Have you been curious about nature schooling, wild schooling, earth schooling, or forest schools? Do your kids love being outside and learning outdoors? If you want to know more about nature-based schools, homeschooling, and education, you’re in the right place.
What Is Nature Schooling?
Nature schooling is rooted in the belief that nature is the best classroom. It emphasizes the importance of connecting children with the natural world and nurturing their physical, emotional, and intellectual development through nature-based experiences. For homeschooling parents, this experiential learning approach offers flexibility and limitless opportunities for hands-on learning.
Unlike traditional schools, Nature Schooling emphasizes immersion in nature and hands-on activities. This encourages children to explore, discover, and learn from their surroundings. This educational method represents a holistic approach to education that harnesses the power of nature to foster learning and personal development.
Nature-Based Education Methods: Discover Helpful Information & Resources: Books, Videos, Curriculum, Websites & Podcast Episodes
As a homeschooling parent, you have a unique opportunity to provide your children with a holistic and nature-centric education that goes beyond traditional classroom boundaries. This article has information about nature-based approaches, outdoor homeschool curriculum, and inspiration to help you create an outdoor learning center.
This comprehensive article includes helpful information about nature-inspired educational approaches.
- Nature Schooling
- Wild Schooling (wildschooling)
- Earth Schooling
- Forest Schools
- Outdoor Schooling
- Books About Nature-Based Education
- Outdoor Homeschool Curriculum
- Backyard, Learning Center & Outdoor Classroom Ideas
- Items & Toys for Outdoor Learning Spaces
While some homeschooling parents fully incorporate these nature-based educational philosophies, others take inspiration and implement components in a way that works for their family. In this comprehensive guide, we will explore the concept of nature schooling, its benefits, and how to include it in your homeschool journey.
What’s In Common? Nature-Inspired Education Approaches
While some differences exist between wild, earth, outdoor, and forest schooling, the common tenant is that education happens in a natural environment. This article uses the term Nature Schooling to encompass all nature-based education methods. These methods are all educational philosophies that place the natural world at the center of learning.
Nature schooling emphasizes child-led learning, exploration, and risk-taking. Children can work independently or cooperatively with their peers. Educators and parents act more as guides and resources than all-knowing teachers at the head of the helm.
Nature-inspired educational approaches immerse students in nature and draw inspiration from various educational philosophies that we’ll explain in this article.
Benefits of Nature Schooling
Many outdoor learning benefits occur when education takes place in natural settings. Whether you call it nature schooling, wild schooling, earth schooling, outdoor schooling, or forest schooling, there are many benefits to outdoor learning.
- Enhanced Learning: Nature schooling encourages curiosity and exploration, which can lead to more profound and lasting learning experiences. Students often develop a keen sense of observation and problem-solving skills while engaging with the natural world.
- Physical Health and Mental Health: Spending time in outdoor environments promotes physical activity, reduces stress, and enhances overall well-being. Nature schools can improve mental health by providing a calming and nurturing environment. In addition, children learn how to assess their bodies and minimize risk within nature.
- Emotional Resilience and Adaptability: Spending time in the great outdoors helps students develop emotional resilience. In nature, children learn to adapt to changing weather conditions, overcome challenges, and manage their emotions effectively.
- Empathy and Compassion: Through nature-based lessons and wildlife observation, students develop empathy and compassion for animals and the environment, which can extend to their interactions with people.
- Environmental Stewardship: Immersing children in nature fosters a deep appreciation for the environment and a sense of responsibility toward its preservation. This can help create a generation of environmentally conscious individuals.
- Confidence & Independent Thinking: One of the remarkable benefits of nature schooled kids is their capacity for independent thinking and problem solving. By immersing learners in the natural world and encouraging them to explore, observe, and make decisions based on their observations, nature schooling fosters a sense of autonomy, confidence, and self-reliance.
- Leadership and Social Skills: Natural schooling often involves collaborative activities, helping students develop leadership skills, teamwork, and effective communication. Children also learn to respect and care for one another and their surroundings.
- Academic Excellence: Research has shown that homeschooled students engaged in nature schooling often perform exceptionally well in language arts, science, and other subjects.
- Enhanced Creativity: Nature schooling encourages students to engage in creative play and artistic activities inspired by the natural world, fostering imagination and artistic expression.
