The Third Stage of Nature Journaling

This last stage of journaling is the most beautiful and rewarding stage. It is the result of all your efforts to help your children enjoy the natural world.  Ideally, young people begin to find their own style as their unique personality directs the arrangement and content. They show greater independence and take ownership of their journals. You find you don’t need to nudge and direct so much anymore. Nature walks are a source of refreshment and journaling is an outlet for their creative juices.. Some will enjoy it more than the others, but all should like to journal nature by now. If not, then you may need to ask yourself if you have been taking Miss Mason’s suggestions to heart. If you’ve neglected regular nature walks or not shown interest in nature yourself, if you have allowed too much TV or entertainment or made the activity academic, then this can undermine your child’s affection for recording the natural world’s wonders. Don’t beat yourself up over it. Just pick yourself up and start afresh. Believe me, I’ve fallen off the wagon many times. I just don’t stay on the ground very long.

Here are a few tips that can help jumpstart this stage for your older children.

Let Other Naturalists’ Notebooks Inspire Them
Miss Mason gave her students the writings of other naturalists to read. When I did this with my teens, it inspired them to try various methods of journaling throughout the years until they arrived at a style of their own. Some of these naturalists simply painted without much writing. Others, such as Dallas Sharpe and Susan Fenimore Cooper wrote down their observations and thoughts about nature and life in general, using very few visual aides. Thoreau philosophized. Edwin Teale made his journals in the form of a seasonal calendar. Edith Holden utilized poetry and quotes. Margaret Shaw wrote her daily observations like a diary. Lilias Trotter wrote prayers while painting from nature. Some used black and white drawings. Others preferred painting in great detail.

I caution you not to try this with young children. It overwhelmed my children and they felt very inadequate, wanting to give up. They were too young to be inspired in this way. When I put these naturalists’ writings away and waited until they were older, it made a world of difference in attracting their interest in ‘style.’

Here is a list of some of the naturalist’s writings that we have used. I simply added one of these each term to my student’s schedule. We started this around 12 or 13 years of age and by 15 years of age each of my children had developed their personal style in nature journaling.

The Countrywoman’s Journal by Margaret Shaw
Rural Hours by Susan Fenimore Cooper
Fabre’s Book of Insects by Jean Fabre (this beautiful edition is illustrated by Detmold)
Lay of the Land by Dallas Lore Sharp
Walden by Thoreau

Beginning Watercolor Journaling video REALLY inspired our family and highly influenced the way we journal. It is pricey, but worth it. Your non-artist will come away thinking, “Even I can do this!” It certainly helped this mama get out of my non-journaling nature rut. Buy this video if you can!

Study Habitats in Detail
They keep records and drawings in a Nature Note Book and make special studies of their own for the particular season with drawings and notes...The studies of Form III for one term enable children to––"Make a rough sketch of a section of ditch or hedge or sea-shore and put in the names of the plants you would expect to find." CM vol 6
Up until now, my children identified individual specimens. It was time for my older students to have greater challenges. As Miss Mason suggested, I assigned an entire area for them to explore. Their task was to identify as much of its flora and fauna as they could. This took an entire term or sometimes, even a year.  Once, I assigned a meadow behind our house. Another term, they mapped our creek bed. They learned the names of many ‘weeds’ that we had never paid much attention to. Those many, obscure, nameless plants, flowers and shrubs suddenly became very interesting to them.  I believe this assignment gave them a tangible goal to work towards and added fresh appeal to nature journaling. If you live in a city, you could do this weekly at a local park. When we lived in the city, we frequented empty fields.

This wraps up our series on the stages of nature journaling. I do not want to leave you with the impression that these stages are rigid. There will certainly be overlap and variation depending upon the personality of each child. These are just general guidelines based on Miss Mason’s writings and are designed to help you get a sense of progression in the journaling process.

one step at a time...