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Big Announcement! Outdoor Hour is Staying Online!

I announced my retirement in August and many of you so kindly expressed your love and support for my decision, as well as your best wishes for the next chapter in my life. One of those people who contacted me with great sadness was Tricia Hodges from You Are An Artist (also, She felt strongly that the Outdoor Hour Challenge and the other resources on the Handbook of Nature Study website should stay available to families. Prayerfully considering the options, she and her husband Steve offered to take over the curating of the content found on the Handbook of Nature Study website.

The Outdoor Hour is Staying Online – Same place, same content, just new owners!

Great News for Current Members!

-Current memberships will be honored for the remainder of the membership period.

-All content will still be available to members after 12/31/21.

The Handbook of Nature Study Outdoor Hour Challenges for homeschoolers have a new owner. The good news is the Outdoor Hour Online is staying!

Let me introduce your new host on the Handbook of Nature Study website.

Tricia Hodges has been a personal friend and professional colleague for many years. She has been a huge part of the Outdoor Hour Challenge family from the very beginning. She participated with her own children, sharing their nature experiences with the Handbook of Nature Study newsletter (archives found in the Member’s library) and the Outdoor Hour Challenge blog carnival. You do not have to dig too deep into the archives to find her presence and support for everything we have accomplished promoting family nature study time.

I’m excited for you to get to know their website, You Are An Artist, since it’s a perfect complement to the nature study lessons found on the Handbook of Nature Study.

It’s truly an honor for them to keep my work available for current members and an even bigger honor to know that my love of nature and the passion I poured into this work will benefit future participants. In addition to their You Are An Artist website, Tricia also runs The Curriculum Choice website that has been a valuable resource for homeschoolers for many, many years. She also shares her personal homeschooling wisdom and journey on her Hodgepodgemom blog.

I’m thrilled to have Tricia and her whole family take over the reins here on my website. The content will be in very capable and loving hands.

Details To Come

We’ll be making more details available as we work through the transition process in the month of December. We aim to have the website transferred and ready to go by the end of the year. Please be patient because we all know that stuff happens behind the scenes when making changes to websites.

If you have any questions, please feel free to email me.

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Outdoor Hour Challenge: The Habit of Gathering Things for Your Nature Table

Outdoor Hour Challenge

Week 14 – November 26, 2021

The Habit of Gathering Things for Your Nature Table

In My Experience

During our family nature walks, my boys would gather things to bring home for our nature collection. They were always asking me to carry things for them and soon my pockets would be stuffed with rocks, acorns, and other interesting natural items. If they had too many items, I would make them choose a few favorites. Often, we would draw the items once we were home but many times these treasures went straight to our nature table. This habit of gathering items while outside together was one that connected our time in nature with our indoor life and learning.

Inevitably, the table would be covered with lots of things, and I decided we needed a system of displaying the items. I gathered a few baskets and plates and boxes for holding the bits they brought home from our outdoor excursions. (See the post linked below on how this worked with our rock collection.)

winter nature table example 1

The habit of collecting nature items for a nature table helps us transition from season to season. At the start of each season, we would evaluate which things on the table we would keep and which things could be taken back outside. Leaves get crunchy and flowers wilt over time, so they were easy to recycle. The other items like rocks and shells can live on the nature table or be stored in a box for future observations or display. I’m sure you’ll come up with a system of rotating items for your family that makes sense to you.

If you’re unsure what a nature table is exactly, I’ve included a definition below with some ideas and tips for you to consider. I hope this post will help you begin the habit of gathering items during your Outdoor Hour.

A Nature Table Is…

1. A table, shelf, box, or tray where teachers and families can gather and collect natural items for exploration and discovery.

2. A collection of natural objects gathered by the teacher or student for closer observation.

3. A place for the child to touch and interact with the natural items.

4. A place that changes with the seasons and interests of the student.

5. A collection of inanimate, living, and once living objects.

6. A place to encourage the outdoors to come indoors.

7. An aid to looking more closely at nature from your own backyard.

8. A part of a nature center, hopefully near a window for firsthand observation of things in your own yard or neighborhood.

9. A place to gather tools and ideas for further investigation.

Why Have a Nature Table @handbookofnaturestudy

  • Please use common sense when adding things to the nature table. Please be cautioned about potentially hazardous items like glass jars, sharp objects, and/or possibly poisonous items like berries, mushrooms, and leaves.
  • The nature table can be a part of a larger nature observation center in your classroom or home. Positioning the table near a window for outdoor observation is a great way to use the nature table as a place to gather nature study tools like magnifying glasses, binoculars, a nature journal, and field guides.
  • Consider changing items from year to year to freshen up your seasonal nature table.
  • Do not look at the items collected as something to necessarily save from one year to the next.
  • Allow a place for new objects and for areas of interest.
  • Let your children gather and collect items for the table if possible.


