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How to Make Leaf Rubbings for Your Homeschool Nature Study

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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Creating Leaf Prints for Your Nature Journal

Creating Leaf Prints for Your Nature Journal


Years ago, I created leaf prints using ink as suggested in the Handbook of Nature Study, although using stamp pad ink and not kerosene as suggested in the book.  I want to create a page in my journal using leaves from my Oregon yard and decided this is the time to update that entry with a few additional tips.

The process is simple and a lot of fun too if you combine a nature walk, collecting a variety of leaves, and then following up with some time to produce a beautiful leaf print. My children always wanted to collect leaves during your outdoor time and once we got home I wasn’t always sure how to use the leaves or display them. Making leaf prints is a great way to extend your leaf collecting activity or any tree nature study.

Making Leaf Prints Ink @handbookofnaturestudy

You can read that entry here: Making Leaf Prints With Ink.

Ink prints leaves

Tips and Suggestions for Getting Great Prints

Put your ink on the backside of the leaf instead of the front for a more detailed print.

Making prints with ink will give you more detail than printing with paints.

leaf prints with ink

Try both placing the paper over the inked leaf and pressing the leaf onto the paper. Experiment with a few leaves to see which method works best for you.

ink pad leaf print

Use washable ink pads for easier clean up.

If your leaf is very dry or crumbly, you might try using paint instead of ink. Make sure not to press too hard when making the print.

Try making your prints on separate paper and then insert the paper into your nature journal. This will help resolve anxiety that you are going to mess up your nature journal if you don’t get a good print.

Additional Activity: Make a leaf print collage

  • Use one leaf shape with one color or a variety of colors.
  • Use many different shaped leaves to create a collage.

Outdoor Hour Challenge Tree Nature Study Index @handbookofnaturestudy

There are many trees featured in Outdoor Hour Challenges and you will find them listed under the tree tab on the website. In addition to nature study challenges, there are several of the archived newsletters listed on that page that feature trees, tree activities, and even a few free printables.

Ultimate Naturalist Library September 2017 @handbookofnaturestudy

Members have access to all of the tree challenges in ebooks and the newsletters.


I hope you have some fun this summer making some leaf prints of your own as you study a tree or make sure to note on your autumn nature study calendar to create some leaf prints with colorful fall leaves.

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Outdoor Hour Challenge – Leaf Study

Outdoor Hour Challenge Autumn Leaf Study @handbookofnaturestudyOutdoor Hour Challenge

Autumn Leaf Study from the Archives and the More Nature Study Autumn ebook

This week is a challenge that should take you outdoors as you hunt for leaves to look at up close with a magnifying lens. Bring inside as many kinds of tree leaves as possible and then make simple classifications by shape, margin, and veining. There is a link in the advanced study portion that you can use as a reference for this activity. Make sure to follow up with a nature journal page (suggestions in the archive challenge and notebooking page in the ebook).

There are many free tree printables under the Tree tab at the top of my website and several more for Ultimate Naturalist and Journey level Members in their library.

Ultimate Ebook Library @handbookofnaturestudyHandbook of Nature Study Newsletter Button Oct 2016

Don’t miss this month’s newsletter! If you haven’t already subscribed to this blog and would like to receive every post in your inbox and each month’s newsletter with practical tips and nature study encouragement, you can subscribe by clicking THIS LINK or below.

Sign Up Here for the Handbook of Nature Study Monthly Newsletter.

Sign up for an email subscription and receive every blog post in your email inbox. PLUS you will receive the exclusive monthly newsletter available only to subscribers!


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Handbook of Nature Study Newsletter September 2015 Trees -Leaves and Trees

Handbook of Nature Study Newsletter September 2015 - Trees and Leaves. Printables, activities, resources, and more for your family's nature study.

Handbook of Nature Study Newsletter

September 2015 – Leaves and Trees


This month marks a new beginning for the newsletter! I am excited to share with you a new condensed format for this edition…packed with lots of nature study goodness! I have streamlined the content to include lots of links to resources from my bookmarks but also from a select few contributors, women who have been offering nature study to their families for many years and love to share their tips and tricks with other moms (and dads too).  I would love to hear how you like the new format or any other comments or questions. You can comment here on the blog or send me an email at

Please read the following explanation outlining how to get this month’s newsletter.

The newsletter link is not in this email but will come separately. There may be a delay in your receiving the email so please don’t email me until the second day of the month if you haven’t received the link on the first. For some reason, some email providers take longer to receive the newsletter email.

If you don’t receive the separate email with the download link, you probably aren’t subscribed to the blog yet. This will take less than a minute to do if you follow the steps below.

