Nature Notebooks the Easy Way
I have always loved Charlotte Mason’s idea of keeping nature notebooks, and tried different ways of doing it with my boys. We were never able to make a habit of keeping nature notebooks, and looking back, I realize it’s because we were trying to do it “right.” Doing it “right” killed more activities than I can count — we veered way too heavily into perfectionist territory in some areas (though not in others where it may have helped!).
The reason it didn’t become a habit for us is because everything about it seemed like a big deal. We needed the perfect sketchbook . . .
the right pencils . . .
and the right shoes and jackets and pockets and water bottles and backpacks and snacks and . . .
All to walk outside and observe what was there and record it.
No wonder it hardly ever happened.
After I posted a few pages from Aunt Edie’s commonplace book (previous post), one of my cousins added a comment mentioning Aunt Edie taking the students on wildflower walks in the spring. It made me think — I doubt that they waited for perfect conditions. Not perfect sketchbooks, pencils, shoes, etc. She gathered up the class (actually the whole school), walked out the door, and gathered wildflowers to bring back to the class for drawing and painting.
So when my granddaughter was over recently, I folded a mini-book for each of us, grabbed a few pens, and we walked out the door and picked pretty leaves to fill it. Since the book was small, we were able to fill all our pages with leaves left over. We came back inside and used regular old glue to stick a leaf or two to each page.
When we pasted in a leaf group that was missing one of its leaves, I just drew one in its place. We labeled a leaf or two, added title pages, and were done. I forgot to put mine under a book to press the leaves, so it’s a bit bumpy. But that’s okay. It’s a fun memento of a delightful day, and it’s being pressed now. Immy took hers home before I thought to take a photo, so these will have to do.
The point of the story is — if you want to do nature notebooks, just do them. Don’t wait for perfect sketchbooks, don’t hesitate to paste in some leaves and draw others, don’t feel that you have to stay out for hours if the weather is unpleasant. A short little wildflower walk with a mini-book to show for it is much more fun than a perfect sketchbook, perfectly empty.
P.S. You can make a nifty holder for these mini-books that will keep them organized and together. I’ll write about that another day.
Also, don’t forget Laurie Bestvater’s excellent book, The Living Page: Keeping Notebooks with Charlotte Mason. It contains over twenty types of notebooks found in Charlotte Mason’s writings, along with photos and instructions for working with them. You can get it at our main site, Everyday Education.