It has been BUSY around our house the past couple of weeks. Wrapping up the end of a school year always comes with extra events and tasks that wear me out. While our Classical Conversations group ends at the end of April, I'm not usually ready to say, "Schools out for the summer!!" (Although it is very tempting). My solution to my weariness to continue is fun-schooling. Not that all schooling isn't fun, but I like to focus on something in the month of May that extends the learning without feeling like straight up school.
This year we've decided to take time to start developing our nature journals. I'm really excited about this direction because it gets us outside, slows us down, and causes us to observe something other than ourselves! There are so many wonderful places to explore, and I can't wait to see the beauty cultivated within the souls of my children as they fill out their nature journals.
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Where to start with Nature Journals
First, I started off with something to guide me in guiding my kids. I picked up a copy of The Laws Guide to Nature Drawing and Journaling. While this book seemed pricey at first, the first few chapters made it worth every penny. I love how John Muir Laws thinks. He's very inspiring, but also very down to earth in his descriptions of how to get started in this great endeavor.
He encourages three basic ideas to encourage what to put on your paper:
- I notice - this makes you work on basic observations. This is something I really want to develop in my kids, and it is such a simple way to cultivate it.
- I wonder - next, you cultivate curiosity with great questions. You don't have to be able to answer these questions, because these questions will drive your research later. Jotting down the questions can help draw out the wonder as you continue to notice more about the object/subject you're drawing.
- It reminds me of - I love this last notation. Children have beautiful imaginations. They can stretch their imaginations in this phase by thinking about what their subject looks like. Have they seen something similar in a movie or cartoon?
Supplies for Nature Journals
My husband made us some caddies to carry our supplies out into the field. You don't need anything this fancy, but it is sure nice to have everything at hand to capture the moment.
Here's what's in our tool kit:
- Everyone has their own mixed media nature journal
- Non-Photo Blue pencils (they're great for sketching, and you don't have to erase them...they just fade away when you start watercoloring or painting.)
- Water Color Pencils
- Micron Pens
- Aqua water brushes (these are just fun to have!)
- Pencil Sharpener
- Jeweler magnifying loupe (makes observation fun in the field)
- Swiss Army knife (for deeper investigation)
- Scientific Plastic Magnifiers (for capturing and observing bugs)
Resources to Continue Discovery
After we've cultivated wonder, we need to follow through with resources to discover answers to their questions. While there are some avenues of study in which the mystery will never be resolved, there is plenty to learn about the natural world, and a library of good books is a great way to continue learning.
We have several great resources to use when we get home, but some we just check out at the library. I love how research draws out unexpected learning as well. I've also found that when the student is driving the research, they tend to remember it more. Isn't that fascinating?!
- The Tree Book for Kids and their Adults
- Insect Museum
- Christian Liberty Nature Readers
- Nature Anatomy: The Curious Parts and Pieces of the Natural World
- Animalium: Welcome to the Museum
- National Geographic Pocket Guide to Insects of North America
- National Geographic Pocket Guide to Reptiles and Amphibians of North America
- National Geographic Pocket Guide to Wildflowers of North America
- National Geographic Pocket Guide to Rocks and Minerals of North America
- National Geographic Pocket Guide to Birds of North America
- National Geographic Pocket Guide to Trees and Shrubs of North America
Practice makes Progress
I think one of the most important things I want to remember as we journey along with our nature journals is that we're not seeking to make perfect books of art. It takes time to become a masterful artist with the supplies that we're playing with in our journals. If we ever want to become great, we must practice, and that practice will make progress towards something lovely.
I also invested in a fun online class at Craftsy. This online network of creative geniuses is a homeschooler's dream. You can purchase access to classes, and then work along at your own pace. We chose the Illustrated Nature Journaling class to help our skills in the field. I look forward to seeing how we will progress over time!
Illustrated Nature Journaling - $39.99
However, the lovely artifact is only a dim reflection of the beauty that has been cultivated within a soul that can see beauty in the world around them. That is my true goal. That is what I see to make progress in, and it too will take time.
Do you nature journal?
Betsy Strauss is an unexpected homeschooler, mother of three, who is in a relationship with a sweet man for life. She loves reading books, drinking coffee, and learning anything with her kids.