- Holistic Development & Happiness: Nature schooling promotes holistic development by engaging all the senses and fostering a deep connection to the natural world, leading to higher levels of general happiness.
Outdoor Learning on the HomeSchool ThinkTank Parenting Podcast
In this enlightening podcast episode, we delve into the world of outdoor education, exploring the Forest School and Wildschooling approaches as innovative methods for homeschooling your children. Discover how these nature-centric approaches can foster holistic development, environmental awareness, and a profound connection to the natural world. Get ready to embark on an educational journey that takes your homeschooling experience beyond the traditional classroom and into the great outdoors.
- Listen Now: Learning Outdoors: Forest School and Wildschooling Approaches to Homeschooling Your Kids
Your Go-To Homeschooling Podcast!
Each week, we share two podcast episodes that are designed to inspire and help homeschooling parents. You can listen to the HomeSchool ThinkTank Parenting Podcast nearly anywhere that podcasts are played.
Outdoor Learning, Nature, and Homeschooling
While nature schooling is rooted in the belief that nature is the best classroom, the reality of everyday living means that most homeschoolers won’t be living in the woods or outside all of the time. That said, it’s a good idea to incorporate nature into your lifestyle as much as possible.
This section provides practical guidance to integrate learning with nature into your homeschool routine.
- Find a Suitable Location: Look for natural spaces like forests, open lands, gardens, a local park, or a nature education center where you can conduct nature schooling activities. Ensure the location is safe and accessible for your children or homeschool group.
- Designing Outdoor Nature-Centric Learning Spaces: Whether you design your backyard with nature schooling in mind or you form a community space with other homeschoolers, it’s possible to create a convenient, safe, and natural outdoor area for your homeschooled family and friends.
- Create Indoor Nature-Centric Learning Spaces: Establish indoor spaces and activities to encourage exploration and engagement with the natural world. Include plants, rocks, and elements of nature inside your home or homeschool community center.
- Child-Led Learning: Remember that learning does not have to be adult-led. Nature schooling allows children to be curious, explore, and learn naturally.
- Curriculum Design: While child-led learning is an important component of nature schooling, curriculum can help ensure that important concepts are taught. Develop or choose a curriculum that aligns with your educational goals while embracing the principles of nature-based education. Consider the age and interests of your children or students when planning lessons.
- Safety First: Prioritize safety by establishing clear guidelines and protocols for outdoor activities. Teach students about potential risks and how to navigate them safely.
- Engage with Nature: Encourage students to interact with nature actively. Adventure days and field trips that include hiking, wildlife observation, plant identification, nature walks, and free play opportunities are great ideas for homeschool outings. Also, consider nature-inspired arts and crafts.
- Document and Reflect: Encourage students to journal or create nature diaries to document their experiences and observations. Reflection is an essential part of the learning process.
- Community Involvement: Collaborate with local organizations, community leaders, educators, naturalists, and parents. This will help you create meaningful connections and enhance the nature schooling experience. Guest speakers and field trips can provide valuable insights.
Types of Nature Schooling: Wild Schooling, Earth Schooling, Outdoor Schooling & Forest Schools
Within the realm of nature schooling, it’s essential to recognize that wild schooling, earth schooling, outdoor schooling, and forest schooling represent different styles of education. Each type of nature schooling offers its unique approach and focus.
Wild Schooling, for instance, is characterized by its emphasis on child-led exploration, relationships, and emergent learning in untamed environments. In contrast, Earth Schooling centers on ecological education, grounding students in a profound understanding of the Earth’s systems and interconnectedness, promoting environmental stewardship. Meanwhile, Forest Schooling immerses learners in woodland environments, harnessing the calming influence of trees and natural surroundings while emphasizing outdoor play and sensory experiences. Finally, Outdoor Schooling may occur in natural open spaces. Likewise, green spaces with natural elements can be created for an outdoor school or educational program.
By acknowledging these subtleties, educators and parents can tailor their nature-school approaches to align with specific learning goals and the unique needs of their students and children.
Wildschooling: Fostering a Love for Nature
Nicolette Sowder is widely recognized as the creator of Wildschooling. She coined wildschooling to describe an educational approach that encourages children to explore and learn in nature’s wild, unstructured environments. While this approach was created with home educators in mind, it can be incorporated into a variety of programs or your family’s lifestyle.
