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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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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Introducing John Muir

Recently I introduced wildlife biologist, naturalist, artist and modern educator, John Muir Laws. But there is another more famous, much older John Muir.

Here’s an abbreviated Wikipedia biography ~

John Muir (1838 – 1914) was a Scottish-American naturalist, author, environmental philosopher, glaciologist and early advocate for the preservation of wilderness in the United States. His letters, essays, and books describing his adventures in nature, especially in the Sierra Nevada, have been read by millions. His activism has helped to preserve the Yosemite Valley, Sequoia National Park and many other wilderness areas.He petitioned the U.S. Congress for the National Park bill that was passed in 1890, establishing Yosemite National Park.

The spiritual quality and enthusiasm toward nature expressed in his writings has inspired readers, including presidents and congressmen, to take action to help preserve large nature areas. 

John Muir’s writings are commonly discussed in books and journals, and his books became a personal guide into nature for countless individuals, making his name “almost ubiquitous” in the modern environmental consciousness.”

Watch his biography Part 1 ~

And John Muir’s biography Part 2

His writings are inspirational, and I found them to be very similar to Charlotte Mason in his love for time spent outdoors, and its restorative qualities.  

Join me for my next post where I will share a wonderful collection of John Muir Nature Quotes for Copywork and nature journalling inspiration.

Until next time, be blessed, 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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Cultivating curiosity in nature study 3 ways

Recently I watched an excellent John Muir Laws (read my introduction to him) YouTube video ~

Nature Connection through Deliberate Attention and Curiosity

John Muir Law encourages folk to keep a nature journal so that they develop sustained, compassionate attention, and as they sketch and make notes, which helps one to really be there, they form deep connections with nature.

He believes that the key to developing a closer connection with nature is by deliberately enhancing your powers of observation and wonder.  He says,

“Attention is what the fabric of love is made from” 

In the YouTube video above, he explains how the methods of a field naturalist help you notice more, remember what you discovered, and be actively curious.

In essence, his 3 keys to cultivating curiosity in nature journaling is ~

  1. NOTICE = Verbalize, talk to yourself as you look carefully as a way of being attentive; “I see the flowers stem …”  “That bird has a ….”  It may feel strange at first, but it is a great tool for forming detailed observations.  Young kids do this all the time!
  2. WONDER  = Ask yourself questions, enquire and wonder about the hows, whys and whats of what you see.  Don’t young children ask questions all the time?
  3. This REMINDS ME of  = Connect what you notice with other similarities, link this new information or experiences to what you already know.  This is a powerful learning method!

The fourth element in cultivating curiosity nature study is to share with others.   We learn from other’s thoughts, questions, similarities and knowledge, making our experience even richer.  Discussions with others and sharing nature journals brings greater understanding and one’s concrete observations stand out even more.

Encourage these 3 simple methods in your homeschool nature study lessons and enjoy the benefits of curiosity and creativity to form connections in nature.

Go ahead and be child-like in your nature study!

Blessings, Nadene
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Introducing naturalist John Muir Laws

For expert nature study instruction, let me introduce John  Muir Laws ~

John Muir Laws (and Laws is his surname and not as in “rules”) is both a scientist and an artist who is a trained wildlife biologist, naturalist, and educator who passionately shares his love of the natural world through nature journaling.    He teaches people in workshops and lectures, giving them the tools to improve their observation, memory and curiosity, scientific illustration, and field sketching, all while encouraging them to have fun and fall more deeply in love with the natural world.

His website John Muir Laws offers excellent nature study resources, with very practical tutorials, sketching examples, regular blog posts and helpful journaling tips.  He offers free nature studies curriculums; BEETLES (Better Environmental Education, Teaching, Learning & Expertise Sharing) and CNPS Nature Journaling Curriculum Youth Training program.

His YouTube videos channels are phenomenal!  He shares many of his workshops on almost every aspect of nature journaling and how to draw series.  If ever your children ask, “How do I draw a bird/ leaf/ flower…?” go to John Muir Law’s YouTube tutorials!

He also has a Nature Journal Club where members go on monthly field trips in and around the Bay area, but, for those not living in the area, he encourages others to start or link their own nature journal clubs, He posts tips, techniques, and lessons learned  – “Tips to help you start your own group today”

For nature journaling inspiration and practical tutorials and how to draw lessons, bookmark and enjoy these John Muir Laws links.

Blessings, Nadene
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Practical Tip – Leaf Rubbings

Quick practical tip for nature journals!

A leaf rubbing is a wonderful way to capture the leaf edges and veins, but also allows one to create an instant background to a journal page.

It also allows you to create an instant copy of the leaf in the journal instead of waiting weeks to press and dry a sample.

You can also colour the shape around the leaf such as you can see in the third picture below.  This time you will place the leaf on top of the page and colour over it and out onto the page.  This will leave a blank-shaped leaf with a coloured surrounding.

How to make a coloured leaf rubbing ~

  • Place the leaf under a page or paper.
  • You can work directly on your nature journal page, but I would encourage you to experiment and test your technique on a scrap piece of paper first.
  • Use a soft crayon or soft coloured pencil.
  • The pencil should be used lying slightly sideways and not with the very tip of the pencil.
  • Lightly colour over the leaf with a light, even pressure so that the details show through the crayon.
  • If you press too hard you will create such a dark colour that the details of the rubbing won’t show.  Also, you may actually flatten the surfaces that should be revealed when rubbed.
  • Keep your page in the exact same position until the leaf is complete.  Any movement can distort the shape of the object you are shading.
  • You can shade other colours over the one you have used to create more realistic or creative results.

So, why not try this in your next nature journal entry?

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