Its a way to record what we see, and how we see it.
Of course there are experts as in all things. One web site describes a nature journal in this way:
Like a personal journal or diary, a nature journal is a place to record our observations and to reflect on them, but unlike a diary, a nature journal is used specifically to record our observations of, and thoughts on, nature. Take up nature journaling and you can end up learning more about nature and about yourself.
They used a lot more prettier words, but in essence the same philosophy. We have played at Nature Journaling for a year in a half. We still haven't fully arrived, but I think this year might be the year that it makes sense. Bear is attempting to draw and record what she sees in nature. What she sees and picks up on may not be what I see and pick up on, but in my humble opinion, that's 100% ok. In fact, I love that she is drawing something different from what I am. We are journaling together you see. What I draw is from my eye and standpoint what she draws is from her's and that is as it should be.
You can make a Nature Journal very simply, or you can make it a complicated project in itself. We tend to fall in the more simple lines. For really young children I love the hard cardboard composition books that you can buy for under a dollar. If you want to get a bit more fancy you can buy a non-lined sketch pad or book for under $10 (or more! the sky--if you let it--could be the limit). Its up to you what you do, and you can base it on the age of your child. Get creative, make your own (gotta love pinterest!).... But make it something you will use. The best Nature Journal is the one that gets used.
As soon as he is able to keep it himself, a nature-diary is a source of delight to a child.
What do you have for journaling?
In our nature journal stash I have included pencils, erasers, chalk pastels, crayons (broken ones work great for rubbings), water colors, and colored pencils. We often include the things that we have in our nature bags as well. This can include a ruler, magnifying glass, our loops, nature identifier books, clear bags, clear specimen cups, etc. Let your nature bag help you if you want! You can make your journal stash simple or more expanded, its really up to you and what you want. A new item we will be adding soon is a backpack easel to encourage more art as well. Plus it gives mom a place to stash supplies! *smile* Again, only have what you use and let your own needs be your guide. Your journaling experience should be uniquely you.
Grab a camera as well. I am convinced that if Charlotte Mason were alive today that she would embrace digital photography. I have plans to one day include photographs in my journal. Nature journals are all about learning about the natural world that God created and enjoying it. Through our desire to enjoy it, we will care for it as we are commanded as Christians.
Children should be made early intimate with the trees, too; should pick out half a dozen trees, oak, elm, ash, beech, in their winter nakedness, and take these to be their year-long friends. ~~~ Charlotte Mason (Vol 1, II, Out-Of-Door Life For The Children, p.52)
Embrace the freedom of time. Being in nature takes time. Take the time that is needed to really examine the natural world. So many times we rush through walks and this does a disservice to our children as well as our own beings. We need to connect just as much as our children do. At one time this connection was a given, but today we call playing outside a sterile playground where children play surrounded by dotting parents carrying hand sanitizer!
If your child is older, try something I call Square Foot Nature Journaling. I have heard it called other things as well, but the basic premise is that one take small natural stakes, jute twine, and measure off roughly one square foot of space and observe it for a period of time, recording in the journal what is seen and ones experiences. I can't wait to try this.
In your journal you will want to be sure to include the date, time, and location of where and what you are observing. You might even wish to include the weather to help you record your observations. Don't wait until the next day to journal about what you have seen, do it right away.
Remember that your journal doesn't have to be perfect, just perfectly you! Let it express you. One mother expressed to me that she enjoyed going back over the years and seeing the growth she has made as well as the growth her children have made through the art of "journaling."
Charlotte Mason had this to say about children in nature and embracing nature; its worth pondering as parents, "every child has a natural interest in the living things about him which it is the business of his parents to encourage; for, but few children are equal to holding their own in the face of public opinion; and if they see that the things which interest them are indifferent or disgusting to you, their pleasure in them vanishes, and that chapter in the book of Nature is closed to them." Do you allow the wonder to infect them or do you look with scorn on dirty fingers and dangling worms?
Get out there and have some fun and enjoy nature. God created it for us to love and enjoy. If we do this we will take care of it and make sure our own children will be able to love and enjoy it as well. Encourage and embrace the mess of being out doors.