S8 E2 | Nature Study Hacking with Joy Cherrick (Jeannie Fulbright)
In today's world of hyper-technology, a mother's first duty is to restore a love for nature and the peace that comes from spending time outdoors. In this episode, you will learn how to seamlessly include nature study and nature journaling in your weekly routine. Jeannie Fulbright interviews Joy Cherrick, author of the Nature Study Hacking series, which is based on the Handbook of Nature Study. Joy and Jeannie discuss mindsets, expectations, tips for making nature study a part of your family's lifestyle, and how her guides can be used to increase your family's knowledge of nature and joy in nature journaling.
Joy Cherrick is a classical Charlotte Mason homeschooling mother of 7. She has a passion for introducing children and adults to the beauty of nature. She shares her simplified nature study guides on her website NatureStudyHacking.com.
Jeannie Fulbright, a 24-year veteran homeschooler, is the author of the #1 best-selling, multi award-winning Apologia Young Explorer science series: Exploring Creation with Astronomy, Chemistry and Physics, Botany, Zoology, and Anatomy & Physiology. She is also the author of the action-packed historical time travel book series Rumble Tumbles Through Time, as well as preschool science books and activity kits, the Charlotte Mason Heirloom Planner, and many high-quality Charlotte Mason based products. Jeannie and her husband Jeff became empty nesters in 2019. All four of their children all went to the University of Georgia on scholarship (homeschooling works!). For more than 20 years Jeannie has traveled around the country speaking to homeschoolers at conventions, covering a plethora of topics from Charlotte Mason to marriage and prayer.
Jeannie is offering listeners a 20% discount on all her nature study journals and tools with the code: JOYINNATURE
Receive 15% off all products in the NatureStudyHacking.com shop with the coupon code "CHARLOTTE" at checkout
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Jeannie Fulbright Welcome to The Charlotte Mason Show, where we discuss Charlotte Mason's philosophy and how to implement her life-changing methodology in your homeschool. My hope is to come alongside you and mentor you as you seek to homeschool your children with excellence and joy using the Charlotte Mason model. I'm your host, Jeannie Fulbright, the author of the multi-award winning bestselling science series Exploring Creation with Astronomy, Botany, Zoology, Anatomy and Physiology and Chemistry and Physics, which all employ the Charlotte Mason methodology and have been helping families fall in love with science for over 20 years. I also created the Charlotte Mason Heirloom Planner and the Culture and Craft Enrichment Curriculum, which is coming out fall of 2023. These and many other Charlotte Mason products can be found on my website at JeannieFulbright.com, where if you sign up for my email list, you'll receive your Charlotte Mason daily and weekly checklist which will simplify your homeschool days. While there, check out my blog which covers almost every aspect of the Charlotte Mason method and philosophy. All right, let's get started.
Jeannie Fulbright Welcome back to the Charlotte Mason Show and I am so excited for today's episode because I have a guest with me today who I am so excited for you all to meet. It is Joy Cherrick from Nature Study Hacking. Joy, thank you for coming on the show.
Joy Cherrick Thank you for having me, Jamie.
Jeannie Fulbright I'm so excited about the stuff you're going to be sharing with our listeners today because I really believe it is going to bless them so much. So tell us about yourself and your family and what inspired you to become a homeschool mom?
