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Laws Guide to Nature Drawing and Journaling for Your Homeschool

I have seen many books on nature journaling but the Laws Guide to Nature Drawing and Journaling is definitely the most thorough and potentially helpful of any book I’ve ever found for our homeschool. <<<<< This book is going to help me in my journaling and drawing skills immensely.

have seen many books on nature journaling but the Laws Guide to Nature Drawing and Journaling is definitely the most thorough and potentially helpful of any book I’ve ever found for our homeschool.

This review includes Amazon.com affiliate links. Please see our disclosure policy.

The Laws Guide to Nature Drawing and Journaling – Review

I finally received The Laws Guide to Nature Drawing and Journaling by John Muir Laws from our public library and it has taken a few weeks to get through an initial read through of this detailed and thorough book. My first reaction was one of happy surprise.

I would have been happy with this book just being a helpful “how to” sort of book with suggestions and hints for getting started with drawing in my nature journal. It was much more than I expected! The sections at the beginning of the book were a delight as they unfolded many ideas and insightful help in the philosophy and methodology behind nature journaling. Laws reminds us that careful and thoughtful observations should be the backbone of our nature study.

“Copying the journaling approaches of others will not reduce your own creativity or make you a clone of another person. You will incorporate what you find useful into your own style and discard what does not work for you.” John Muir Laws (page 63)

The Laws Guide to Nature Drawing and Journaling is full of inspiring illustrations that are not just in the book to be pretty. He breaks his example pages down to show how we can use the ideas and patterns in our own journals.

have seen many books on nature journaling but the Laws Guide to Nature Drawing and Journaling is definitely the most thorough and potentially helpful of any book I’ve ever found for our homeschool.

 

There are many, many specific drawing tutorials for everyday subjects you may encounter in your nature travels like frogs, flowers, trees, birds, and so much more. This section of the book could be the basis for a complete course in nature journaling. If my children were still homeschooling, my brain would be organizing the material so we could work through it methodically.

“Before you pick up your journal again, reform your intentions; let go of the goal of making a pretty picture. You don’t have to be good at drawing to discover amazing things through the process of journaling. John Muir Laws (page 86)

One of my favorite sections in this book is the two page spread that is titled, “A Road Map from Wishes to Practice”. On these two pages, John Muir Laws puts into words so much of what I try to encourage my blog readers to remember about journaling – everyone can draw with practice!

Use This Book to Bump Your Journaling Skills to the Next Level

If you are new to drawing or feel you don’t have a gift for drawing, this book is going to be a perfect bridge for you to get from where you are to the next level. It has specific step by step tutorials that will give you the confidence to start a practice of journaling. The author gives us all encouragement that we can take our skills to the next level with lots of practice and we will only fail if we give up or don’t try!

I highly recommend The Laws Guide to Nature Drawing and Journaling. I am going to be purchasing it to help me in my nature goal for 2017 to create a nature journal page each week. It will be a very beloved and well used book that I will keep in my personal nature reference library. I may be purchasing a few as gifts to share with some young friends I know that love nature and drawing.

have seen many books on nature journaling but the Laws Guide to Nature Drawing and Journaling is definitely the most thorough and potentially helpful of any book I’ve ever found for our homeschool.

Additional Thoughts

  • If you read this book, don’t miss the first 17 pages. There are some fundamental ideas found there that I truly think will shape my thinking about science and nature study for a long time to come. He has gathered some important ideas on these pages and I would hate to think you are going to skip them to get to the drawing tutorials.
  • He suggests using the prompts I notice, I wonder, and It reminds me of to help us go a little deeper in our nature journaling.
  • There are project ideas that help you get started as you face a blank page. Check out pages 20 and 21.
  • Although this book is written by someone who lives on the west coast of the United States, the ideas and tutorials are applicable to anyone no matter where you live.
  • There is a comprehensive supplies list with specific suggestions that I found extremely helpful. I am a firm believer that having quality materials and a variety of media to choose from makes all the difference in your results.
  • Not only does he have a list of supplies, he has pages dedicated to showing you exactly how to use the pencils, pens, colored pencils, gouche, watercolors, and watercolor pencils in your nature journal, including some common mistakes beginners make using the materials. Helpful!
  • If you have never checked out the author’s website, you NEED to: John Muir Laws.

