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.


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.

 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.

 Handbook of Nature Study Subscribe Now 2

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.


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.

Join Us Ultimate Naturalist June 2020

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Use the discount code NATURE5 for $5 off an Ultimate Naturalist Library membership!


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.