Want some nature journal homeschool ideas? Want to learn about how a growth mindset can help your kids? Check out this interview with homeschool mom, podcaster, and art educator Dallas Nachtigall!
Bestowing the Brush is a podcast about passing on drawing skills to the next generation. Principles and practices of Charlotte Mason. Always exploring The Art of Seeing.
In this conversation I talk about how instilling a growth mindset can help kids and adults learn better, work harder, and build sustainable self confidence. In addition to growth mindset we share other key nature journal homeschool ideas that can help your family.
Obviously this all sounds great! If you are ready to dive in then you might be interested in the Nature Journal Family for February.
Earlier in the year I got to interview Dallas on the Nature Journal Show. It’s called Homeschool Nature Study with Dallas Nachtigall. She shares some of the benefits that nature study has brought to her family and shares some practical tips!
How I got Started with Nature Journaling
Have you ever wondered about my nature journaling origin story? Did I always love nature? Did I start nature journaling as a kid? Those of you who don’t know my back story will appreciate the questions that Dallas asked me at the beginning of the show. To summarize briefly:
- First of all, I have only been nature journaling for 6 or 7 years! Are you surprised?
- You won’t be surprised that I loved nature since I was a kid.
- I was introduced to nature journaling for the first time in college. However, it did not really “click”! Can you believe it?
Full Time Nature Journal Educator
After sharing my nature journaling origin story Dallas asked me about my work. Since October of 2020 I have been a full time nature journal educator. I quit my other part time job and now am focused on what I know is my “life’s work.” Currently, work is focused on the following activities.
- Creating educational videos on my YouTube channel. I make how to videos, nature journal adventure videos, and interviews of other artists and naturalists. These resources are all free but I am supported by fans through my Patreon.
- Leading field trips and teaching groups of adults (on hold due to Covid).
- Teaching nature journaling to kids and families (This is currently limited to my online class for families. I’m also doing a few Covid-safe outdoors sessions with individual kids.)
What Does a Nature Journal Session With Me Look Like?
Dallas was curious about my one-on-one sessions with kids. She asked me “When you go on these excursions (…) what does that look like and what do you typically do and how do you structure that time together?”
I answered with the following important reminder.
The thing that is super empowering for teachers and parents and mentors of any kind is to remember that nature is the best teacher and kids are the best learners. You basically just need to put those things together and know how to not get in the way.
After saying that, I explain how under every rock and around every turn in the trail there are lessons. There are physics lessons, biology lessons, or anything else you want to learn about.
The next key point is to balance structure with flexibility. When I teach in the field I usually keep the lesson plan as open as possible. I’m prepared to adapt to the needs of the kid and the materials that nature offers that day. Sometimes I do more focused skill-building activities or experiments. For example bringing an interesting fruit and dissecting it while drawing cross sections. Another example is a recent cratering experiment I did with kids and we nature journaled the whole thing. Check out the experiment directions from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab.
If you want more nature journal homeschool ideas you should listen to the podcast!
You can add this podcast episode to your favorite app here. If you are a homeschool mom you should probably subscribe to Bestowing the Brush.
This nature journal homeschool family will inspire you! Crystal and Amaya share their perspective of nature journaling in a family with four kids. Because of their experience I ask them to give me some ideas for my upcoming nature journal family class.
Crystal told me a story that sums up why nature journaling is important. Their whole family went on a nature journaling field trip to watch bats with John Muir Laws. Amaya was the main one nature journaling during the trip but the enthusiasm was contagious. The rest of the kids wanted to learn everything about bats later when they got home. This motivation allowed the family to go on a sustained learning adventure together. They looked up books. They watched videos. And finally they went to a zoo that had fruit bats. This is where the benefits of nature journaling stood out. While they were watching the bats in amazement another kid walked by. He took one glance at the bats and said “Eww, gross!” Crystal’s son Gabe looked at the boy with disbelief. His facial expression said it all…
“How could someone not appreciate how fascinating these animals are?”