Ultimate Naturalist Members:

Here are some ideas from the past to inspire you. Make sure to see the printable ideas I shared below!

Newsletters :

If you’re not a member here on the Handbook of Nature Study yet, please consider joining to gain the benefit of having a nature study library at your fingertips. There are numerous resources available for you to help create the habit of nature study within your family.

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Outdoor Hour Challenge: Cultivate the Habit of Reading Nature Books

Outdoor Hour Challenge

Week 12 – November 19, 2021

Cultivate the Habit of Reading Nature Books

Over the years, our family has built a nature themed library of our favorite and most useful resources. There are picture books featuring the natural world, fiction with a nature theme, and non-fiction reference and activity filled books. Even now with my children all grown and on their own, I use this nature library for my own benefit and enjoyment.

This entry is not intended to be an exhaustive list of nature books you could have in your home. Rather, it’s filled with possible selections and ideas you can adapt to your own personal tastes and habitat.

nature books library literature

Start Collecting Books ASAP

“Nature themed literature is a wonderful way to generate an interest in the natural world. These books can also be used to enhance an area of study by sharing information along with illustrations in a simple and non-threatening way. Children can usually sit still for a few minutes while you share a picture book and many times, they will later pick up the book again all on their own and really study it.”

This is a quote from a newsletter article I wrote and then shared on the blog. You can read the entire article here: Using the Public Library to Enhance Your Nature Study.  

The link above also includes a free printable Nature Book Report notebook page for you to use with your family.

Young Children – Create a Book Basket

Gathering seasonal or themed nature study books into a basket takes a few minutes of preparation but it can provide hours of enjoyment for your family.

Three Ways a Book Basket Facilitates Learning

(Read more in the January 2015 Newsletter found in the Archives)

¨ Introduces and allows familiarity to nature study topics: Make sure to read or page through any picture books in the basket at the beginning of the month. Demonstrate how to use field guides (or learn how to use them together with your children).

¨ Reference: If you choose books that fit into your monthly nature study themes, you can refer to the books in the basket as needed to support or go more in-depth as you work through your weekly topics.

¨ Allows for independent learning: Leaving the basket out at a level accessible to your children will allow them to study the books on their own during their free time.

Recommendations for Your Nature Library

The list below shares some of my favorite books from our family’s nature library. Please use this list as a starting point and then build upon it with books that capture the interest and locality of your family. Please see the August 2015 Newsletter found in the archives for more of my personal favorites, including field guides, children’s literature, reference books, and more.

Readers Digest North American Wildlife @handbookofnaturestudy

North American Wildlife: One of my all-time favorite books for nature study. This colorful edition will keep the interest of children of all ages.

Tracks, Scats, and Signs:  This is one of my favorite books for learning about signs of mammals. It is perfect for a winter mammal study! Look for printables available to Member’s in the Library.

Backyard Birds: This book is the basis for a whole series of bird nature study ideas. It’s a great beginner’s book on birds. Please note it is used extensively in my Learning About Birds ebook available to Members.

My Favorite Tree Nature Club Printables

My Favorite Tree: You will love having this book as part of your nature library. Learn more about so many interesting trees and use the resources in this entry to take your study deeper.

Birds, Nests, and Eggs: I am passionate about the study of birds and this reference is a great introduction to a bird study for children and families.

Discover Nature at Sundown book

Discover Nature at Sundown: This is one in a series of books that takes you into more advanced nature study around a specific theme. This book focuses on things you can study at sundown.

One Small Square: Seashore: Are you getting ready for a trip to the beach? This book will give you plenty of nature study observation ideas to try. I also highly recommend this whole series of One Small Square books for your nature library.

Pond Study Nature Club August 2018 @handbookofnaturestudy

Pond Life (Golden Series): We have used this book extensively in our own family’s pond studies. I hope you look for it at your library and enjoy its awesome illustrations and information. Members can download a pond habitat printable set from the Member’s Library.

America’s Prairies and Grasslands: This beautiful book is one in a series that I highly recommend.  Members can download a prairie habitat printable set from the Member’s Library.


Ultimate Naturalist Members:


  • Nature Book Report notebook page

Newsletters :

  • March 2012 – Children’s Nature Literature
  • November 2013 – Nature Literature
  • January 2015 – Book Basket
  • August 2015 – Nature Library – If you’re at all interested in building a nature library, this is the newsletter that has the most detailed ideas and resources for you to use.

If you’re not a member here on the Handbook of Nature Study yet, please consider joining to gain the benefit of having a nature study library at your fingertips. There are numerous resources available for you to help create the habit of nature study within your family.

