While reading Home Education By Charlotte Mason the section on Nature Diaries came up. Honestly, when I read this passage I was beyond excited-I was thrilled. I love nature, my children love nature, we love our out of doors time and we love our nature walks. The idea of keeping a nature diary makes Miss. Mason’s educational philosophy even more enchanting. This is how I came up with how to get started with a Charlotte Mason style nature diary.
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“As soon as he is able to keep himself, a nature-diary is a source of delight to a child. While he is quite young (five or six), he should begin to illustrate his notes freely with brush drawings; he should have a little help at first in mixing colors, in the way of principles, not directions.” -Charlotte Mason Home Education pg.55
Notice Charlotte doesn’t refer to the nature diary as a journal? Which really puts things into perspective on the direction of nature study and the use of a nature diary. A diary is something that holds personal and intimate knowledge, plus Charlotte specifically says a nature diary should be a source of delight for the child. Therefore, we are not to be hovering and forcing information on our children. Instead, stand back and let them develop a wonderment and curiosity towards their nature observation.
Key Points For A Charlotte Mason Style Nature Diary
“Every day’s walk gives him something to enter: three squirrels in a larch tree, a jay flying across such a field, a caterpillar climbing up a nettle, a snail eating a cabbage leaf, a spider dropping suddenly to the ground, where he found ground ivy, how it was growing and what plants were growing with it, how bindweed or ivy manages to climb.”-Charlotte Mason Home Education pg.54
“He should not be told to use now this or now that but, ‘we get purple by mixing so and so,’ and then he should be left to himself to get that right tint. As for drawing, instruction has no doubt its time and place; but his nature diary should be left to his own initiative.” -Charlotte Mason Home Education pg.55
My oldest is a little over 5 years old, and has just started to take interest in keeping a nature diary. Initially, I explained that a nature diary is kept on her while she is outside, and she is just to draw or paint with watercolors what she feels compelled to illustrate. I am outside during these times making sure to guide but allow them to observe and make the connections on their own. My experience on this has caused me to conclude that this approach teaches the child what to observe, how to think, and internally motivate a child to learn.
My three year old keeps one too and mainly paints the colors he sees. He has asked what the names of the colors are and in this way has learned his colors.
“A child of six will produce a dandelion, poppy, daisy, iris with its leaves, impelled by the desire to represent what he sees, with surprising vigor and correctness.”-Charlotte Mason Home Education pg.55
A Perfect Example
Recently, Lynn from raising little shoots visited Ambleside and discovered a nature diary that was actually kept by a student that attended Miss. Mason’s school. Lynn, was thoughtful enough to share Monica Watson’s nature diary (for free) with everyone on her page. If you’re interested to know what that may look like you can find it by following this link: Ambleside Nature Notebooks All that she asks is that you consider making a donation, however small, to the Armitt Library in Ambleside, England. The library is responsible for the conservation of the archives from both Miss Mason herself, and the House of Education.
Are you looking for a way to easily begin nature study?
“An exercise book with stiff covers serves for a nature-diary, but care is necessary in choosing paper that answers both for writing and brush-drawing.” -Charlotte Mason Home Education pg.55
Nature Journal Supplies:
A Source of Delight Nature Journal is for watercolor brush entries. This means the pages will not buckle or bleed after watercolor painting. Left hand side is for brushwork and right hand side is lined for writing. If you wonder how your child will learn to brush draw for many it comes in time. I keep a nature journal and I found that with each entry, my brush drawings improved. For young children, expect that their drawings will be at their level. That nature journaling isn’t so much about the quality, rather it is the forming of thoughts, careful observations, and intricate thinking.
What do you think about nature journaling?
This is an update since I wrote this last year, my oldest is now 7 and my youngest is now 4 1/2. We have continued with regular nature journaling since this time. My oldest is beginning to label the anatomy of her nature observations. Both are learning the common and scientific name of their nature observation. Personally, I look forward to it. There is just something about being in nature, enjoying the peace while also teaching and learning.
One thing I do to encourage my children in nature journaling is by showing genuine excitement towards the nature observation. If you’re uncertain on how to get your own children to desire nature journaling, I suggest trying the same. I put a window birdfeeder against our back sliding patio door. We get all kinds of wild birds throughout the day. When I see one, I say with excitement, “Look who is at the window, it is the cardinal again!” My children come eagerly to see. Now they do the same and at some point I suggest they get out their nature journals. Perhaps, that will help get you and your children started in nature journaling too.