CM 16: Audioblog- Sarah Bliss Why Nature Study

CM 16: Audioblog- Sarah Bliss Why Nature Study

Show Notes:

Episode 15: Interview with Sarah Bliss, Nature Study with Littles

Description: In today’s episode, Julie H. Ross is joined by author Sarah Bliss as they discuss nature study for the young and special needs children. Their discussion travels through topics of the benefits of nature study, a description of a typical nature walk, how being in nature can help children with sensory processing dysfunction or ADHD, and how nature study can aid in learning the habit of attention. This rich conversation finishes with resources to use in your nature study.

Meet Sarah:


Bio- Hi, There! I am Sarah Bliss, author of Holistic Homeschooler. I am happily married to the man of my dreams and together we raise two adorable children. We obviously homeschool and believe home education is more than academics. I hold a personal philosophy that homeschooling is holistic and encompasses the whole child - body, mind, heart, spirit.

When I refer to the spirit, I mean the Holy Spirit, and that one's own spirit needs daily nourishment from the word of God. I homeschool mainly using a Charlotte Mason Philosophy of Education. I absolutely love nature which is why the nature study aspect of Charlotte’s philosophy really speaks to me. We spend hours outside, on nature walks or the occasional hike. Additionally, I have a burning desire to take our homeschool journey on the road and share our travel adventures with anyone who will read or listen. Yet, this is a plan in progress so for now we are casually road-schooling. Finally, I am a Registered Nurse, with the heart to spread educational information on health, wellness, and physical fitness. You can often find me enjoying a trail run anywhere in nature. I hope to be a source of encouragement and inspiration as we travel along this homeschool journey together.


Nature Worth Observing:

Handbook of Nature Study by Anna Botsford Comstock

Last Child in the Woods by Richard Louv

"Here Come Nature Books" by Alice Gaudy

Junior Science Books

Step Up Books

Quote: We were all meant to be naturalists, each in his degree, and it is inexcusable to live in a world so full of the marvels of plant and animal life and to care for none of these things. Charlotte Mason, Home Education, volume 1, pg 61

Bible Verse: Psalm 8:4-6 What is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them? You have made them a little lower than the angels and crowned them with glory and honor. You made them rulers over the works of your hands; you put everything under their feet:

Show Transcript:

Julie -

Welcome to the Charlotte Mason Show. A podcast dedicated to discussing Ms. Mason's philosophy, principles, and methods. It is our hope that each episode will leave you inspired and offer practical wisdom on how to provide this rich, living education in your modern homeschool.

So, pull up a chair, we're glad you're here.

Today's episode of the Charlotte Mason Show is brought to you by Medi-Share. Find out more about this affordable Christian alternative to traditional health insurance at

Sarah -

Six Benefits of Nature Walks

Charlotte Mason was a big proponent of daily time outside and nature walks. She recommended four to six hours per day, of time outside. This may seem a little extreme, but outside time has some major benefits.

I look at this not only from the perspective of a homeschooling mom but that of a registered nurse. Much of what occurs on a nature walk can be naturally therapeutic and may even provide some wellness benefits. Here are seven benefits of going on a nature walk.

Number one, nature walks provide a living education. Nature offers so much visual and kinesthetic hands-on learning, it's astounding. I think with the abundance of technology that surrounds us, well, we tend to forget all that nature has to offer us. Observing, discussing, and drawing the life-cycle of various animals, plants, and insects, interacting with a body of water, exploring what lives within the habitat, and discussing ecosystems, the water cycle, the weather, taking water and soil samples, examining rocks, trees, and watching life emerge from a cocoon. Bring along a living book and find something in nature to go along with it. It provides a reading lesson and living science at the same time.

Number two, nature walk or being outside in nature provides physical education. The walk itself, and sometimes the hike, depending on terrain, provides physical exercise. It builds strength and endurance not only by walking but by the actual play that occurs in nature. The body becomes more agile by engaging in balancing walks across fallen trees or jumping stone to stone across a shallow stream. Children tone and strengthen their muscles by hopping, skipping, jumping, climbing, pushing and pulling while they explore and play through their nature walk.