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What’s In Your November World?

What’s In Your November World?

It’s easy to dismiss the November world as cold and dark, even barren. But I guarantee that if you take a short walk outside with your children, you’ll realize there are still plenty of things to capture your attention. deschutes river nov 2021 (2)

We took a hike this past weekend and it actually snowed on us during our adventure. Even then, we were able to hear a flock of grosbeaks up in the treetops, see colorful lichen on the trees, and some amazing mushrooms pushing their way up out of the ground.

deschutes river nov 2021 (1)

The deciduous trees here are fairly leafless already, but there was an abundance of leaves on the ground that we could stop and observe. I put a couple of leaves in my pocket so I could paint them in my nature journal once we arrived home.

I admit that it was cold, and the weather wasn’t the most inviting. We could have easily not taken our hike. Am I glad we made the effort? Yes!

Here’s my suggestion for you this month:

Push yourself to get outside and take note of your own November world. Even if you only get out for a few minutes, you’ll more than likely find something to note in your nature journal.

Please see the link below for a more detailed challenge for November. There’s even a printable notebook page for you to use with your family.


Outdoor Hour Challenge November World Observations

You can read the original Outdoor Hour Challenge here: November World.


Printable: November World – Know Your Own Backyard Notebook Page

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Outdoor Hour Challenge: The Habit of Taking Your Nature Study on the Road

Outdoor Hour Challenge

Week 11 – November 12, 2021

The Habit of Taking Your Nature Study on the Road

Our family has always enjoyed being outside together, hitting the hiking trail and doing a little exploring. But often the biggest obstacle to taking that hike was figuring out where to go. We may have had the desire and the time to get outside but wrestled with the question of where to go. Often we thought too big.

I realized over time that we didn’t need to travel far to find places to go on short notice or even for a half day’s hike. I loved being able to roll out of bed, decide to go on a hike, and be out the door in a short period of time. So, how did I overcome the dilemma of finding places to hike near our home?

Here’s the idea we landed on and have since adapted to our home here in Oregon.

“We found a long time ago that we can explore so many different places by using a simple idea. Take a map and place a big dot on your hometown. Now determine an hour’s distance from your home and draw a circle around your home at that distance. Make a list of all the places you can go that are within that hour’s distance and then start one by one giving them a try. We have been following this concept for over a decade and it always amazes us what we can find to do that is within that short distance range.” From my blog in 2010.

I wrote that blog entry when I still lived in California, in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada. We were blessed with many trails within a short distance of our home, even some that were accessible in the winter. We of course had our favorites that we visited many times but over the years we tried to include new places each season. We were never without a few wish list places to look forward to trying.

When we made the big move to Central Oregon four years ago, we did the same exercise with an Oregon map. We drew a 50-mile radius around our hometown and then did research to find trails to explore in our new habitat. It’s surprising how many interesting places you’ll find if you give this a try. Everyone has a unique place to explore and it just takes a little preparation to get you going on some new and fresh trails.

Finding Resources

I did some research on Amazon and found that if you type in some particular words you can find some great ideas for books for your family just about anywhere you live. You can purchase the book from Amazon or look up the title at your public library instead.

Type in the search box on

Easy Day Hikes _______ (with your state instead of the blank)
Best Day Hikes ________ (with your state instead of the blank)
Day Hike ____________(with your closest National Park instead of the blank)
Fodor’s __________(with your state or region of the US like Southwest or Northwest)
Moon Handbooks ____________(with your state, region, or national park instead of the blank)
Hiking ___________(with your state, region, or national park…this one will get you a lot more choices and can be overwhelming)

Another tip that I will pass on is to go to Barnes and Noble and look for their travel guide section. Browse and pick out a guide book to your own state and/or local area. Be like a tourist and read the guide book to discover more about your own locality. I keep one of the hiking guide books and a local map in the pocket of the door in my car. I refer to it when we are looking for local attractions for day trips.

Of course, you can just look things up on the internet, although when I am out and about it is reassuring to have a map and some directions in my pack as a backup. I do lots of research online, but I feel better having a book describing the hikes when we head out the door. At the very least, we carry a map of the area where we are hiking. I could write a whole post about bad maps and books and trail markers but I will save that for another time. 🙂


Nature Study When You Travel

Maybe you would like to incorporate a little nature study when you take a vacation or longer trip. I think this is a fantastic idea and we’ve done it in our family for decades. It brings an added layer to your vacation experience, introducing you to things you might otherwise miss if you weren’t thinking about nature while traveling.

The difference between a good outdoor experience and a great outdoor experience with an opportunity for nature study is sometimes just a matter of preparation.