Look for this book at your public library or put it on your Amazon wishlist!

The Laws Guide to Nature Drawing and Journaling is definitely the most thorough and potentially helpful of any book I’ve ever found for our homeschool.

first published 2017

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3 Tips for Nature Journaling When You Think You Can’t Sketch

Here is some encouragement for you with 3 tips for nature journaling when you think you can’t sketch. My personal nature journal is a source of great joy and it gives me such pleasure to create pages that record my observations and memories of a particular day, excursion, or season.

Enjoy encouragement with 3 tips for nature journaling when you think you can't sketch. Your nature journal can be a source of great joy in your homeschool.
Photo by Amy Law

This post is directed to moms who think that they can’t start a nature journal because of a lack of drawing skills.

Nature Journals For The Mom Who Doesn’t Sketch

I do very little actual sketching in my nature journal but have learned to use a variety of techniques to keep each page fresh and in touch with my personal style.

So what should you remember if you think you can’t sketch and you want to start a nature journal?

Enjoy encouragement with 3 tips for nature journaling when you think you can't sketch. Your nature journal can be a source of great joy in your homeschool.
Photo by Amy Law

3 Tips for Nature Journaling When You Think You Can’t Sketch

1. Keep it simple and don’t be afraid to get started in nature journaling.


A blank page can intimidate even the most seasoned journal-keeper. Work through your fear of failure by starting small and keeping it simple. Be a good role model. If you have children and you are encouraging them to keep a nature journal, you can empathize with their feelings of inadequacy. Be brave and your children will look to your example and be more confident about their own journals.

2. Use a variety of ideas…find something that works for you.


You are not required to sketch. Try something else. Keep a list, include an photo, copy a poem or some facts…just get started. Don’t wait. You may someday feel like sketching or watercoloring in your journal but it is not a requirement. There are no rules for nature journals. Use color and a few well placed decorations to make your journal more personalized if you feel inclined.

3. A nature journal can be a private place of joy.


Keep in mind the purpose of a nature journal and remind yourself that it is a personal keepsake and record of your thoughts and experiences. You do not need to share it with anyone…in real life or on the internet. If it makes you happy that is all that counts.

Taking it one page at a time, you will build a treasured spot for your nature study and outdoor memories.

3 Tips for Nature Journaling When You Think You Can’t Sketch - Taking it one page at a time, you will build a treasured spot for your nature study and outdoor memories.

More Nature Journal Encouragement For The Entire Family

Here are some more ideas and encouragement on nature journaling for you and your children:

first published by Barb 2012

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How to Make Leaf Rubbings

Taking the time to draw leaves helps you observe the details. For young children, a wonderful starting place for a homeschool leaf nature study is to make leaf rubbings.

When my children were young, autumn walks always included collecting colorful leaves. We might get home with handfuls of leaves in a rainbow of autumn shades. We would talk about the shapes and what tree each leaf came from or which ones were our favorites. Once home, we’d pull out crayons or markers and attempt to draw a few of the leaves on paper to be hung on the refrigerator or given as gifts to grandparents. Nature study was casual and enjoyable.

As they grew older and we would be out during our homeschool day, I would sometimes follow up with a more detailed nature study lesson using the Handbook of Nature Study or our tree field guide. The amount of information we would cover really depended on the children’s interest and my aim. By high school we were more deliberate in our autumn leaf studies using more scientific vocabulary and I expected them to create a more detailed nature journal as part of our more formal science lessons.

Learning about trees, leaves, autumn, and the neighborhood can build over many years and still seem to be just a part of learning about the world we live in and the trees that share the same space.

I love this quote from Anna Botsford Comstock:

“During autumn the attention of the children should be attracted to the leaves by their gorgeous colors. It is well to use this interest to cultivate their knowledge of the forms of leaves of trees; but the teaching of the tree species to the young child should be done quite incidentally and guardedly. If the teacher says to the child bringing a leaf, ‘This is a white-oak leaf,’ the child will soon quite unconsciously learn that leaf by name. Thus, tree study may be begun in the kindergarten or the primary grades.” Anna Botsford-Comstock

Leaf Homeschool Nature Study: How to Make Leaf Rubbings

I have many resources here on my website that will help your family learn about leaves, some for younger students and some for older and more advanced students. I’ve found that taking time to draw leaves makes you observe them closely and see the specific features each tree’s leaves involve.

