Completely in love with Nature Journals

Nature Journal - 5 year old

When I read about Nature Journals while studying Charlotte Mason, it was like the clouds parted and heavenly hosts sang overhead. What? Hyperbole, you say? Okay, yes. That is a slight exaggeration. Still, I loved the idea and couldn’t wait to get started.

Neither could my toddler.

B. wants in on the fun, too.

Some homeschoolers heartily recommended purchasing lovely hard bound leather sketchbooks for the children — and normally I’d agree. That’s the one thing I took from my foray into Waldorf. Children deserve the best art supplies you can buy. But sometimes all you can justify purchasing are plain old spiral sketchbooks. We used the Academie brand last year for art, and they were plenty sturdy with nice, thick pages. Plus, they lay flat whereas some of the leather books we looked at wanted to close back up in your lap.

K's nature journal.

As I wrote previously, we did spring for nicer colored pencils (best price I’ve found anywhere), and they’ve been absolutely lovely. We also finally got Stockmar Beeswax Crayons – I didn’t want to purchase them until all people in this household had ceased gnawing on writing implements. I think (knock on wood) we might actually be past that stage. Pray for us. Ha ha, I irreverently kid. It’s just, those crayons are spendy, and I will lose my cool all over the place if I see so much as one of my littles look toothily in their direction.

Ahem.

Mamas

I bought some cheapie backpacks I found on sale at Staples and they are loaded with a water bottle for each child, their notebook, and their pencil bag. We can add sack lunches if we’re going to be gone a while, and I always keep a treat in my backpack to make our Nature hunts special.

My reluctant 7 year old

We’re going to try to make utilizing our Nature Journals a weekly occurrence this year — though I am, admittedly nervous about those long, dark, dreary winter months that nearly crush me from September – June. Okay fine, more like October to the end of May. I’ve read notes from other homeschoolers up here in the frozen north & sometimes on particularly bitter days, they draw from nature guides, computer images, or even pressed flowers and leaves saved from warmer months. I’m absolutely horrible at getting us outside for fresh air during the winter, so I’m going to make a conscious effort to get everyone bundled up and outside. We can stomp around, collect things, take photos, and sketch inside where our fingers won’t freeze off.

And hey! Hot chocolate is a great motivator.

My 9 year old

I was lucky enough to score an entire set of the Draw Write Now books for a mere handful of dollars. I was so excited, you have no idea (a full set retails for 100 bones!), and they are chock full of inspiration and how-to draw ideas with plenty of animals and bugs. My daughter is using one below to learn how to draw a butterfly:

She wants to do this every day

I was also excited to score a excellent old copy of The Country Diary of an Edwardian Lady, but I think it’s more inspiring for me. The kids are at that age where they found her gorgeous watercolor paintings a bit discouraging — even my daughter sadly shook her head and said, “My pictures aren’t as good.” Well. Neither are mine, for sure. But I love seeing all of her work and her handwritten notes.

Baby birds

Hmm. I wasn’t all that succinct. (Big surprise, yes?) And probably not even that clear. Here is a great Squidoo Lens all about what Nature Journals are and how to create them. Loads of Charlotte Mason-esque sites recommend the Handbook of Nature Study, but I flipped through one and thought most of the stuff was East-coast specific. On the recommendation of the owner of Milestones Academy, I’ve enjoyed Wild Days: Creating Discovery Journals so much more.

Here’s a blog totally dedicated to helping you make Nature Journals and having adventures with them: Handbook of Nature Study. She uses the book I don’t love, but she still has lots of wonderful ideas and Outdoor Hour Challenges.

I hope at the end of this school year, our Nature Journals will be looking fat, wrinkly, and bursting with a record of our days.

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