Preparation for Nature Study When Traveling

1. Do a little research ahead of time for the habitat you’ll be visiting.
Determine what you’ll encounter on your trip that might make for interesting
nature study. For example, if you’re going to be visiting an ocean beach, learn what
plants, birds, and animals make their home there. You can also use the Handbook of
Nature Study to read about things you think you might encounter during your travels.

2. Find resources such as field guides or other nature related books to read or bring along with you. I suggest starting with a few field guides with common nature study topics: birds, wildflowers, and trees. Check your library for books you can borrow and take with you. To prepare, you should page through the field guides before you leave on your trip to be familiar with the layout of the book and perhaps to glean a few things ahead of time to be looking for as you go outdoors.

3. Bring along your nature journal or some pre-printed notebook pages. During down time it is nice to have supplies on hand to make a nature journal entry to record your nature study as you travel. Basic art supplies like markers or colored pencils are easy to pack. I also like watercolor pencils for nature journal entries. Keep it simple and light.

4. I also like to look up nature centers or nature trails in the areas we visit. A good nature center visit can take an hour or two and can provide a spark to capture the interest of everyone in the family. The staff is usually knowledgeable about the local habitat, giving you advice on where to go and what to see. They also can help identify anything you have observed but can’t put a name to as you try to make your journal entries. Most nature centers have bookstores that can provide additional resources to follow-up your nature study time.

Ultimate Naturalist Members:

Getting Started Ebook: In preparing for your trip, you could also look up a few of the Outdoor Hour Challenges before you travel, the first five challenges can be applied to any habitat. If you have the Getting Started Challenges 1-10 ebook, you can have that loaded on your laptop and reference it as you travel.



  • Nature Center Notebook Page
  • Habitat notebook pages – see the various habitats available
  • Any of the specific printables for topics you may encounter on your travels

Newsletters :

  • December 2013 – National Parks (travel)
  • May 2015 – Nature Study Travel (printable notebook page for travel)

Take time to go through your Membership library to see what’s available to help you in your quest to make difficult subjects easier for you. My intent in writing the Outdoor Hour Challenges was to make your life easier when it comes to pulling together an interesting and rich nature study for your family.

Join Us Ultimate Naturalist June 2020

If you’re not a member here on the Handbook of Nature Study yet, please consider joining to gain the benefit of having a nature study library at your fingertips. There are numerous resources available for you to help create the habit of nature study within your family.

Please note that the Ultimate Naturalist Library will only be available until 12/31/2021. At that time my website will be shutting down.

If you’re an email subscriber to the Handbook of Nature Study, you may consider saving this email in a folder for future reference. The blog will be retiring at the end of the year as well.

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Autumn Birds and Project Feederwatch

Autumn Birds and Project Feederwatch

It’s that time of year again when we can start preparing to join the Project Feederwatch program along with many, many other families around North America. I just looked up my data on the website and it says that I’ve participated in the Feederwatch counts for 10 years! It’s an activity that has helped me learn more about my local birds in a way that is fun and useful to the community.

Mockingbird Dece 2015

What is Project Feederwatch? You can read more on their website here: Project Feederwatch 2021-2022. This year the counting season starts on November 13, 2021 and ends on April 30, 2022.

Project Feederwatch tally sheet

You can participate as much or as little as you desire. It only takes a few minutes on two consecutive days each week to participate. If you miss a week, that’s okay too…just pick up when you can.

Watch a video on how to get started.

The additional video below shows how this really is something everyone can participate in, even with young children.


I love weaving a citizen science project like this into our lives. We have several feeders we can see from our windows and keeping them filled with seed is easy. Those feeders become the focal point of our bird observations because for Feederwatch you only count birds that come to eat.

chickadee at the feeder

Project Feederwatch is a perfect match for our lifestyle. It’s something that I can participate in that doesn’t take a huge commitment of time and I can do it right from my own home, even if I’m wearing my pajamas.

You may be interested in following my Nature Study – Birds Pinterest board!

Learning About Birds 3D coverDon’t forget about the Outdoor Hour Challenge – Learning About Birds ebook that is available to both Ultimate and Journey level members.


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Outdoor Hour Challenge: Building the Habit of Tackling Difficult Subjects

Outdoor Hour Challenge

Week 10 – November 5, 2021

Building the Habit of Tackling Difficult Subjects

All homeschooling moms have them: topics that we don’t feel confident to teach.

Tackling the difficult topics found in nature study can be a stumbling block for many moms. Most of us find it easy to be interested in and to learn about topics like birds and butterflies alongside our children. But, what about things like spiders, fungus, or rocks? Are we as eager to study those things commonly found in nature? I’ve suffered from this lack of interest in tackling difficult topics in nature study with my children.

Reasons We May View Topics as Difficult

We lack knowledge in the area under study.

