts on display around the walls.
Here are my top picks for family-use field guides.
- Peterson Field Guides
- Kaufman Field Guides
- National Audubon Society Field Guides
- The Golden Field Guide Series- This series is out of print, but can be purchased on Kindle and is often found at used book sales.
- Eyewitness Handbooks
For more great book suggestions, be sure to head to iHomeschool Network and check out the Massive Guide to Homeschool Reading Lists!