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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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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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

Special Offer For Nature Journal Fun

It is Spring here in South Africa, and the great outdoors and going on nature walks is wonderful this time of the year.  For some really fun, and sometimes messy nature journal prompts, I have 3 Smash Nature Journals available on my Packages page.

For the month of September, I would like to offer a buy 2 and get one FREE special offer!

Here’s what I wrote about my daughter’s experience with her Smash Nature Journal ~

My daughter really enjoyed “smashing” her journal!  There is something wonderfully liberating being instructed to tear, crumple, stain, wet and mess in a nature journal.  In the past I over-stressed the nature sessions with expectations for neat, labeled, researched, colored journal pages.  This new approach brought a flurry of activity and excitement to our nature walk.

My homeschooling friend Willemien Kruger of Homeschooling Curriculum Guide shared her boy’s Smash this Nature Journal experience ~

“Both my boys enjoyed doing the Smash Nature Journals at times.  It was scheduled for something to be done when they feel like it, so some days they did a lot of pages and some days none.  Of course, the boys enjoyed the really smashing activities more than the coloring or writing, and some activities really helped them to think outside the box!  A cool idea for younger kids to explore nature and art!”

Pop over to look at samples and photos of these Smash Nature Journals.  Click to go to my Packages Page and order your buy 2 and get one FREE special offer!  And when your children have completed their pages, please email them to me to share here on the blog!

Wishing you lots of fun and excitement for your Nature Studies!

Blessings, 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

Mom’s Nature Journal inspiration

With my teenager’s increasing independence in their homeschooling, our days have settled into a new rhythm, and I have found peace in making some new, small, personal goals for myself.  Charlotte Mason calls it “Mother Culture“.  One of my goals is to regularly sketch in my nature journal.   I look forward to quietly making an entry once a week during a lovely time of quiet observation, some scientific research, and creative sketching, painting or journaling.

20170203_154302 Here is where I find inspiration for my nature journaling ~

Outdoor Mom Journal

Barb at Handbook of Nature Study runs a monthly Outdoor Hour Challenge which we enjoyed in our early homeschool years.  She also shares her Outdoor Mom Journal each month.  She encourages moms to answer all or just one of the prompts in a blog entry on your own blog or right here on her blog in a comment.

Her nature journal prompts are open-ended statements ~

  • 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…

Simple, gentle prompts which lead to her monthly Outdoor Mom Journal posts.

20170203_154312Nature Finds

As my grown children and older teens no longer go on nature walks, I am privileged to go for walks with my little  granddaughter who comes to visit us often.  She notices all the tiny details and loves to pick up leaves, feathers, stones and any other interesting nature finds.  I keep her nature finds on a little tray.  Often I use her finds as a journal inspiration.

This nature tray was inspired by Celeste, a mommy to 6 little kiddies under 8, of Joyous Lessons, who writes about their nature tray.   She set up a little tray for her family’s nature finds and encouraged her children to look at, play around with, and record these ‘finds’ in their journals.  At the end of the week she stores or clears the tray ready for the new week.

She says,

“In a way, this holds me accountable too: I don’t like to clear out the tray until I have had time to document and sketch a bit, but the tray must be emptied to make room for our new finds. So through the routine, I’m nudged into at least a weekly journal entry.
This seems like such a minor tip–perhaps this is something you already do!  But if you’re anything like me, it’s little things, those easy habits that allow the “extras” to become smoothly woven into the rhythm of our days, that make all the difference.  It’s this little habit that prods me to get out the colored pencils and notebooks!”
I find some amazing inspiration on the Internet.  Remember I posted about Helen at Middlewood Journal?  Here’s someone who inspires me I found on Instagram … I am totally in awe of  L Gastinger, who describes herself as “a botanical artist, illustrator, documenter and interpreter of all things exquisite and awesome in nature”.   Her double-page spreads are so intricate, details and perfect, you simply must pop over to view her work!
My Garden
Lastly, I love gardening and this year has been a year of big gardening changes for me.  After struggling for years working in my vegetable garden which was very near a row of willow trees, my hubby and I finally created a shade-netted vegetable garden in a lovely, sunny open space.  It has been a joy to harvest food in less than 3 months! garden I also completely transformed a decorative flower garden into a herb and salad/ kitchen garden outside my back door.  I cut down huge shrubs, transplanted flowering plants and moved all my herbs.  I prepared the new beds with ash, manure and compost layers and covered them with a thick mulch layer.  Late summer and autumn seeds and seedlings are in and I am already planning my winter seeds. With all this happening, there is plenty to note, sketch, paint, photograph and journal!
So, simply, I plan to set time aside each week for my nature journal entries and aim to participate in a monthly Outdoor Mom’s Journal.
What about you?  What inspires you in your nature journalling?
In Grace, Nadene

Nature Journal Inspiration

Every now and then I find fresh nature journal inspiration and here’s a fabulous blog I spent most of my afternoon browsing recently ~

Middlewood Journal

middlewood-journalHelen is a freelance writer and illustrator and a regular contributor to the Wildlife in North Carolina magazine. She teaches weekly nature journaling classes and various workshops.

Her journal pages are filled with detailed sketches, all painted and labelled accurately, and her notes  and observational recordings frame her pages.  They are works of art and utterly inspiring!

middlewood-pageI added several of her journal pages to my Pinterest Nature Board.

Barb at Handbook of Nature Study wrote about her Nature Journal Goals for 2017  to include a weekly entry.  Barb’s children have all left the nest, yet her nature journalling is still an important part of her life.  She inspires me to make time to form creative, personal habits that feed and grow my love for the outdoors and nature.

What are your favourite nature journal blogs?  Do you keep a nature journal?  Why not stop and join your children in their nature walks?  Who knows, your nature journal could form a lasting habit!

Blessings, Nadene


Mammal’s Fur

We have really enjoyed our Outdoor Hour Challenge ~ mammals studies this month!

Our first week we studied animal fur and without a second thought, my daughter insisted we “study” our cats’ fur!

Our cats didn’t object!  They purred with contentment as we stroked and felt their fur.  Using words, we talked about texture, length, colors, the way the fur lay, how the cats cleaned their fur and what differences we noticed between the short-haired and the long-haired cats.

We then wrote in our nature journals.

I was slightly shocked to discover that Miss.L10 had taken some “samples” to paste into her nature journal!  She assured me that I wouldn’t even notice where she had snipped some fur off!  Her journal entries where not ‘scientific’.  I noticed how descriptive and emotive her words were.  I think this is good. It is lovely to related to observations with all our senses. (I also noticed how poor her spelling is …we’ll add some of these words to our thematic list)

My journal entry was more objective and comparative, my word “Fur” separating the different cat’s fur.

We love the Outdoor Hour Challenges each week. Apart from the weekly challenges, the nature grid gives us plenty of ideas to follow-up as well.

Have you joined in?