Let’s face it. Most of us are not “experts” in nature study. These things were not covered in our educational years. So many times, when we’re faced with introducing our children to nature study, we feel unqualified.

“But she should not let lack of knowledge be a wet blanket thrown over her pupils’ interest. She should say frankly, ‘I do not know; let us see if we cannot together find out this mysterious thing.’” Handbook of Nature Study, page 3

We lack personal interest in a topic.

It’s our attitude about a topic that can either encourage or discourage our children in their pursuing the study of a topic. If you are disgusted by spiders, they will probably take on your attitude. Honestly, I found studying snakes one of the most difficult things to do with my children so I would continually put it off until a future date.

Resources may not be readily available.

At some point, we come across something during our nature study time that is not in the Handbook of Nature Study. It may be a local wildflower or a migrating bird. Whatever the topic, we lack the knowledge or resources to easily study it with our children. We realize we need to do more research in our study. It seems like too much work.

Ideas to Help with Offering Difficult Subjects

Build Up Knowledge – Start with the Handbook of Nature Study lessons for a topic. If you need additional information, try the children’s section at your public library for books that talk about the topic. Search for videos on YouTube if you want some help making a topic less intimidating. (Note: The Outdoor Hour Challenges will usually have all these ideas in the lesson so make sure to look up your topic to see if there is a OHC on the website that you may be able to use.)

Example from our nature study:

Rain Beetle – How to Identify a New Insect: I found that the closer I looked at this insect, the more beauty I found in its design and features. It taught me that sometimes if we just take time to learn more about a topic, the more interesting it becomes.

Develop interest over time – If you introduce a topic and it falls flat, nothing says you can’t move onto something else. Sometimes you just need to let some time pass before you find a hook for a particular nature study topic. This is especially the case when you’re studying a subject that you haven’t encountered in person. We all get more excited about something new we see and experience with our own eyes!

“No teacher is expected to teach all the lessons in this book. A wide range of subjects is given, so that congenial choices may be made.” Handbook of Nature Study, page 24

Study a variety of nature study subjects. – There is no end to the variety of nature study subjects available to you. You could easily stick to topics you are passionate about for a long time. Eventually, you may develop a desire to tackle some of the less attractive topics with your children. Give it time.

“Usually, the reason for this lack of interest is the limited range of subjects used for nature study lessons. Often the teacher insists upon flowers as the lesson subject, when toads or snakes would prove the key to the door of the child’s interest.” Handbook of Nature Study, page 6

Find a group that can support your study – Ask around your community or look at local social media to find a group or event that will help you get excited about a nature study topic. Ask at a local nature center. Put the word out in your homeschooling community. Find a mentor for a topic that your child is interested in learning more about and you have no interest in tackling. There is no shame in finding help for difficult topics.

In My Experience:

One year we studied rocks and I took the kids to the local rock and mineral show at our fairgrounds. Talk about the perfect place to find a mentor in this area! Most of the participants were eager to share their knowledge and even invited the kids to join their rockhounding group. I was able to get suggestions for places to go look for rocks to collect and for books that we could add to our nature library.

Ultimate Naturalist Members:

All of the materials in the Ultimate Naturalist Library are going to give you support and direction in offering a simple study of difficult nature topics. Because we each have our individual likes and dislikes, it’s hard for me to point to just one resource for you to use in your study.

Take time to go through your Membership library to see what is available to help you in your quest to make difficult subjects easier for you. My intent in writing the Outdoor Hour Challenges was to make your life easier when it comes to pulling together an interesting and rich nature study for your family.

Join Us Ultimate Naturalist June 2020

If you’re not a member here on the Handbook of Nature Study yet, please consider joining to gain the benefit of having a nature study library at your fingertips. There are numerous resources available for you to help create the habit of nature study within your family.

Please note that the Ultimate Naturalist Library will only be available until 12/31/2021. At that time my website will be shutting down.

If you’re an email subscriber to the Handbook of Nature Study, you may consider saving this email in a folder for future reference. The blog will be retiring at the end of the year as well.

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Outdoor Hour Challenge: The Nature Journal Habit

Outdoor Hour Challenge

Week 9 – October 29, 2021

The Nature Journal Habit

Like all habits, the habit of keeping a nature journal starts by making it a regular part of your routine. I’ve found that families that create a simple nature journal page after their outdoor time are the most successful at keeping that habit over time. Don’t make it too complicated or overthink the process.

Many of us struggle with perfection. We think that a nature journal should be a place of beauty and value…which I agree with wholeheartedly. But, it also can be a place that we experiment and mess up from time to time. A smear here or a misspelled word or funky drawing we don’t like can also appear on a nature journal page. Those “mess ups” shouldn’t keep us from establishing a nature journaling habit.

