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
  • Subscribe Click to receive all my new posts packed with practical tips, projects, plans, pages & art ideas by email
  • Facebook Follow Practical Pages on Facebook

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

  • Subscribe Click to receive all my new posts packed with practical tips, projects, plans, pages & art ideas by email
  • Facebook Follow Practical Pages on Facebook

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
  • Subscribe Click to receive all my new posts packed with practical tips, projects, plans, pages & art ideas by email
  • Facebook Follow Practical Pages on Facebook

Mom’s Nature Journal Parsley

Spring has arrived in the Klein Karoo, and I have been really busy gardening.  The garden shows signs daily that a new season is unfolding.  While planting out seedlings and pulling out spent winter vegetable plants, I noticed a few of my parsley plants had started to go to seed.  I cut them back and took the cuttings to dry over my AGA stove.

With one lush branch of parsley in hand, I sat down to create a new Mom’s nature journal entry ~

I decided to create a double-page spread and made the left page a more personal page with a leaf rubbing and my garden observations, while I used Wikipedia to create a more formal botanical parsley study on the right-side page.  I also researched the difference between chervil and parsley!  They are both from the same family with very similar leaf and flower shapes, but the seeds differ.  Now, I know!

You will also notice in the photos, that I have both my sketchbook and nature journal lying out on my desk. I hope that this will prompt me to spend a little time every day on a quick sketch or painting or nature journal entry.  It is true that I have just one teen to homeschool at this time, and because she is working very independently, I have more time at my desk to sketch and journal.  It is a wonderful season in my homeschooling journey.

Again I urge moms to join their kiddies with these simple nature journal moments.  It is wonderful to learn and create your own Mom’s nature journal.  Join Barb’s  Outdoor Mom Journal using her prompts each month.  Share your journal with us on your own blog or on her blog in a comment.

  • 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…

Blessings, Nadene

Mom’s Nature Journal Signs of Autumn

This past week I noticed our grapevine leaves had started to turn pale green, browns and fall off.  I sketched some autumn grapevine leaves for my weekly mom’s nature journal.

I played around with my watercolour pencils, mixing, blending and colouring different blocks of autumn colours along the left side of my page.  I painted my leaf with watercolour paints. I also made a leaf rubbing and blended watercolour pencils over the brown paper which I tore and pasted along the right side of my 2-page layout.

Taking time each week to draw, sketch or paint in my nature journal is such an enjoyable moment of “Mother Culture” and it is an ongoing exploration and place of interest and growth.

Join Barb’s  Outdoor Mom Journal using her prompts each month.  Share your journal with us on your own blog or on her blog in a comment.

  • 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…

What inspires you in your nature journalling?

In Grace, Nadene

Mom’s Nature Journal Leaves

For my weekly nature journal time, I decided to focus on unusual leaves and I was inspired with these colorful plants ~

20170215_174012This week I took out my watercolor pencils.  With just my fine waterbrush and the watercolor pencils, I was able to create detailed, blended colors that suited my leaves perfectly.

20170224_162245Watercolor pencils have several wonderful advantages:

  • Fine pencil points allow for tiny, accurate details in your sketch.
  • You can blend pencil colors while dry on the paper, or you can blend perfectly using a blending pencil.
  • With water brush you can blend the colored areas on the paper just like watercolor paints.
  • You can wash over large areas with water once you lightly color over the area with pencils.
  • You can achieve a lovely transparency with watercolor pencils.
  • If you wet the pencil tip or draw over wet paper before drawing on it, you can achieve an intense, deep color.   A thick opaque look can be achieved by dipping the pencil tip in water and applying the color wet.
  • If you brush the tips of the watercolor pencils with a wet paintbrush, you can use your pencils just like a tiny paint pallet.  For bright bold colors, take the pigment directly from your pencil tip. Dip your brush in water and press to the tip of the pencil. This will give you undiluted pigment for strong colors.
  • You can make a paint pallet for your children:  Use sturdy cardstock and thickly color little blocks of each color.  You child needs a little water and a brush and can dab the colored block to lift off pigment to paint.
  • There is absolutely no mess or cleaning up.
  • These pencils last for ever!  Buy quality pencils and look after them and they will serve you for years!
  • Watercolor pencils are fabulous for outdoor painting.  They are easy to store and easy to handle.  I put an elastic band around them and hold the bunch of pencils in one hand and quickly dab the pencil tips with my waterbrush or grab the pencil I need to sketch or color my page.
  • Watercolor pencils dry quickly and can you can store them in a pencil bag straight away.

Join Barb’s  Outdoor Mom Journal using her prompts each month.  Share  your journal with us on your own blog or on her blog in a comment.

  • 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…

What inspires you in your nature journalling?

In Grace, Nadene