Number three, mental and emotional health. Far too often I hear parents making the choice to medicate their children. Either for behavioral problems, poor attention, or both, I know it probably was very hard, a very hard choice to make, and a long road to get to that point. Often prompted by teachers and reoccurring incidents within the school system. More and more school-aged children are being placed on ADHD meds and some even anti-psychotics. To me, this is evidence of a system that is sick, not the child. Medicating children with these kinds of meds come with a cost of side-effects. Side effects are like a box of chocolates. You never know which one you're going to get. I do understand some children have severe cases and need medication. However, there is an overdiagnosis of ADHD these days. It really is developmentally appropriate for a child of eight years or younger to squirm, move around, and be energetic. The problem isn't the child, it is the environment. If your child is hyperactive and constantly full of energy, with a complete lack of focus, then please, first try regular nature walks. In these cases, think of nature walks as daily medicine, best taken before lessons. A study conducted by the American Journal of Public Health concludes that green outdoor settings appear to significantly reduce ADHD symptoms in children across a wide range of individual residential and case characteristics. Another study conducted by the NIH found that individuals who engaged in forest therapy, basically sitting in nature, noted a 12.4% decrease in cortisol levels, 7% decrease in sympathetic nervous activity, and 1.4% decrease in systolic blood pressure and 5.8% decrease in heart rate. This shows that stressful states can be relieved by forest therapy. It should also be noted that parasympathetic nerve activity increased by 55% indicating a relaxed state. Nature is amazing for your mental and emotional health.

Number four, preventive care. Vitamin D makes it possible for the body to absorb calcium, and it also plays a role in muscle and immune function. Depression can sometimes be caused by low levels of vitamin D. Vitamin D may even play a role in preventing certain types of cancers, high blood pressure, and MS. Our bodies need exposure to the sun in order to synthesize vitamin D, and in Northern climates, we may even need more of it, due to our long winters. The same study noted above conducted by the NIH demonstrated that immune functions are enhanced by forest therapy. Middle-aged employees volunteered to participate in these experiments. Natural killer cells activity, as an indicator of immune function, increased by 56% on the second day and returned to normal levels. A significant increase of 23% was maintained for one month, even after these subjects returned to urban life.

Number five, natural sensory therapy. Most of us are familiar with our five senses which are sight, touch, hearing, smell, and taste. Some, however, might not realize we have two more senses, vestibular and proprioception. The vestibular sense is how motion, equilibrium, and spatial awareness is processed. And proprioception is one's awareness of spatial orientation within one's environment. Healthy children need sensory stimulation in order to continue to develop well, and those with sensory issues need even more sensory exposure. Children with sensory processing dysfunction may even require sensory therapy. I've seen and have created countless sensory bins and everybody knows it is a regular Pin on Pinterest. With nature walks, all of our senses are engaged and naturally stimulated by the interacting with the water, dirt, mud, plant life, animal life, and anything within nature we are exposed to. Balancing on stones and fallen tree trunks, not only develop muscle tone, but regular exposure helps develop vestibular and proprioceptive aspects of the brain that are so much to touch, see, hear, smell, and even taste, that is in nature. What about mom and dad? Often as moms and dads, we are putting our kids first and ourselves last. Not getting enough exercise or any for that matter and when nature walks are done as a family, both mom and dad reap the benefits too. I love and look forward to our nature walks as much, maybe more, than my own children. GNA7012E

Number six, character development. Small challenges and physical obstacles occur when we are out in nature. This provides opportunities for my children to persevere through them. It may be hard, difficult, and sometimes I sense a little fear, but as long as its safe, I can encourage them through it. For instance, balancing across a fallen down tree trunk. This is one way I've begun to instill a positive self-image and started the phrase, I'm brave, I'm strong. I have them replace that apprehension, that negative thinking, with that phrase so that they can be self-reliant in their perseverance. Well, to some, Charlotte Mason's methods may seem a little dated. When I really delved into the research, nature walks were still highly beneficial. Besides all this educational benefit and physical exercise, nature walks are providing positive health benefits as well. Incorporating nature walks into our homeschool has ensured a whole child holistic living education, which makes me very happy.

What are your thoughts on nature walk?

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