A lovely back to ‘school’ activity for home schoolers is to create something that links whatever you did over the summer with the return to learning in September. For me, that always includes nature.

Guernsey Lily planting

Last year we planted a giant Amaryllis bulb in September, a type of Guernsey Lily, that I bought for us to nurture indoors over the autumn term for Christmas flowering. It was a great memory of our summer break to Guernsey where the outdoor lilies are stunning, and a great nature activity too.

Guernsey Lily on its namesake island, the planted bulbs and giant ‘Hercules’ at Christmas

Driftwood art

The year before, which was our first home school year when Caroline was 5, we collected lots of shells, sea glass and beach treasures on a holiday in Cornwall during July. Caroline found a piece of flat driftwood that she planned to paint.

September was warm and sunny so we took our flotsam into the garden and decided to make some driftwood art and a seashore mobile.

Driftwood mosaic and seashore mobile

You will need:

  • Seashore treasures, shells etc
  • Flat driftwood
  • Driftwood branch or stick
  • String
  • Scissors
  • Glue


1. For the driftwood art Caroline simply glued shells and sea glass onto the wood

2. We used a Uhu-type glue which needed a little supervision but otherwise she designed and made the whole thing herself

girl-on-ground-in-garden-with-shells-and-bag-of-wool-creating-artwork3. For the seashore mobile we attached different lengths of string to our chosen items. Many of them had natural holes, ideal for tying string through

4. For those without holes we glued the string to the shells and pegged it in place while the glue dried

5. We tied the hanging pieces along a driftwood branch to swing at different lengths

6. Wild Daddy added hanging hooks and they have adorned the littlest room in the house for the past two years.

Beachcombing rules

Though I love the philosophy of taking nothing from nature except pictures and leaving nothing but footprints, there’s something irresistible about seashells. There are usually hundreds of them so it doesn’t feel so terrible collecting a few every now and then. Here are some tips for ethical, habitat-friendly beachcombing

  • Never remove live shells (e.g. mussels, limpets, periwinkles) from rocks
  • Check all shells for signs of life, even those not attached to rocks – dog whelk shells can often contain hermit crabs, and periwinkles can still be alive when not attached to rocks

Hermit crab in an old whelk, Northumberland and live yellow periwinkle, Cornwall

  • Only take what you need
  • Don’t collect all your shells from the same area, move to different areas of the beach