Nature journaling 101

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We have recently discovered the joys of nature journaling in our home education journey. Nature journaling is all about observation, documenting what you see around you (vegetation, trees, animals etc) and your feelings, to put it quite simply. There are many forms that a nature journal can take, and many resources available online, that I will link below, to help you discover what exactly you would like to explore in your nature journal.

 

 

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We currently have the blessing of living in a very green environment, near a nature reserve in Turkey. There are pine trees adorning the pathways, juniper berries glistening in the sunshine, conkers and pinecones carpeting the ground at our doorstep. It truly is a beautiful place. It only seemed natural to document the beauty we see around us, and also to explore the emotions it stirred up within our souls.

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I find myself unable to name common trees or mini beasts that we find along the way, and so this is just as much a learning tool for me, as it is for my daughter.

John Muir is quoted to have said ‘In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks. ‘To be outdoors, to observe what is around you, to then translate it in to a picture, drawing, sketch or painting is quite fulfilling, and a reminder of the vast and beautiful grandeur of God’s creation.

 

Here is some guidance on starting a basic nature journal with kids:

  1. Decide where you want to go (a local park, woodland, beach, your own garden etc). Take a  good quality note-book and some pencils or sketching pens, and any other supplies you may need.
  2. Find some animals or trees and plants you would like to focus on.
  3. Think about the details of your focus – the colour, the size, the surrounding environments. Nature journaling means that you will observe closely, really see something, and not just look at it.
  4. How does what you see make you feel? 
  5. Make a note of your observations, reflections. Take photos, for reference, if needed. Collect something to take back home with you, if possible – try not to take something from a tree or plant that isn’t already on the ground.
  6. Get drawing (if you are fortunate to be able to do so in the moment, go for it!) If not, get home and draw.
  7. Search for further information at the library, or the reference to learn about your plant/tree/animal.

Recommended links where you can learn more:

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Our works in progress

 

Handbook of Nature Study

The Nature Journal as a tool for learning

An Autumn point of discussion: why do leaves change colour? (England)

Autumn activities

 

 

We were also lucky enough to discover a nature walk in our locality for children by an organisation called Usturlab (Astrolabe). They conducted a ‘Forest Explorers’ walk where they looked at different trees and plants at Ankara Botanical Park. The children were given a tour and information about the local vegetation and then created a collage of the different bits they found. Totally recommend this walking tour, if you find yourself in Turkey! Here are some photos from the day:

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How do you connect with nature? 

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Mindful moving and de-cluttering

I always struggle with having to de-clutter our gear whenever we move. Our ‘stuff’, worldly possessions and the physical markers of a life we made, have to be reduced to the baggage allowance (23kg usually!). I have always found this process quite difficult, however prior to our latest move, I stumbled upon the Kon Mari method by Marie Kondo, a form of Japanese minimalism that seeks to teach organisation and decluttering.  I was captivated by her practical advice.

Travelling is hard work. It is limiting in most ways, but is also limitless in others. Being organised makes me feel better. As a home-educating mother and wife, it helps to have things in order (mostly so you know where ‘lost’ things are when a family member can’t find them). The Kon Mari method appeals to me because I like to travel light without unnecessary clutter. This grants us the space to form new beginnings in a new place. I found that the method reduced my stress levels, made packing easier, and made me realise that ‘less is more’.

Another motivating factor in my decision to ‘declutter’ was the desire to identify the possessions I own that ‘spark joy’. This is the criterion by which Kondo decides whether a possession should be kept. If an item generates happiness or sparks joy within you, it stays. If not, it goes. By keeping only that which produces joy for our family, I believe we were teaching our daughter that what we do own, we treat with honour and utmost care.

My issue with the whole idea of ‘sparking joy’ is whether it can be balanced with my understanding of spirituality. I do not want joy to be sparked by material items. I value memories, moments, and growth. Instead of relying solely on the ‘sparking joy’ criteria, I asked myself ‘is this item going to be useful where I am going?’, ‘can it be replaced easily?’ and ‘will I use it more than once?’

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Clothes

I found that I had a whole range of clothing, for every season and in a lot of colours (!) but I only wore about 20% of what I owned most of the time. Impulse purchases meant that I had a really nice top but nothing to wear with it, or a great patterned pair of trousers that weren’t practical.

I allowed myself to keep one or two items of clothing that had sentimental value but otherwise, I decided to be practical.

Ask yourself:

  1. Can I wear this with at least two other items? (for example: a pair of black trousers or a black maxi-skirt can pretty much be paired with most items)
  2. Can I find a way to use this in all seasons? (a summer t-shirt can become an extra layer during those cold winter days)
  3. Does it fit? Does it look good on me? (still got to work it, girl!)

There are more questions one could ask, but these were pretty much the basis of my decision-making.

What also happened along the way was that I found these: Travel Organisers on Amazon.

I used these amazing travel organisers to group items accordingly – one for undergarments and socks, one for headscarves, another for my (co-ordinated) outfits, and one for lounge and night-wear. I also utilised the Kon Mari folding method. This allowed me to measure exactly what I had packed, and upon arrival, made unpacking much simpler (straight from my luggage to the wardrobe with minimal fuss).

Toys

Our children do not need more material ‘stuff’. They need genuine love, care, and undivided attention, and, as clichéd as that may sound, this is enough to fill their lives. I found that toys (especially the cheaper items) just cluttered our homes and were rarely played with. As our children grow, so does their need for ‘different’ play-items. Again, try to look for items that can be used for longer periods of their life, and can serve more than one purpose (wooden blocks can be used for counting, imaginative play and so forth)

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Books, however, were a whole different story. They did use to take up almost all our baggage allowance until we decided to invest in a Kindle app for my daughter’s iPad. This was another magical space saving tip!

Comfort and miscellaneous items

A huge part of our clutter were little knicks and knacks that somehow found themselves in our home. This is one of the reason I am always grateful for the arduous moving process because I find things buried deep in to corners of drawers; items like old phones, extra wires that I discovered, odd bits of paper. You know the things that you just stash in to a hidden space so that you can ‘deal’ with it later but you never do. I found this clearing process quite therapeutic.

There is also the task of the sentimental, or what I like to call comfort items. The possessions we are attached to for some emotional reason or for nostalgia. In Marie Kondo’s book, she has a list of categories to work through and sentimental possesions are the last category to tackle! Of course, also the most difficult of all!

In my case, although I hoarded nostalgic items like my daughter’s first pair of Clarks shoes. I realised that they no longer served a purpose. I was grateful for the comfort they provided when she was taking her first steps and yes, they were cute and red and sparked a positive emotion, but ultimately they were just taking up space.

There is always so much more to say. I have just touched the tip of an ice-berg but here are some of my favourite links about minimalism, tidying up and organisation:

Zero Waste Home

Youtube Channel: Home Organising

So get de-cluttering, be mindful about what you own and happy Kon-Mari’ing. 

Ps. They are some affiliate links in this post. Thank you