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!

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

Pets in Your Nature Journal

Pets and nature journaling are a match made in heaven. If you have a pet and you have not nature journaled them yet then you are missing out! In this fun conversation you can learn: four benefits of nature journaling your pet and ten tips to do it better.

Recently, I interviewed Gargi Chugh and Akshay Mahajan about their nature journal pet named Mithuni. Akshay and Gargi shared their excitement, inspiration, and a lot of practical ideas. Even though they have an exotic pet their encouraging ideas apply to cats and dogs as well. First, lets look at some of the benefits.

3 Benefits of Nature Journaling Your Pets

  1. The first benefit is availability. Because many people have busy schedules they might not have time to go to a park frequently. They might get home after dark. However, if you have a pet, you can connect with nature at home. Your pet is an ambassador of nature and a fascinating subject. In short, your pet is more available then the wild animals outside.This also allows you to try more nature journaling techniques.
  2. Next benefit is a fast feedback loop. In the interview Gargi shared how a fast feedback look can accelerate learning. Because you can see your house cat every day it takes less time for you to recognize patterns and make connections. On the other hand you might only see a bobcat in the wild once a year(if you are lucky). Therefore it is much harder to make observations and learn about the bobcat in your nature journal.
  3. Third, by nature journaling your pet you can deepen your connection with the animal. Due to the amount of attention you are directing towards your animal your bond with the animal can grow. Akshay and Gargi found that they have become quite connected with their pet mantis over the weeks that they have observed it so closely.

10 Tips for Nature Journaling Your Pet

  1. Measurements are one of the best tools to use with your pet. Therefore it is useful to start nature journaling as soon as you get a new pet so you can track its growth. There are also other ways to use this tool.
  2. Try creating a journal just for journaling and sketching your pets.
  3. Don’t decide in advance what information is important to record. If you try to create categories in advance you will limit your ability to learn about your animal. You might not foresee what is most important.
  4. Since you don’t know what categories of data about your pet will be most interesting or relevant try using dates as categories. In this way you can just record whatever observations from that day and categorize them later when patterns emerge.
  5. Next, instead of focusing on pretty pet portraits try using diagrams. Diagrams are much easier and fun to do and more rewarding. You will also learn a lot more than if you tried to paint a Mona Lisa of your cat. For more about diagrams check out this awesome class.
  6. Start nature journaling your pet as soon as you get it. Documenting the growth of a pet is very rewarding!
  7. Try setting up experiments to answer your own questions. What fun experiments can you set up with your pet?
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  9. Try to answer your own questions before you look it up on google.

Nature Journaler Interview

As a nature journaler I am always curious how others got started nature journaling. And what about you? Do you ever wonder about the story behind the nature journalers whose sketches and paintings you see online? In this episode of The Nature Journal Show we learn about Melinda Nakagawa, her experience with nature sketching, nature education, and how she started a new nature journal club in Monterey California!

The first thing that I was impressed by in our conversation was that Melinda started nature journaling in 1998 since the term nature journaling has not been around for that long. Her first nature journal pages were from a whale watching trip. Before this however she was already an avid note taker and had used journaling in a diary sort of way.

After nature journaling on her own for some time her husband bought her a book by Clare Walker Leslie. Soon after that she also got the nature journaling book by Hannah Hinchman. Now she could see that other people were nature journaling too. A little bit later she got the book by John Muir Laws. While all of these books inspired her it was the Wild Wonder nature journaling conference in 2019 that really lit her up. Because of the incredible feeling of the nature journaing community at that event she decided to start her own nature journal club where she lived in Monterey California.

Four Nature Journaler Tips

1. First of all combine nature journaling with your existing interests. Melinda grew her nature journal practice from her birding and marine biology practices.

2. Next, build your skills of existing skills. Are you a note taker or a poet? Do you draw diagrams for work? Are you a data scientist? How can you use your existing skills in your nature journal?

3. Third, connect with community. By connecting with community you will get more motivation and you will learn faster. In addition, it is much more fun! Melinda got a huge burst of inspiration after she went to the Wild Wonder Nature Journaling Conference. Community can be online too.

4. Last but not least, start teaching nature journaling. Even if you are a beginner nature journaler there are people who are more new to it than you. By sharing what you have learned so far you will accelerate your own learning and reinforce your skills. Start before you are ready.

For more about Melinda and her work check out her page here.
Nature journaler page from Melinda Nakagawa
Poppy Timeline from Nature Journaler Melinda Nakagawa

For more tips for nature journal newbies check out this video here.

 

 

John Muir Laws Interview on The Nature Journal Show

John Muir Laws (aka Jack Laws) could inspire a hard boiled egg. In fact, after this interview you will never look an egg the same. But maybe you have never nature journaled before and you do not even have access to “nature.” regardless of whether you live in a national park or you live in an apartment this interview will show you how to connect to nature. We also talk about his amazing new book which could really help you if you are stuck at home with your kids right now. Actually, this curriculum could really help you even if you are and adult and stuck at home by yourself right now.

He’s our mentor. He’s our teacher. Jack Laws is our fearless leader. In this video he drops some huge bombs of wisdom. In particular let us look at 4 shining examples from the interview.

John Muir Laws Wisdom Bombs
  1. First, “You can still help people during the social distancing of a pandemic.”
  2. “You want reality? You can’t handle reality!” (be sure to watch the video to get this one…)
  3. “It’s not where you look it’s how you look.” Jack emphasizes how the way we pay attention can reveal the wonder of a green bean or an egg. In other words, we don’t need to go to Yosemite or the Serengeti to appreciate the wonders of nature.
  4. ” The greatest organ of pleasure in the human body is the…” In spite of what you might think, John Muir Laws argues that the biggest organ of pleasure in the human body is the brain!

Do you need some inspiration and structure for your nature journaling? Or do you have kids at home that you are homeschooling? Regardless, be sure to check out Jack Law’s amazing new “How to Teach Nature Journaling” curriculum.

Trust me, this curriculum is kid tested and parent approved. Jack is giving it away as a free PDF. You can also order a hard copy of your own.

Good Tips For Any Nature Journaler

You all asked for more interviews and shares with different nature journalers in our community so here you go! In 2020 I’m planning on doing lots more interviews like this.