Extreme Nature Journaling with Kim Mcnett

Extreme nature journaling has lessons for all of us even if we are just nature journaling from home. Do you want to find a deeper connection and purpose in your nature journaling? Do you want to nature journal more in the winter?

I was so excited to talk to Kim Mcnett for this interview.  Her pages on the nature journal club facebook page are great. But I knew I just  had to interview her for the Nature Journal Show when I saw the crazy expeditions she was nature journaling on!

Why Extreme Nature Journaling Matters to You

Despite my obvious interest in extreme nature journaling I think there are lessons here for everybody. Even if you are not nature journaling in the arctic, in the amazon, in the grand canyon or with hunter gatherer tribes in East Africa, there is still a lot to learn. First, we can all be inspired by the work that extreme nature journalers are doing. These people can also contribute to the global awareness about the environment and the role that nature journaling can play. Imagine if there were thousands of nature journalers on the frontlines: Documenting endangered species on every continent? Sketching and sharing about critical restoration projects around the world? Asking questions and painting landscapitos of shrinking glaciers in the arctic?

Lastly, and more practically, extreme nature journaling is a crucible for testing techniques and supplies in the most challenging situations. If a watercolor palette works in the high Andes or on a sea-kayaking trip it will probably work at your local park. Extreme nature journalers can then help the rest of our community grow and learn better.

10 Tips for Nature Journaling in the Winter

  1. Take care of your basic physical needs first. If you can’t stay comfortable and warm you will not be able to focus on higher level things such as nature journaling.
  2. Reset your expectations. You might not make your most beautiful art while you are working in challenging conditions. Rethink what your goal is. What else do you value besides a pretty page?
  3. Keep your supplies simple. Your winter kit should be basic. You don’t want to be fumbling with a lot of different materials.
  4. Practice being outside more. It is hard to practice two new things at once. You might need to just practice being comfortable outside more before you try to add nature journaling to your expectations.
  5. Try journaling from your window. You can nature journal the winter while staying in the comfort of your home if you sit at a window and look outside. This is a setup that is worth investing in. Maybe just moving some furniture around can make it work.
  6. Nature Journal from your car. Similarly, you can use your car as a mobile nature journal studio. Park it somewhere cool!
  7. Keep your hands warm with mittens. Kim recommends mittens over gloves.
  8. Keep warm with disposable chemical hand warmers. Have one of these in your pockets in case you start losing dexterity in your hands.
  9. Insulate your bum. Kim has cut a small piece of a sleeping pad to sit on. Or you can draw standing up.
  10. Cold weather watercolor tips: Although multiple people say you can use vodka instead of water to prevent freezing Kim has not had good luck with this. She also warns that gloves and mittens often smudge watercolor so be careful.

Why should I nature Journal in the Winter Anyways?

First of all, nature journaling is good for your mental health. Winter can be a dark time in more ways than one. Connecting with nature, unlocking our creativity, slowing down to pay attention, and getting some light exercise outdoors are all scientifically tested ways of improving your mood. Second, not nature journaling for five months out of the year is gonna put a huge dent in your learning and skill-building. You can also fall out of the habit, lose motivation, and miss out on nature journaling community or friendships. (nature journaling outside with friends is a fine way to connect during covid). Third, nature journaling in the winter will help you understand where you live so much better.

Nature Journaling can help save humanity

I often like to ask guests on the Nature Journal Show what  they think the future of nature journaling is. When I asked Kim she was adamant in her belief that we are in troubled times and that nature journaling could be one of the most important ways to help people shift their perspective. Living in Alaska for 10 years she has witnessed the accelerating climate change that is impacting the far north faster than the lower 48. She has watched permafrost disappear and glaciers recede. She argues that we have all the technology and know-how to fix this problem and prevent the destruction of our life support system. However, it is our willingness to change that is lacking. It is a shift in priorities and values that is needed and nature journaling can help people value nature in a deeper way.

