On Creative Inspiration


I have been taking time to look back through my sketchbook from last year.


I began to play around with watercolour, painting animals in a free and relaxed way. I tried to capture the spirit of each animal, rather than a hyper-realistic image.


Unfortunately, I let life get in the way and I didn’t keep up with the exploration. I have ordered a new sketchbook for myself, as my old one only has a couple of pages left, so I am hoping this will be a good creativity boost!


Happy exploring!

A Field Trip ~ Exploring Nature With Children


Firstly, I apologise for the misleading nature of the title of the post! If you are following along with Exploring Nature With Children, you will know that this week is field trip week. We are quite limited at the moment with how far we can travel from home, as I need to be on hand for my dear Mother In Law, who is really quite poorly.


Our nature study this week has been varied, with no specific focus. We enjoyed a lovely nature walk to the park. Look at those beautiful, bright blue skies! The pigeons were extremely entertaining, the males all puffed up, doing their courting dances, looking for a mate.



We observed the beautiful patterns and textures that the frost made.



Rose thought that the frost made the grass appear like the needles of a fir tree.


We didn’t see many pigeons, but the various fowl were rather hungry!




Our sketchbooks were varied this week, too. Rose sketched a wee bone that she found in the pond, and recorded her thoughts and questions about it, whilst I painted one of the frogs that Rose found in our garden pond.



Please do share what you have been up to this week, either in the comments, or in the FaceBook group. Did you have an interesting field trip this week? Or did you choose to stay with your regular nature walk?

I also would like to give you a quick reminder of todays live Periscope event; Nature Study part 1 with Leah Boden.

Happy exploring!


Nature Study On Periscope With Leah Boden


I am really excited to let you know about a wonderful opportunity to learn more about the Charlotte Mason method of nature study.

My lovely friend Leah will be doing a live periscope event tomorrow (Thursday) at 1:30pm GMT.

Leah and I go back a long way, and she truly is a wonderful, gracious lady, who has so much to offer the Home Education community.


Along with husband Dave, Leah Pastors Mosaic Church in her city, and has home educated their four beautiful children with the Charlotte Mason method for the past 8 years.

Please do tune in to Leah’s talk tomorrow; it really is a chance to learn from an experienced Charlotte Mason mother, who will come along-side and encourage you as you seek to educate your children with a rich and varied education.

You do not need an account to watch the event, but you will need to register with Periscope if you wish to comment or ask questions.

If you are unable to make the live event, you can watch the event later here and I strongly urge you to have a look at the other videos Leah has; a real treasure trove for us mothers.

Leah will also be sharing a 25% discount code for Exploring Nature With Children, so tune in, and enjoy, and please do let me know what you think of the show.

Leah blogs and shares her gorgeous photography at leahboden.com


Calendar Of Firsts 15 ~20 February 2016

cal of firsts


My Calendar of Firsts this week:

  • The first real cold snap of winter! We are greeted by chilly, frosty mornings.
  • Glorious sunshine
  • A black garden slug rescued from the pond by Rose.
  • Mating frogs in our pond.
  • Meeting Charlie the Grass snake at the Reptile workshop at our local Pets At Home

My ‘colours’ for the week, along the top left hand page are not showing up that well in the photograph. I used grey-blue and yellow of the skies.

Keeping a Nature Journal



Nature journaling is an immensely rewarding pursuit for both parent and child. In Charlotte Mason’s own words:

Consider, too, what an unequalled mental training the child-naturalist is getting for any study or calling under the sun — the powers of attention, of discrimination, of patient pursuit, growing with his growth, what will they not fit him for?

Home Education Vol. 1, p. 61

Today I would like to share with you my top five tips to help you in keeping a nature journal.

  • Choose a journal that you will enjoy using.

There are so many different sketchbooks and journals on the market, it can be really quite confusing. The main points to consider would be:

Paper texture and weight

Choose the paper, according to the media you will be using in your journal.

Hot-pressed paper has a very smooth surface. This is actually the paper in my current journal. It is great for writing on, and using with coloured pencils, but tends to not be that great with watercolour; the paint can be quite difficult to control.


Cold-pressed paper (sometimes referred to as Not paper) has a more versatile, slightly ‘toothy’ surface which will work well with both ink, coloured pencils, and light watercolour washes.


Lastly, there is Rough paper, which has a much ‘toothier’ surface & will cope with lots of lovely, juicy paint.


