A Calendar Of Firsts: Lists

cal of firsts

How are you getting on with your Calendar of Firsts?

I have begun mine and I am finding it to be a quick, and non-threatening form of nature journaling!

Inspired by Charlotte Mason, who mentions list keeping,  I thought I would share with you some of the list-type entries I plan to keep this year.

“The study of natural history and botany with bird lists and plant lists continues throughout school life, while other branches of science are taken term by term.”

Vol 6 Home Education

Daily Temperature

I will be using the calendar section of my diary to record the daily temperature. As a fun twist, I am going to colour each date according to the temperature. You can see my colour key at the bottom of the calendar:


If you miss a day, here is a good site to check the temperature of your locality for the last two weeks.

Colours Of The Year

This idea comes from Clare Walker Leslie. It is in one of her books, but unfortunately I cannot remember which one. Please do post in the comments if you know. I have done this previously, and it really does help me to think about the colours in nature through the months of the year. Simple sketch out a circle and divide into twelve, each twelfth representing a month of the year. You then simply paint the current ‘month’ with the colours you see around you in the natural world. Fun!


Bird List

Simply a list of birds I have seen. I include the following information:

  • Common name
  • Latin Name
  • Location
  • Date


Flower List

As with the birds, a list of wildflowers I have seen. I include the same information as for the bird list.


That is all for now; I shall let you know if I decide to add further lists.

A New Year, A New Diary. Beginning A Calendar Of Firsts


A happy New Year to you!

My goal this year is to keep a Charlotte Mason inspired Calendar of Firsts; to record recurring seasonal events, such as the first snowdrops, the first apple on our tree in the garden, and when our apple tree loses it’s leaves.

I am really pleased to have some of my readers planning to join me in this diary-keeping, which, scientifically speaking, is known as phenology.

Here are some past posts you may find useful:

A Calendar Of Firsts

Setting Up Your Calendar Of Firsts

My Diary Is Ready!

If you plan to add little watercolour sketches to your calendar of firsts, you may find this tutorial helpful:

Creating A Watercolour Nature Journal Page ~ A Tutorial

Sometimes, a brand-new diary or sketchbook can be dreadfully intimidating in its pristine perfection. If you are following along with Exploring Nature With Children, you may find the ideas in there to be helpful. The current focus is the twelve days of Christmas; here is a short prompt to help you along:

New Year’s Day

Take a walk to your special nature spot. Be thankful for this place and look forward to the year ahead. Remember to replenish the food for the birds there.

You could choose to observe what is happening in your special nature spot and record that, or perhaps make a list of things you are thankful for today, (both in nature and as a family). Instead you may decide to focus on observing the birds. Record them feeding, keeping warm, even looking for a mate!

The first January week in Exploring Nature With Children is all about the Winter Sky, so you will find lots of ideas there if you would like a resource to ‘hold your hand’, so to speak, as you begin your calendar-keeping.

Please let me know how you are getting on in the comments below, or on the Exploring Nature With Children FaceBook group. I am so very excited to be sharing this journey with you!


Christmas Plants Week ~ Exploring Nature With Children

This week’s theme is Christmas Plants in Exploring Nature With Children


This week has been dark and rainy, but we managed our nature walk. All the birds & fowl were extremely hungry!






We observed & sketched holly from a large tree in our garden; it was studded with bright, jewel-like berries last month, but is pretty bare now.





We are making the most of the darkness & cloudy skies; we have twinkly fairy lights and candles everywhere. In front of our nativity is a gorgeous, ginger & citrus scented candle.


As an aside, I am on the second sock of a pair for myself (a rare treat! they are usually for someone else)

I hand-dyed the yarn and chose a stitch pattern to accentuate the colours, which I thought were rather similar to the illustration in our read-aloud today; A Christmas Carol.


Happy exploring!



My Diary Is Ready!


Do you remember my Calendar of Firsts post? I talked about keeping a Charlotte Mason-inspired diary of the firsts in nature for a whole year.