Joy Cherrick Oh, man. So, my family...I have seven children. My oldest is fourteen, my youngest is two, and they're about every two years in the middle. And we have been homeschooling from the very beginning. It wasn't even my idea to homeschool, it was my husband's idea. I brought home this little baby from the hospital and I was reading all the books on nursing and sleep and how to take care of a child, and my husband—I didn't really pay attention— he had been doing all this research on education and the best way to educate. And what are we going to do with this person once we get them? And I'm like, still trying to keep them alive right now. And he came home one day, and I will just never forget this moment, he walked in the door and I am nursing a very, very newborn. I mean, she could have been two or three weeks old. She's so new. And he said, So I've been learning about some things and I would love it if you would consider just learning a little bit about homeschooling, because I think that might be the best thing for our family, for our children. Everything I've read and he read books by public school teachers, he read books by business professionals, and he was looking at education from so many different aspects. And he just said, I just really think it's the best way for a child to learn is that one-on-one instruction and I want that for our kids. He said, But you would have to be the one doing it, so would you just look into it for a little bit? You know, he just did not put any pressure on me. And my response was, I'm not qualified. I can't do that. That was my thought. And I said, Well. You know, he didn't put it on me, he just said go look into it. And that opened up this whole wonderful world that I never even knew existed. I started exploring all...I didn't realize there was more than one way to educate a child. And then people are arguing over it over time about the best way to educate a child. And I was really deep in the research mode and I was talking to my mom, she had her doctorate in reading, she was a teacher who taught teachers at the college level. And, you know, I'm talking to her about this because now I'm walking into her world a little bit. And she said, Well. My stepsister had given her two books: For the Children's Sake and For the Family Sake. And both of those books are written by Susan Schaeffer Macaulay. The first book, For the Children's Sake, she wrote when she was in her thirties and then the second book she wrote when she was in her sixties, For the Family's Sake. So I read those books after I'd been reading the ones my husband had given me. He was more looking at unschooling and John Holt and the ideas of John Taylor Gatto, just kind of this it's almost like a reaction against any type of formal schooling at all. And I was like, That doesn't feel responsible. And I had been looking at all kinds of stuff—unit study, I mean, I just looked at all of it, and I just could not find something that made sense. So when I got those books, For the Children Sake/For the Family's Sake, I went, Oh, this makes sense. This is honoring the person, which is what my husband was wanting. That's what he was kind of bristling against was the lack of really just the lifelong learning that is stifled from a systematic form of education. And it gave me the structure that I felt was important. And then, you know, it's like living in a palace and only living in like one or two rooms. And then someone says, Oh, did you see the garden? You're like, Wait, there's a garden? I didn't know. I was only living in these two little rooms. And, you know, with Charlotte Mason's approach and the deeper in, the further in I go, I go, Oh, there's even more rooms in the castle. I didn't know were there that the Lord just wants to open up.
Jeannie Fulbright So true. So true.
Joy Cherrick So we've been on this journey for quite a while, and of course, each year presents new challenges. So my oldest is eighth grade, eighth-ish/ninth-ish, and so just trying to keep step with that oldest child. And when I created Nature Study Hacking, I was pregnant with our sixth and I was getting ready for a school year with kind of upper elementary children. And I really needed them to be equipped. I had been keeping kind of a log every day the previous year about what they needed to do, and I was really engaged with how much work they needed, and I was giving them little assignments each day, like each week for nature study. And I was like, Man, it'd be a lot better if I just had...if I just went through the Handbook of Nature Study for the topic we would like to study for the next term and then assign them what thing that they need to go and look at outside and tell them what nature journal entry they need to do. Because those younger students or anyone who's new to keeping a nature journal, they need guidance. They need to know, like, there's a blank page—what does one put on that blank page? It's so intimidating, you know? So that's what the Nature Study Hacking Guides are designed to do, and that's what it did for our family that first year. And then I started giving them to my friends and saying, Hey, you can use my plans, it would really help you. And then they were like, Oh, this is incredible. This has been so helpful.
Jeannie Fulbright I love that. That's actually exactly how my science books got started. I started writing it for my children and then other people wanted the chapters. And so I had all these other people using it and then it turned into what it is. But I love that. So can you just, for our listeners, can you just explain what the amazing tools that you provide for homeschoolers are? I have to say, I got your tree study and I just fell in love and I thought, this is something I want my listeners, my Charlotte Mason people, to get their hands on because this would just make it easy, make it doable. And I have been just so excited about talking to you and bringing this to my people. So tell us what they are, what they do.
Joy Cherrick Sure. So every single book in the Nature Study Hacking series is based on one of the chapters, one of the topics from Handbook of Nature Study. The Handbook of Nature Study is this thick tome, and it is such a helpful resource that so often we have it on our shelves and we don't know how to use it.
Jeannie Fulbright I have to say that I got that Handbook of Nature Study my first year of homeschooling and I never used it. Never. Because I just couldn't figure out what to do with it. It was so big and so intimidating, and I just would open it up and I start reading and I would think, I don't know what to do with this thing. So this is so exciting because I know that a lot of people listening right now have had the same experience. Everybody says, Go get the Handbook of Nature Study, it's so important to nature study. And people get it, and then there's a few people who see something out in nature and they come in and they look it up in the Handbook of Nature Study, and those are amazing people, but what you've done is incredible. Tell us about it.
