Nature Study for Young People

“As soon as a child is old enough, he should keep his own nature notebook for his enjoyment. Every day’s walk will give something interesting to add–three squirrels playing in a tree, a bluejay flying across a field, a caterpillar crawling up a bush, a snail eating a cabbage leaf, a spider suddenly dropping from a thread to the ground, where he found ivy and how it was growing and what plants were growing with it, and how ivy manages to climb.”
Charlotte Mason Volume 1 Home Education page 54.

Here are some other thoughts on nature study from Charlotte Mason.

  • The skill of drawing should not be addressed in the nature notebook. pg. 55
  • If the child is too young to write, the mother should do it. pg. 58
  • Encourage your children to sit quietly and patiently and to look closely. pg. 57
  • Some children are born naturalists but all have a natural curiousity that can be encouraged. pg. 58
  • Most children will think of a million things to put in his nature notebook. pg 55

Here are some of my own observations on nature study.

  • It takes my children a long time to explore outdoors and they can do it very well without my interfering. I try to follow their lead and not rush them.
  • I need to participate in the nature study myself. I try to model how to find a subject for my notebook and really observe the object.
  • Drawing the object in the notebook is the last step in really “seeing” the object.
  • There is no use in forcing a child to work in a nature journal. Regular exposure to the outdoor life will eventually lead to a desire to keep a record of what they see that interests them.
  • Every nature journal is unique to the owner. I tend to record scenes in my journal. My daughter usually finds something pretty to draw. My boys find “things” to record in their journals like sticks, bugs, leaves, and seeds.
  • Don’t limit your journals to sketches. Sometimes we include photos in our journals. We have taken rubbings of bark or leaves. We have even taped small objects into our journals. Variety in our journals make them more interesting.

We have been working diligently in our notebooks this summer, recording our adventures. It is comforting to look back on the sketches and remember what fun we have had exploring the outdoors.


  1. Dumb question. Do you draw and write in your journals while you are outside or after you get back inside?

    • Barb McCoy says:

      Both. It really just depends on the mood and the place. I would prefer to do it outdoors when we have the subject in front of us but sometimes that just doesn’t happen. You can take the supplies with you and offer the opportunity to draw and see if it happens, creating an entry at home if you don’t get a great reception when you are out and about.

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