Calendar of Firsts & free downloads

Charlotte Mason’s encourages the wonderful practice of nature study and keeping records of nature observations in a child’s own nature journal.  In addition to this wonderful outdoor activity, Charlotte Mason encouraged her students to keep what she called a ‘Calendar of Firsts’.

This was a calendar where a child would record the day that they saw any ‘first’ observations seen on their walks to monthly pages, adding to the same page each year.  This way of journaling encourages a child to naturally learn what happens in nature that time of the year. This calendar of firsts would build up year after year, with the child adding their new firsts as they found them.  This is similar to keeping a perpetual nature journal or adding a sketch to a Phenology Wheel.

Lynn of Raising Little Shoots has kept amazing Calendar of Firsts diaries and she  shares her beautiful pages, and she gives tips and examples to set up a diary for this purpose.  Watch her flip-through video to see how creative, colourful, simple and  do-able this practice can be!

What I really love about Lynn’s blog is that you can see how her children have followed her example and how they all create messy, colourful, “non-perfect” diary entries.  If you feel that it is impossible to draw or paint in your nature journal like Lara Gastiger’s, then Lynn and her family’s Calendar of First diaries are a breath of fresh air!

How to use a Calendar of Firsts ~

  • Add a small sketch or writes a few notes on the date they found it.
  • Note the first day of the four seasons and colour or sketch a picture that symbolizes that season.

How to create your own Calendar of Firsts ~

Have you started nature journaling or used a Calendar of Firsts?  Please share your experiences with us.  Mom’s,  I encourage you to start this practice as part of your Mother Culture and wonderful way to continue a lifetime of learning.
Blessings, Nadene
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Phenology Wheel

I am using a Phenology Wheel in my nature journaling for the first time!

A phenology wheel is basically a visual, artistic summary of an entire year on a circular chart.  I first saw a beautiful phenology wheel in progress by Lynn of Raising Little Shoots  who creates the most wonderful phenology wheels and encourages her children to capture their nature ‘moment’ for each month on theirs .  She sells a starting guide eBook.

Each month I will sketch and paint something significant that I experienced in nature  on my wheel.  You can see that my phenology wheel is part of my perpetual nature journal. open here at January Week 2.  The center circle of the wheel is for a spiritual symbol or something personal.

Because I live in the Southern Hemisphere here in South Africa, I changed the corresponding months and seasons on the downloaded wheels.  You can download the Phenology wheel for Southern Hemisphere here ~ with the moon cycle or without. Visit Partners in Place to download their wheels of Time and Place and view their gallery of  phenology wheel examples.  

Here is another beautiful example of a phenology wheel used as a perpetual day-month-season-calendar display ~

Some more inspiration ~

Blessings, Nadene

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Make your own perpetual nature journal

Previously, I shared Lara Gastiger’s perpetual nature journal.  Today I want to share how to make your own frugal perpetual nature journal.

This journal I made is very cheap!  I used 2x A5-sized blank paper exercise books; one with 72 pages and the second with 48 pages.   But you may prefer a spiral-bound journal or sketchbook instead.  Just check that it has least a 120-pages.

Start on the first right-hand page of your journal and label your first month.  Now turn over and allocate 4 pages for each week.  These facing-pages provide a double-page spread for each week.    Now label the main month page and label the top left corners of each double-page with the month and the week number, e.g.: January Week 1, flip the facing page and label January Week 2 on the next left-hand page, etc until you have labeled all 4 weeks. Continue this pattern for all the months of the year.

The first 1-month page can be used as a “Calendar of Firsts” for each month with either numbered a list from 1-31 or calendar blocks or decorate it with poems or season-inspired quotes or Scriptures.  (I’ll share more on Calendar of Firsts in another blog post.)

Perhaps you may create a blank lined or column page to keep lists such as your Bird lists for the year at the front or the back of your nature journal.

I removed the original soft thin cardboard exercise book covers and joined my 2 exercise books with journal stitching.(You can see a very clear tutorial here.)  I made a new cover that wraps around the journal using an old cereal box which I covered with fabric using Modge Podge.  I attached a tie to wrap around the journal to keep it neatly closed.

And there you are!  A frugal perpetual nature journal.

You can start right away by making your first entry in the week you are currently in, drawing a sketch, writing some notes or adding some details of nature finds or firsts.

You can read how I made a frugal Frugal Timeline Book also using cheap exercise books.

Blessings, Nadene

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Perpetual Nature Journal Joys

Last year I introduced you to Lara Gastiger and her inspiring nature journals and beautiful botanical artwork.