Paper is a very personal preference. I often use quite wet washes in my journals, but often the paper I favour is extremely smooth, which makes no sense at all!



Play around with different papers to get a feel for what you and your child prefer to work on, but if you are starting out, I would suggest going for a cold-pressed paper to begin with, as you experiment with different media.

The thickness of paper is indicated by its weight, and is measured either in grams per square metre (gsm) or pounds per ream (lb).The papers that are most frequently used tend to be:

90 lb (190 gsm) Found in many sketchbooks, may buckle with a watercolour wash.
140 lb (300 gsm) Tends to be used for finished watercolour paintings, but will still buckle if  not taped down
300 lb (638 gsm) Extremely heavy-weigh paper. does not buckle


Journal size & shape

Journals are available in all shapes & sizes, from tiny, palm-sized sketchbooks, through to huge 24″x36″ affairs! Usually rectangular, in either portrait or landscape formation, they can also be found in a square format. Try to buy from an art shop if possible, rather than online, then both you and your child can hold the books in your hands to see which feels most naturally comfortable. Your preferences may change as you progress in your nature journaling journey.


Wire bound or hardbound is again a personal preference. I find the wire bindings get in my way, however wire bound books have the ability to lay the book flat with ease, or fold the covers back completely.


  • Let go of perfectionism!

Do not let yourself or your child be caught up in creating the ‘perfect’ nature journal page (whatever that may be!) Keep in your mind the thought that nature study is science rather than art, it may help a little! Observe closely and record what you see, not what you think you see.

Often people feel very nervous beginning a new journal. The pressure of the first blank page! Many journalers leave the first couple of pages blank, and begin with their first entry on the second, even third page. You can go back and work on that first page another time, or use it for lists, such as local wildflowers, birds, daily temperatures, or use the first page as a testing space for new paint colours, pens or coloured pencils.


If something goes awry in your journal, please don’t ever tear out a disappointing page from your journal. Everyone has them and tearing it out will weaken and damage your book. Instead, there are other possibilities. Learn how to correct the mistake; what went wrong, how can it be fixed? Making mistakes is the fastest way to progress in learning something new. You could simply begin a new sketch right there on the page with the old one. Or, if worst comes to the worst, stick a photograph, seed packet, or clipping from a wildlife article of the offending page. Just never tear out a page. Never give up on your journal, and it will never give up on you!


  • What to include in your nature journal

Here are some details that are helpful to include in your journal:

Basic entries:

• The location

• Date

• Time of day (or night!)

• A brief note on the weather. I usually draw a small rectangle next to the above details and make a quick sketch to represent the weather, rather than writing about it.

• Once you have sketched your subject, be sure to label it, though this may need to wait until you have looked up your subject in your field guide.

More advanced ideas:

• Latin names of subjects

• Diagrams

• Notes on sketches – you may want to include further details, such as notes on textures, or position etc.

• Measurements

• Pressed flowers or leaves

• Photographs

• Quotes

• Passages of scripture

• Poetry – use the weekly poems as a starting point.

• Photographs

• Lists – insects, wild flowers, mammals, trees, whatever appeals to you, the journal keeper.


Please do not get overwhelmed at this point. The essence of nature journaling is to get out of doors, observe and then sketch something in nature, label and date the sketch. That’s it! If you do this consistently, you cannot help but to learn about the world around you and improve your own recording / sketching skills. If you would like ideas of what to study on a seasonal basis, with all the information you need for basic study, please take a look at my book Exploring Nature With Children. It has helped many, many families make nature study happen on a regular basis.

  • Work in your journal regularly 

Dare I suggest daily? The benefits of regular nature study are many;

Learning about the natural world around you

Spending just five to ten minutes a day observing nature is all you need to build your local knowledge. Can’t find time daily? Try just once a week. It is the regularity that will make the difference, noticing the changing seasons, the movement of the sun in the sky, the shape of the moon, when the apple tree blossoms, and so forth.


Connection the the natural world

How connected children feel to nature develops deeply-held feelings and attitudes towards wildlife and the world we all live in.



The formation of habit

“The habits of the child produce the character of the man.” Charlotte Mason

  • Improving skills

To reiterate what has been said above; the consistency of spending a small but regular time with your journals, out of doors will greatly improve the skills of both you and your child.  Observing nature closely, and drawing what you see (not what you think you see) is essential to building drawing skills. And vice versa; drawing will build observation skills.