I highly recommend starting with simple sketching and/or rubbing of leaves with younger children.

  • You can watch my short YouTube video that shares some of my tips for drawing leaves, how to make leaf rubbings, and using a flower press for pressing leaves here: Tips for Drawing Leaves.
  • You may wish to complete the Outdoor Hour Challenge that features collecting leaves. Click over and read how to complete a simple leaf study: Collecting Leaves.
  • Watercolor crayons demonstration – Fall Leaf for the Nature Journal. I created this YouTube video a long time ago that shows how I use watercolor crayons in my nature journal. It makes me want to go gather some leaves and do this again in my nature journal!

  • Making Leaf Prints with Ink: This activity is wonderful for older students to quickly create a leaf nature journal page using ink pads and leaves they collect.
  • Image of the cover 9/15 NL

Now that autumn is here, I’m trying to embrace its beauty. We don’t have much “fall color” here in my part of the world but the little bit we do have will be appreciated and perhaps even make its way into my nature journal.

Members can look in the library for many more printable tree and leaf activities and notebook pages in the Trees course.

Join The Homeschool Nature Study Membership for Year Round Support

You will find hundreds of homeschool nature studies plus all the Outdoor Hour Challenges in our Homeschool Nature Study membership. There are 25+ continuing courses with matching Outdoor Hour curriculum that will bring the Handbook of Nature Study to life in your homeschool! In addition, there is an interactive monthly calendar with daily nature study prompt – all at your fingertips!

Taking the time to draw leaves helps you observe the details. For young children, a wonderful starting place for a homeschool leaf nature study is to make leaf rubbings.
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Charlotte Mason Nature Study For Your Homeschool

Just how do you enjoy a Charlotte Mason nature study for your homeschool? Let’s look at some advice from Charlotte Mason herself and apply it in a simple way to our own outdoor times.

Charlotte Mason Nature Study for Your Homeschool

All quotes are from Charlotte Mason (modern English), volume 3

“One afternoon a week, the students in our ‘Practicing School’ [taught by the student teachers at Charlotte Mason’s teacher’s college] go for a ‘nature walk’ with their teacher. They notice things by themselves, and the teacher tells them the name or gives other information only if they ask for it.”

“The teachers are careful not to turn these nature walks into an opportunity to give science lessons, because they want the children’s attention to be focused on their own observations.”

“They’re allowed to notice things with very little direction from the teacher. By doing this, children accumulate a good collection of ‘common knowledge.’ ”

-Charlotte Mason

“Even more important, students learn to know and take pleasure in objects from nature like they do in the familiar faces of friends.”

-Charlotte Mason

Nature Study in Your Own Backyard

I have certainly given my share of “science lessons” during our nature walks and nature time. I am getting better about letting the children direct me to what they are curious about. I see the wisdom in allowing them to explore and learn in a way that makes sense to them, but I can be available to assist them with questions they might have. I am pretty comfortable with telling them that I don’t know the answer to their question and then find someone or some resource that does have the answer.

“The nature walk shouldn’t be used as a chance to dispense miscellaneous tidbits of scientific facts.”

-Charlotte Mason

These principles are the same whether your nature study takes place in your backyard, on the trail, or during some other nature study outing. As the parent, you set the mood. If you quietly observe your children, you will see what they are drawn to learn more about without much effort.

Try it the next time you are having your outdoor time.

Photo by Amy Law

Charlotte Mason Style Exam Questions for Homeschool High School

Several of the courses included in Homeschool Nature Study membership include Charlotte Mason style exam questions for advanced students. Author Barb McCoy says, “This series has proved to be a huge success in our family, helping to bring nature study up to a level for my teens. Also, I saw families with large age ranges of children completing the challenges together, each on their own level and enjoying it.”

You can feel free to pick and choose which questions you will give your homeschool high school student according to their interest and abilities.

You can successfully continue nature study with your teenagers. They may need some encouragement to make the study their own by adjusting your subjects, your methods of follow-up, and your attitude towards what nature study should look like.

More Resources for Charlotte Mason Nature Study Time

Besides our free Getting Started in the Outdoor Hour Challenges download, we invite you to enjoy these wonderful nature resources.