Lara Gastinger, sketchbooks, nature sketchbook, nature journal, sketchbook journal, nature sketchbook journal, Sketchbook Conversations

Recently I read Anne’s interview with Lara Gastiger on My Giant Strawberry  – A Sketchbook Conversation.  Here’s how Lara describes her perpetual nature journal ~

“I encourage everyone to obtain a blank journal that is a portable size and proceed to date the pages so that each spread represents a week. All you need is to write or draw an observation each week. This could be as elaborate as a full drawing or just a note. Be sure to include all relevant information (date, weather, who you are with, what do you hear/see) and then next year on that week, you will return to the same page and add something else. It becomes so rich as the years build up upon each other and you will become so knowledgable about the plants around you!

What an inspiration, but what is a perpetual nature journal?” you may ask.

A perpetual journal is nature journal that you keep coming back to, year after year, adding new sketches and notes to the same week and month’s pages until you have the most wonderful collection of nature entries spanning all the seasons over several years!

As I pondered this, I realized that there are several joys to working in a perpetual journal ~Lara Gastinger, sketchbooks, nature sketchbook, nature journal, sketchbook journal, nature sketchbook journal, Sketchbook Conversations

  • A perpetual journal makes such a lot of sense!  This gradual approach reveals your personal, accumulative journey of nature study over the years, displaying all the details you noticed in each season.  (Just remember that the photo above is Lara’s perpetual nature journal pages after adding to them for 16 years!)
  • What is even better is that you don’t have to fill a full nature journal page!  Each week, just add a small sketch or some field notes or observations noted for that week, and your entry is done.  Simple and doable, don’t you agree?
  • Instead of spending a long time trying to fill a whole page, by devoting the same time to a journal entry, you can create very intricate sketches and detailed, accurate observations, like Lara!
  • When you return to the same week’s page spread the next year, your pages will already have some evidence of things you journaled in the previous year at the same time.  These permanent records, along with your new entries, further highlight and emphasize what happens in that season, at that time of the year.  (I suppose though, that if you moved to a completely different zone or region, you would have to consider starting a new perpetual journal to keep track of nature in this new area.)
  • This approach is very similar to Charlotte Mason‘s practice of keeping a “Calendar of Firsts“. ( I hope to share more on this in an upcoming post.)
  • This practice fits perfectly in with Barb of Handbook of Nature Study’s  Outdoor Mom Journal nature journal prompts each month.  Again, small weekly sketches and notes to the same journal pages give you the freedom to create a wonderful, detailed nature journal through the years.
  • Moms, I really encourage you to keep your own perpetual nature journal and purpose to spend time each week making your own nature journal entries as a part of developing “Mother Culture®“.  It may not seem like it now, when you are deep in the homeschool trenches with littlies underfoot, but in a flash, your children will be in high school and your time will open up for more personal growth, and this practice may well become a fulfilling lifestyle even when your children have graduated and moved on.
  • Your nature journal eventually becomes a marvellous, rich collection that will amaze and please you every time you come back to that page spread.

Please join me next time as I plan to share on how to make your own perpetual nature journal.

Blessings, Nadene

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John Muir Nature Quotes & free Copywork pages

Previously I introduced the famous naturalist John Muir.  Today I would love to share a wonderful collection of his beautiful and inspirational nature quotes.

Here are 15 of John Muir’s famous nature quotes  ~

I was struck by John Muir’s real passion and love for nature and the Creator which he expressed so beautifully in his quotes, all taken from AZ Quotes.com ~
I collected several short quotes, some slightly longer quotes, as well as several long quotes.  These would suit children from junior primary all the way to high school.

You can use these quotes ~

  • in your nature journalling
  • displayed in your nature study centre
  • copied or dictated for Copywork
  • for handwriting practice
  • for debate topics
  • as creative writing prompts
  • for nature causes and ideals

Here are your free downloads which include Charlotte Mason’s copywork & dictation principles, about 10 pages of quotes, as well as lined copywork pages ~

May these pages inspire you and your children in your nature journalling and handwriting practice.

Blessings, Nadene

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Making time for nature study

A homeschool mom wrote to me and said,

“My greatest struggle in doing Nature Study is not being able to find time to do a walk or do a nature journal entry.  I know that we should make the time.  What do you suggest?”

Charlotte Mason’s had a great love of the outdoors and she advocated that children spend healthy doses of time outdoors every day.  She encouraged her students to develop the habit of keen interest, observation, detailed comparisons, and an ever-growing knowledge of plants, seasons, living creatures, and geography.  Her approach was natural, gentle and fun!  She encouraged each child  to keep a nature journal ~

“As soon as he is able to keep it himself, a nature-diary is a source of delight to a child.  Every day’s walk gives him something to enter …” (Vol 1, p.54-55)

Outdoor time is restorative, calming, refreshing and inspiring.  It changes our moods, lifts our spirits and shifts our perspectives.  Young children need the outdoors almost as much as they need food and sleep!  It is vital to their growth and development.  They need to touch, feel, hear, smell, taste and experiment with nature. Let your kids get wet and dirty!  It is an essential way for them to discover the world around them.

