This article by Christina Lowry was originally published in Secular Homeschooler Magazine – Issue No. One in September, 2018.
Children are natural artists and scientists. Their innate curiosity drives their exploration of the world around them. They fill their pockets with treasure, ask a million questions and can scribble their way through an entire scrap book in an afternoon. Nature journaling is a beautiful way to preserve moments of that curiosity and creativity. And it isn’t just for children. It encourages adults to see the world through their children’s eyes, to shed negative beliefs about their own creativity, to slow down, look closely, and ask ‘why’. Together with our children we can record observations and questions, and learn more about the world around us, and ourselves.
Charlotte Mason devotees will be familiar with nature journaling as an essential part of a child’s education. However, whatever your homeschooling style, nature journaling offers so much to both child and parent. It is a process of discovery that naturally covers English, Science, Geography, Art, fine motor skills, creativity, and connection with the natural world. In a time when children are reportedly spending less and less time outdoors, nature journaling inspired our family to spend more time exploring in nature, study entomology, keep insects as pets and observe their life cycles first hand.
Nature Journaling is one of my favourite parts of homeschooling. Our approach has evolved over time as I learnt to keep it light hearted and fun. It should never be a chore, but rather inspire a sense of wonder. As unschoolers, our time spent nature journaling is not scheduled, but inspired by our experiences. It is an activity we do together, often as a result of spending time in nature, and it is voluntary. The very act of sitting down and starting to draw in my own nature journal is an invitation my children usually cannot resist.
WHAT EXACTLY IS NATURE JOURNALING AND HOW DO YOU GET STARTED?
It can be equally inspiring and overwhelming to know that Nature Journaling can be nearly anything. Quite simply, it’s a sketchbook to draw items found in nature, but it can be so much more. You can make your pages as plain or as decorative as you wish. You can ask questions, include photographs, tape in feathers, pressed flowers and observations. You might include quotes, or poems. You may use pencils, ink, watercolour, crayons, or all of them. There is no right or wrong way, no need to test or mark the contributions to each page. You may journal daily, weekly, or just while travelling. You may choose to sketch only birds, or insects, or landscapes, or a little bit of everything. Each journal is unique.
To get started, let your children choose their own sketchbooks and you choose one too. Gather up pencils and watercolour paints, then take them out to the back yard, a local park or nature trail and invite them to find something they would like to draw. This is the beginning of a process that will bear more and more fruit over time. At first my children drew carton figures of animals, and with gentle encouragement, write the date and the name of the animal. Over the past year my children have gradually taken more and more pride in their work, their interest has been piqued by many topics and they are now recognising species, taking note of seasonal differences, copying life cycle diagrams, and committing small details to paper.
Every moment you spend outside, every nature documentary, every book that celebrates the natural world will excite in them the possibilities of nature and with time and encouragement you will be amazed at the way your children respond to the world around them.
Those blank journals are full of possibilities!