January Nature Study : Rocks


The Nature emphasis for January is : Rocks! Well. For Petra School ~and the Pebblekeeper – this is one of our favorite topics.

Today another blogging homeschool family from out of town joined us for a Beach Field Trip Day. We had a great time leaping over driftwood piles, playing in driftwood forts, finding dead Sea Stars and scratched up sunglasses. Nate even found a full can of Mt. Dew. Joy. We started to walk back up to the entrance area as our appetite twisted eagerly for the packed picnic. That’s when I remembered one of the grid challenges for January. Rock Stacks.

P1030143Nate was up ahead climbing on the driftwood – so I texted him. “Find a few flat river rocks and make stacks with them. Your Science this month is Rocks”. He texts back, “OK?” . I see him head southwest towards the river rocks and watch him bend over several times.  Kinda cracked me up. We have our Friday Nature Studies down so well that now we can just text. Ha! I told him to stack one, then two, then three and four and so on.  So . . . That’s what my incredibly obedient non question asker did.



When I came home, I read the first 8 pages of the Handbook of Nature Study, by Anna Comstock. These front pages are well worn.  One of the highlights that caught my eye, hd to do with a question given by Nate on the beach.  “Would rocks, actual rocks, be “science” for the month?”  No, I mis-texted. It would be his Nature Focus for the month. For Science, he is studying detailed Biology and also taking a second class with an Electronic Sensor Board. On page 5, we read that “Nature-study is not elementary science as so taught, because its point of attack is not the same. . .” “Nature-study is perfectly good science within its limits, but it is not meant to be more profound or comprehensive than the capabilities of the child’s mind.” I think this is why we enjoy Nature Study so much.

We don’t need to drill. We don’t need to sort it out with the Field Guides. We don’t need to experiment or make predictions, recreate conditions. We simply observe. Intentionally. Sure. Many topics spark our interest. Our curiosity leads us to learn more details, growing a 15 minute learning time into an afternoon of study. But it doesn’t need to.

“If nature-study is made a drill, its pedagogic value is lost. When it is properly taught, the child is unconscious of mental effort or that he is suffering the act of teaching.” Pedagogic; Greek – Child Led – To lead the child – style of instruction.


Today’s instructions were simple. After hiking for over a half mile, I simply asked them to find some flat river rocks to make piles with. Like building block towers.  Each of the 3 boys that were with us remembered where they had seen the rocks that would work the best and gravitated towards that spot on the beach. This alone is an interesting tell of their observation retention. The conversations while building the towers also made me smile. As they had to work with size, slopes, weight, and sand bases. Thinking of building the towers in a location so that the high tide might not knock them over. Speaking of colors and textures and design. How many could they stack. And yet, all three boys, along with two moms, had an easy fun time building.


My favorite line, perhaps is the first. “Nature-study is, despite all discussions and perversions, a study of nature; it consists of simple, truthful observations  . . .” When questioning time for nature study, I think that many build more into it than it really is.


“Nature-study cultivates the child’s imagination, since there are so many wonderful and true stories that he may read with his own eyes, which affect his imagination as much as does fairy lore; at the same time nature-study cultivates in him a perception and a regard for what is true, and the power to express it.”


“Perhaps half the falsehood in the world is due to lack of power to detect the truth and to express it. Nature-study aids both in discernment and in expression of things as they are.”




I may have to re-type the entire 8 pages if I want to share all of my favorite parts of the opening of the book. Sigh. Take the time. Read through the front of the book. You’ll enjoy it. I promise.



Thank you Unionvale Homeschool for joining us on our walk today!

About +Angie Wright

The Transparent Thoughts of an Unschooling Family of Boys - Answering the question - What DO you DO all day?
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11 Responses to January Nature Study : Rocks

  1. Carla G. says:

    Beautiful rock stacking and great quotes!

  2. lisa says:

    I just love these photos! You’ve inspired me!

  3. This is a great entry! I love the rock stacks. My son would love to stack rocks. We don’t have smooth river rocks around here, but he would love to stack the ones we do have.

    Our family loves nature study. It has been such an enriching experience for us. Thanks for expressing what we feel so well.

  4. Amy Blevins says:

    Love those gorgeous pictures! Wow! Thank you for sharing. I think we will try this next time we are at the beach…

  5. Wendy R says:

    Awesome post! Stunning photographs! I hope to incorporate more nature study in to our lives.

  6. kbalman says:

    What a fun idea. We love rocks and nature. You found some really amazing rocks.We have the handbook of nature study book. I actually got it for free from another homeschooler who was selling some things. She didn’t sell me the book though and just gave it to me because it is falling apart. I have been wondering how to use it and this really helps me understand now thanks.

  7. Mary says:

    You live in the perfect environment for this kind of thing. So jealous. I like the idea of just observing and not being committed to journaling anything. That is something I could get on board with for the kids – maybe we can finally do “nature study.” Thanks!

  8. cmjenniferm says:

    I’m already planning to use some of your rock ideas with my son when we resume school next week. Thanks for sharing!

  9. marcyky says:

    I love this and I’m just a wee bit jealous.

  10. I have thoroughly enjoyed reading your blog. I have nominated you for a Liebster Award. Please check out my blog http://lakenormanprep.wordpress.com/ about the award. It is a fun way to learn about new blogs and to promote new bloggers. I hope you are able to accept (it does take some time). 🙂

  11. What a great post Angie. I think rocks are the perfect metaphor for how we “build” nature study into our lives and into our minds. It is the slowing, the noticing, the enjoyment, the appreciation that is learned from just taking a slight focus and honing in.

    Your boys are such a great example to us all…thanks for sharing them.

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