You will find hundreds of Charlotte Mason style homeschool nature studies plus all the Outdoor Hour Challenges in our Homeschool Nature Study membership.

Join The Homeschool Nature Study Membership for Year Round Support

You will find hundreds of Charlotte Mason style homeschool nature studies plus all the Outdoor Hour Challenges in our Homeschool Nature Study membership. There are 25+ continuing courses with matching Outdoor Hour curriculum that will bring the Handbook of Nature Study to life in your homeschool! In addition, there is an interactive monthly calendar with daily nature study prompt – all at your fingertips!

How do you enjoy a Charlotte Mason nature study for your homeschool? Look at advice from Charlotte Mason herself and apply it to outdoor times.
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The Homeschool Nature Journal Habit

Keeping a nature journal and building the homeschool nature journal habit can be a wonderful extension of your outdoor learning time. You will find nature journal ideas for everyone from young children to the homeschool mom!

The Homeschool Nature Journal Habit

Like all habits, the habit of keeping a nature journal starts by making it a regular part of your routine. I’ve found that families that create a simple nature journal page after their outdoor time are the most successful at keeping that habit over time. Don’t make it too complicated or overthink the process.

Many of us struggle with perfection. We think that a nature journal should be a place of beauty and value…which I agree with wholeheartedly. But, it also can be a place that we experiment and mess up from time to time. A smear here or a misspelled word or funky drawing we don’t like can also appear on a nature journal page. Those “mess ups” shouldn’t keep us from establishing a nature journaling habit.

Building the homeschool nature journal habit can be a wonderful extension of your outdoor learning time. Find nature journal ideas for everyone here!

The Benefit of Nature Journals for Young Children

I can’t emphasize enough that the single most important factor in starting a nature journaling habit in your family is the example you as the parent can set for your children. If you regularly get out your own nature journal and make entries, eventually your children will participate alongside you. Charlotte Mason wrote that if a child is too young to write or create their own journal entry, the mother can be their secretary and help them with the writing portion of a nature journal entry.

In my experience, many times after a nature walk, my kids were eager to do a sketch of something they observed while outdoors. Those pages may not be elaborate, but they are personal to the child.

See Outdoor Hour Challenge #2 Using Your Words and Outdoor Hour Challenge #3 Now is the Time to Draw for help getting started with simple nature journals with your children. If you’re a Member, you can download the Getting Started ebook for additional information and printable journal pages.

nature journal for homeschool mom
Nature Journal Page by Shirley Ann Vels https://buildingahouseholdoffaith.com/

Nature Journals for Homeschool Moms – Good Habits Start With You

It is my journal, and it can be any way that I wish it to be. When I first started journaling back in approximately 2008, I felt the pressure to make my entries pretty and artistic. The examples I could find online were by real artists and not just a regular mom like myself. I needed to stop comparing myself and just be inspired by these other nature journal pages.

Keeping a nature journal is a long-term life project. My nature journal goes with me on every trip we take….I have packed it three times to Hawaii, to Yellowstone, on countless trips to Yosemite, and on most every little day trip I make. Do I always remember to pull it out and record things? No. Do I wish I would have made more entries? Yes. There is the lesson: Once you build the habit of journaling, you will be more excited about recording all your nature experiences whether they are close to home or far away on an adventure.

If you want your drawing skills to improve, you must practice. That’s a tough one for most of us. I did not come from an artistic background so giving myself permission to try to learn to draw or paint or do anything artistic took a big shove from my husband. It took time and effort. My suggestion for people who are striving to do a better job in sketching is to go to your library and go to the children’s section first and check out “how to draw” books and use them alongside your children. I checked one out on how to draw insects and one on how to draw birds and then found some nature sketching books to try. These experiences with the book open in front of you and your sketching from the step by step instructions will eventually spill over into your nature journal. The added bonus is that you will be modeling for your children the process and the effort to nature journal. There is no magic formula, but your success is equal to the effort you are willing to put into it.

Nature Journal Resources For Your Homeschool

Simple Nature Journal Ideas (on Hubpages): This is a thorough collection of my simple to use nature journal ideas and a resource for my picks for nature journaling supplies.

Nature Journal Examples: This link will take you to a Flickr album with many nature journal pages our family has created.