More extreme nature journaling?

If you want to learn more about the nature journaling expeditions that Kim is doing and the other awesome work that she is up to check out her website.

If you want to a deeper look into some of the videos that Kim mentione and the work her partner Bjorn Olson is up to check out his website.

How to Use a Viewfinder for Drawing Landscapes

Did you know that you can improve a drawing 75% before you even start drawing? Knowing how to use a viewfinder for drawing landscapes is the first step. Whether you are a nature journaler or a plein air painter this video and blog post will help you.

Why Your Eyes Betray You

Your visual system is not setup for making great art. Your visual system is setup for keeping your butt alive. What does that even mean? Our eyes and the visual centers of our brain are good at paying attention to our surroundings. We are good at scanning large areas and paying attention to the big picture. However, there is a lot more information coming through your eyes than what you can fit on your paper or your canvas. This is especially dangerous for drawing landscapes. A lot of times we are attracted to the expansiveness in a landscape. If we aren’t careful we bite off too much. We try too big of a drawing. We get frustrated, we get lost in the details, and we lose touch with the basic artistic priorities.

Your most important job as an artist is to make intentional decisions about what visual information to include and what to ignore.

If you don’t know how to make good decisions or even worse if you don’t realize you have to make decisions then your drawing will suffer. Using a viewfinder helps you be more intentional and disciplined. Your field of view with both eyes is between 200 and 220 degrees! That is far more than you can fit on paper.

How to Use a Viewfinder for Drawing Landscapes

How to make a viewfinder
  1. Save the plastic container that salad mix comes in or get a sheet of cardstock or other heavy paper.
  2. Decide what shape you are going to make your viewfinder. Put some thought into how this shape will fit on your pages. For more about composition and layout of journal pages see this video.
  3. Trace your shape and carefully cut it with an X-acto knife or scissors.
  4. You can add grid lines to help you with proportions.
  5. Go out and use it right away!

Pro tip: Make multiple viewfinders of different shapes and sizes for your kit.

I really started using a viewfinder before my second trip to Tanzania and it really made my nature journal pages much better.How to Use a Viewfinder for Drawing Landscapes

Once you know how to use a viewfinder for drawing landscapes you will thank me!

How to Use a Viewfinder for Drawing Landscapes

If you want a step-by-step guide to landscape drawing in your nature journal check out this post.

How to Nature Journal Without Fear!

In this video I show you how to nature journal without fear, because I think it’s the most important thing for your nature journaling.

Why Nature Journaling Without Fear matters more than anything else

There are certain skills that automatically improve the more you nature journal. That is the good news. These aspects of nature journaling  are easy to teach, easy to learn, and easy to pick up from repetition. However, there are other things that you will not automatically get better at. In fact, these things could actually get worse as you become a more experienced nature journaler or advanced artist. I know many veteran nature journalers who struggle with these challenges.  What am I talking about? I’m talking about fear.

If you don’t have the best drawing skills it will affect your nature journaling somewhat. But if you are afraid of trying new things on your pages or are too intimidated to share your work it could hamper your nature journaling for life. Your drawing skills will probably get better just with more practice but your fears might not. It is easy to identify your drawing shortcomings, take a class, practice and get better. It is not easy to take a class to help you deal with your artistic fears and obstacles. You might not even be able to correctly diagnose the source of your mental obstacles or the fears that are holding you back.

Because of all these reasons I have decided that helping people be more fearless in their nature journaling approach is the most important thing I can share. If you want to learn how to nature journal without fear you might be interested in my one-on-one coaching.

Types of Fear in Nature Journaling

So, how does fear manifest itself in our practice of nature journaling? Following are some examples of fears related to perfectionism:

  • Fear of messing up, making mistakes, making bad drawings
  • Fear of nature journaling certain subjects: animals, movement, action, pets.

