Thursday, November 19, 2009

Nature Diary

As soon as he is able to keep it himself, a nature-diary is a source of delight to a child. Every day's walk gives him something to enter: three squirrels in a larch tree, a jay flying across such a field, a caterpillar climbing up a nettle, a snail
eating a cabbage leaf, a spider dropping suddenly to the ground, where he found ground ivy, how it was growing and what plants were growing with it, how bindweed or ivy manages to climb.

Innumerable matters to record occur to the intelligent child. While he is quite young (five or six), he should begin to illustrate his notes freely with brush drawings; he should have a little help at first in mixing colours, in the way of principles, not directions. He should not be told to use now this and now that, but, 'we get purple by mixing so and so,' and then he should be left to himself to get the right tint. As for drawing, instruction has no doubt its time and place; but his nature diary should be left to his own initiative. A child of six will produce a dandelion, poppy, daisy, iris, with its leaves, impelled by the desire to represent what he sees, with surprising vigour and correctness.

~Charlotte Mason

The idea of a "Nature Diary" spoke to me as soon as I had read about it in CM's writings. My Uncle in Japan kept diaries with many drawings in them - diaries of his travels, visits with family, the food they ate, the progress of the construction on their home - they were meticulous and beautiful, and they told the story of what was happening in his life at that time. I admired his drawings so much, often wishing I could keep beautiful memories like that for our family. He always encouraged me to draw.

It has been a love hate relationship for me.
Some I adore...

while others make me wonder why I ever try.

I could hardly wait to start my children on their own Nature Diaries.
But they didn't seem to "get" the idea as I had hoped. They put stickers all over their new beautiful hardcover diaries and when they fell off they taped them on... lovely.

And their drawings were cute, but the effort just wasn't there. They weren't taking time on their drawings or treasuring them as I had hoped. "Sigh" Those awful expectations again.

And, No, the Avocet is not green!!

but as we kept at it, and I turned a blind eye to their rushed drawings and chicken scratch in there, things gradually changed. They started wanting to share their diaries with others, show their pictures and all the places they had been. They began to like drawing in their journals more (though not always), and their diaries now really are a "source of delight" for them, reminding them of experiences past. Just last week they sat with their visiting Grandma, going page by page describing their contents to her.

I do believe CM said "a source of delight" and not "an accurate depiction" for a reason. She must have called it a "diary" because it is just that - a record of our life experiences and how we related to the things in nature around us.

And so it has become for me.

A flower picked...

a lizard caught...

fresh blackberries enjoyed for dessert...

a relative's observations...

All memories special to the diary's owner, a source of delight; not exclusive to a child, but just as readily available to an adult, to flip through in the years to come.


  1. And a delight to me to look at every journal entry here!

  2. lovely naomi. is that your uncles diary with the japanese writings? so beautiful. thanks for sharing.

  3. Yes, that's my uncle's notebook drawing I took a picture of last year when we were there. I believe it's his drawing of Mt. Asama in Karuizawa where we visited their country home.

  4. Naomi, I absolutely love what you have posted here. This is really, very beautiful (love the eucalyptus - Gum Grove entry :)! What a treat for us that you have shared your uncle's notebook with us too! Thank you.

  5. Those are beautiful drawings in your notebook! The watercolours are lovely.