Joy Cherrick So in Comstock's Handbook of Nature Study, she lays out lessons for the classroom teacher to tangibly teach children about the world around them. She gives all these questions and answers, and it is pretty overwhelming if you don't know how to sift through it. So what I've done is I have broken it down so that it's manageable in 24 lessons, usually, some of them go a little bit longer, which tends to be two lessons a week over a 12-week term. And they are designed to ask you questions and really go through some of the processes and the observations that Comstock lays out. But it helps sift through all of the stuff that really doesn't apply in a home setting or... You know, these are really designed to be done at the kitchen table. So an example from my Nature Study Hacking: Insects book is the lesson about the butterfly. One of the questions from one of the lessons says, "When the butterfly alights, how does it hold its wings? Is it more camouflaged when its wings are open or folded? Can you see its tongue? How long are the antenna? How is this different from other insects?" So what it's doing is it's using Comstock's beautiful questions, but it's shortening them up and giving you... So for instance, in this case, you were asked to either buy some painted lady butterflies online and have them that you're observing, or go outside in your garden and observe some butterflies. And then you're going to be able to ask these questions. Because what nature study does is it trains us in all of those foundational skills that our students need--and really that we need--for that Charlotte Mason education. You need to be curious. And often we need that curiosity modeled. So that's what Comstock's book allows us to do, is see, "Oh, this is how you ask questions!" And you're just asking about the things that are there. And any child can look and go, "Oh, I can count the legs. I can see how many antennae there are. And then I can see, 'Oh, it is camouflaged when the wings are closed. Oh, you know...'"
Jeannie Fulbright Really, it sounds like it's guiding them into those really important habits. The habit of observation, the habit of noticing, and the habit of thinking about what they are observing. Those are important habits that you need to carry with you through life.
Joy Cherrick Mm hmm. And the important... You know one of the foundational habits Mason talks about is that habit of attention. And you can do that with a real object that is beautiful to behold. And you're leading that with your child. You're both learning together. And it also teaches the student the love of beauty. And, you know, "the heavens declare the glory of God and the skies show his handiwork," right? Everything that we're learning about in nature points to our Creator. And then as we start to point our children to that Goodness, we can go, "Oh man, isn't God so creative? Why would He color that butterfly's wings in that way? Or sometimes He uses that shade of green over there in this other shade over there. Isn't that interesting? I didn't think there were more than two shades of green." So we can really start to just wonder at God's infinite creativity.
Jeannie Fulbright Yes, I love that. And so what do you feel like are the obstacles for moms--homeschool moms, moms of seven kids, moms of two kids, moms of one kid--that keeps them from implementing nature study in their homeschool?
Joy Cherrick Well, I think the first one is that it's so overwhelming. There's so much that we don't know, that it's really hard to know where to start. Because you can really enter into nature study from so many different doors, if you will. So what I've encouraged people to do is to pick one topic that you're going to study. Is it trees? Are you going to learn about garden flowers? Insects? Just pick one. And once you've selected that one, then you can start reading a little bit, get acquainted, just get a feel of the land, if you will.
Jeannie Fulbright Yeah, narrowing it down to one thing to focus on and learn about. I love that.
Joy Cherrick Right! So this will allow mothers to help their children ask better questions, but then they will have questions themselves that they can start to lead their children toward. And the other thing, I think... You know, we don't see this as a relationship building opportunity that it is. I mean it is such a great way to get down on--not even "get down on"--"be at" the same level as your children because you're co-learning together. Every single thing that you're going to discover if you don't know now, you guys are going to learn it together. Okay, if you don't know the names of every bush and tree in your yard, you guys get to go figure that out together. And there's so many times that I have just stood in awe of the Lord and gone, "Wow, my children, they attend so much better than I do. They are teaching me so many things." My kids will come in, "Mom, I found this!" You know, whatever it is, whether it's a turtle or a frog, or they found the first yellow leaf of the fall season or the first flower of the spring season. You know they are engaged in a way that I'm not even at that level.
Jeannie Fulbright Because we were not trained in that habit of attention, the habit of observation, the habit of thinking.
Joy Cherrick So it's really such a great bonding opportunity that, if we would take it on for ourselves, then we can really enjoy that with our kids.
Jeannie Fulbright I love that. So you talk about the rules for going outside on beautiful days. Tell us about that.
Joy Cherrick So in our home, we like to start with math first, and then we always go for a morning walk afterwards. And it's just the perfect way to get the habit of being outside. But so often we'll find that that strenuous mental work needs a change to help us continue moving through the day. If we went straight to a read-aloud or straight to morning time, it would become almost like... you're almost too wound up. And we just need to be out in nature. And that has saved so many days for us. So having a habit, figuring out what time... You know, people don't have to do it in the morning. But I think it's important to work it in to the daily rhythm, because that brings us refreshment. It gets us in connection with God's world on a regular basis.
Jeannie Fulbright I think what moms need to understand is that there is a system of education that has made us to believe that the three Rs are the most important thing that we must do as home educators, as educators at all. And things like nature study are extraneous, they're not as important. Or art isn't as important. Or music isn't as important. And these things are actually instrumental. During the Enlightenment, they actually were the things that made up someone who was an educated person. Most educated people had pressed plants. They had a collection of pressed plants. They knew the names of all the plants. Nature was part of an academic education. That was part of it. And so I think we... When you say, "We do math and then we go outside," a lot of people would think, "Oh, well, that's not really... You're just getting a break." But actually, that's part of their education. I love that!