Over the years we have used several fun outdoor nature study activities that provided wonderful nature experiences, some which lead to nature journaling and further study or research.  Tea time or just before or after lunchtime every day is a good time to go outside into the garden and to find something on topic.

Here are some really quick, fun nature ideas with free downloads:

  • Use the Outdoor Hour Challenges Nature Photo of the Week topics.  Choose one word for the week and let your children grab a camera or smartphone and find and snap photos of their nature word for the week.  Children absolutely love this activity!  If they want, you can print out photos, and let them make a journal entry and possibly research anything that captured their curiosity.  Download the chart here ~ Nature Photo of the Week Chart
  • Here’s another quick idea!  Let your children pick out a colour from the pack of colour cards and encourage them to spend a time outdoors finding that specific colour in nature ~ Download ~Color Hunt Cards printable from Handbook of Nature Study
  • Ambleside Online’s follows a simple theme for each season and term. Display some reference books, library books, pictures and examples of the theme on a nature display shelf and encourage your children to look for those topics outdoors on their nature walks each week.  DownloadAmbleside Online Nature Study Schedule
  • For quick, fun nature activities, use my Smash This Nature JournalsThese nature walk prompts are simple, unusual, sometimes messy or out-of-the-box ideas.  Boys and young children especially enjoy these fun nature journal activities. Print the Smash Nature Journals out and encourage your kids to complete a page or two each day. 
  • Allocate one day in your week for nature study.  We followed our Theme of the Week and Wednesdays were for “Wonderful World” where we did longer nature walks, added Geography lessons and completed an entry in our nature journals.Daily themes 2015

It doesn’t matter if your kids seem to “play” instead of formally learning.  If you teach them to be curious, observant and inspire them to observe and notice details in nature around them, they will surprise you with their knowledge and passion.

Please don’t kill this natural delight by teaching or making a big deal about knowing everything or looking up everything about things found in nature. During my early homeschooling years almost killed my kids’ enjoyment of our nature walks simply by being overly enthusiastic and teachy. May I suggest that you ditch the idea of formal nature study lessons and do very informal, but regular, fun nature walks instead.

I hope that some of these outdoor prompts inspire you and  I encourage to make time for nature study into your school days!

Blessings, Nadene
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Mom’s Nature Journal Beach Walk

Recently we walked along the pristine Witsand beach at the Breede River estuary at low tide. There was so much to notice and, although I didn’t bring my phone along to take photos, I made detailed mental notes as we walked.

I noticed the shells, the seagrass, seagull feathers, patterns in the sand, patterns of floating sand particles in the little water ripples, algae growing on exposed rocks, holes in the sand, whelk shell patterns, twigs and driftwood.  At times, as I looked carefully, the patterns looked like abstract art. It was beautiful.

When we got home, I sat quietly and created a double-page spread of our beach walk in my nature journal ~I enjoyed creating the sand ripple patterns as well as the detailed sketches of shells and seagrass.On the other page, I added a boxed area to show the floating sand patterns which I saw in the shallow pools, as well as adding detailed pen sketches of the seagull feathers.


Nature journaling brought back wonderful memories of our lovely long walk on the low tide seashore.

Recently I shared my discovery of Lara Gastiger’s botanical art.  She has created a perpetual nature journal and adds to the monthly pages each year.  What a wonderful way of creating layers and details to double-page spreads.  This way, there is no pressure to fill up a whole page, but to simply sketch a detailed entry in a space and that’s it!

If you need some journaling ideas, I encourage you, moms, to join Barb’s of Handbook of Nature Study’s  Outdoor Mom Journal nature journal prompts each month:

  • The most inspiring thing we experienced was…
  • Our outdoor time made us ask (or wonder about)…
  • In the garden, we are planning/planting/harvesting….
  • I added nature journal pages about….
  • I am reading…
  • I am dreaming about…
  • A photo I would like to share…

I love the simple joy of doing a monthly Mom’s Nature Journal entry.  Charlotte Mason calls it “Mother Culture“ and it is a wonderful way of learning and growing along with our children.  It is also an activity that can extend long past these busy homeschooling years to become part of your own personal creative and observational life!

Happy nature journaling!

Blessings, Nadene
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Living Books Teach!

Many new homeschool parents think a Charlotte Mason’s approach to education seems too simple!  

Read a good book aloud.

Talk about what you have read.

Lesson learned.

This is a Charlotte Mason principle in a nutshell – Read from a living book, give a narration, and you have a wonderful, wholesome education.  Read my posts – Loving Living Books  and Learning through Living Books

So why do new homeschool parents still believe that they have to buy expensive, bell-and-whistles curriculums for their young kids?

