Nature Journal or Nature Notebook?

I had a really good question from Joy and I thought maybe somebody else might like to hear my response.

Here is her question:
First off, I have read all of CM’s Original Homeschooling Series as well as Karen Andreola’s Charlotte Mason Companion, along with various others (and I’ve read all that you have on your site concerning Nature Journaling). But, I am still left wondering, is there a difference between a nature journal and a nature notebook? For example, the notebooking pages that are offered along with the GH challenges (that Tina made) would go into a nature notebook. However, I really like the nature journal idea, with the dry brush method, etc. and it would seem that this would be a different thing all together. The nature journal would seem to be a sketch book whereas the notebook would be something that would go into a 3 ring binder. So, how do these mesh together, and should I have my children do both? I know these questions are possibly silly to those who have done this for a while, but since I am just starting out, I don’t want to overwhelm my little ones (2nd grade and 1st grade). I really just want a streamlined way to encourage them to interact with what they are learning outdoors.

Now my answer:
First off I think this is a really good question and if you ask ten different people, you will get ten different answers. But I will take a stab at it since it relates to the Outdoor Hour Challenges. Clarifying things is always a good opportunity to fine tune our ideas.

I did a little research on what a “nature journal” is and the best explanation of it I found was in Clare Walker Leslie’s book, Keeping a Nature Journal. She explains it this way.

“Simply put, nature journaling is the regular recording of observations, perceptions, and feelings about the natural world around you. That is the essence of the process. The recording can be done in a wide variety of ways, depending on the individual journalist’s interests, background, and training. Some people prefer to record in written prose or poetry, some do it through drawing or painting, others with photographs or tape recordings, and still others through musical notation…..Many people use a combination of these techniques.”

In the Handbook of Nature Study, Anna Comstock calls the nature journal a “field journal” but it is still the same thing, a nature journal. In Charlotte Mason’s original homeschooling series in volume one, she refers to the nature journal as a nature diary. The idea is all the same idea, to record personal observations and thoughts about the world around you.

So Joy, to answer your question with the short answer, either method is still considered nature journaling whether you use a spiral bound sketch pad with watercolors, markers, or pencils or if you choose to use sheets of paper slipped into a 3-ring binder when you are finished. In our family, we do combinations of both recording in the nature journal and on paper.

Your children are still very young so you may wish to have them work on individual sheets of paper and slip them into sheet protectors when they are finished and store them in a binder. You may at a later date start them in their own spiral bound nature journal. Either way you can include many different types of mediums.

You can still watercolor and slip them into the binder. You can press flowers and slip those in too. If you come across a nature notebooking page you like you can fill those out and put those in the binder. The notebooking pages are nice for younger children because most of them include lines to write your notes on which is easier for younger writers. I have one son that likes the notebooking pages because he hates a blank page. If it is in a notebooking page format, he can easily think of things to fill it up.

I hope that clears things up a bit. I know there are a lot of choices and you will eventually come to the answer for your family about which one works the best. Nothing is set in stone either. You can start one way and change at any time. It depends a lot on how you are going to use the nature journals and how your children feel about recording in them. When my boys were little, we filled up lots of pages each year so they loved starting fresh each fall. Now we perhaps make an entry a week and we have slowed down considerably in the volume of notebooks.

Here is a slideshow of a few pages from my son’s nature journal from about age 5 to age 7.
Flickr Slideshow of Young Child’s Nature Journal

As you can see, he used a variety of methods for making his entry and it has made a unique keepsake of his observations. He has become more sophisticated as time goes on but the principle is still the same in that he chooses how to record his ideas and experiences.
Make nature journaling a pleasant experience. I know that many times for myself I end up not liking a page until it is all done. It has taken me many years to develop my own style of nature notebook. Want a glimpse into my nature journal? Here is a link:
Drawing in Your Nature Journal

And I always remind new families that the journal page is the icing on the cake. The most important part of nature study is the time spent outdoors together with your children. You are successful whether you end up with a page in your journal each week or not. :)

Garden Flower-Learning Our Parts Green Hour #13

We have so many garden flowers blooming right now that it is hard to pick one to draw for our nature journal….too many choices. Not a bad problem but still not enough time to do all that we want to.

Here is my son’s day lily drawing.

Here is my azalea drawing.

We have had fun looking closely at all the flower parts and deciding how each insect is attracted to each particular flower.

That was our formal nature study this week….we have spent parts of every afternoon in the garden watering, weeding, and putting in more seeds and seedlings. Now that the hot weather has hit, we will see them come to life. The sunflowers are growing so fast I think you could sit and watch them get taller.

We will be putting some flowers in the press this week and I will share a fun project that I found to do with them in my next Outdoor Hour post.

Here is an entry from challenge #12 that I wanted to share with you. I love this idea and I am going to be doing it in my garden over the weekend.
Chocolate on My Cranium’s Challenge #12 -Focus on Flowers
Make sure to scroll down to the photo with the kids and the wheelbarrow!

Outdoor Hour Challenge #14: Pressing Flowers

“If the mother lacks a knowledge of plants, a good field guide will be indispensable, especially if she can find one that includes little facts and fun things about the plants. To collect flowers, press them and glue them to cardboard with the name in English, what kind of habitat it grows in, and when it was found…This is fun and educational.”
Charlotte Mason volume 1, page 51

We are now three weeks into our eight week focus on garden flowers. By now you should have had time to find some garden flowers to observe, perhaps have planted some seeds of your own, learned a few names for flower parts, and are ready to start a pressed flower collection.

Outdoor Hour Challenge #14
Pressing Flowers

1. Gather a few common materials to use for pressing flowers. For your outings, select an old phone book or an old reading book that you can use to press flowers between the pages as you collect them. This will help transport your flower specimens home to where you can put them into a press. There is no need for anything fancy. We have been using cardboard, copier paper, and rubber bands to make a handy flower and leaf press. See video for an explanation: Making a Simple Flower Press.

2. Take your 10-15 minute outdoor time to look for some garden flowers in your local area. Observe your seeds that you planted in challenge 12, if you did that part of the challenge. Remember to use the correct labels for the plant parts that you read about in challenge number 13. Gather a few flowers to bring home to press in your own flower press.

3. Follow up in the Handbook of Nature Study with any flowers that you saw during your Green Hour time and that are listed in the table of contents. Use the observation ideas for your next outing to learn more about that particular flower.

4. Give an opportunity for a nature journal entry. Work on drawing another garden flower. Remember that we will be working on flower drawing skills in week 15. If you have seeds growing, record their progress in your nature journal.

5. Add any new flowers to your list of garden flowers. If you are making field guide cards for your garden flowers, add another card this week. If you make one card per week, by the end of this focus period you will have eight cards completed.

6. Take the flowers that you gathered during your nature time and add them to your press. There is a definite technique for getting them to lay flat as you place them between the paper and the cardboard. Some flowers are better at laying flat and others you will have to squeeze sideways. Experiment as the next few weeks go by.

I made a two minute video explaining how to make a very simple flower press for this week’s challenge. Please watch the video and you will see that anyone can do this and be successful:
How to Make a Flower Press

This challenge is part of my Garden Flowers ebook. This ebook has ten garden related challenges that will walk you through a study of garden flowers using the Handbook of Nature Study. In addition to the challenges already written, there will be more photos, nature journal examples, book lists, and totally new notebook pages designed to go with each of the Garden Flower Challenges.

Ultimate Ebook Library @handbookofnaturestudy