Homeschool High School Nature Study and Making it into an Elective

Summary:  Homeschooling high school does not often include #nature study.  But ours did, and we made it into an easy #homeschool highschool elective. #homeschoolhighschool #homeschoolhighschoolelective #naturestudyforteens  This post may have affiliate links to resources that we used or would like to use in our homeschool.  Please see my disclosure policy.

We are all crazy about birds in our house.  

Often, we spent a lot of time identifying birds, learning to distinguish their calls and making bird feeders when my daughter was young.  But can we still do that in high school?  And can it count as an elective?

Bird watching is a great way to get started with nature study, during the winter months.  It can be done from the warmth of your home, just by putting up a bird feeder, and watching who comes by for a snack or a meal.

Birdwatching and simple activities like that led to an ongoing interest in bird watching, even through the teen years.  

Plus it also led to a number of related activities that my daughter enjoyed, including:

- photography
- entering nature photography contests
- making a photo notebook for bird identification
- nature journaling
- starting a small business project. 
Video Art Lessons on Birds  

These activities were put together one year, to grant my teen a high school credit in nature study-bird watching.  Below, I share about how we did that.

As I mentioned above our birdwatching and science activities started when my daughter was a little one, a preschoolers.

When my daughter was about 8, I gave my daughter a camera, and she soon she began taking pictures of birds...I enjoyed teaching her basic photography principles.  She still loved doing this in middle school.....

That led to a photo contest......

Entering Nature Contests

Cornell Universityan authority on birds and birdwatching, offered a contest that my daughter wanted to enter, with for their bird photography contest.  I helped her to find this, just by googling "nature photography contests".

To find a nature oriented contest for your young teen, Cornell now has a site that lists contests and resources at Young Birders Network.  There are a number of contests here, including the Young Birder of the Year Contest.  

These contests are not just for photography.  They also list art and essay contests related to bird watching.  

Participating in this contest added a lot to our daughter's self esteem and inspired her to continue to improve her photography skills.  It also gave her something to put under "awards" on her college application. 

Creating Photography Books 

My daughter decided to compile her pictures into a notebook of bird photos, using a simple ring notebook, report covers, and her photos, printed on thick printing paper.  This made it a frugal project, as photo quality paper was not needed.  Below, shows how she simply put together her pages...

This kind of notebook became a creative way to share birdwatching with others, inspiring her friends to begin bird identification activities, too.

Nature Journaling

Nature journaling is just the idea of putting drawings of nature and notes about plants, birds, etc, all in one place.  

Lots of families enjoy doing nature journaling, and there are tons of resources on the web, to help you get started.  Doing a nature journal fosters art skills, essay writing skills, of course nature study.

One of my favorites for getting started with a nature journal is this post by Strangers and Pilgrims on Earth.  

40 Journal Entry Ideas for your Nature Notebooks

Jes offers these 40 beautiful printables for nature journaling, with essay prompts to get you started, and all with a free download.  

Later on, that year, my daughter decided to try her hand at making nature photo cards, and this led to a small business project....

Starting a Small Business Project 

My teen learned how to make her nature photo cards, from studying online, and meeting with friends who had done this type of project in the past.  Doing this project gave her practice in a number of organizational skills, including:

selecting and purchasing supplies
organizing and planning
time management
assembling the cards
finding local sales opportunities
deciding on pricing
setting up and selling cards

All of these things were helpful task skills that teen needed to develop.  Making and selling these cards also introduced her to basic business principles.

There were many places to sell these cards, such as at local consignment stores, church rummage sales, farmer's markets, etc. And they don't have to be just photography cards.  Notecards can also be done through - drawings, paintings, stamping, or collage.  

Making the nature cards and the other activities mentioned above, easily became a homemade course which earned high school credit...

Turning it into a Homemade Course

Through the activities listed above, we were easily able to put together a course in nature photography... for high school credit.  It also counted as one of my daughter's fine arts requirements for college admissions.

To make this a high school course, we used the mastery method, and granted her one credit in nature photography.  By earning an award from Cornell's nature contest, and making a notebook of our local birds, with identifications, and participating in nature photography activities and birdwatching over the year, my daughter showed a beginning level of mastery in nature photography.

Please see my post on assigning high school credit for more info.
I loved homeschooling high school, as it not only gave my daughter a solid education, it also built lifelong hobbies and a love of nature and nature study in my graduate.  

For bird identification........Golden's Guide to Field Identification 

Would you like to have your kids learn more about specific birds through art?

These video art lessons by Chalk, are taught by a master artist and include the following birds: (Sale through Feb 16th:
  • owl
  • cardinal
  • goldfinch
  • hummingbird
  • chickadee
  • robin
  • sandpiper
  • bluebird
  • Bonus! baby bluebird and bird nest
Click here for more information, a free sample bird drawing lesson and more. 

Would you like more ideas for your teen's high school electives?

I have gathered together 100 High School Electives, full of links and information and put it into my book, Homeschooling High School with College in Mind, 2nd Edition.  

This book is an easy-to-read guide to planning high school at home and how to help them get into college.  And it really is NOT that hard!!

Homeschooling high school your way.

My book was recently selected as one of the 30 Best-Selling Homeschooling Books of All Time by the Book Authority. Thank you, Book Authority.

Click here for more information.

More high school posts are on Pinterest here: Homeschooling High School Pinterest Board.

Thanks for stopping by BJ's Homeschool,


Betsy is mom to her now college grad, whom she homeschooled through high school.  She blogs at BJ's Homeschool, about the early yearshighschool
college2e and wrote -Homeschooling High School with College in Mind, 2nd Edition,   She offers homeschool help through messages at BJ's Consulting and has had some of her articles picked up by the Huffington Post.

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  1. What a great way to connect with your teen! I love all of your ideas!

  2. Thank you, Mary Prather, of Homegrown Learners, for stopping by and for your kind comments! I enjoy linking up at Collage Friday, so that I can catch up with what's going on, on your blog!

  3. I LOVE this idea!! Perfect timing as spring has sprung around here.

  4. TFantastic, Aimee! It is getting that way here, too. We live in the pacific nw, and actually had a week full of sunshine! Hope you have a nice road trip with your teen(s). I got to go on one with mine last week,


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