Our homeschool group has started meeting for monthly hikes together. It is great to get out in the fresh air, get a bit of exercise, and give the children an opportunity to take in the local flora and fauna. I cannot help but see nature study, as defined by Charlotte Mason, as very similiar in its approach to what anthropologists call participant observation. By this I mean that the point of nature study is to understand nature by being in it, interacting with it, and feeling a connection with it; not by simply thumbing through a book filled with anyone else’s take on any of the subject matter. And so, to my mind, nature study is also a way into understanding one’s place in the world and that we are all a part of nature. It is very reminiscent of the paradox of ethnography: that in looking for the exotic we may find what is totally familiar, and vice versa.
“[Ethnography’s tradition] makes the familiar strange, the exotic quotidian.”
We live spitting distance from several old movie sets used in quite a number of Westerns, TV shows, and even the occasional horror flick. Scenic, it is indeed. Nibsy is reading The Little House in the Big Woods right now, so she got a kick out of hearing that Little House on the Prairie had been filmed, at least in part, at Corriganville. I am not sure how closely Corriganville actually resembles the prairie that the Ingalls family lived on, but it is where we live and I believe it is very useful to know about where you are from.
Nibsy and her friend trailed behind the rest of the group, stopping to observe and sketch anything that caught their interest: an oak gall, an animal print, a wild flower. Then again, what would be the hurry? Participant observation starts in your own backyard.
“Now I see the secret of making the best person: it is to grow in the open air and to eat and sleep with the earth.”
“I am beginning to learn that it is the sweet, simple things of life which are the real ones after all.”
Laura Ingalls Wilder
“Children should be made early intimate with the trees, too; should pick out half a dozen trees, oak, elm, ash, beech, in their winter nakedness, and take these to be their year-long friends.”
“What you do makes a difference, and you have to decide what kind of difference you want to make.”
“Why are there trees I never walk under but large and melodious thoughts descend upon me?”
“Look deep, deep, deep into nature, and then you will understand everything.”Albert Einstein
“Children should be encouraged to watch, patiently and quietly, until they learn something of the habits and history of bee, ant, wasp, spider, hairy caterpillar, dragon-fly, and whatever of larger growth comes in their way.”
“For those who have experienced the joy of being alone with nature there is really little need for me to say much more; for those who have not, no words of mine can even describe the powerful, almost mystical knowledge of beauty and eternity that come, suddenly, and all unexpected.”
“With regard to the horror which some children show of beetle, spider, worm, that is usually a trick picked up from grown-up people.”
“I never saw a discontented tree. They grip the ground as though they liked it, and though fast rooted they travel about as far as we do. They go wandering forth in all directions with every wind, going and coming like ourselves, traveling with us around the sun two million miles a day, and through space heaven knows how fast and far!”John Muir