Bring the Handbook of Nature Study to lIfe in your homeschool

Nature Journaling in the Handbook of Nature Study:

  • Pages 13-15 (The Field Notebook). In this section Anna Botsford Comstock helps us with a detailed description of her idea of a field notebook or nature journal. She also states that if done properly “they represent what cannot be bought or sold, personal experience in the happy world of out-of-doors”. Make note of any suggestions you want to implement with your children.
  • Page 17 (The Correlation of Nature Study and Drawing). Highlight the points that will help you with your nature journals. “Too much have we emphasized drawing as an art; it may be an art, if the one who draws is an artist; but if he is not an artist, he still has a right to draw if it pleases him to do so.”
Building the homeschool nature journal habit can be a wonderful extension of your outdoor learning time. Find nature journal ideas for everyone here!

Nature Journal Outdoor Hour Challenges in Homeschool Nature Study Membership

Outdoor Hour Challenge #3 – Now is the Time to Draw: This challenge from the free Getting Started series is a perfect way to begin small with nature journaling. Members can download the ebook and the notebook pages that go along with it to introduce a nature journal to your children.

Outdoor Hour Challenge #2 – Using Your Words: If you’re having trouble coming up with words for your nature journal, this challenge will give you some direction.

You can always use any of the printable notebook pages in the Homeschool Nature Study membership for your nature journal.

If you’re not a member yet, please consider joining to gain the benefit of having a nature study library at your fingertips. There are numerous resources available for you to help create the habit of nature study within your homeschool family.

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Ideas for Drawing in Your Nature Journal

Here are some great resources you can use as ideas for drawing in your nature journal. Several are links to coloring pages but I like their black line drawings that simplify an object so we can learn to draw them on our own in our journals.

Make sure to check out all the links even if they are from a state or habitat other than one where you currently live. Many times there are animals, plants, and birds that you will have in your location too. I don’t necessarily print the coloring book pages out and color them. We will use them as a guide to draw our own sketches of things we see in our Outdoor Hour Challenge or for our nature journal.

Ideas For Drawing in Your Nature Journal

Drawing Wildflowers in Your Nature Journal

Celebrating Wildflowers from the US Forest Service
These coloring pages are in PDF format so once you bring up the page, you can print out just the page you want and there is no need to print every page out on your printer.

Birds Homeschool Nature Study

Feeder Birds Coloring Book from Cornell
These are not only coloring pages but could actually be used as notebooking pages for your nature journal. I print out the table of contents to keep in my notebook as a reference. This way I know what birds are included in the coloring book.

How to Sketch Trees

Guide to Tree Sketching
I’ve shared this one before but it is worth listing again.

Drawing Flowers and Plants

How to Draw Flowers and Plants
Step by step to various garden flowers

Drawing Ducks

How to Draw a Duck on YouTube

Magnifying glass for a close up look at a butterfly in your homeschool nature study.

More Drawing Resources for Your Homeschool

 Here are some great resources you can use as ideas for drawing in your nature journal. Perfect for using for your homeschool nature study.

Hope there is something here that will help you with your endeavors to draw in your nature journal.

More Nature Journal Resources for Your Homeschool Nature Study

Here are several more posts I have shared on using a nature journal with your homeschool studies:

Homeschool Nature Study Membership. Bring the Handbook of Nature Study to Life in Your Homeschool!

Join Our Homeschool Nature Study Membership for Year Round Support

You will find a continuing series on nature journaling plus all the Outdoor Hour Challenges for nature study in our Homeschool Nature Study membership. Plus 25+ continuing courses with matching curriculum that will bring the Handbook of Nature Study to life in your homeschool! In addition, there is an interactive monthly calendar with daily nature study prompt – all at your fingertips!

-First published by Barb May 2008. Updated January 2022 by Tricia.

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Homeschool Nature Journal or Nature Notebook?

Should you have a homeschool nature journal or a nature notebook? What is the difference between the two?

I always remind new homeschool nature study families that the journal page is the icing on the cake. The most important part of nature study is the time spent outdoors together with your children. You are successful whether you end up with a page in your journal each week or not.

Should you have a homeschool nature journal or a nature notebook? What is the difference between the two? We answer this question.
Photo by Amy Law

Homeschool Nature Journal or Nature Notebook?

I had a really good question from Joy and I thought maybe you might like to hear my response.

