Handbook of Nature Study: Subjects Not Specifically Covered

It is my wish to guide you in using the Handbook of Nature Study. This entry will be about how to use this book with objects that you find in your local area that are not specifically listed in the index. I think this is such an important skill to develop.

How about we use some specific examples?

Sebastian over at Percival Blakeney Academy found some plumeria blossoms on her nature walk with her children. She didn’t find the plumeria listed in the HNS‘s index. How can we use the book to learn more about this flower?
1. Turn to the table of contents and scan down until you get to “Plants”. Turn to the introductory pages starting on page 453.
2. Read to yourself the introduction on how to begin the study of plants and their flowers.
3. Turn to the section on “How to Teach the Names of the Parts of a Flower and of the Plant” on page 456. This will give you some specific names for parts of any flower and they could be applied to the plumeria bloom.
If you want to get some further ideas for studying the plumeria blossom, you could ask yourself what plant or tree you think the plumeria resembles and I thought of the dogwood tree since they are both blooming trees.
1. Turn to the section on the dogwood on page 680.
2. Read through the section and see if there are any tidbits you can apply to your study of the plumeria. Make sure to get to the observations section and use the suggestions that would apply to the plumeria. (Can you see how many petals the flower has? How many stamens has it? Can you see the pistil? Find one of the flower-heads not yet opened and watch it open and develop. Sketch the bracts from below.)

It is not a perfect study of the plumeria but it will give you ways to observe the flower. The Handbook of Nature Study is meant to help you learn to observe and investigate rather than as a source of information. (see page 24)

Want another example?
Jessica at Trivium Academy shared about finding a tree stump and how she talked about the tree’s rings and how it grows. What if you weren’t sure what the rings meant and were not sure how to explain how a tree grows to your child? Here’s how I would go about using the Handbook of Nature Study to help find the answers.
1.Turn to the table of contents and scan down in the plants section until you get to trees. Read the list of subtopics for trees and find any that sound like they might help in your investigation.
2. Turn to page 618 and read the introduction to yourself. On page 620 there is a photo of a cross-section of a tree trunk and this section might be helpful to read. There is a heading on page 620 relating the way a tree grows. Read that and highlight any parts you want to eventually share with your children later in the week.

It took me a long time to figure out how to use the book without being frustrated. The Handbook of Nature Study is a wonderful tool in training parents how to teach their children to investigate nature. We just need to be more familiar with the ways to use it in our homeschooling.

“The author feels apologetic that the book is so large. However, it does not contain more than any intelligent country child of twelve should know of his environment; things that he should know naturally and without effort, although it might take him half his life-time to learn so much if he should not begin before the age of twenty.” Handbook of Nature Study, page xiii

Let’s not waste any time getting started.

Barb-Harmony Art Mom


  1. Thanks for including me in your sample of how to extend the Handbook to other items. I printed out pages on plant names and asters last night. One thing that I realized in trying to identify a pretty red weed in the yard was that it was really hard for me to describe the plant well enough to “key it out” in order to categorize it. So I really need to work on learning the parts of the plant and how to describe them.

  2. Thank you Barb. I have to say that thick book intimidates me ALOT! :o) LOL

    I have printed this out and will add it to my notebook.


  3. Really appreciate this rundown – thank you so much for all the work you’ve put into this!

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