Joy Cherrick To understand that your body needs that, and to have that as a habit... I mean, I've had kids go, "I just I need to go outside. I just need to take a walk," if they're getting frustrated at something that they're working on. And so now they have this tool in their ability to cope with the hard things that come in life. It's just so beautiful.
Jeannie Fulbright And Charlotte Mason talks about changing up your lessons. She talks about varying your lessons so that different parts of the brain are used. And so now there's a specific part of the brain... Going out in nature and noticing and looking and paying attention and seeing is a whole different part of the brain. And that's part of the Charlotte Mason education is making sure that each lesson that follows another uses a different part of the brain so it doesn't weary the child.
Joy Cherrick Yeah. Or the mom.
Jeannie Fulbright True. True. Yeah, so you say to do a short learning lesson with a short reading. And I love you say "short" because Charlotte Mason has a huge emphasis on short lessons because we only have... The human attention span is not longer than 15 minutes. In fact, TED Talks can only be 18 minutes. They can't be any longer because of the human attention span. And a child's attention span, of course, is even shorter than that. So I love that you tell us to do a short lesson--the nature learning lesson. And I'm assuming you mean that you do that indoors. That's not done outdoors while you're out in nature.
Joy Cherrick Right. So, I think part of this is talking about the mom's education as well. So as we are learning, we can take that information with us on the walk outside and go, "Okay, well, I've read this maybe to myself. And then now we're going to..."--say we're learning about trees---"Now we can go and look for the things that we just read about." Or if we did a read-aloud, maybe it's one day we're doing the read-aloud about the nature study topic that we're learning about, and then the next day we're really going to hunker down and journal and find a specimen that we're going to put in our journal and all of those things. But I think it's almost too overwhelming to think of it all at once. You can't go on a hike, and journal, and do the object lesson, and read in less than an hour...if you're going to be restful. And most of us don't have an hour to fully devote to any one subject, really. And we don't want to, we want those things to be broken up throughout the week. We really want it to be infused into our lifestyle. But how do we do that if we've never done it before? If we've never watched anyone else? We are imitators and we learn by watching what others do or by learning about what others do. So that's really why I created these books was so that families would feel equipped to be able to explore God's creation more deeply and not just say, "Okay, well, I went for a walk and now I did my nature study." But there's so much more to learn! We can learn the names of things. We can understand the relationship between things. And that's what it really allows us, that reading time allows us to go more deeply into our learning. And now that I have older children, a lot of the reading... So my fourth-grade and older, they all have independent science readings, nature study readings, that they are going through on their own. And my kids... I mean every day it's always, "Oh, well, did you know the clouds do this? Or this is how lightning or thunder is created?" And, I don't know, they just are always telling me these wonderful things that they've learned from their science readings. And that tells me that we're on the right track. So with the younger ones there's definitely a lot of reading aloud. There's definitely a lot of me kind of narrating what I've read from somewhere else while we're out on the trail. But the point is to not just go outside. Of course going outside is wonderful. Please do that. But to know that there's so much more to learn and that books will encourage us in our growth in that way.
Jeannie Fulbright You also say mom is sometimes the only one interested. Can you give our listeners a little wise mom advice on this particular issue?
Joy Cherrick Yeah, so one of the things that as we are homeeducating I hear all the time is, "Well, my kid doesn't like that." Whatever the thing is we're talking about. And I just know that there's been so many times that I have presented an idea to my children and they will balk at it. Even I balk at things that maybe my husband will bring to me. Homeschooling being a great example. So in this case, we're trying to train an open mind, really trying to be open to what the Lord has. And so I have just found that my enthusiasm and my determination that this is the thing that we're doing can carry us... It can carry us through a whole lesson sometimes. "Well, no, I'm excited to go see this thing! You might be complaining about why you can't do it and why you want to go upstairs and play with your Legos right now. But I want to go see the dwarf crested irises down at the creek. And I want you to come because it's going to be so cool." And then we go, the reluctant person always comes, I mean I always make them come along, and almost every time the child finds something that ignites their imagination and makes them go, "Oh, this was this is actually really cool." You know, and so often that's how it is with teaching. When you have a teacher who loves a subject and you put them with a student that they love, then the student who is a little bit quizzical...
Jeannie Fulbright Reluctant?
