Is nature study enough for homeschool science? Your {not so} definitive answer

Have you ever wondered - is nature study enough? Here are the two answers to that question along with tips to figure out which one is right for your homeschool.I am often asked – is nature study enough for our homeschool science plans or do we need to add more hands-on science?

And I typically answer:

Yes, nature study is enough.

And, no, nature study is not enough.

To which I get a confused look as a response!

So I’ll ask a few follow-up questions:

  1. What are your goals for science?
  2. How old are your students?

These two questions will help to determine whether you fall into the yes-category or the no-category

Let’s dig in a bit deeper . . .

Is nature study enough for homeschool science?

Yes, nature study is enough.

In the younger years, formal nature study is enough. Your goals for science for these years are very simple:

  • To create an interest in the student for learning science.
  • To fill the student’s mind with interesting, but basic scientific information.

In a nutshell, your main objective for science in the elementary years is to spark a desire within your student to learn more.

And formal nature study can certainly help you do this.

Of course, you might want to add in a few books related to the topics, but overall your students will gain a tremendous amount of scientific knowledge just by observing and learning about what can be found in their backyard.

No, nature study is not enough.

As your students get older, your goals for science mature with them. In middle school, your goals are threefold:

  • To begin to train the student’s brain to think analytically about the facts of science.To familiarize the student with the basics of the scientific method through inquiry-based methods.
  • To familiarize the student with the basics of the scientific method through inquiry-based methods.To continue to feed the student with information about the world around them.
  • To continue to feed the student with information about the world around them.

In a nutshell, your goal for these years is to capitalize on the students need to know why as you continue to feed him or her with scientific information.

It is a bit difficult to add inquiry-based methods – basically, this refers to hands-on science that follows the scientific method – to a formal nature study.

But the glaring weakness I see in nature study is the lack of chemistry and physics.

You can work hard to share a bit of these subjects by discussing gravity and by studying chemical reactions in nature. But you can’t hit every topic – it’s difficult to study Newton’s laws of motion and the periodic table using only nature study.

And it is important that our students have at least one pass learning about chemistry and physics before they head out to high school. This will make it so much easier for your students when they reach these subjects in high school.

So as much as I love nature study and see how beneficial it is to take our science-learning outdoors, I have to say that nature study on its own is not enough for middle school and beyond. Rather, nature study should be the icing on your science cake or the occasional treat.

The {not so} definitive answer

All that to say that my answer to the question – is nature study enough – is:

  • Yes, if your students are younger, formal nature study with a few books sprinkled in is enough.
  • But if your students are older, no, formal nature study is not enough.

I hope that clears up the whole “is nature study enough” issue for you. If you still have questions, please don’t hesitate to leave them in the comments below!

Speak Your Mind

*