Here is Joy’s question:
First off, I have read all of Charlotte Mason’s Original Homeschooling Series as well as Karen Andreola’s Charlotte Mason Companion, along with various others (and I’ve read all that you have on your site concerning Nature Journaling). But, I am still left wondering, is there a difference between a nature journal and a nature notebook?

For example, the notebooking pages that are offered along with the GH challenges (that Tina made) would go into a nature notebook. However, I really like the nature journal idea, with the dry brush method, etc. and it would seem that this would be a different thing all together.

The nature journal would seem to be a sketch book whereas the notebook would be something that would go into a 3 ring binder. So, how do these mesh together, and should I have my children do both? I know these questions are possibly silly to those who have done this for a while, but since I am just starting out, I don’t want to overwhelm my little ones (2nd grade and 1st grade). I really just want a streamlined way to encourage them to interact with what they are learning outdoors.

The Answer To Nature Journal or Nature Notebook:


First off I think this is a really good question and if you ask ten different people, you will get ten different answers. But I will take a stab at it since it relates to the Outdoor Hour Challenges. Clarifying things is always a good opportunity to fine tune our ideas.

I did a little research on what a “nature journal” is and the best explanation of it I found was in Clare Walker Leslie’s book, Keeping a Nature Journal. She explains it this way.

“Simply put, nature journaling is the regular recording of observations, perceptions, and feelings about the natural world around you. That is the essence of the process. The recording can be done in a wide variety of ways, depending on the individual journalist’s interests, background, and training. Some people prefer to record in written prose or poetry, some do it through drawing or painting, others with photographs or tape recordings, and still others through musical notation…..Many people use a combination of these techniques.”

Should you have a homeschool nature journal or a nature notebook? What is the difference between the two? We answer this question.

In the Handbook of Nature Study, Anna Comstock calls the nature journal a “field journal” but it is still the same thing, a nature journal. In Charlotte Mason’s original homeschooling series in volume one, she refers to the nature journal as a nature diary. The idea is all the same idea, to record personal observations and thoughts about the world around you.


So Joy, to answer your question with the short answer, either method is still considered nature journaling whether you use a spiral bound sketch pad with watercolors, markers, or pencils or if you choose to use sheets of paper slipped into a 3-ring binder when you are finished. In our family, we do combinations of both recording in the nature journal and on paper.

Notebooking Pages May Be Easier For Younger Writers

Your children are still very young so you may wish to have them work on individual sheets of paper and slip them into sheet protectors when they are finished and store them in a binder. You may at a later date start them in their own spiral bound nature journal. Either way you can include many different types of mediums.

You can still watercolor and slip them into the binder. You can press flowers and slip those in too. If you come across a nature notebooking page you like you can fill those out and put those in the binder. The notebooking pages are nice for younger children because most of them include lines to write your notes on – which is easier for younger writers. I have one son that likes the notebooking pages because he hates a blank page. If it is in a notebooking page format, he can easily think of things to fill it up.

I hope that clears things up a bit. I know there are a lot of choices and you will eventually come to the answer for your family about which one works the best. Nothing is set in stone either. You can start one way and change at any time. It depends a lot on how you are going to use the nature journals and how your children feel about recording in them. When my boys were little, we filled up lots of pages each year so they loved starting fresh each fall. Now we perhaps make an entry a week and we have slowed down considerably in the volume of notebooks.

Make nature journaling a pleasant experience. I know that many times for myself I end up not liking a page until it is all done. It has taken me many years to develop my own style of nature notebook. Want a glimpse into my nature journal? How to Get Started Nature Journaling

Should you have a homeschool nature journal or a nature notebook? What is the difference between the two? We answer this question.

I have come to the conclusion that the line between nature study and a nature journal is getting sort of fuzzy. You can have lots of nature study and not have a nature journal.

Don’t let your lack of skill in drawing keep you from your nature study

  • Nature walk = Time outdoors + time spent in observation
  • Nature study = Time outdoors + time spent in observation + time learning about your discoveries
  • Nature journal = Time outdoors + time spent in observation + time learning about your discoveries + time recording your observations and thoughts

I am in no way discouraging nature journals but I am convinced that if you spend enough time in nature study, you will have more to write about in your journal.

Homeschool Nature Study membership bringing the Handbook of Nature Study to Life!