Joy Cherrick Yeah reluctant. They will question their reluctance and they might even thaw a bit to the teacher. And I think that's the power that mom has when she's excited about what she's doing with her kids.
Jeannie Fulbright A hundred percent. I remember someone saying, "Think about the subject that you loved the most in all your years of homeschooling..." And there weren't very many. I mean, not homeschooling. The subject you loved the most in all your years of the public education system.
Joy Cherrick Oh sure, as a student.
Jeannie Fulbright Right. So the subject that you most loved as a student in school, and again there weren't very many that you loved. But the one that you did, the class that you loved, was it the teacher that brought the passion? Was the teacher in love with the subject? Because if the teacher was in love with the subject, that's why you fell in love with the subject. And that is true across the board. Every class I loved, every subject I loved, it wasn't that the subject was so great, it was the teacher brought enthusiasm to it and made it great to me. So I love that idea of if you have a reluctant child, you bring the enthusiasm. Don't just be like, "Okay, well, I guess this isn't for us. We're not going to do this."
Joy Cherrick Well, and I think often there's so much apathy toward nature study in particular, thinking, "Well, I'm not really that interested in nature." The mom, themselves. And what I think Charlotte Mason gives us is she really opens up the door... She opens up the room and says, "Hey, this is a big room that we're standing in, and we really want to take everything that she offers and understand that you don't have to eat the whole elephant at once, but just take little nibbles. Just try it. Because you will always be..." I'm always surprised. I'm always encouraged. And it just opens up a whole new world that you might not even know you're missing. I think a good example of this is exercise. If you've never exercised regularly before, then you don't really know what you're missing. But for me, I've been exercising regularly since I was a teenager. I mean, I'm running around since I was a kid. And when I don't get that regular exercise in, I can feel it in my mind. I can feel it in my body. I can just feel almost a craving for that work that helps keep my body healthy, keep my mind alert, you know, all of those things. And I think nature study is one of those things that if you try it, you will find you will start to crave it because it's so life giving and it really fills our hearts and our minds with good, true, and beautiful things to think on.
Jeannie Fulbright Absolutely. I have seen families... Families have come up to me at homeschool conferences and they had never been interested in birds or trees or anything their whole lives. And then they came up to me and they say, "We just still watch the birds in the backyard. My kids are grown. We still watch the birds and we love them." I mean, I had this one young man come up to me, he was 24 and he said, "I just want to thank you for your Zoology I because I fell in love with birds when I was eight years old... My mom gave me the book to do on my own and I fell in love with birds. And I'm now the assistant director of the largest World Banks bird sanctuary in the world." And he's breeding birds. He's going around the country teaching about birds. He's raising eagles. It's amazing what opening up this chapter in the book of wisdom and knowledge to a child can do. It can bring a lifelong love of a subject. Nature is always available to us and it's something that it can become a lifelong habit. I've even seen my adult children when they're all home for Christmas, or whatever event's going on... It's so cute because they always say... Someone makes a suggestion... They all have different interests, but someone makes a suggestion, "Do y'all want to go hiking at blah, blah, blah." And they're all in. Because they're so used to being out in nature, they love it. It's like a bonding experience for them, even with their spouses and stuff, going off on these hiking adventures. And this is something that was developed at a young age.
Joy Cherrick Well, there was the famous Charlotte Mason quote there... There was a young woman who came to be at the teacher training college, and she comes up and she says, "I am here to learn how to teach." And Charlotte Mason says, "Oh, no, you are here to learn how to live." And that is what she offers us. And that, I think, is why so often Charlotte Mason education sounds so overwhelming or even almost militant. People get overwhelmed with all of the different things that it can offer because it is such a full life.
Jeannie Fulbright It is.
Joy Cherrick And I think that we often approach it as just a list of things to check off. Like, "Let's just make sure... Okay, get in the nature study. Okay, get in that reading and narration." Instead of realizing that we're actually feeding on these beautiful ideas. We're feeding on all the wonderful things that God has given us. "Taste and see that the Lord is good." Right? That's what we're doing is we're sitting at His feet to learn from the Great Educator, the Holy Spirit. And so if we can just turn our minds a little bit away from, "How does this help me get a job? How does this help my kid get into college?" And go okay, let's just shift and think about, "How is this cultivating them as a person? How is this enriching their heart and their soul? How is this shaping what they love? Can all of these things help get them to become a stronger person and to pursue virtue?" You know, we want those things for them. Then it can become more of a partnership, instead of a Whac-A-Mole. "Hey, go. now we have to do this thing and that thing." You know? But I think that's a process because we are taking off the scales of public education and our modern system. And it really is like an onion. We're just trying to get down to the core. And, you know, it takes time. And I'm even reading and going, "Oh, I wish I would have known that before." You know, it's always like that.
