One of the areas of our homeschool that I’ve been working to improve is our nature studies. I love Charlotte Mason’s emphasis on nature study, but frankly had no idea how to implement it at first! When we began homeschooling, we were living in a subdivision with a tiny yard. Our curriculum scheduled a weekly nature walk, but didn’t give much guidance.
I’ve always loved camping and hiking, but honestly didn’t know much about the natural world around me. I couldn’t identify birds other than the most obvious ones, I didn’t know any plants other than what I grew on my patio. I was so inspired by the homeschoolers on my Facebook and Instagram who were doing all of these beautiful things in nature, but I didn’t know where to begin!
So when we moved to Ohio, I began trying to learn as much as I could. It started with buying some field guides and plant profile books, and branched out from there. The kids and I are truly learning together.
If you follow the blog or our Facebook updates, you know we’ve been doing the curriculum Exploring Nature with Children and that I really like it. But we’re only scratching the surface of that curriculum this time around. Cowboy’s broken femur has made the necessary nature walks and library trips impractical.
First, let me just say that I love Learning Herbs. Everything they produce is fantastic. They are behind the popular board game Wildcraft! which is one of our favorite family board games. I was excited to find their Herb Fairies book club! It includes 13 storybooks, each profiling a different herb. You receive the books in digital AND audiobook formats, and have the option of paying a little more for the printed books as well.
You begin the course in the spring, with the book Stellaria’s Big Find. The book introduces children to Chickweed (Stellaria media). The club also includes an e-zine for each herb/book, and the kids make their own “Magic Keeper’s Journal” (which is basically a simple materia medica for the herbs they learn in the club). Each herb has activities, recipes, coloring sheets, and more!
Both of my boys already had an interest in herbal medicine, as they have watched me learning everything I can about it for the last two years.
As a side note, this is my number 1 tip for new homeschooling parents: let your children see YOU learning and reading. Let them see YOUR curiosity about the world. Curiosity is contagious!
My youngest son, Farmer Boy, absolutely LOVES the Herb Fairies series. Homeschooling him can be frustrating. But he has connected with this curriculum in a way I have never seen from him before. It has been amazing to see his face light up during school, and to see his truly focused attention on his Magic Keeper’s Journal.
One reason I hesitated to start the club (which is expensive compared to many of our homeschool purchases) was because the books looked girly and I thought my wild boys might roll their eyes over them. But I was happily surprised to find that one of the characters is a 12 year old boy who goes to wilderness school. Some of the fairies and trolls are also male, and the books talk about skills like fire starting and wood carving. They really aren’t fairy princess books. 😉
The one negative that I will share is that these books are written primarily to be educational (specifically to give plant identification and common use information). They remind me a little of the Magic Treehouse books. Personally, I dislike that writing style. The books accomplish their purpose, but I would never choose to curl up with them for pleasure reading.
Implementing the book club has been very simple for us. The goal is to read through one book per month, as each book highlights an herb typically found growing during that season in North America. In April we did Chickweed, in May we did Violets. June is Plantain, which is perfect since our yard is exploding with it. There are 13 books/plants total, so the program will take us over a year to complete.
The books are short chapter books. We typically read for about 15 minutes at a time, and it takes us 3 readings to finish a book. While I’m reading, the boys either sit with me to look at the pictures, or they color one of the included coloring sheets. When we finish the story, we complete a page for their journal on how the herb was used as an herbal remedy in the story. We look at pictures of the herb and then go for a walk to try to find it!
Once we find the herb growing in nature, we taste it and try out a recipe or remedy! It has been really fun for the boys to see that plants growing wild in our yard can actually be eaten or used as medicine.
This is the kind of learning I love. We’re learning natural science, through stories and hands-on nature study.
The book club is currently closed, but you can get on a list to be notified when it opens again! As I said, it’s pricey compared to some of our homeschool investments. But I’m not kidding when I say that this is Farmer Boy’s favorite thing we have ever done in school. It has been really special to share this with him.
Herb Fairies gets our full recommendation for a nature study program!