If you are a subscriber and you haven’t received your newsletter email yet, check your SPAM inbox. Some subscribers have found the email buried in SPAM inbox.

If you need to subscribe:

  • You will need to go to the Handbook of Nature Study, look to the top right corner for the box to type in your preferred email address, and then confirm the email that comes to your email inbox.
  • Once you subscribe, you will receive a thank you email from me with the download link.

This month’s newsletter link will be available only during the month of September so be sure to download it before 9/30/15.

Remember! All of the archived and current newsletters are available as part of the Ultimate Naturalist Library…every level!

Contents of this edition of the newsletter include:

  • Tree and leaf study resources in the form of links to the Handbook of Nature Study website, contributor’s links, and Pinterest. This month’s featured contributors are Heather Woodie of Blog She Wrote and Shirley Ann Vels from Under an English Sky.
  • HNS Newsletter Planning Page Sept 2015
  • September Nature Study Planning Page printable – don’t miss the little extras I have added this month like nature photo ideas, field trip ideas, and a special 15 minute challenge for parents.
  • I have written an article entitled, “Learning to Look at Things“. I endeavor to share why nature study is so important to learning of all kinds and how it will become a refreshment to your family.
  • Leaf Study Notebook Page – This page includes a prompt at the top to help your family go more deeply into a leaf study this month or in the months to come. It can also be used as a nature journal topper if you want to cut and paste the prompt into your own nature journal.

Members: You may also wish to download the October 2012 Newsletter from the archives. You will find additional articles, printables, and links to support your tree nature study. Note: All levels of membership here on the Handbook of Nature Study include all back issues of the newsletter.

Please note that Ultimate Naturalist and Journey level members have access to members only printables each month in addition to the newsletter printables. You will need to log into your account and then go to the “Other Releases” section.

Getting Started FAQ Button
Need help getting started with your nature study using the Handbook of Nature Study? Check out the fresh “Getting Started” page here on the website!


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He Sees A Pile of Leaves – I See A Mosaic of Color

Autumn in our part of the world has been very mild and sunny. We would have a few days of rain and then the sunshine would be back to draw us outdoors again. Our garden has never been so tidy and neat for the autumn season. We have been able to work in some new bulbs and replant our deck containers. The leaves have fallen in small batches so we have easily kept up with the raking and composting.

That all changed this week.

We had wind and lots of rain. The leaves fell from the trees like crazy and made big mounds in the street gutters. At last, it seemed like a true autumn. The leaves made beautiful mosaics of color on the ground.

My husband sees the leaves differently since has spent the last few weeks being able to keep up with the leaves that fell.

Now he is overwhelmed.

It really is a case of whether you see the glass half full or half empty.

I see the colors and shapes as an inspiration so I run inside to find my camera and to capture the moment.

Here are some more of the images I was able to gather from my yard on this beautiful autumn morning.

This is on the side yard where in the spring I have my daffodils.

Kona was glad to be able to get outdoors with her ball between rain storms.

The birds have cleaned out this birdfeeder in less than a day. This time of year I need to fill them up more often for the finches, sparrows, nuthatches, juncos, towhees, and jays that come to enjoy their daily seeds.

Kona doesn’t see the problem with the piles of leaves since exploring the yard and sniffing the smells of autumn delight her and she never tires of it. She is an optimist like me.

I am going to take the colors from these images and make a color palette in my nature journal…yellows, greens, browns, reds, purples, and oranges. Watercolor crayons or pencils? I will share my colorful mosaic when I finish.

Happy Autumn!

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California Black Oak Tree – Our Autumn Nature Study

We have spent quite a number of our outdooor hours observing and learning about oaks. We are blessed with many different kinds of oaks right in our own yard so they are constantly a backdrop for many of our studies.  Here is a link to one of our entries that shows the variety we have: Oak Tree Study.

So what did we do for our Outdoor Hour Challenge on oak trees?

  • A little comparing – leave size and shape
  • Looking for acorns – found very few
  • Talked about how the different tree silhouettes in our yard – oaks are the prettiest

We settled on the California Black Oak for our nature journals, with its large lobed, bristle tipped leaves.

California Black Oak
Quercus kelloggii
Resource to print: USDA Plant Guide

“The California Black Oak is strikingly unlike all other deciduous Oaks in the Golden State, for its broad thin leaves are jaggedly lobed, with the veins running out beyond the leaf margins as fine bristles.”
A Natural History of Western Trees.

We have noticed the woodpeckers that enjoy the tall branches, the Scrub jays that frequent the crown, and we are even thinking this is the tree that the bats use for shelter…not sure. It is a truly abundant food source for much of our local wildlife, including bears.