There are also major social fears. Such as:

  • Fear of feedback, judgement, or criticism.
  • Fear of nature journaling in public, sharing our work, or nature journaling with other people. Sometimes, this manifests itself as a fear to share our pages with certain people such as our family or spouse.

There are also the fears  from being too precious:

  • The fear of wasting materials, art supplies, or expensive paper.
  • Fear of ruining a pretty journal page or a fancy journal.
  • Fear of trying new techniques or new materials.

There are also fears of commitment:

  • Indecision around which subject to commit to, which vista to draw, which park to go to. We are afraid that we might miss something better. There might be a more beautiful subject, a more interesting plant just around the corner. This can be a paralyzing fear that might lead you to only take photos with your phone and never pull out your sketchbook.
  • Fear of permanence, fear of ink, over attachment to erasers and graphite or overuse of non-photo blue pencil.

Unfortunately, we live in a society that has primed us for these problems. For example, I know many adults who are simply afraid to draw. Maybe this fear is the result of an unfortunate childhood experience. Most of us have also been ingrained with the fixed mindset. This mindset assumes that we are born with certain immutable talents and limitations and can not learn new skills.

We often build up layers of rationalizations and habits of avoidance around these fears making them even harder to identify. Do we really prefer such a tidy style or are we just afraid to make mistakes on the page? Are botanical subjects really all we want to do or are we just afraid of drawing moving animals?

What Fearless Nature Journaling Looks like

So what does nature journaling without fear actually look like?

I have gotten glimpses of fearless nature journaling in Nature Journal Show interviews with Amaya Shreeve and Heather Crellin. What do these two have in common? Both are relatively new to nature journaling. Both seem to take real joy in the process. In addition, they both focus on quantity and frequency of nature journaling even if it is just a short session.

How Can You Nature Journal Without Fear?

If you want help nature journaling without fear I can help. Sign up for persoanlized coaching with me. We will look at your pages, I will listen to your joys and challenges and we will come up with a plan.

I’m currently offering one hour sessions on Tuesday and Thursdays afternoons and Sunday Mornings. Click on one of the available dates (in white) then choose a time slot.

  

Nature Journaling in the Grand Canyon! Post-Trip Share (Part 1)

I’m back from nature journaling in the Grand Canyon for 21 days. In my live “Show and Tell” video I share experiences and pages from the adventure!

You already know I have been testing nature journal supplies, clothing, sun protection, waterproof supplies, and other gear in preparation for this trip. You have heard about my training and my preparation. Now I’m back! And I have lots to share. In fact, it was so much I have to do a Part Two. My goal is to give you some answers to the following questions.

  • First, how did I prepare?
  • Next, how did I stay focused during the trip?
  • Lastly, what am I gonna do now that the trip is over?

Preparing to Nature Journal in the Grand Canyon

It can be hard to prepare for something that you have never done before. Had I ever been to the Grand Canyon before? Nope. Whitewater rafting with some of the biggest navigable rapids on the continent? Nope. Any whitewater rafting experience at all? No, but I went down a creek in an inner tube once. Any other river expedition experience? Nope. Had I ever spent 23 days camping with my girlfriend before? No…What about other multi-day expedition experience? Sort of… What about nature journaling in extreme conditions and unusual places? Yep, I got that one covered!

Nature Journaling the Grand Canyon
Photo by Brock Dolman

 

So first, I had to make sure I had the material needs covered to survive and thrive enough to enjoy the trip and have enough energy to nature journal. I didn’t want to break the bank on gear or spend forever trying to figure out what was best. Luckily, our trip leader, Cooper, and his partner Leah had a lot of the necessary gear that we could borrow. In addition, I managed to piece together a lot of the clothing necessary from my old wool hunting clothes and bought some used Patagonia layers. I love that they have a website dedicated to selling used gear that is still very useful and often like new.