Join Our Homeschool Nature Study Membership for Year Round Support

You will find a continuing series on nature journaling in our Homeschool Nature Study membership. Plus 25+ continuing courses with matching curriculum that will bring the Handbook of Nature Study to life in your homeschool! In addition, there is an interactive monthly calendar with daily nature study prompt – all at your fingertips!

First published May 2008 by Barb. Updated January 2022 by Tricia.

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Getting Started with Nature Journaling in Your Homeschool

Are you new to nature study, the Charlotte Mason philosophy and getting started with nature journaling in your homeschool?

Getting Started with Nature Journaling in your homeschool.

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. If you click through and make a purchase I will receive a small commission at no cost to you. Please see our disclosure policy.

How to Get Started With Nature Journaling

Every student of Charlotte Mason’s was encouraged to keep a nature notebook or nature diary. I had the privilege of visiting the Armitt Museum in Ambleside a few years ago and having a look at some of Charlotte’s student’s nature journals.

Have a look through some of Charlotte Mason’s Students Nature Journals

If you would like to have a look yourself you can have a look at the Charlotte Mason Digital Archives HERE and HERE.

Students nature journals were inscribed with poetry, observations and seasonal notes. The paintings are of course beautiful and I think this is where we can get a little tough on ourselves and not want to produce anything that looks less than perfect.

The Importance of Keeping a Nature Journal

At the beginning of our homeschooling journey in keeping with Charlotte’s way, I began keeping a nature journal myself and led my children to do the same. Bit by bit over the years we have each created treasured keepsakes and we can see the progress we have made from our rudimentary first entries. We have also grown in our knowledge and understanding by observing nature in our Outdoor Hour Challenges.

The field notebook is a veritable gold mine for the nature-study teacher to work in securing voluntary and happy observations from the pupils concerning their out-of-door interests. It is a friendly gate which admits the teacher to a knowledge of what the child sees and cares for.

Anna Botsford Comstock ~ The Handbook of Nature Study

Many people don’t know much about nature and the years’ natural rhythms because they don’t observe it. If we give our children regular time outside to get in touch with God’s creation we are gifting them with a habit that will be a source of much delight all through their lives.

Getting Started with Nature Journaling image of nature journal

What Do I Need To Start a Nature Journal?

Any kind of blank book will do for this, except that it should not be too large to be carried around in the pocket, and it should always have a pencil attached.

Anna Botsford Comstock ~ The Handbook of Nature Study

Anna gives sound advice on what is needed, a small blank book that is easily taken with you on your nature adventures. You do not want anything cumbersome for children are adventurous creatures and should have every freedom to explore the great outdoors.

A graphite drawing of what is observed is easily done and is in Anna’s opinion far better than a long description of a natural object.

My Nature Journal Recommendations

My personal recommendations are the Speedball Art Journals. The paper is thick enough to take watercolor and the size makes it easily transportable. I currently have the square journal but I’m keen to try out the 5.5X8.25 next.

If you have a reluctant journaler consider just providing blank paper which can be easily replaced if their drawings don’t go to plan. Some children (and adults) can find it very intimidating to commit to putting pencil to paper in a new journal.

A Word on Watercolors

I bought each of my children a small set of watercolor paints at the beginning of our homeschooling and they lasted years! Don’t be tempted to buy something that has too many colour options, it’s amazing what colors you can achieve through mixing.

Do make sure that you have invested in good watercolors as the cheap and cheerful ones just do not do your work any justice and in keeping a nature journal you are creating something that will be treasured for many years to come. This particular set of watercolors costs around £11.00 – so about $14.61.

Anna Botsford Comstock’s Advice On Nature Journaling

Remember that a nature journal or field notebook is to be a joy to the child. In The Handbook of Nature Study, Anna lays out a few rules to be observed to make nature journaling a success:

  • The book should be considered the personal property of the child and should never be criticized except as a matter of encouragement; for the spirit in which the notes are made is more important than the information they cover.
  • The making of drawings to illustrate what is observed shall be encouraged.
  • The notebook should not be regarded as a part of the work in English. The spelling, language, and writing of the notes should all be exempt from criticism.