Wildschooling is not just an educational framework; it’s a movement that celebrates a deep connection with nature and encourages the inner wild spirit to thrive. Wildschooling draws inspiration from various sources, including the following.
- 8 Shields Model
- Charlotte Mason
- Earth Schooling
- Forest School
- Indigenous Knowledge & Traditions
- Mother Nature
- Peaceful Parenting
- Permaculture Principles
- Place-Based Education
- Reggio Emilia Approach
- Self-Reg (Stuart Shanker)
- Waldorf Education
Wild schooling values the importance of spending time in nature as a crucial element in children’s education. This type of education transcends traditional curricula and nurtures a strong bond between individuals and the natural world. Wildschooling fosters a holistic and nature-centric approach to learning.
Note: While Nicolette Sowder combined wild + schooling into the compound word wildschooling, both ways of spelling wild schooling are commonly used.
Earth Schooling: An Educational Connection to Nature
While our research shows that curriculum is what you’ll find in an online search about Earth Schooling, at HomeSchool ThinkTank, we believe there is a difference between an educational philosophy and curriculum. While this section explains the philosophy of Earth Schooling, you’ll find curriculum and resources further down this page.
As an educational philosophy, we define Earth Schooling in the following way. Earth Schooling seeks to forge a profound bond between students and the environment, instilling ecological awareness, a sense of stewardship, and a holistic understanding of the world.
One of Earth Schooling’s central objectives is to cultivate environmental stewardship. Students become active participants in ecological conservation, learning about sustainability and engaging in hands-on projects to protect the planet. In an era where environmental challenges loom large, Earth Schooling equips students with the knowledge, skills, and motivation to become responsible global citizens who passionately advocate for the planet’s well-being.
Forest schools originated with Ella Flautauin in Denmark in the 1950s and grew in popularity due to Goesta Frohm’s idea of “Skogsmulle” in 1957. Frohm created four fictional characters that helped children learn about nature, water, mountains, and pollution. This idea transitioned into “Rain or Shine Schools.” Now known as Forest Schooling, this method of education is well-known in the United Kingdom and is becoming more popular in other countries as well. While forest schools began as nature preschools, now they frequently extend well into childhood.
Forest schools remain a vibrant and evolving educational approach where children have imaginative play and learn in natural environments. These schools are celebrated for fostering holistic development, play-based education, critical thinking, and emotional resilience. By empowering students to explore and connect with nature, forest schools offer a timeless educational experience that nurtures environmental consciousness and a lifelong love for the natural world.
To integrate forest schooling into homeschooling, parents can start by identifying nearby natural areas for outdoor lessons and play-based learning. Plan regular nature outings, adjust the curriculum to include nature-based subjects, invite other homeschoolers to join you, and encourage child-led exploration. Incorporating forest schooling into your homeschool routine will nurture your child’s curiosity and love for the natural world.
Books About Forest Schooling on Amazon
- Forest School Adventure: Outdoor Skills and Play for Children by Dan Westall and Naomi Walmsley
- Play The Forest School Way: Woodland Games and Crafts for Adventurous Kids by Jane Worrell and Peter Houghton
- A Year of Forest School: Outdoor Play and Skill-Building Fun for Every Season by Jane Worroll and Peter Houghton
Video: Introduction to Forest School
There are two ways to view outdoor schooling. Outdoor schooling can be seen as a form of outdoor education and immersive experiences. The other way to view outdoor schooling is to do school outside.
In the true interest of the phrase, outdoor schooling extends learning beyond conventional classrooms, immersing students in nature’s rich educational environment through experiential activities like hiking, gardening, and wildlife observation. This approach enhances academics, fosters holistic development, and cultivates a deep connection to the environment.
When viewing outdoor schooling as doing school outdoors, the intent is for children to learn in calming, natural-feeling spaces where they also get plenty of fresh air, sunshine, and outdoor time. As educators and parents increasingly recognize the advantages of outdoor schooling, the approach continues to gain popularity. Schools are incorporating outdoor classrooms, nature-based curricula, and outdoor education programs into their offerings. Homeschooling families are also embracing the opportunity to learn outdoors.