Nature Journals for Young Children

I can’t emphasize enough that the single most important factor in starting a nature journaling habit in your family is the example you as the parent can set for your children. If you regularly get out your own nature journal and make entries, eventually your children will participate alongside you. Charlotte Mason wrote that if a child is too young to write or create their own journal entry, the mother can be their secretary and help them with the writing portion of a nature journal entry.

In my experience, many times after a nature walk, my kids were eager to do a sketch of something they observed while outdoors. Those pages may not be elaborate, but they are personal to the child.

See Outdoor Hour Challenge #2 Using Your Words and Outdoor Hour Challenge #3 Now is the Time to Draw for help getting started with simple nature journals with your children. If you’re a Member, you can download the Getting Started ebook for additional information and printable journal pages.

Nature Journals for Moms – Good Habits Start With You

It is my journal, and it can be any way that I wish it to be. When I first started journaling back in approximately 2008, I felt the pressure to make my entries pretty and artistic. The examples I could find online were by real artists and not just a regular mom like myself. I needed to stop comparing myself and just be inspired by these other nature journal pages.

Keeping a nature journal is a long-term life project. My nature journal goes with me on every trip we take….I have packed it three times to Hawaii, to Yellowstone, on countless trips to Yosemite, and on most every little day trip I make. Do I always remember to pull it out and record things? No. Do I wish I would have made more entries? Yes. There is the lesson: Once you build the habit of journaling, you will be more excited about recording all your nature experiences whether they are close to home or far away on an adventure.

If you want your drawing skills to improve, you must practice. That’s a tough one for most of us. I did not come from an artistic background so giving myself permission to try to learn to draw or paint or do anything artistic took a big shove from my husband. It took time and effort. My suggestion for people who are striving to do a better job in sketching is to go to your library and go to the children’s section first and check out “how to draw” books and use them alongside your children. I checked one out on how to draw insects and one on how to draw birds and then found some nature sketching books to try. These experiences with the book open in front of you and your sketching from the step by step instructions will eventually spill over into your nature journal. The added bonus is that you will be modeling for your children the process and the effort to nature journal. There is no magic formula, but your success is equal to the effort you are willing to put into it.

See this entry, Drawing and Your Nature Journal for more information and images of my nature journal through the years. This entry is also helpful: 3 Tips for Nature Journaling When You Think You Can’t Sketch.

Nature Journal Cover Watercolor Pages @handbookofnaturestudy

My Nature Journal Resources

Simple Nature Journal Ideas (on Hubpages): This is a thorough collection of my simple to use nature journal ideas and a resource for my picks for nature journaling supplies.

Nature Journal Examples: This link will take you to a Flickr album with many nature journal pages our family has created.

Read in the Handbook of Nature Study:

  • Pages 13-15 (The Field Notebook). In this section Anna Botsford Comstock helps us with a detailed description of her idea of a field notebook or nature journal. She also states that if done properly “they represent what cannot be bought or sold, personal experience in the happy world of out-of-doors”. Make note of any suggestions you want to implement with your children.
  • Page 17 (The Correlation of Nature Study and Drawing). Highlight the points that will help you with your nature journals. “Too much have we emphasized drawing as an art; it may be an art, if the one who draws is an artist; but if he is not an artist, he still has a right to draw if it pleases him to do so.”

Ultimate Naturalist Members:

Outdoor Hour Challenge #3 – Now is the Time to Draw: This challenge from the Getting Started series is a perfect way to begin small with nature journaling. Members can download the ebook and the notebook pages that go along with it to introduce a nature journal to your children.

Outdoor Hour Challenge #2 – Using Your Words: If you’re having trouble coming up with words for your nature journal, OHC #2 will give you some direction.

Anatomy of a Journal Page - Keep it Simple



Anatomy of a Journal Page – Keep it Simple: This summarizes how to create a simple nature journal entry.

Printables for Members Button

You can always use any of the printable notebook pages in the Member’s Library for your nature journal.

Newsletters :

  • March 2014 – Nature Journals
  • April 2015 – Nature Journal Fun

 Join Us Ultimate Naturalist June 2020

If you’re not a member here on the Handbook of Nature Study yet, please consider joining to gain the benefit of having a nature study library at your fingertips. There are numerous resources available for you to help create the habit of nature study within your family.

Please note that the Ultimate Naturalist Library will only be available until 12/31/2021. At that time my website will be shutting down.


If you’re an email subscriber to the Handbook of Nature Study, you may consider saving this email in a folder for future reference. The blog will be retiring at the end of the year as well.