Then, I focused my remaining funds on buying some key new pieces of equipment…
  1. A waterproof bag just for my nature journal kit. Watershed Largo Tote Bag(full review coming soon). Keeping my nature journal supplies easily accessible yet safe was a priority!
  2. Waterproof Notebook from Rite in the Rain. I also got two waterproof pens which ended up sucking…(review coming soon)
  3. Sun Protection was a priority for me! A wind resistant, non-floppy sun hat. Sun gloves so that I didn’t have to worry about sunscreen on my hands messing up my paper. I also got two sun shirts for sun protection on hot days.
  4. I also tried out an unusual style of sunglasses with no arms! Instead
    Photo by Brock Dolman

    of arms they have a cord attachment that makes them less likely to break and they don’t fall off even in the big rapids or while swimming, or under a 60 foot waterfall. Yes I tested them in all those settings. More review of these coming in the future.

  5. Last but definitely not least, I got an amazing camping chair. This chair was recommended by our trip leader for river trips. Luckily, I got it several months before the trip and it is one of my most useful nature journaling tools now! With this chair I was even able to sit in waterfalls and paint them.
    nature journaling in the grand canyon
    Sitting in a creek below a waterfall in my joeychair Photo by Brock Dolman
    Other Preparations for the Canyon

I knew from previous experiences that it would take me a while to get used to nature journaling in the Grand Canyon. Therefore, I tried to simulate aspects of the expedition in advance. I tested all the gear mentioned above. I tried to simulate conditions that I expected on the trip: wet, hot and sunny, cold and windy, etc. In addition to this type of training I also did research about the grand canyon and practiced layouts and techniques that I would use on my pages.

Balance and Commitment While Nature Journaling in the Canyon

Nature journaling is not always easy. Drawing moving subjects is not child’s play. Despite what people think, watercolor painting en plein air is not relaxing (especially when you only have 15 minutes, you are balanced on the edge of a sheer cliff full of cacti, the light is changing by the minute, spray from a waterfall is buffeting you, and a lifetime’s worth of potential paintings beckon to you from every direction you look in).  Choosing to nature journal while in a group of people doing other things requires balance, self-awareness, and social intelligence. Just choosing to sit with one vista or one plant when there are thousands of sights and experiences vying for your attention is a mentally taxing endeavor.

  1. Nature Journaling in the Grand Canyon
    Counting spines…Photo By Brock Dolman
Nature Journaling = Commitment

In these moments in the canyon it is easy for my mind to play tricks on me. It is easy to talk myself out of the work that I came to do. “It’s cold outside. Warm sleeping bag or sunrise landscape drawing? How can I nature journal before coffee? I should just take pictures of everything instead of trying to draw. I can draw from photos when I get back home. Maybe there is a better view around the corner. I probably need more time to capture this scene…no point in starting now. My nature journal supplies are too hard to get to. I’m too tired to try to draw this scorpion right now, besides look at all those legs! That is going to be too hard. I might mess up the look of the page if I try to sketch that scorpion. What if other people look at my drawing and its not that good?”

At such times it is good to shake all doubts from the head and invoke Steven Pressfield:

The most important thing about art is to work. Nothing else matters except sitting down every day and trying.

Seeking Balance

While busting one’s ass nature journaling is commendable being a human requires balance. Despite my own fantasies, this trip was not focused specifically on nature journaling in the grand Canyon. This was not like my Nature Journal Safaris in East Africa with John Muir Laws. Even though I planned on “working” on the trip and making a publication of my pages for my Patreon , the trip was actually supposed to be a vacation (why do I still struggle with that word?).

This trip also meant different things to different people. And despite my personal commitment there were plenty of other considerations on this trip. I was part of a team on a potentially dangerous expedition in an extremely remote area-I had a responsibility to the group and cooking and other duties just like everyone else. I was also part of a relationship – I was on this trip with my partner and had to tend to the needs of our relationship and spend quality time together.

grand canyon nature journal share
Sharing Nature Journal Pages with My Grand Canyon Friends photo by Brock Dolman
Me and Kate 🙂 Photo By Kate Freeman

Now What?

