After thoroughly looking at how to study nature, covering what goes "into" the mind through observation, one can finish examining the topic of Nature Study by taking a look at what "comes out of" the mind through nature journaling. Nature journaling is a method to two key aspects of the science of observation: assimilating information and recording information. When a child draws and writes what he is seeing and observing, he assimilates the information. Charlotte Mason shared the wisdom that what a child digs for, he takes possession of. Narrating is the act of knowing, and nature journals are a lovely narration of observations of Creation.
Nature journaling can be done while in the act of studying nature, or it can be done later. If observing in your backyard, you will most likely find yourself and your children journaling while observing. If you're on a nature walk, you might find that you return home and then journal what was observed and learned, or that you journal a bit "in the field" and then work some more at home. There's no wrong way to nature journal, and very few "instructions" for doing it right. One key thing is to gradually increase your use of nature journals so that both the skills built and the observational value of nature study and the journals build over time.
When beginning, you could simply do a one page journal entry during your weekly nature study. Nature Journal entries are a mixture of writing and drawing, but writing should never be excluded. In a nature journal entry, you would include the date and time and any other combination of the following things: the weather, the temperature, the direction of the wind, lists and descriptions of what was observed, pictures of items observed, descriptions of thoughts and feelings about creation and the Creator. I (and many CM "experts") strongly recommend that you keep a nature journal alongside your children. You won't always make the same entries, and you probably won't journal as often as they do. But, nature journaling isn't a "school subject" meant to be mastered and then abandoned. It's valuable for a lifetime and your children will gain exponentially more from it if you do it alongside them. You don't need to be an artist, and the art of drawings is not the focus of nature study. It can be a creative outlet for creative children, and will no doubt encourage creativity and build artistic skills over time. But, it is just valuable and important for those who are less creative and less artistic. The focus in journaling is assimilating the ideas and observations brought into the mind and recording the information gained, not beautiful drawings.
When you're in the field, you will no doubt come across things to observe that you will not be able to identify and do not know anything about. Observation is important, and if it is all that is accomplished then you have accomplished much. However, you will want to try to make it a point often to search for the answers to the questions you have encountered and identify the specimens that you do not recognize. You can carry a field guide (or use your phone) with you and identity in the field, or you can identify at home. This being "in the field" involves going into your backyard and beyond, and you will find that nature walks become a much loved activity by even the most reluctant "naturalists" in your home. You can nature walk in parks, trails, woods etc. If you do nature study weekly, a great goal is to get beyond your backyard at least monthly.
For younger children, you will want to keep a focus on "seeing" and identifying and on quality over quantity of words, letting them dictate to you if they are reluctant writers. For middle school and high school children, you will want to build on the skill of identifying and begin to include classification of animals and plants in journal entries. Children of this age will also begin to focus on more detailed descriptions of specimens observed. No matter their age, be sure to allow children the freedom to observe and journal freely, at any time. Remember, the goal isn't to tell them what to think, but to consistently put God's creation in front of them and to let the benefits of that take root in their hearts and minds.
Practically speaking, Nature Journaling should be included as part of the weekly schedule, in addition to being a freely available activity to pursue anytime. You can do this alongside your nature lessons each day, spending 10 minutes of your Nature Lesson reading, and 10 minutes journaling. You can also include Nature Journaling as a 10 minute lesson at the end of each school day. When doing this, I like to have a specific journaling assignment for each day of the week. These could include journal in the front yard, journal in the backyard, journal from a window, journal from the porch, journal a plant, journal an animal, journal a tree, journal two flowers and compare them, etc. Another option for scheduling nature journaling weekly is to allot time after your weekly nature walk for observing things collected, further exploration in guides, and journaling. Whenever you include it, if you are ensuring that both nature study and nature journaling are included weekly in your feast, then you are gifting your children with observation of creation going into their minds, and the narration and knowing of these observations coming out to form a permanent, beautiful record.
Things to Ponder:
Nature Walks take effort, and nature journaling doesn't come naturally to the majority of mothers. Charlotte Mason encouraged mothers to do what was GOOD and profitable for their children, not what was comfortable and easy, and I am going to encourage you to do the same. It is so often outside of our comfort zones that beautiful things happen, and even more frequently outside of our comfort zones that growth in our relationships with our Creator happen. I wouldn't be being true to my calling or to my love for the homeschoolers reading this outpouring of acquired Charlotte Mason wisdom if I didn't offer a gentle push outside of those comfort zones and into God's creation. I will confess here that I hate being outside, and that I am not naturally a lover of animals and plants. My love for these things is growing, but I can give personal testimony to the value of "just doing it anyway" when it comes to nature study. I implore you to give it the effort that it's worth and to give its countless benefits due time to take root and bloom in your heart and in your home.
Things to Do:
Challenge for Implementing-
1. Join the Charlotte Mason Nature Journaling Facebook Group.
2. Either buy a sketchbook or clipboard/staple some papers together and do a journal entry during your next nature study.
List of Field Supplies-
Magnifying Glass or Small Microscope
Mini First Aid Kit
Tweezers (for picking up specimens)
Pocket Knife/Multi Tool
Measuring Tape (the sewing kind)
Ziploc Baggies (for bringing stuff home)
How To Set Up a Simple Nature Area in Home-
1. By a door.
2. Basket for Field Guides, Sketchbooks, Watercolors, Pencils, etc.
3. Smaller Basket for Storing Nature Treasures Brought Home.
Great Bird Calls-
Wooden Wagon Bird Calls
Dry Brush Water Color Tutorial
(For Older Children)
From Charlotte Herself:
"The question is not how much does a child know when he has finished his education- but how much does he care? Infact, how large is the room in which he finds his feet? And, therefore how full is the life he has before him."
"What a child digs for is his own possession"
"Never be within doors when you can rightly be without."
May All Your Days Be Spent Delightfully Feasting...