Your Outdoor Classroom & Outdoor Learning Center Ideas
Whether you want to make your backyard more inviting for playful learning or you want to create an outdoor learning center for a homeschool group or classroom, here are a few things to keep in mind.
- Incorporate a variety of natural elements. Trees, plants, boulders, river rock, gravel, sand, dirt, grass, and water are materials you might want to include.
- Strive for a multi-sensory experience. Consider sight, smell, sound, touch, and taste. Plant foilage with a variety of colors, include plants that have different scents. Add a water feature for calming sounds, include rocks with different textures, and plant a vegetable garden.
- Create spaces for movement and noise and spaces for quiet and calm. Children need space where they can run, yell, and play games. In addition, kids need space to relax, reflect, and enjoy quiet activities outdoors.
- Incorporate materials that can be used in many different ways. Integrate natural elements like stumps, branches, and rocks that can be moved and used creatively. Depending on the age of your children, you can also include man-made tools like buckets, shovels, blocks, boards, hammers, and nails. Also, consider items or toys that can be used in various ways: blocks, animal figurines, and kitchen toys.
- Focus on creating possibilities. Allow your children as much freedom to use supplies in creative ways as possible. You want to supply your children with open-ended toys, space, and materials that can be used in many different ways.
p.s. You’ll see it near the bottom of this page.
Nature-Inspired & Outdoor Homeschool Curriculum
- Backpack Sciences: This science curriculum has done-for-you online lesson plans, videos, and activity ideas that are perfect for homeschool parents & elementary educators who want to feel confident teaching high-level science concepts.
- The BEarth Institute: Earthschooling is a globally-used, comprehensive Waldorf homeschool curriculum that offers an earth-based, hands-on approach.
- Charlotte Mason Method: This is an educational approach that emphasizes a living books curriculum, nature study, short lessons, and narration to foster a rich, literature-based education for children.
- Educating Outside: Curriculum-Linked Learning Ideas for Primary Teachers by Helen Porter
- Local Outdoor Programs: While you’ll find plenty of resources online, the best way to get outside is within your local community. Check with other homeschoolers, a local nature center, community gardens, and outdoor learning programs for nature-based learning opportunities.
- Oak Meadow: Offers an experience-based full curriculum for homeschoolers that includes outdoor activities and exploration.
- Project Learning Tree: A program that offers environmental education curriculum resources for all ages.
- Waldorf Education Books
- The Education of the Child: And Early Lectures on Education (CW 293 & 66) (Foundations of Waldorf Education, 25) by Rudolf Steiner (Author), Mary Adams (Translator), Robert F. Lathe (Translator), Nancy Parsons Whittaker (Translator), Rita Stebbing (Translator), Christopher Bamford (Introduction)
- Understanding Waldorf Education: Teaching from the Inside Out by Jack Petrash
Books About Nature & Children for Parents
The books below are sold on Amazon.
- Coyote’s Guide to Connecting with Nature by Jon Young, Evan McGown, Ellen Haas
- Finding Ecohappiness: Fun Nature Activities to Help Your Kids Feel Happier and Calmer by Sandi Schwartz
- Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children From Nature-Deficit Disorder by Richard Louv
- Nature Preschools and Forest Kindergartens: The Handbook for Outdoor Learning Illustrated Edition, by David Sobel (Editor), Patti Bailie (Contributor), Ken Finch (Contributor), Erin Kenny (Contributor), Ann Stires (Contributor)
- Our Wild Calling: How Connecting with Animals Can Transform Our Lives—and Save Theirs by Richard Lou
- The Outdoor Life of Children: The Importance of Nature Study and Outside Activities by Charlotte M Mason (Author), Deborah Taylor-Hough (Foreword)
- Vitamin N: The Essential Guide to a Nature-Rich Life by Richard Louv
Nature Deficit Disorder
You’ll notice that several of the books above are by Richard Louv. He coined the phrase Nature-Deficit Disorder® and introduced it in his book, “Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder.” While Nature Deficit Disorder is not a medical disorder, it explains how people today spend more time with technology and less time in nature.