Jeannie Fulbright I continue to just immerse myself in Charlotte Mason's series, because when you're a busy homeschool mom--especially when you're writing books and speaking around the country--I did not have time to really immerse myself in her series. I read the first book and a couple of other books (the first two...maybe the first three), but then it was actually book four, five, and six that are like, "Wow, why didn't I know this?!" And I feel like I implemented that with my children naturally, because we had let go of the system. But to know the divine life of the child, the divine curiosity of the child, all the personhood of the child, all of these things are so foundational and give us such peace in our homeschooling. It just takes away the pressure and puts it all on God, which I love.
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Jeannie Fulbright So you talk about attitude and setting expectations when you're talking about going out in nature. Can you explain what you mean about that?
Joy Cherrick Yeah. So, you know, it really is... I just find so often that my attitude falls onto my kid's weather... Even if I'm trying to put on a good face, or whatever, they just pick up whatever my... It's that atmosphere that Mason talks about. Education is an atmosphere, and our children imitate what we do. You know, for good or for ill. And so I just found if I am properly dressed for the occasion, whether it's hot and I am dressed to get dirty or it's cold and I have the proper attire to make myself warm and not complaining, then it really helps get everything off on the right foot.
Jeannie Fulbright Yeah, that's good. That's good. And you talk about mom as co-learner and bringing humility into the equation. Can you explain that?
Joy Cherrick Yeah. So this kind of goes back to what we were talking about earlier with learning together. That if we think that we know everything, then our children will start to take on that same attitude. Because once you start getting into nature study, you start realizing that there are people who study trees for their whole life and then they still don't know all the names of all the trees. You know, there's just still so much that we don't know as humans about God's creation. I love that this bird expert we found at a local park... He was there collecting birds and tagging them. He was catching them... Tree swallows come to our area. They come down from...
Jeannie Fulbright He was banding birds.
Joy Cherrick He was banding them, yes. And I was asking him questions and he goes, "You know, we just don't know why they do that or why it's there." And I just was so floored that this expert... Here I am with a university professor bird expert and he didn't know the answer to just anything that could come to my mind. I was like, "Surely I don't even have enough questions that you couldn't answer. You know, I'm just a novice here." And I just love that, that there's still so much that we have to learn. And that we need to take that posture of humility to be learners with our kids.
Jeannie Fulbright Yes, that is so true. Just not posing as some expert teacher. "And we're going to teach these little people all this wisdom that we have." But just knowing that, "You know what, I don't know. We're going to learn together.".
Joy Cherrick Right! Let's go look it up. Yeah!
Jeannie Fulbright Let's find out together. I love that.
Joy Cherrick Well, I think it can be really stifling for moms, because that's another reason why a lot of people, I think, don't do nature study is because there's so much they don't know. "How am I going to teach my child?" And that's why it goes back to picking the one thing and just taking one step at a time. That "little drops of water, little grains of sand, makes the mighty ocean and the pleasant land." We're just building little by little. We don't have to know everything. Just learn the one thing we know.
Jeannie Fulbright And you also mention the question, "I wonder?". And...
Jeannie Fulbright Mmm Hmm.
Joy Cherrick Go ahead.
Joy Cherrick Yeah! "I wonder?" Yeah, that's a great question, because a lot of times you'll ask questions that don't have answers, or you can start getting the children wondering, "Oh, I wonder about that. I don't know. How does it do that?" And you can just let it sit there.
Jeannie Fulbright Yeah, John Muir Laws has the three questions that he tells people. He's the nature journaling expert. And he says, "I notice. I wonder. It reminds me of." And if you can get your kids to go outside and think, "I notice: What do I notice? When I notice that, what do I wonder about it? And then what does it remind me of?" And I think that's just a great way to get your children to really begin thinking when they're out in nature, rather than just not looking, not noticing, not paying attention.
Joy Cherrick Right, and then it also gives them something to put in their journal. They can just write, if they're a writer, they can write those words. And then the other thing I think is important is watching our phone use. Really moms applying our own habit of attention when we're outside and not... My kids get so frustrated, "Mom, why don't you have your phone? We can't take a picture of this thing." And I'm like, "Because I don't want it around it. It talks too much. It's too loud.".
Jeannie Fulbright It is a distraction.
Joy Cherrick So, I think it's really important to be mindful of what that time can look like because again, going back to atmosphere of discipline in life, this is one of those things that shapes all of those. It shapes the atmosphere that the children experience and that we experience. It allows us to be more present. And then it's a discipline to contain either the phone or even our own habit of attention, which helps to give us a life of time together and these fun memories that we can enjoy with our children.