“…it has one admiring friend, the California woodpecker, who finds its acorns, bitter to our palates, exactly to his taste….This handsome redhead devours what he can hold of acorns, and lays up great stores of them, like a squirrel.”

There is always something to learn and to make note of as we revisit even a common tree to our area.

We are looking forward to observing:

  • The yellow leaves of autumn and then seeing the bare branches.
  • The dropping of acorns.
  • Finding a California Black Oak with acorn holes.
  • In the spring, pink or crimson of the new foliage.

Another successful oak tree study….thanks to our ability to see beyond the ordinary.
Printable notebook page for Extraordinary in the Ordinary. 

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Outdoor Hour Challenge -Oaks and Acorns

We are starting a new theme for the month of October – Trees! 

For this whole month we will be enjoying trees in our backyards and neighborhoods during our Outdoor Hour time and then following up with some exciting activities. Make sure you are subscribed to my blog and you will get the download link for the October Newsletter in the next blog entry mailed to your inbox.

Outdoor Hour Challenge:
One of the most popular trees that we study here on the Handbook of Nature Study is the oak tree. The oak has many interesting aspects including its leaves, bark, acorns, and the habitat that it provides to animals and birds. This week you can choose one of the previous oak tree challenges to complete when you find an oak tree subject. Make sure to read the suggested pages in the Handbook of Nature Study. Keep your eyes out for oaks and acorns!

Oaks and Acorns (2009 Autumn Series)

Oak and Leaf Activity Suggestion:
This week the challenge extra is a creative way to slow down and look at leaves.

This project which came from The Artful Parent (via Pinterest) is a simple activity where you collect leaves and then thread them onto a stick. I love the variety of shapes and colors and as we work our way through October there should be an opportunity for your family to collect and then make a leaf stick. We found this works best with leaves that are not too dry and brittle. Make sure to include photos of your leaf sticks in your blog entries and then submit them to the blog carnival.

You also may be interested in trying some of the ideas in this Hearts and Trees entry: Things to Do With Acorns. 

Blog Logo 1
Getting Started Suggestion:
If you already own this ebook, this week’s challenge would be a great addition to Challenge #10-An Outdoor Picnic. Find a majestic oak or another tall tree to spread a picnic blanket underneath and enjoy as you have a snack or meal. Bring along a book to read (see widget below for some suggestions).

If you need an explanation of how the Outdoor Hour Challenge is going to work from this day forward, please read this entry:
Nature Study Using the Outdoor Hour Challenge – How to Steps and Explanation.

OHC Blog Carnival
You are welcome to submit any of you blog Outdoor Hour Challenge blog entries to the Outdoor Hour Challenge Blog Carnival. Entries for the current month are due on 10/30/12. Widgets

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Gardening for Birds – Expect to Be Dazzled By Who Comes to Visit

Finch in the Sunflowers

Our garden and our bird list is very interconnected. The birds are coming and enjoying a variety of things in our garden habitat. I learned from Angie at Petra School that it takes about twenty minutes before the birds forget that you are watching. I have tried to find a spot to sit or stand in the garden and just wait to see who will come back during that twenty minute’s time.

The results?

I can confirm that she is right on! Usually after a few minutes the jays come back and the nuthatch and the grosbeaks come fairly quickly too. But some of the birds take a good long time before they reveal their hiding places in the trees and in the shelter of the bushes we have at the edges of our yard.

It is worth the wait. I decided that this week’s garden/bird entry would be a photo essay with lots of colorful images and very few words. Enjoy!

July 12 Garden and birdbath
Day lilies and our back birdbath

The birdbaths are a frequent stopover for the neighborhood birds.

July 12 Garden and birds (3)
Our little wild patch of blackberries just behind the birdfeeding station.

The blackberry bushes are a perfect shelter for birds to rest and to wait their turn at the feeder.

July 12 Garden and birds (9)
The leaves on our sunflowers are being eating by nibbling finches.

The sunflowers and birch trees are attracting the Lesser Goldfinches…who are eating the leaves and seeds.

The Black-headed Grosbeaks and the Western Scrub Jays are in and out of the feeders all day long.This is the best image I could get this week…they are fast in and out of the feeder. They have a sweet little song as well.The Mourning Doves and California Towhees are pecking around under the feeders.The White-breasted Nuthatches, House Finches, Titmouses, and House Sparrows are always found in the seed feeders.The European Starlings and Robins are busy eating the fruits from the neighbor’s tree that hangs over the fence into our yard.The birds are making a huge mess by taking the fruits all over the yard and eating them. They leave the pits behind and they are covering our driveway. This starling will leave the pit in our neighbor’s grass and next year it may start to grow into a tree. I know this from experience.