Spending less time in nature has caused a host of problems, including the following:
- Difficulty with attention
- Diminished use of the senses
- Emotional illnesses rising
- Obesity and associated illness and risks
- Physical illnesses rising
Below are some of the reasons people are spending less time in nature:
- Diminished importance of the natural world in private and public school
- Expansion of electronic communications and digital screens
- Disappearance of open space
- Fearful parenting caused by the magnification of events in the media
- Poor urban planning leads to urban settings without open or natural spaces
- Rising street traffic
Video: Benefits of Nature on Mental Health
Simply About Nature: Books for Teens & Adults
- Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and the Teachings of Plants by Robin Wall Kimmerer
- Cultural Emergence: A Toolkit for Transforming Ourselves & the World by Looby Macnamara
- The Lost Art of Reading Nature’s Signs: Use Outdoor Clues to Find Your Way, Predict the Weather, Locate Water, Track Animals—and Other Forgotten Skills by Tristan Gooley
- Nature Book Series (4-book series) by Scott Stillman
- The Nature Fix: Why Nature Makes Us Happier, Healthier, and More Creative by Florence Williams
- The Nature of Nature: Why We Need the Wild by Enric Sala
- Your Guide to Forest Bathing: Experience the Healing Power of Nature by M. Amos Clifford
Nature-Inspired Books & Workbooks for Children
The following children’s nature books & workbooks are sold on Amazon.
- Backpack Explorer: On the Nature Trail: What Will You Find? by Editors of Storey Publishing
- Common Backyard Birds: Outdoor Nature Book by Doris Dumrauf
- Earthways: Simple Environmental Activities for Young Children by Carol Petrash (Author), Donald Cook (Illustrator)
- Exploring for Kids Activity Books and Journals (6 Books) by Kim Andrews
- Handbook of Nature Study by Anna Botsford Comstock
- How to Teach Nature Journaling: Curiosity, Wonder, Attention by John Muir Laws (Author), Emilie Lygren (Author), Amy Tan (Foreword)
- The Laws Guide to Nature Drawing and Journaling by John Muir Lawhttps://amzn.to/3FbZhpH
- Nature Anatomy: The Curious Parts and Pieces of the Natural World by Julia Rothman
- The Nature Connection: An Outdoor Workbook for Kids, Families, and Classrooms by Clare Walker Leslie
- Nature School: Lessons and Activities to Inspire Children’s Love for Everything Wild by Lauren Giordano , Stephanie Hathaway , et al.
- Outdoor Science Lab for Kids: 52 Family-Friendly Experiments for the Yard, Garden, Playground, and Park by Liz Lee Heinecke
- Ultimate Explorer Field Guides (7 books) by Julie Beer
- Up in the Garden and Down in the Dirt: (Nature Book for Kids, Gardening and Vegetable Planting, Outdoor Nature Book) by Kate Messner (Author), Christopher Silas Neal (Illustrator)
Illustrated Children’s Books About Nature
We suggest reading these picture books to your kids.
- Because of an Acorn: Nature Autumn Books for Children by Lola M. Schaefer , Adam Schaefer, et al.
- Tall Tall Tree: A Nature Book for Kids About Forest Habitats (A Rhyming Counting Book with STEAM Activities) by Anthony D. Fredericks (Author), Chad Wallace (Illustrator)
- Tree Full of Wonder: An Educational, Rhyming Book About the Magic of Trees for Children by Anna Smithers , Laura Bingham, et al.
- A Walk Through the Woods by Louise Greig (Author), Helen Musselwhite (Illustrator)
- What’s Inside A Flower?: And Other Questions About Science & Nature by Rachel Ignotofsky
Science People with David Lee Csicsko
Science People by David Lee Csicsko is a colorful and engaging children’s picture book that introduces young readers to a diverse array of scientists from various backgrounds and fields, showcasing their contributions to science and inspiring curiosity about the world.
Spaces for Learning & Playing: Items You Can Buy on Amazon
Here are some outdoor learning center ideas for your backyard, homeschool co-op, or classroom.
- Chimes: Add pleasant sounds with chimes to your outdoor spaces.
- Easels for Outdoors: Don’t let your canvas blow away! Make sure your easel can secure your child’s paper or canvas.
- Gardening for Kids: Help your child grow their own flowers and food!
- Hammock Chair: Chair-style hammocks are awesome because it’s easy to turn away from the sun, and most only need one branch to hang from. Adults love relaxing in them, and kids love swinging in them.
