Handbook of Nature Study: Friend or Foe?

There it is, Handbook of Nature Study, sitting on your bookshelf. Now what?

My copy of the Handbook of Nature Study sat on my shelf for a couple of years and I finally sold it on ebay. Yes, you heard me right. I got tired of dusting it and feeling as if I should be doing something with it when I couldn’t figure it out at all. So now you are wondering what happened to bring me around to where I am now. Simply put, I stopped fighting it.

I checked it out from the library and took some time to page through it. I read blogs where families actually used the book, encouraging me to give it a real try this time. We already had a love of nature in our family but we really wanted to have a better way of studying things in nature in a little more systematic way.

Maybe it was not the book that was the problem for us.

Since I trusted Ambleside Online’s ideas for many subjects already, it was a natural fit to try their system for nature study. I went to their nature study page and read the whole thing. I then read the information in the Charlotte Mason volumes about outdoor time and nature study. I read other blogs that used the Handbook of Nature Study. In other words, I did a little bit of homework and came up with a plan for our family.

Tips from our experiences:

  • Pick three sections of the book to cover in your school year….four if you want to cover one over the summer too. Try to think of things you will actually be able to observe in your course of everyday life. Do you have a birdfeeder? Do you have a pet cat or dog? Do you have a place to grow a few vegetables? Do you enjoy keeping track of the weather or looking at the clouds?
  • Start with something you will enjoy.
  • As the parent/guide, read the introduction to the section you are going to study a few times over. I have found that just reading these few pages opens your eyes to a lot of ideas for further study on the topic chosen. Use the information and suggested activities as a place to start your study of a particular animal or aspect of nature.
  • Make notes in the book or in a notebook with ideas for your study.
  • Go through your personal library and check for any reference items you may have on the subject of your study. I was surprised when I did this to find that I already owned quite a few books to go along with our fall study of insects. Check your library for books and field guides too.
  • Our family enjoys identifying things we find on our nature outings. This means we need to have a basic field guide to go along with our study since the Handbook of Nature Study is NOT a field guide.

Yes, I finally purchased the Handbook of Nature Study for the second time and this time around it is getting used weekly. I had tried to use the online version by printing out only the pages I needed but that was too much work. Having my own copy at my fingertips has been a blessing this past term. Our nature study has taken on a new level of interest. Hope this helps someone get started with this valuable book.

Looking for Mammal Prints and A New Bird

We have had our eye out for critter prints but the only one we have seen that has been clear enough to really recognize is this dog print along our walking trail. We are not giving up though, the winter is still young.

From the Handbook of Nature Study, page 254:“The dog’s feet are much more heavily padded than those of the cat, because in running he must not stop to save his feet. Hounds often return from a chase with bleeding feet, despite the heavy pads, but the wounds are usually cuts between the toes. The claws are heavy and are not retractile; thus, they afford a protection to the feet when running, and they are also used for digging out game which burrows into the ground. They are not used for grasping prey like those of the cat and are used only incidentally in fighting, while the cat’s claws are the most important weapons in her armory.”
The
Handbook of Nature Study has many suggestions for observations of dogs. The section starts on page 254 and ends on page 260.

The most exciting news is that our birdfeeders have been very busy. We even identified a new bird. It was the Cassin’s finch. It looks very much like the purple finch but the coloring on the head is much more pronounced. I also found a great new bird identification site that not only is an online field guide, it also has a button to hear the bird songs online. Eureka! I have wanted to start to learn to identify birds by their songs so this is perfect.

Whatbird.com

Click on the image to make it larger!


Have you ever seen a guard llama? We were out on a new section of our local walking trail and this is the scene that we observed. My son told me that he had seen on a nature show that a llama will actually guard a herd of sheep. I had never heard of this before so I had to come home and research it. He was right! Here is an article that I found on this subject.
Guard Llamas
You learn something new every day.

There is no information in the Handbook of Nature Study on llamas…not surprised at that. There is a section starting on page 270 that talks about sheep.

From page 273:“The dog is the ancient enemy of sheep: and even now, after hundreds of years of domestication, some of our dogs will revert to savagery and chase and kill sheep…..The collie, or sheep dog, has been bred so many years as the special caretaker of sheep, that a beautiful relationship has been established between these dogs and their flocks.”
Well, that sort of catches you up with our nature study for the past week or two. We are still busy catching up on our drawings in our nature journals for animals we have seen. It is a really good activity for these long, cold afternoons.

 

Cats: Up Close and Personal with Observations #1

The Handbook of Nature Study has lots of interesting things to do to observe your cat or kitten. Many of these activities I hadn’t ever thought about before so I am grateful for the guidance of Anna Botsford Comstock.

On page 265 of HNS:“This lesson may be used in primary grades by asking a few questions at a time and allowing the children to make their observations on their own kittens at home, or a kitten may be brought to school for this purpose. The upper grade work consists of reading and retelling or writing exciting stories of the great, wild, savage cats, like the tiger, lion, leopard, lynx, and panther.”

Page 265 Observation #1:“How much of Pussy’s language do you understand? What does she say when she wishes you to open the door for her? How does she ask for something to eat? What does she say when she feels like conversing with you? How does she cry when hurt? When frightened? What noise does she make when fighting? When calling other cats? What are her feelings when she purrs? When she spits? How many things which you say does she understand?”

Our answers (given by my boys) Our cats give a soft meow when they want to go outside or they just sit by the door and wait. They sit in front of their empty dish and look at you when they wish for something to eat. They will rub up against you or jump up on our lap when they want a little “conversation”. They hiss when they are hurt. The give a pitiful meow when they are frightened. When fighting, they hiss and put their ears down and chase each other through the house. They purr when they are enjoying a good pet and are relaxed. They will come when they are called “kitty”. They come running when they hear the cupboard door open where their food is kept. They will jump down when you say sternly “down”.

I think they did a good job answering the questions.

We will continue next week with our cat activities.

http://handbookofnaturestudy.com/2010/05/ohc-spring-series-7-mammal-study-cats.html