To summarize, the nature journaling mindset had preserved a sense of wonder and curiosity in her kids. The other kid, in contrast, had developed the jaded perspective that plagues most adults. Not only can the jaded perspective make it harder to learn it can also take the joy and gratitude out of life.
Nature Journal Homeschool Tips
- First, start with small expectations. Be realistic to start with so that you don’t put too much pressure on yourself.
- Get personal supplies for each kid. Personal nature journaling supplies make the kids feel proud and responsible. Similarly, letting the kids pick their own supplies contributes to their motivation. See my interview with homeschooler Dallas Nachtigall for more about this.
- Make it into a family event. Planning family outings around nature journaling brings the family together in nature without explicit pressure. For example, one kid like Amaya, might be nature journaling the whole time, but the whole family is there to learn and support each other.
- Don’t pressure younger kids into nature journaling. If the younger kids see their parent, sibling, or family friend nature journaling this will inspire them. In contrast, their mom forcing them might backfire.
- Reassess yearly. How’d it go? What did you learn? What’s next?
Want the perspective of two more homeschool moms?
Check out this live interview with two moms who homeschool and are also educators.
Just getting started with nature journaling?
Need more tips? If so, check out this post. It will walk you through how to nature journal in 10 steps.
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 Tips
- 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.
- Make sure you have your kids basic needs met. Bring snacks, layers,etc. And have a good way to carry materials.
- 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
- Combine writing, drawing, and diagramming.
- Let the kid decide the subject.
- 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.
- You can practice observation skills on regular hikes. If you want you can try to draw from memory when you get home.
- Keep the lessons short. Especially with small kids.
- 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 + 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 journaling for kids could be the solution for your summer. Are your kids already bouncing off the walls at home? Are you worried about them losing focus, losing momentum, or falling behind?
What if there was a way that your kids could be inspired to learn, you could relax, and your whole family could spend quality time learning about nature, science, and art? And all of this without driving anywhere or compromising your family bubble.
1. What is it?
The Nature Journal Family Summer is a month long fully engaging learning adventure. This distance learning course will provide focused connection time for you and your kids while also nurturing a deeper connection with nature. The curriculum delivers exciting applications of art, science, math, and language. It also develops invaluable transferable skills such as focus, scientific inquiry, critical thinking, self-awareness, and visual problem-solving. When you sign up you can count on a structured learning experience that lets you simply relax and follow the journey with your kids.
A. June 8th -July 3rd
B. Four families
C. One or two parents and one or two kids per family
D. Kids: age range (8-15)
E. Cost: $450 for three family members for four weeks
F. Add-ons: $75 for every kid or parent over three total family members
G. $100 for additional family check-ins
2. Your Teacher
Marley Peifer has been teaching nature journaling to kids and adults for over five years. He frequently co-teaches and collaborates with John Muir Laws, one of the founders of the nature journaling movement. You can see how Marley brings a fun, personable, and in-depth approach to teaching in his weekly nature journal show.
3. How it Works
Everything is designed to allow the maximum benefits of a learning community while also providing individual attention and flexibility for your family’s schedule. This takes pressure off the parents, provides a healthy peer-based motivation for kids, and allows for varying ages and learning styles.
A. Week One: Plants
i. Introductory Meeting just with parents
ii. 1.5 hour Group Class with all families on Zoom
iii. 40 minute Family Check-In with Marley and your family
iv. Two fun 30 minute follow-along activity videos to use at your leisure during the week
B. Week Two: Animals
i. Group Class with all families
ii. One Family Check-In
iii. Two activity videos at your leisure
C. Week Three: Connections
i. Group Class with all families
ii. One Family Check-In
iii. Two activity videos at your leisure
D. Week Four: Exploring Deeper
i. Group Class with all families
ii. One family Check-In
iii. Two activity videos at your leisure
iv. Final Journal Share with all families on zoom.
4. What you need
Each participant needs:
A. A sketchbook or journal. Dimensions of around 8.5×11” is best. Printer paper stapled together or simply bound and held on a clipboard can work in a pinch but is not ideal.
B. Pencils or pens.
5. Sign up
Reserve your spot before June 6th by emailing Marley at marley339 @gmail.com