Hummingbird in the Butterfly gardenThe Anna’s Hummingbirds are everywhere. They still come to the feeders but they also are in the trumpet vine, the roses, the bee balm, the butterfly bushes, and several of my potted plants.The neighborhood Great Horned Owl is heard once it is dark and still outside. I envision him hunting the rodents that get into my birdfeeders.The mockingbird sings all the time…almost round the clock.

Additional bird notes:
We have heard the Steller’s Jay and their “shook-shook-shook” several times in our neighborhood but we have yet to see one. This would be a new to our neighborhood bird.
We have heard the Nuttall’s Woodpecker lots of time but only once in our back tree. I need to remember to fill the suet feeder.
The Starlings come everyday now which is new for this year as well. Their buzzing sound is now a familiar backyard bird sound.
The Black-headed Grosbeaks are also a new every day bird. Their flash of color at the feeders is beautiful.

Jami’s Tuesday Garden Party meme is open from Tuesday to Thursday so there is still time for you to jump in and participate!You may be interested in reading my entry, If You Build It, They Will Come, entry that shows the butterflies that are frequently found in our yard.What are you doing to make your yard attractive to birds and butterflies?

Sage Lavender Butterfly Bush
Sage, Lavender, and Butterfly Bushes
Fruits for the Birds
Not sure what kind of tree this is but it sure is messy…the birds love it though.
Starling Eating Fruits
Starling in our neighbor’s yard with a fruit from the tree.

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Gall Dwelling Insects – Our Winter Study

Our gall study has been going on for several months now and we have gathered quite a few different kinds of galls during our hikes. Some of the galls are really small but once we know what we are looking for we can look for the signs on the oaks. During the winter, the galls are more noticeable because there are far fewer leaves to deal with. Our local forest is a mix of evergreen and deciduous oaks so we still have plenty of leaves to check but not as many as the middle of summer.

I think the key to finding galls is to know what you are looking for. Check the links in the original challenge if you have any trouble getting started.

The California Gall Wasp is only 1/8″ to 1/4″ in size…far too small to probably ever be recognized or identified but we do know what their gall looks like. It is the big gall in the top image and you can clearly see the exit holes. Fascinating stuff.

Image Credit: Naturegirl 78 Flikr

We took time to observe the smaller galls under our microscope. It truly is a completely different world under the lens of a microscope. Amazing…even a hand lens will open that world up.

Empty Galls Image Credit: Christine Lynch Flickr

There is so much to learn about this topic, reaching into insect study and tree study.

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OHC More Nature Study Book 2 – Mullein and Winter Weeds

More Nature Study Book #3
Winter Weeds – Mullein Study

Inside Preparation:

  1. Read in the Handbook of Nature Study pages 537-539 (Lesson 146). Share a few facts and the images with your children so they can be on the lookout for mullein in your area. The distinctive rosette growth, the velvety leaves, and the flower stalk make this plant an easy one to spot, even in winter. (Ebook users have images included in the book and others can use the videos and the links in the Follow-Up section to view mullein.)
  2. Make sure to note that mullein is a biennial (takes two years to mature and produce seeds).
  3. Optional: Watch this short YouTube video that gives you an idea of what a winter mullein looks like: Common Mullein. I also made my own mullein video from my garden: Mullein in Autumn.

Outdoor Hour Time:

  1. Common mullein is found throughout the United States and Canada. During your outdoor time this week, try to find some common mullein to observe in its winter state. First year mullein will be look like green, soft, rosettes. Second year mullein will be the brown plant with the flower stalk. Observe how the leaves grow out between the two of the lower circle, that the upper leaves are smaller than those below, and that the upper leaves do not lie flat.
  2. Observe the mullein plant, looking at ways it survives the winter cold, rain, and snow. Make note of the plant’s location and plan to revisit it over the next year in each season.
  3. Alternate winter weed activity: Find and observe any winter weed in your neighborhood. Even if you have snow, see if you can find a part of a plant sticking up out of the snow and make some observations. You may want to click over and read my Winter Weeds challenge for additional ideas for your family.

Follow-Up Activities:

  1. Complete a follow-up nature journal entry or notebook page for your mullein observations. Ebook users choose from the Common Mullein or Winter Weed notebook pages.
  2. Advanced follow-up: Research the mullein plant online and find how it is used its traditional, medicinal, and health uses. Try this LINK or this LINK (this one is excellent!). Ebook users: Complete a notebook page.
  3. Advanced follow-up: Research annual, perennial, and biennial plants on Wikipedia. Ebook users: Complete the notebook page with a summary of the information and give examples of each kind of plant.

You can view our winter weeds study here: Winter Weeds – On-going Study