Nature study, as Anna Botsford Comstock states, is just plain good for children. It awakens in them a sense of truth, fosters their sense of wonder, aids the imagination, improves health, and provides all kinds of benefits otherwise withheld in the course of an ordinary schoolday. Handbook of Nature Study has achieved classic status since its initial publication in 1911, not only for the wealth of information it contains, but for the compelling argument it makes for the essential importance of nature study in any program of learning.
The author begins with a defense of nature study and lists the many other academic disciplines it can be used to support. Then comes a nearly 1,000-page compendium of facts and information relating to the study of animals, plants, minerals and sky. This edition is profusely illustrated in black and white with drawings and photographs to aid identification, but the text contains the important material. Here you'll find information on everything from balloon spiders to carbon dioxide to seed germination, all in eminently readable prose supplemented by quotations and poetry (proving that science and art are not irreconcilable).
Frequent lists of questions challenge students to recall what they've learned and further explore material introduced in the book. The beauty of Handbook of Nature Study is that it works equally well read aloud by teachers and parents, or as a reference for kids. This is also a favorite text of many proponents of the Charlotte Mason educational approach, with its emphasis on nature study and learning by observation.
Comstock's prose style, while highly readable, isn't dumbed down or embarrassingly juvenile for older students. The author and her husband, John Henry Comstock, were respected scientists and naturalists with a passion for the wilderness and countryside. If you share that love, or at least desire it and want to foster it in your children, this is an excellent place to start.
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