I did a follow-up post about Setting up Your Calendar of Firsts. Well, as you can see from the above picture, mine is now all ready for January!

When Rose and I got home from church on Sunday evening, we all settled down for the Strictly results show, and I worked on adding washi tape to the edges of the pages.



Extra-special glittery pages for Christmas week 2016


Have you found a suitable diary for your calendar of firsts?

Nature journals For Young Children

Whilst have a sort-out of my knitting books, I came across my eldest daughter’s very first nature journal. (Now, now, I have never said I am the most organised of home educators!)

This was her first book from when she was four years old. Four! how time flies! My big girl turns thirteen in a few short weeks. We did not begin formal education with her ’till she was six, but we had her journal on the go so much sooner.

I thought it might be helpful for those families with younger ones to see some pages from her journal. She had a simple, stapled sketchbook, with nice, heavy paper (this will prevent the frustration of sketches showing through on the next page, or the paper being too lightweight to hold a decent mark.

I usually dated her pages for her. Sometimes she wanted to write a word or two herself.


Often I labelled her sketches for her.


I wrote her wee narrations into her book


Please give your child good quality pencils, both sketching & coloured. There is nothing more frustrating than pencils with no ‘payoff’ on the paper. I always used the chunky Lyra ones when my girls were little. Crayola are good too. Be aware that less is more with little ones; too many colours to choose from can be very overwhelming.


I gave very simple directions to my girls when they were little, and I use that same instruction today: draw what you see, not what you think you see.

We still ended up with some happy-faced insects 🙂


Today Elianna still sketches. She enjoys creating art & has moved on to also creating digital art which is a huge passion of hers.

Here are two watercolours that she worked on earlier this year.


Keeping a nature journal with your child has so many benefits. It teaches them the wonder of the natural world around them, they learn lots of technical skills with paper, paints, and pencils, but I think the biggest benefit is that they get to know the world around them. Really know it. I can photograph a flower, tree, or creature many times, but it is only when I get out my paints & pencils that I really see it, really observe it, and get to know it.

The nature journal is such a wonderful tool to develop the habit of observation in our children. The words of Charlotte Mason express the idea best:

Just keep in mind that these notebooks are designed to help cultivate within your child the joy of nature and discovery, not to become a source of irritation, frustration, or competition. If your child finds writing difficult, offer to write his comments in his notebook as he dictates them. And whatever you do, don’t grade or correct a nature notebook! “The children keep a dated record of what they see in their nature note-books, which are left to their own management and are not corrected. These note-books are a source of pride and joy, and are freely illustrated by drawings (brushwork) of twig, flower, insect, etc.”

Home education Vol. 3, p. 236

Happy exploring!


Setting Up Your Calendar Of Firsts

A few days ago I shared my idea with you for keeping a Calendar of Firsts.


I have been so encouraged by how many of you shared, both here and on FaceBook, that you would like to join me in keeping a Calendar of Firsts for 2016.

I promised information on setting up your own calendar of firsts, so here goes.

I used the Moleskine Large Weekly Diary (soft cover) last year & will do so again this year. Please feel free to use any diary you like; you do not need a Moleskine to join in with me. Just beware of any diaries with a glossy finish to the page. They will not take colour well.

CF 1

The paper is not great; a little thin for nice, splashy watercolour, but the layout is perfect for my needs. You can see in the photo below you have a left side with a week to view & space for each day.

This is perfect for recording the ‘firsts’ that you see in nature, and making wee sketches.


You can also see in the picture above that I also printed out tiny photographs on my printer; these made lovely additions to my sketches.

The right had side page is lined, so I added full-sized photographs to some of these pages.


To others I added a full-sized sketch


Because the Moleskine paper was so thin, I worked these full sized sketches on watercolour, or cartridge paper. This also helped with the mini sketches for the following week, as although I was working on the Moleskine paper, it had some weight to it from the paper glued in the previous week.