Jeannie Fulbright I agree. And, you know, they actually did a study and they found that if you spend 20 minutes in nature, your mind actually goes into a different brainwave activity called theta. And theta is that really important brainwave activity that involves creativity and problem-solving. And actually, if you spend more time in theta, you actually do better when you're doing your academics and you're doing all these other things in life. It helps you to come fully equipped brainwave activity wise if you spend time in theta. And that's actually the brainwave activity you have when you're kind of awake in the morning but not fully awake, and you have all those creative ideas, that's theta. And people don't go into theta anymore because they don't go outside. And in this study they found that people who went outside for 20 minutes but had their phone with them never went into theta.
Joy Cherrick Oh, wow, that's that's a really helpful study to know about.
Jeannie Fulbright Yeah, I'll send you the link to it. So, you talk about making... You tell us about making science books accessible for them to learn on their own. And you did talk a little bit about how your children have their books, that they go and they study and then they come back and tell you all these wonderful things. My children did the same. I remember when I was writing my Zoology III book and my son said, "What are you writing?" I said, "Oh, I'm writing about alligators." And then he just started rattling off all these facts that weren't in anything I was researching, but had been in the books he was learning. And so tell us about how you go about making sure that happens.
Joy Cherrick Sure, so when we pick our topics for this school year--for our nature study topics--I will buy books on that subject. So with the younger kids, I usually like to buy the Gail Gibbons books. She's got some really great picture books that explain the basics of whatever the topic is.
Jeannie Fulbright And we'll link those in our show notes just for you all to know about.
Joy Cherrick Perfect! Yes. And so then I have those available, so then they can be doing some learning on their own. I might do some of them. I might read aloud. And then we do also include... I don't know, I have so many, it depends on what topic. But the point is I'm buying the books at the beginning of the school year, if I don't have books on that subject, and then I put them in a place in our home where the kids can grab. They can just pull them out. And sometimes I'll face them out like a librarian would just because then they will definitely pick them up and they'll just start flipping through them and then they'll start telling me about all the great things that they're learning about in the books. And that is how you have... Again, you're creating a learning environment that the kids can do just kind of by the way. It's not a structured time that they need to sit down and read this. Now, my older kids do, like I said, they do have assignments, but it's both/and.
Jeannie Fulbright Yeah of course! And a lot of times they'll have their free time and they'll focus in on those things that they want to learn more about. And I just loved... The way my kids utilized their free time was to delve deep into the things that were their special interests. So you also talk about allowing children the freedom to explore and climb trees and be free in nature. Of course, Charlotte Mason says that's the most important part of going out in nature is let them run and shout and wave their arms and and be free. That's the most important part. So tell us more about how you do that.
Joy Cherrick Well, I think, it really depends on where you live. So in our last home, we had an uninspiring neighborhood. So we would go on a weekly basis to different parks or different recreation areas so the kids could run through the woods or go down and play at a creek. You know, there's sometimes that there really has to be that intentional, you're all driving somewhere to get the kids that access to nature that they need. In our new home, in our new neighborhood, there's a lot more access to nature just right outside our door. So again, it's just getting into those habits of, "Okay, now after dinner we're going to go for a walk (mom and dad), and you guys can play in the woods." But it's looking at what your limitations are. Sometimes time is your limitation. Sometimes just resources as far as the stuff that's available. Weather. But being purposeful and mindful about that. Paying attention. "Okay, is it really hot in the afternoons? Okay, then maybe school needs to be during the hottest part of the day and we need to get outside the morning first thing." So it's just looking at each person's opportunities or challenges and just making those adjustments, because it is a priority and it is something that will enrich everyone's life. And children need it. I mean, they need to be outside. They need to be touching dirt. They need to be barefoot and jumping off of stuff.
Jeannie Fulbright Yeah, I would say I live in an uninspiring neighborhood subdivision. And so what I did was we moved into the house and we had this pristine backyard grass. Well, I let my kids dig holes in the mud, digging up the grass. By the time we lived there four years, there was no grass. And that's fine. We let trees grow and bushes. I planted wildflowers. We made it into a habitat. And sometimes having to let go of the need to have a perfect backyard is an important part of nature study. Because if your backyard can be a wonderful nature study habitat, then you've got a win win there.
Joy Cherrick Yeah, but not everybody can do that. You just have to take what you have and make the best of it.
Jeannie Fulbright Of course. So let's move on to... Let's finish up with nature journaling. You have very, very specific and beautiful ideas for nature journaling in your guides. And I love that. I just think that is such a helpful tool for moms because I think that moms struggle with the nature journaling and how to go about it, how to implement it. What do you feel are the biggest obstacles for homeschoolers when they're trying to implement nature journaling?