 “It is only what we have truly seen that we can truly reproduce; hence, observation is enormously trained by art-teaching.” Charlotte Mason





The Beauty Of Earth And Heavens


They must be let alone, left to themselves a great deal, to take in what they can of the beauty of earth and heavens.
Charlotte Mason ~ Vol 1, II, Out-Of-Door Life For The Children, p.44 

Calendar Of Firsts 8~14 February 2016

cal of firsts


My Calendar of Firsts this week:

  • Crocuses in the church garden
  • Glorious sunshine
  • Our first garden Wood mouse of the year. Rose found him under a tree, very still, so we wonder if our cat was responsible. She took care of the wee thing, named him Timmy, and put him out under the trees in the back garden, along with seed and hay, and kept an eye on him, until he was able to run off. We have a lively community of Wood mice in our garden!
  • Irises from my Valentine. He knows me so very well.

My ‘colours’ for the week, along the top left hand page, are the grey and yellow of the skies, plus the yellow and purple of the crocuses and irises.

Nature Study With Pets At Home


Our nature study had a different flavour this week as we visited our local Pets At Home for a reptile workshop.

Pets at home offer a range of workshops ,  aimed at children from the ages of 5-11, although the website states that children of all ages are welcome.


Our workshop was hosted by Mark, a Pets At Home employee who was both knowledgable about the animals, and great with kids. We learned an awful lot about Charlie the Corn Snake, a resident of our local store, and the children got to hold him, which was of course a great hit!


I would definitely recommend going along to a workshop at your local Pets At Home; Rose and her friend had a blast, and are planning to get a flat together when they are grown up, so they can keep as many pets as possible! The workshops are still available, so check the website to see what is going on in your own local store.

Getting Started With Nature Drawing For Both Parent And Child.


I am often asked about getting started with nature drawing for both parent and child.


The best advice I can give for both parent & child is to simply draw.

Charlotte Mason knew what she was doing; observing nature closely, and drawing what you see (not what you think you see) is essential to building drawing skills. And vice versa; drawing will build observation skills.

 “It is only what we have truly seen that we can truly reproduce; hence, observation is enormously trained by art-teaching.” Charlotte Mason


My firm belief is that everyone can draw. Of course, some will be more talented, or pick it up quicker, but there are rules we can learn, which when followed, produce authentic results.

Would we tell someone who cannot read that they do not have talent? We would show them step by step the keys to reading. I believe it is the same with art.

I wrote a guest post a couple of years ago for the Expanding Wisdom blog, that you may find helpful, all about learning the dry brush technique, which Miss Mason favoured.

Playing with Watercolors by Lynn Seddon Title Image

I also have a tutorial on my own blog which is more my current, splashy, loose style, and takes you step by step to create your own journal entry.


You may also find these other posts to be of help:

Supplies For Nature Journaling

Setting Up Your Nature Journal

Not on sketching, but has useful ideas on nature study with children:

How To Study Nature With Children Of All Ages

I would also really recommend the following books by Claire Walker Leslie:

Nature Drawing. A Tool For Learning

The Art Of Field Sketching

I would also strongly recommend studying great works of art as part of a child’s education.

“We cannot measure the influence that one or another artist has upon the child’s sense of beauty, upon his power of seeing, as in a picture, the common sights of life; he is enriched more than we know in having really looked at even a single picture”

Charlotte Mason Vol. 1, p. 309

So again, as well as surrounding the child with beauty, it is the idea of the “power of seeing”, and “only what we have truly seen” that makes a difference.

Here is an excellent article on how to get started with studying art with your child.

Exploring Nature With Children is a smashing resource for making picture study happen regularly in your own home. It has the name and details of a famous work of art that relates to the nature topic being studied each week. The works of art are easily looked up online, or found in art books available from your local library.

There is one picture for each of the forty-eight weeks of nature study; four weeks for each month of the year, organised by season.

In conclusion, to learn to sketch, you have to sketch. We can read all the books, buy all the supplies, but in the end we have to get down to the task, and learn by doing, learn by our mistakes. Which can be pretty humbling! But I think it is great for our children, to see us struggle to learn something new. It is a great reminder to us of how our children feel when they are working to master a new skill. Also be sure to surround yourself and your child with beauty, both in nature and in art.

Small steps, small steps.

Happy Exploring!