After spending 21 days without even seeing a building or a computer it has been a little hard adjusting to being back. However, I’m motivated to share my experiences with the community and I’m compiling and improving on my nature journal pages from the voyage to create a publication for you! This publication will be similar to my Tanzania Travel journal and will be available for print on demand via my author page on Blurb. It will probably cost around $30 for the hard copy and maybe $2 for the e-book. In addition my Patreon patrons of $5 and above will all get a copy mailed to them.

nature journaling in the grand canyon

nature journaling in the grand canyon

Homeschool Nature Study With Dallas Nachtigall

Homeschool nature study and nature journaling are exploding in popularity as parents realize the many benefits for their children. Despite my experience with nature education, I’m not a parent. So let’s hear from Dallas Nachtigall, homeschool mom and artist, as she shares some of her experience.

Getting started with homeschooling

Why did Dallas and her husband decide to homeschool? It turns out that Dallas’ husband was homeschooled. One of the main benefits he experienced was how much time he was able to spend in nature. A love of nature is a cherished family value for them. Therefore, they decided to homeschool their kids. There is more flexibility to be outside more when homeschooling. I spoke with two other homeschool moms with similar stories in this live conversation.

Charlotte Mason homeschool style

As she was getting started with homeschooling Dallas soon learned about Charlotte Mason . The Charlotte Mason method of homeschooling provides lots of focus on nature study, journaling, art, and direct observation. Charlotte Mason lived during the 19th century in England and wrote extensively about homeschooling ideas.

Kids and adults learning together

Dallas has created an online art class for homeschool families. The class is based in Charlotte Mason methods and includes insights from Dallas’ academic background in fine art. This class is unique due to parents and children learning together. In most education systems, even homeschool, the adult has the role of teacher who knows about the subject. There is more humility and vulnerability in the method that Dallas proposes. There is also a freedom and relaxation that can come to the parent. Once you realize that you do not need to be a great artist or naturalist you can relax. Your role is mostly to “model” instead of teach.

Motivating less motivated kids

Motivation is easier when the adult is a co-learner and co-explorer with the kids. This is especially true with teens or more resistant children.  The parent or tutor showing their own learning process, their own challenges, and their own shortcomings can help the student. Instead of pretending to be an expert about something the adult can share in the curiosity and humility of the learner. Most of us who were trained in the top-down education system will take a while to learn this new way.

Why is nature study and nature journaling important?

Dallas started her podcast to share the philosophy behind why nature study and drawing are important. Her podcast is called Bestowing the Brush and you can check it out here. 

She believes that nature study and drawing are skills with many benefits. Her kids have become more observant and developed better hand coordination through their practice.

What is the difference between Nature Study and Nature Journaling?

Dallas describes the two approaches as complimentary activities. In her definition the nature journaling is more in the field and based on direct observation while the nature study is based on literature, nature lore, and books. For example, while reading about and studying fruiting trees and plants at home then afterwards going out to the field and observing cherry trees with fruit in a local orchard.

Homeschool Nature Study

Homeschool Nature Study Tips

  1. First, start with some basic art skills at home before going outside. Dallas likes to teach some of these basic skills in a familiar context before going out into the woods.
  2. Make sure you have your kids basic needs met. Bring snacks, layers,etc. And have a good way to carry materials.
  3. Next, invest in quality materials and build a functional kit for each kid. Dallas firmly believes that kids will take more pride in their work if they are given a certain level of quality in art supplies. Don’t be too cheap in the supplies that you give them
  4. Combine writing, drawing, and diagramming.
  5. Let the kid decide the subject.
  6. Take the pressure off the kid. Too much pressure on the kid can kill their natural curiosity and motivation. This is especially important with small kids.
  7. You can practice observation skills on regular hikes. If you want you can try to draw from memory when you get home.
  8. Keep the lessons short. Especially with small kids.
  9. Create a “Family nature journal”. This was one of the best ideas I learned from Dallas. She recommends creating a shared journal that anyone in the family can add to. During a fieldtrip she just lets the kids know the family journal is available. The parents can add to it, the kids can add to it. The journal is always ready. I love this idea!