Joy Cherrick Well, I think there's a couple. I hear often moms say, "Oh, we can do it at home? We don't have to just do it out in the field?" You know, on Instagram, I think everybody sees these idyllic pictures of children sitting down with their journals. Well, then they don't see the nature journal afterwards that, no, the kid was just doodling. Or they didn't even really make it look like a flower, it looks more like a marshmallow. And this is just understanding the stages of development for kids. So often with those younger ones, they will draw their best and then mom will go in and and write in the name and write in the date and just help them start to understand what needs to be even on there. And then in my nature study hacking books, I have many different types of nature journal entries. I went through John Muir Laws' book. I went through... Oh, I forget his name. Leslie... Clare Walker Leslie. I went through his books and just really looked at, "Okay, what are the different types of nature journal entries that are available for us to even do?" And I picked 12 and we're cycling through all those different types of journal entries: Drawing a map. Finding a poem that you like about your subject, and let's find it and just copy it into the nature journal. Taking a specimen like a seed and just creating a study page of the different sizes of development for that particular specimen. So all of these things just help equip families so that they have some options. It's not like... My hope is that once you start going through the Nature Study Hacking series, then you'll be fully equipped to go out in nature on your own and really take it on as your own. It's a tool to kind of help you get started.
Jeannie Fulbright To develop a habit of nature journalling so that you are equipped to take that habit out into nature on your own. And you have put a lot of work into these, Joy. It is so obvious and I am just so thankful that you have created this tool for homeschool moms because it is needed. It was the missing big gap in the Charlotte Mason homeschool world. And I love that you have filled that gap. And can you just tell us what subjects you're... First of all, I want everybody to know she's offering a special coupon code for my listeners... And just tell us what subjects that your nature study guides cover.
Joy Cherrick Sure. We have: Birds, Insects, Mammals, Trees, Weather, Wind & Water, Wildflowers, Cultivated Crops & Weeds, and Stars & Skies. And then I do have some workshops. I have one workshop for Teaching Trees with Confidence. So that's one workshop. And then I have a How to Start a Nature Group workshop as well, if that was something that you were trying to get started. And I will have a free--and we'll have this linked below as well--a free How to Teach Keeping a Nature Journal with Confidence workshop that you guys can check out and it'll go into a lot more detail about the different ages and stages and you'll get a free download with that workshop for all of the different nature journal entries that are available.
Jeannie Fulbright Amazing! And when are you going to be... This podcast, I believe, is going to be dropping on the 11th. When is your nature study workshop?
Joy Cherrick So that'll be just available for people... When this goes live, it'll have already happened live, so they can watch the replay.
Jeannie Fulbright Okay, great. And what is your coupon code?
Joy Cherrick Oh, yes, it's CHARLOTTE.
Jeannie Fulbright CHARLOTTE. All caps, right?
Joy Cherrick Yes, exactly.
Jeannie Fulbright Well, and I want to remind everyone that I sell beautiful heirloom-quality nature journals on my website, and I'm also offering a special coupon code just for my listeners. And the coupon code is called JoyInNature, which gives a little nod to our beautiful guest. And I just want to thank you so much for joining us today, Joy. You have really poured your heart into the homeschool community, and I feel like you've really helped a lot of homeschoolers today to wrap their minds around this elusive thing called nature study.
Joy Cherrick Well, thank you so much for having me, Jeannie. It was great fun.
Jeannie Fulbright Hey, to simplify your homeschool, I created a Charlotte Mason daily and weekly checklist. To get it, all you have to do is sign up for my newsletter on my website, JeannieFulbright.com. If you haven't already, join my Charlotte Mason Christian Homeschool Facebook group with thousands of Charlotte Mason homeschoolers, both new and old, share ideas, curriculum suggestions, encouragement, and community. And be sure to follow me on TikTok, Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram. And on Instagram, you can also follow this podcast @HomeschoolingDotMom. And please subscribe to the podcast. And it would be so great if you leave us a review, only if you enjoyed the show. Just kidding. But it really does help us to reach more listeners and to add more to the ranks of the Charlotte Mason community. One last thing— have you been to a Great Homeschool Convention? They are amazing. The Great Homeschool Conventions are incredible events where thousands of homeschoolers meet to hear amazing speakers, hundreds of workshops covering every topic possible, and you can get your hands on all that amazing Charlotte Mason curriculum. Go to the GreatHomeschoolConventions.com to learn more. Have a blessed day and may you experience the joy of the Lord as you homeschool your children.