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Outdoor Hour Challenge- Make the Habit Easy – Adapt to Your Child’s Interests

Outdoor Hour Challenge

Week 8 – October 22, 2021

Make the Habit Easy – Adapt to Your Child’s Interests

Are you struggling with making your nature study meaningful for your family? Have your attempts to begin a nature study plan with your children failed because of their bad attitudes or lack of interest? Do you feel like nature study is just another academic subject that you need to check off your list?

You are not alone. I think many of us have tried to make nature study a regular routine in our homeschooling week but ended up throwing in the towel because it was just too hard to get into a rhythm.

New Readers – A Little Bit About My Story

I’m a mom of four children, one daughter and three sons. I found it impossible to make every study interesting for every child when it came to nature study. As a homeschooling mom, I attempted to educate myself in ways to offer subjects to my children that met their needs and interests, strengths, and skills.

I found nature study to be most successful when you allow your children to make connections that are meaningful and fit their style of learning. I was more successful when I offered a variety of activities to appeal in some way to their personal interests. (You can read more about the concept of addressing the various ways we learn here: Multiple Intelligences.)

I would love to share a specific example of this kind of customized learning for you to think about and adapt to your family. This example I have shared in the past, but it’s worth sharing again in this entry.

Downy Woodpecker Bird Birdfeeder suet (3)

Bird Study – Adapted to Different Learning Styles

  • Musical Learner: Enjoys listening to and learning to imitate bird calls. Easily identifies a bird by its call. Writes a song about birds.
  • Verbal-Linguistic: Records a birding experience in a nature journal using words or tells a story about the nature walk. Writes or copies a poem about a bird into their nature journal. Learns the Latin names of birds as well as the common names. Reads the biography of Audubon.
  • Mathematical-Logical: Tallies birds at a feeder. Keeps a running list of birds seen over a period of time in a nature journal. Collects bird feathers and categorizes them into groups. Studies migratory maps and learns where local birds go for the winter. Learns all the state birds. Experiments with different kinds of bird seed to see which ones particular birds like best. Participates in citizen science projects like the Great Backyard Bird Count and Project Feederwatch.
  • Visual-Spatial: Makes a model of a bird from clay. Sketches a bird in their nature journal. Notices the differences between birds: beaks, wing shapes, tail shapes, size. Builds a birdhouse. Designs and builds their own birdfeeder. Constructs a bird blind in order to observe birds.
  • Kinesthetic: Loves to take a walk and look for birds using binoculars. Climbs a tree to find a bird’s nest or just experience a “bird’s eye” view. Hangs a bird feeder and keeps it full. Plants a bird garden.
  • Interpersonal: Joins a birding group and learns from the more experienced birders about their local area. Volunteers at a bird reserve with a friend. Organizes a field trip to a bird aviary for their co-op.
  • Intrapersonal: Spends quiet time outdoors observing birds, perhaps recording their experiences in their own nature journal that they don’t share with others. Has a pet bird.
  • Naturalist: Enjoys lots of time outdoors looking for birds and learning their life cycles. Learns the names of birds, keeps a bird life list, learns the calls, and keeps a nature journal. Easily remembers the names of birds and their habits. Has a collection of bird’s feathers, bones, and nests.
  • Existential: Learns about endangered species of birds. Spends time contemplating a bird’s life cycle. Keeps a journal of their thoughts about birds and how they fit into the web of life on the earth.

You can provide a variety of experiences to tap into their natural learning style. Try applying the principle to any nature study subject. You’re only limited by your imagination.

If you’re struggling with deciding what your child’s learning style is, just be patient and if all else fails, ask them what they want to do for nature study. You could share some of the ideas in the printables referenced below as a way to introduce new and fresh ideas.

It’s really a case of trial and error until you have it all figured out.

Specific ideas for adapting nature study are in the printable Multiple Intelligences and Grid Study in the Ultimate Naturalist Library. Topics covered include mammals, reptiles, wildflowers, astronomy, insects, trees, weather, and invertebrates.

Mammal study @handbookofnaturestudy nature journal deer (3)

Ultimate Naturalist Members:


Look in the Getting Back to Basics – The Habit of Nature Study section of your printables library for the following printable:

  • Multiple Intelligences and Grid Study Printable: This set of pages has ideas for ways to adapt nature study to fit your child’s style of learning. Remember to download and save this printable for future use.

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If you’re not a member here on the Handbook of Nature Study yet, please consider joining to gain the benefit of having a nature study library at your fingertips. There are numerous resources available for you to help create the habit of nature study within your family.

Please note that the Ultimate Naturalist Library will only be available until 12/31/2021. At that time my website will be shutting down.

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If you’re an email subscriber to the Handbook of Nature Study, you may consider saving this email in a folder for future reference. The blog will be retiring at the end of the year as well.