Anna also believed that no child should be compelled to keep a notebook and although I agree, I believe that we can encourage our reluctant journaler in other ways. Perhaps instead of drawing what they observe they can take photographs which may be printed out and pasted into their journal. I think that it is natural for a child that feels their drawing is ‘not good enough’ to want to shy away from drawing what they observe.

Book Recommendation

Have you read Karen Andreola’s book “A Pocketful of Pinecones?”

If not I would highly recommend that you do. Karen is the author of the Charlotte Mason Companion, another book to add to your booklist. A Pocketful of Pinecones is a story written especially for homeschool moms who are feeling discouraged in their homeschooling as well as a lovely guide to nature study.

It is written as a diary of a homeschooling mom who is in her first year of homeschooling using Charlotte Mason’s gentle art of homeschooling. There are some beautiful chapters on what nature study looks like on a practical level in her homeschool and which gave me the confidence to implement the same into my own homeschool. You don’t have to be an expert instead you can learn alongside your precious children and learn together, creating a treasure trove of precious memories spent in God’s glorious creation at the same time!

This book is honey for the homeschool mothers heart and I would encourage you to get a copy. I have found that I read this book each year, I never tire of it and always feel encouraged and inspired to lead my children in their adventures in discovering and forming connections with nature.

You might also like these helpful reviews:

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Once a Month Nature Journal Project: Creating Lists – From the Archives

Once a Month Nature Journal Project

Creating Lists – From the Archives

This simple idea for a nature journal page is one that everyone can adapt to their own tastes and interests. I often create a list in my nature journal when I want to keep track of a certain topic. I have a monthly list of birds I see and during the spring/summer I keep track of wildflowers I observe.

Nature Journal Pages with Lists

  • After your next nature outing, pull out your journal and a pen or pencil. Jot a list of things that you saw of interest. You can create a general list or a more topical list.
  • Number your list or use bullet points.
  • Create lines on the page if you want your writing to be a little straighter.
  • Draw a box on the page and then fill it in with a list.
  • List your favorite subjects from your nature walk.
  • Keep a running list of items observed, like a bird life list. I have a free printable list notebook page for you to use if you’d like: Running List Notebook Page.

Once a Month Nature Journal Project Make a List @handbookofnaturestudy

Link to the original blog entry: Once a Month Nature Journal Project – Lists

Here are some page ideas from my personal nature journal.

Nature Journal lists (4) Nature Journal lists (3) Nature Journal lists (2)

Nature Journal lists (1)

Once a Month Nature Journal Project @handbookofnaturestudy

Complete list of all the Once a Month Nature Journal Project Ideas

 

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Once a Month Nature Journal Project: Using Your 5 Senses – From the Archives

Once a Month Nature Journal Project

Using Your 5 Senses – From the Archives

Summertime is the perfect time to practice using all your senses while outside in nature. Nothing can be more pleasurable than the scent of wildflower blossoms on the warm summer air or the feel of the cool grass under your feet! Or perhaps you hear the buzz of a bee, the flash of color from a butterfly wing, or the taste of a fresh peach picked from a tree. So many summer sensations are out there waiting for you to experience them with your children.

Believe me, if you take the time to use all your senses, your child will have plenty to share in their nature journal once you get home. Using your senses is a basic life skill that families can work on during nature study.

Nature Journal Ideas

Use as many of your senses as possible this month to make observations for your journal entry: sight, touch, smell, sounds, and taste if appropriate. Sketch your sensory memories or make a list of things you observed.

Help your child with his observations if they get stuck. Make it fun and challenge each other to make as many observations as possible using your senses.

5 Senses Nature Journal Reminder Card

Create a reminder card to carry along with you as you spend time outdoors. I made mine on an index card and I will slip it into the front of my nature journal as a memory aid for my next nature journal entry.

Once a Month Nature Journal Project Use Your 5 Senses @handbookofnaturestudy

Link to the original blog entry: Once a Month Nature Journal- Using Your 5 Senses

5 senses nature journal @handbookofnaturestudy
Starting with your 5 senses makes creating a simple nature journal easy.

 summer nature study ebooks button

I created a complete series of Outdoor Hour Challenges to help you get started using your senses during the summertime. Members can log into their accounts and download the Summer Nature Study-Using Your Senses ebook for lots of ideas to use this season.

Here is a sample Outdoor Hour Challenge from that ebook: Summer Tree Study -Using Your Senses.

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