For more tips and lessons check out Dallas’ website and consider signing up for her awesome class!

Nature Journal for Beginners with Heather Crellin

Do you want to learn how to start a nature journal for beginners? In this conversation with nature journaler Heather Crellin you will find tons of good ideas! Even though she has only been nature journaling for less than a year she has lots of wisdom to share. Despite her newness, she has been learning fast, connecting with community, and sharing her work online.

How She Got Started With Art and Nature Journaling

Heather had somewhat of an accidental start. She had not made art since her “crayon days” until she accidentally walked into an Asian art class. She thought it was only a lecture but it turned out to be a hands-on class. That day marked her “artiversary.” After that she started drawing a lot and eventually found John Muir Laws’ youtube channel. But she still did not consider herself a nature journaler.

The Nature Journaling Community’s Response to COVID-19

In April of 2020 many people were quarantined and unable to access natural places. The nature journaling fieldtrips that used to be the mainstay of the community were canceled. However, these tough times did not stop the movement. In fact, there was an abundance of virtual workshops and an outpouring of generosity and resources from the community. Heather tapped into this. She began taking more classes. She joined several of the online groups. Soon, she was considering herself a nature journaler. Now, the nature journal club provides a strong sense of community for her.

How Beginners Can Share Their Work

New nature journalers often have trouble sharing their work. This can be a major source of fear and anxiety. Despite being a newbie Heather has been fearless about sharing pages online and getting feedback. In fact, she thinks that it is essential that more beginners share their work so that more skill levels are represented. This is especially important when the nature of social media has a bias towards the more polished looking pieces of art. Heather recommends that if you are new you can form community by sharing your work. Nature journaling is not just about creating pretty pictures. Think about why you are sharing before you share. Do not share with the expectation that you will get lots of likes. That is an unhappiness trap even for accomplished artists.

Five Tips For Nature Journal Beginners

  1. Make nature journaling an easy routine. Try to find a regular time. Even 10 minute sessions are good.
  2. Keep a simple sketching kit with you at all times. (like in your purse)
  3. Identify “your daily nature” what aspects  of nature are right outside your window? Heather was able to find these even without a garden or access to parks during quarantine.
  4. Next, think of nature journaling as your “me time”. It helps you recharge and be a better person for your family. Thinking of it this way helps people who feel like they can’t take time away from family obligations.
  5. Find Community. This should probably be number one. Try to find other people who will motivate you and help you learn. If you do this it will be much easier getting started with nature journaling.
More Resources for Nature Journaling Beginners

Also Check out Nature Journaling for Beginners!

How to Draw Rocks in Your Nature Journal

If you know how to draw rocks then you will always have a subject. The bird flew away, the deer were hiding, and you missed the wildflower bloom. However, the rocks are still there and they probably won’t go anywhere for a million years. Whether you are in a park or at home you probably have access to rocks. Kids love rocks too! So let’s dive right in.

How to Draw Rocks in 5 Steps:

  1. First, set a goal for your session. Are you trying to teach your kids about geology? Are you trying to relax with watercolor? Or maybe you want to get better at realistic rendering of 3D objects with pen and ink. Once you have a goal in mind it is easier to stay on track.
  2. Next, start SMALL! Regardless of your patience and your art skills biting off too big of a rock is going to hurt. Start practicing on little rocks. You can even bring a few home and have them on your desk to practice.
  3. Third, simplify your rock into basic shapes. Can you draw a 3D cube? If so, you can draw a rock. Start looking for the basic planes that make up the rock. If you are at home use a single strong light source on the rock. This lighting will help you see the simplified planes. Planes are the flat sides. Once you understand planes and how they relate to shadows you are ready to move on.
  4. Next, try drawing a diagram. Your last drawing was meant to be a realistic illusion of volume, however your diagram is meant to highlight information. Have you ever seen geology cross sections before? If so, you know that they look like a slice of cake. What information or story are you interested in? How can you diagram your rock using arrows and labels?
  5. Lastly, try using color swatches and texture panels to experiment. Instead of trying to show 3D, diagram info, texture, and color all in one drawing try separating these. By doing little watercolor or gouache swatches you will have better luck. If you combine everything in a single drawing it is really hard.
Next Steps

Are you tired of drawing rocks and want to do a landscape? Check out this post.

If you want to get better at rendering check out this video by Alphonso Dunn

Nature Journaling at the Beach

Let’s go nature journaling at the beach! It’s Labor Day weekend in the U.S. and thousands of families are going to the coast. Why not bring your nature journals and make it a learning adventure?

Whether you have a family or not taking your nature journal to the beach is a great activity. In this video I give you tips and techniques that will help you make the most of it. You should definitely watch the video. However, I am going to outline some of the tips for you right here.

Tips for Nature Journaling at the Beach

  1. First, set an intention before you go. What is your main goal? Is nature journaling your main purpose or are you adding nature journaling to a fun day with the family? Being clear about this will help you avoid frustration or disappointment later on.
  2. Next, don’t bring too much stuff! What is actually essential for your intention? If you know your priorities then this step is easier. A good chair is worth it, especially if you are prioritizing birding or painting landscapes.
  3. Third, protect yourself from the sun. One in every five Americans will develop skin cancer in their lifetime according to Skin Cancer Foundation Statistics! The rate is even higher in Australia and New Zealand. Sun exposure will also strain your eyes and tire you out. You might be telling yourself you suck at drawing seagulls or you have no energy to nature journal but you might just be exhausted from the sun.
  4. Next, look for interesting subjects in the tide pools or where people are fishing. These are especially good tactics if you nature journal better with exciting and dynamic subjects. Otherwise, you might just want to chill in your chair and paint a landscape.
  5. Don’t forget that the water is not the only thing to look at. What is happening in the sand? What kind of plant communities are in the transition areas?

nature journaling at the beach tidepools nature journaling at the beach sunset nature journaling at the beach

 

Nature Journal Homeschool: Interview with Amaya

Nature Journal + Homeschool = motivated and engaged teen learning.

It’s a simple equation but don’t take my word for it. Amaya is a homeschooled teen who shares her passionate perspective in this talk. Nature journaling has become a central part of her homeschooling. She explains how this approach can launch any teen’s interest into a self-directed learning adventure!

Coming up with a homeschool curriculum can be stressful, especially if you want to include some nature study. This year millions of parents are homeschooling for the first time. This is an especially challenging time for homeschool teens. What can families do?

What if teens could be self-motivated to learn about a variety of subjects and direct their own learning all while developing self awareness, transferable skills, and getting nature time?
Then they get so inspired that they volunteer to teach their younger siblings? Next, they start going to conferences, publishing articles, and getting interviewed about their ideas!

Does this sound to good to be true? Amaya’s story proves this is real. Why aren’t more families using nature journaling in their homeschool program? Why haven’t I heard of this before? Nature journaling is still kind of new. However, nature journaling homeschool options are exploding in 2020. It’s actually very easy. Parents don’t need to have ANY experience to teach nature journaling, unlike other subjects (Try that with calculus!) There are even FREE resources that give you step by step instructions on how to lead activities and teach nature journaling. These resources even tell you how each activity can be connected to curriculum standards for different schooling systems! Check out John Muir Law’s book “How to Teach Nature Journaling.” You can buy the book or download a free PDF. There is also a facebook group and regular free zoom sessions on how to teach nature jouranling!