Here you can see my lovely 2016 Moleskine. It is a lot thinner than the book that has been well loved this year (see the top picture)


Not essential, but a nice touch, is to add washi tape to each & every page edge in your diary. This makes the pages more substantial, and the edges prettier 🙂

I have several roles of tape; here are a few. Don’t worry about this step, it is not essential.


Here you can see I have added a strip of wash tape to the first page; simply apply half the width of the tape, then fold it over, so it covers the free edge of the reverse page. (I hope this makes sense!)


Here I just need to trim the top & bottom of the tape.


You will also need a waterproof pen; I love this one. The micron pens are great too. Basic sketching supplies of your choice, be that watercolours, coloured pencils, or even pens. You might find an old post, Supplies For Nature Journaling useful.

I think that is everything! Please do let me know if I have missed anything.

I look forward to getting started with you in January. Please do share what you are up to, either here, or on the Exploring Nature With Children FaceBook group, or find me on Twitter.


Lichen Week ~ Exploring Nature With Children


We has a lovely sunny day for nature study this week; a welcome break from the heavy rain we have been experiencing.

The pigeons were rather hungry


Very hungry


We had fun in the park; we spotted several fungus & I forgot to photograph the lichen!


We bumped into friends, and returned home to complete our journals




Happy exploring!

A Calendar Of Firsts

It is a capital plan for the children to keep a calendar––the first oak-leaf, the first tadpole, the first cowslip, the first catkin, the first ripe blackberries, where seen, and when. The next year they will know when and where to look out for their favourites, and will, every year, be in a condition to add new observations. Think of the zest and interest, the object, which such a practice will give to daily walks and little excursions.

Charlotte Mason, Vol. 1 p. 54


ETA: Setting Up Your Calendar Of Firsts

At the beginning of the year I came across Stephanie Ackerman’s Documented Faith Project.

Stephanie was using a journal to record “my life, my dreams, my prayers, my moments.  A place to document my faith sometimes monthly, often times weekly possibly even daily”.

I was really moved by this idea and immediately set to work, creating my own pages, capturing daily happenings, special moments, and so forth.


I added sketches, photographs, words, stickers and other memorabilia.


This diary helped me to develop my style of quick pen-sketches, with touches of splashy water colour.



I used a Moleskine Large Weekly Diary, which has days of the week on the left hand page, and a space for notes on the right hand page.

I generally use the left hand side page for little sketches and notes.


On the right hand page, I would glue in a piece of paper to create a larger sketch. (The paper of the Moleskine diary is very thin, & not the best for water colour.)


A lot of my sketches have been nature-orientated


Which has led me to thinking…What a wonderful format this would be to keep a Calendar of Firsts, as Miss Mason advised!

So my goal for 2016 will be to use this way of diary-keeping, to keep my very own Calendar of Firsts. I intend to do this in addition to my nature journal. I am planning to use the same diary; The 2016 Moleskine Large Weekly Diary.

Each week I will record the firsts of nature as they happen in my locality; the first Snowdrops, the first time the goldfinches visit my garden, the fist visit of the hedgehogs, and so forth. I shall still continue to record special family happenings, but the focus will be Nature-firsts.

This is something that could be kept individually, or a family Calendar would be a family treasure to return to year after year.

It would be wonderful to have you journaling along with me; do let me know if you would be interested in keeping a Calendar of Firsts yourself. I will post nearer to the time some ideas for setting up your journal, supplies, tips and so forth.


Moss Week ~ Exploring Nature With Children


This week’s theme from Exploring Nature With Children is Moss.

Today was an extremely wet day! We braved the rain to go and feed the pigeons, geese, ducks and swan at our local nature spot.


The geese & ducks were worm hunting..


Pigeon lady..


We hunted for moss..

555 666 777

We found a few, before the rain drove us home to warm up & complete our journals.


11 full page moss