Keeping a Nature Journal: Part 1

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I’m sure some of you guessed my next posts would have something to do with the outdoors and keeping a journal of sorts.  I’m a huge Charlotte Mason fan, which doesn’t mean we’re without rigorous academics or intensive whole-hearted education, it just means we intentionally add into our education not only living books and narrations to make learning come alive, but also work hard to nurture a love of the outdoors and the secrets that lie therein.

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When the children were younger we spent a good many afternoons like this in a natural science world.  On one trip home to Canada for a month in the summer (avoiding the July heat of TN), I came across these earthy, thick, hard cardboard nature journals in none other than Dollarama! So the price was just right.

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They are spiral bound which I have come to love best in a nature journal for the sake that it lies open hands-free, and can be folded to lie on one’s lap well for drawing.  I’ve yet to find another to match this size and durability, as well as the easy use it affords little ones whose fine motor skills leave them crying at the thought of trying to hold open a nature journal with one hand while trying to tap into their right brain to sketch uninhibited.

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I have found over the years that one of the ways to breathe life into nature study and drawing is to read novels and books out of doors together (and not just the nature kind), allowing the children to feel that ant crawling on them, and see that beetle land on the clothes peg (even though it was a nasty June beetle that liked to eat the roots of my plants), or be startled by that twig turned walking stick they discovered on the door frame.  It slowed us down and allowed them to see things up close in an uninterrupted period of time.

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We read Jack’s Insect’s by Edmund Selous outdoors one summer by the big round garden plot in our Tennessee home, and I found our nature study interest and our nature drawings blossomed alongside the flowers growing.  I hold so many dear memories of reading on our red bench, or finding the children drawing beneath our favourite tulip tree (that we named Christina Rossetti.)

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Just allowing the time to sit in the clover in bare feet for a sister chat on a warm summer’s day is the beginning of nurturing the nature notebook when one stays this close to it in their daily lives.  When the time comes for mama to suggest, hey, let’s draw some of that clover you sat in yesterday, it won’t seem such a hard task or a strange request.

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Give them every appreciation of what’s around you, right outside your door.  Your nature books will come alive with possibilities.

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And don’t forget to buy a nature notebook for yourself.  You’ll not find a child more excited about nature than when mama gets down on hands and knees to study that flower, or broken egg shell, or creepy crawly bug, then works to draw what she sees right alongside them.  And that we’ll talk about more in Keeping a Nature Journal, Part Two.

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