- Kitchen Toys: Children love to prepare meals and pretend to feed each other and their dolls.
- Open-Ended Outdoor Toys: Open-ended toys don’t have a singular purpose and can be used in many ways.
- Outdoor Children’s Furniture: An outdoor learning environment is more comfortable with child-sized furniture.
- Outdoor Curtains: Block the sun and divide spaces with outdoor curtains.
- Outdoor Furniture for You: While we focus on the kids here, adults will enjoy the outdoors more with comfortable furniture.
- Outdoor Rugs: Make the outdoors more comfortable for playing on the ground.
- Outdoor Tables: Kids will use an outdoor table for everything from an outdoor lesson, to art projects to playing kitchen.
- Outdoor Toy Storage: Contain your children’s play equipment.
- Play House: Make the outdoors more fun with a playhouse. Children love imitating the world of adults by pretending to have their own home.
- Rock Climbing Walls: While safety should always be a priority, you can build your own climbing wall in your own backyard.
- Rope Ladders: Ladders appeal to many kids and parents more than rope swings.
- Rope Swings: Give your kids the opportunity to improve their arm strength with a rope swing. Be sure to provide a soft landing underneath.
- Sand Box: As a child, nothing beats spending hours making castles and roads in a sandbox. Keep your sandbox clean by getting one with a lid.
- Sand Toys: From dump trucks to buckets and shovels, you’ll find plenty of toys for kids.
- Shade: Use a sun sail anywhere you need shade.
- Sidewalk Chalk and Paint: Get washable chalk and paint and let your child paint until their heart is content.
- Stepping Stones for Kids: Set these rubber “stones” up for obstacle courses, games, and more. Kids can walk, stand, jump, or climb on rubber river stones.
- Swing Sets: When purchasing, consider the materials. Metal swing sets last longer, while wood swing sets have a more natural look.
- Tents: Kids love to play in tents. Whether you get a play tent or a real tent, it’s sure to get used.
- Tools for Kids: Children love working with tools. Whether you get them real tools or play tools, they will love fixing things!
- Troughs: Troughs aren’t just for animals. You can use them for gardens and more in your yard.
- Water Features: While you’ll want to keep your child’s safety in mind, sensory elements like water features can make the outdoors more soothing.
- Water Tables: Children can spend hours experimenting and playing with water. You can also change the table’s contents to sand, rice, beans, or any other substance that your kids find interesting.
- Workbenches for Kids: Give your child a place for their tools and watch them work.
- Zipline: Did you know that you can build your own zipline? Check out these kits.
Nature Schooling Possibilities
Nature schooling is a powerful educational approach that offers numerous benefits to students of all ages. It can be a game-changer in education by fostering a deep connection to the natural world and promoting holistic development.
Whether you’re a homeschool parent, group leader, or classroom teacher, embracing nature schooling can open up a world of possibilities for meaningful and enriching learning experiences. As you embark on this educational journey, remember that the key is to balance structured learning with unstructured exploration, allowing students to thrive in the ever-inspiring classroom of fresh air and nature.
Incorporate these principles into your nature schooling program, and you’ll be well on your way to unlocking the full potential of this innovative educational approach. Nature schooling isn’t just a trend. It’s a transformative way of learning that can shape the future for generations to come.
Leave a Comment
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More Styles of Homeschooling
Nature-Inspired Websites for Parents and Educators
These additional resources can be valuable for parents and educators interested in who are interested in nature studies and outdoor education.
- Children & Nature: Promotes the importance of connecting children with the natural world and offers resources and insights on nature-based education and experiences for young learners.
- Earth Nullschool Home Page & (About page link): This interactive platform provides real-time global weather data and atmospheric simulations, offering users a dynamic and visually immersive way to explore Earth’s weather patterns and climate.
- Forest School Association: Offers resources, training, and support for educators and parents interested in forest schools.
- Inside-Outside: This website offers resources, ideas, and guidance to help individuals and organizations connect with nature and explore the great outdoors.
- National Park Service: The National Park Service offers a multitude of programs in-person and online.
- TedEd Earth School: TED-Ed Earth School is an online learning initiative providing environmental and nature-focused lessons and activities for students and nature enthusiasts.