They are afraid they won’t teach everything, or that their child won’t learn everything the should, or that they aren’t qualified.   But in truth, no professional curriculum guarantees complete success.  There will always be information gaps, but if you have taught your child to listen attentively while you read aloud to them, they will learn!

How does a baby learn?  From listening and speaking.  And so it is with a literature-based education. You really, really don’t need expensive teaching materials.  If you use literature as a powerful natural method, your children will learn.

While you read to your child from a good book, they listen to the words and learn and develop a wide, rich and mature vocabulary.  They listen to the story unfolding and learn how to structure sentences and develop a flow of connecting ideas, essential for writing skills.  They learn different styles of writing.  They learn how to create interest, describe observations in detail and will learn an amazing amount of information.

Telling back is very simple, yet complex, but it genuinely replaces the need for tests, quizzes or exams.  As you listen to your child narrate or read his narration, you will know immediately what your child knows and understands.

If your child is old enough, his written narrations will form his notes and provide ample evidence of his understanding, all the way to high school and beyond!  They will also develop the most amazing creative writing skills.

My older two daughters graduated from homeschool without ever taking a creative writing course, but they are both incredibly good writers because of the marvellous books that they read. Read the full post “Teach Creative Writing without Lessons“.

Sure, you may need a few workbooks for some subjects like Maths, but for almost every other subject, good books will serve for information, inspiration and motivation.

When your children all chorus, “Please read another chapter,” after you have finished the reading, you will experience the joy of the most wonderful, natural way of learning!

Trust Charlotte Mason’s method.  It truly works!  Please feel free to share your living books learning experiences in the comments.

Blessings, Nadene

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Recent Sketches

Recently I shared that I had started Sketching Again.  I decided to keep my Mom’s Nature Journal and sketchbook out on my desk as a visual reminder, and I try to spend about 20 minutes daily sketching and painting in time squeezed between folding laundry and preparing dinner.

I am using the Doodlewashed September “Simple Pleasures” prompts and here are my latest sketches ~

I was particularly happy how my first watercolour portrait came out, but I am not including the second portrait I did of my other daughter because it was so completely off that it would be a huge injustice to her if I posted it.  Portraits are really tricky!

I enjoyed creating all the details in “Popping bubble wrap” and felt good about the painting of the hands in “Rock., Paper, Scissors”.  The other paintings felt a bit “meh”, but I enjoyed the process and feel that I am learning as I go along.

It is important to just keep painting, experimenting, changing the approach or the medium.  If you are in a slump, just play.  Do abstracts.  Don’t worry about the end-results.  Just have fun!

For those who are keen to try sketching daily, why not join the rest of the world (really!) with Inktober  31 Days 31 Drawings.

I encourage you, moms, to also make the time to sit and sketch weekly.   Join your children in the weekly Sketch Tuesday topic, or sit and create an entry in your Mom’s nature journal page.  It is wonderful to give yourself time to sit and be creative.

Blessings, Nadene

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Sketching Again

Recently I shared that I had lost my inspiration and that somehow I had lost the joy in my sketching.  Truth be told, I actually hated my own recent art work.  Every attempt seemed so childish, colored-in and flat.  It wasn’t the lack of inspiration, but the lack of style.

I love pinning ideas and finding artists who inspire me on  Pinterest and Instagram posts.  There is an endless stream of amazing sketches and art, but the result of all this influence is not helpful to developing one’s own art.

You need to create your own art to find your own creative style. 

My 17-year-old daughter’s advice to me was to try a new art medium or technique.  This is very helpful, especially if you just play around without an end product in mind. I suppose recovering from lost art inspiration is a bit like horse riding after a fall; you need to get straight back up and ride again.   But in the end, finding art inspiration and personal style is like the Nike slogan ~ “Just do it“.

During a quiet spell this past weekend and this week, I pulled out my sketchbook, downloaded the Doodlewashed September “Simple Pleasures” prompts and began again.

My first attempts were not too bad, but I found that, as I sketched daily, I rediscovered something in my style that I liked, and the joy returned.  I loved the simple pleasure of sketching and painting.  I loved the quiet, right-brain activity.  And I enjoyed my art again.

While still finding my new artistic joy, I want to encourage you, moms, to also make the time to sit and sketch weekly.  You need times of creativity.  Join your children in the weekly Sketch Tuesday topic, or sit and create a nature journal page (prompts at the bottom of the post) each week.  It is so restorative.

Charlotte Mason called it “Mother Culture“; spending time learning and growing.  Spend regular time reading your own book list, creating art and journaling in nature; all part of your personal growth portfolio.

May I encourage you if you haven’t done any sketching for a while ~  Start again,  Just Do It!

Blessings, Nadene

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