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Nature Study Goals Update- 3rd Quarter 2021

Nature Goals 2021

3rd Quarter Update

Nature Study Goals 2021

Our third quarter was super awesome. Summer always is the best season here in Central Oregon. The sunshine is abundant, the skies are clear, and the opportunities to be outside are endless. We filled our days with gardening, hiking, kayaking, and floating the river behind our house.

We spent the entire month of July sleeping in our backyard tent. Just spending that time outside at night adds to our awareness of the animals that share our habitat. I love hearing the coyotes, the frogs, the owls, and even the unidentified sounds of nighttime. Sleeping in a tent was not on the goal list but it definitely is an aspect of summer nature enjoyment in our family.

July 2021 birds list

Nothing beats waking to the sound of birdsong.

So how did we do as far as working towards my actual nature goals for the year? I am sharing a bit about our progress below as a way to help encourage you to make your own goals. (There is a printable goal notebook page in the Member’s Library.)

If you’d like to read this year’s goal entry, you can click here: Nature Study Goals 2021.

garden box sunflowers birds

Backyard Habitat development:   

This quarter we saw an increase in wildlife in our backyard garden. July is the beginning of the bloom time for us and with that comes the bees, butterflies, grasshoppers, birds, toads, and squirrels. So many birds!

Our nesting boxes were busy with anxious bird mamas who were building and tending their nests. I love sitting quietly and watching as they fly back and forth, sometimes stopping briefing in the shrubs that line the edges of most of the backyard. We can watch the swallows feeding their babies with huge dragonflies they caught out over the river. The bluebirds stand guard on the fence posts before taking turns going off for food.

The squirrels have really made themselves at home at the back boundary of the yard. There are Belding’s ground squirrels, golden mantle squirrels, and then gray squirrels. In addition, there are lesser chipmunks who are tiny little critters that move and hop as fast as any animal I’ve ever seen. They all frequent the ground under the bird feeders and then as the season progressed, they moved to the sunflower garden.

hummingbird feeder 2021

The biggest attractions to the yard in the late summer have been the water features. I have two birdbaths and three shallow saucers of water that I keep filled for the birds and other animals. Even the dog’s water dish became a favorite for the birds to bathe in! I highly recommend making some water available in your garden to support the needs of the local wildlife.

black eyed susan summer 2021

We have one small section that we are still going to plant next year in the back and larger section in the front yard. I will take the winter months to draw up some plans for those areas and of course I will consider the needs of the birds, insects, and other animals that live here in my neighborhood.

bee on sunflower 2021

Local Hikes:

In searching for new local hikes, we discovered a new trail that we absolutely love! It is an extension of a hike we take frequently, just adding additional miles to an already gorgeous trail.

deschutes river at benham falls

We have hiked this new portion two times now because we discovered a section that has a grove of aspens.

hike deschutes river trail 2021

We wanted to revisit the place to see if the aspens had turned color, but we were a bit early. I’m not sure if we will be able to hike it again but it is definitely on the list for future adventures.

wildfire smoke 2021 todd lake

Looking at my notes, I realize that we did actually did quite a bit of hiking locally despite the presence of wildfire smoke for much of August. It helps that my daughter and her husband came to visit, and they are always eager to hike here in Central Oregon.

skipper on chrysanthemum

Make notes in field guides

I am continuing to keep notes in my field guides. In fact, it makes my so happy when I’m able to mark a new bird we observe or a new wildflower we identify. I wish I would have started this a long time ago.

kayak little deschutes 2021

Go camping:

We had a fantastic camping trip to the Oregon Coast in August. Newport, Oregon is such a fun place with so many attractions. We had perfect weather with plenty of sunshine for our adventures.

oregon coast newport 2021

We spent an afternoon walking along a back road that parallels the coast and has vantage points for looking out over the rocky shore. Guess who made an appearance? The gray whales were close to shore, and we could clearly see them spouting, their tail fins, and sometimes their backs as they moved through the ocean. It was so much fun!

zygocactus succulent

Learn about succulents

My love for succulents has greatly increased this year. I have been nurturing quite a few plants indoors which has helped me appreciate the variety of succulents there are in the world. I did some transplanting of succulents in my rock garden and so far, they are all doing well. They multiple rather fast so transplanting seems like a great way to spread them without much hassle or cost.

How are your nature goals progressing? Do you need to make specific plans during the 4th quarter to achieve a particular goal? Don’t give up!



Nature Study Goals Planning Page

Look for the Nature Study Goals printable in your Member’s Library.

You can join as an Ultimate Naturalist Library member and immediately have access to hundreds of nature study ideas and printables.

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Please note that I will be retiring at the end of 2021 and the library will be retiring s well. If you join as a member now, you will have full and complete access until that time to download and save any items you wish to use in the future.