Now that you have watched the inspiring interview with Amaya you are wondering what’s next. Check this out for some ideas on how a nature journal session might look.

Or maybe you think that Amaya is a fluke. There can’t be other teens like that! In that case, I recommend you watch this interview with 17 year old Fiona. 

Look how Amaya has excelled with nature journaling! Fiona is on a similar path and has developed many skills. Nature journaling has obviously worked for these kids. Nature journal homeschool can work for you!

Did I mention Amaya’s article? She wrote an article that was featured during International Nature Journaling Week. You can read the article here.

nature journal homeschool examples and images of kids nature journaling in homeschooling situations having fun, learning, exploring, sharing in nature study outdoors.
Kids nature journaling in homeschool settings

How to Choose a Sketchbook for Nature Journaling

How do I choose a sketchbook for nature journaling? Which paper is best? What size should I choose?

Don’t worry, don’t waste money, and don’t blindly get the same journal as someone else. In this video I show you how to pick the sketchbook that is best for you!

It’s easy to spend more time shopping for a sketchbook than actually nature journaling. And it’s also easy to end up with a sketchbook that is not right for you. In fact, it’s even possible to think you are not good at drawing or not motivated to nature journal when in fact you have a sketchbook that doesn’t fit your needs. Instead of dogmatically telling you which is the universally best sketchbook I’m going to give you the criteria that you need to understand. With an understanding of these criteria you will be able to make your own decision.

Sketchbook for Nature Journaling Criteria:

  1. Size Matters. The size of your paper has a big impact on your nature journaling. If you have too small of a journal it can cramp your style. Making small drawings is often more difficult especially for beginners. A small sketchbook can also be hard to hold while you draw. Too big might be awkward to carry, inconvenient in the field, and too heavy.
  2. Binding. The next criteria to consider is binding. Spiral bound is good for folding back your pages and giving a flat surface to draw. It is also good for durability. However, a sewn binding is preferred by many people. Sewn binding gives you the appearance of a regular book and the spine looks good. You can also write or draw on the spine. The other advantage of sewn binding is you can draw across a 2 page spread which can be really cool. Sewn binding is usually harder to lay flat and they can be hard to hold if you are drawing standing up. Sometimes they are not durable.
  3. Orientation. The two main orientations for journals are “landscape” and “portrait”. Either one comes in a variety of ratios of height to length. I really like a portrait paper with 9″X 12″. And remember even if you like landscape format drawings you can divide a portrait style page up into smaller frames of any shape you want. How to Choose a Sketchbook For Nature Journaling Image 1 showing how orientation of page does not mean you cannot do a landscape on a page with a portrait layout.
Criteria for choosing a sketchbook continued:
  1. Paper type. You could spend your whole life trying to understand different paper types. However, let’s keep it simple. Paper can be understood by it’s ingredients, it’s weight, and it’s surface. Instead of worrying about these too much I recommend just choosing a “mixed media paper” for nature journaling. A mixed media paper will allow you to do some watercolor while still being able to write notes and draw with pen or pencil. I really like the Stillman and Birn Alpha Series Paper.
  2. Cover material. Although it is not the most important criteria the type of cover does have an impact. A stiff cover is easier to hold in the field and protects you paper better. An attractive cover that does not attract dirt and is not easily stained will also help you. This cover has a big impact on the appearance of your journal. If it is too pretty you might be afraid to use it. If it is too ugly or has big logos or stickers on it you might not feel drawn to it.
  3. Paper color. Lately, some people have been using toned paper to great advantage for nature journaling. Toned paper comes in black, gray, and tans. It is good for gouache, colored pencils, and pale subjects. White paper also comes in different “shades.” For more on how to use toned paper see this post by John Muir Laws.

If you are just getting started nature journaling now you know how to choose a sketchbook. But what if you still need some pointers on how to nature journal? This video can help you get started.