Keeping Company – Nature & Science Notebooks

Where science does not teach a child to wonder and admire it has perhaps no educative value. 
A Philosophy of Education by Charlotte Mason

We’ve started getting back into our regular bush ventures now that the weather is cooling down here,  but this past week we had some outings which weren’t done with the intention of nature study, but it occurred anyhow. Bengy found a very large, fat eel while swimming with some friends at a local waterhole; Moozle & I came across a mother duck and three little ducklings in a stream nearby when I took her on a short bike ride; we all saw and identified a ‘moor hen’ and we sat watching & listening to some large ravens in the park yesterday when we met my eldest daughter for lunch.

Our ‘intentional’ nature study was diverted a little when I found this wasp nest on the wall outside. We have been studying insects and were going to find out more about bees or mosquitoes until I saw this wasp nest – a ready made opportunity for study:

Insect Life in Australasia by William Gillies is our main book for studying insects but we also use The Handbook of Nature Study by Anna Comstock and The Wonderland of Nature by Nuri Mass.

Bengy’s Nature Journal:
 Australian Raven, Corvus corooides
 …I think. Crows and ravens are difficult to distinguish but by the looks of the neck feathers on this one (they are longish) I think it’s a raven.
Bengy’s Science Notebook:

Dusky Moor Hen, Gallinula tenebrosa

Moozle has been experimenting with various coloured pencils to get the colouring right on the rainbow lorikeet, one of our most common native birds. The outline was done for her so she could concentrate on the colouring.

This is from our study of the Emperor Gum Moth



Characteristics of insects – the last sentence was meant to say that they had three types of mouths, not three mouths:

Exploring & having fun…

16 thoughts on “Keeping Company – Nature & Science Notebooks

  1. Beautiful sketches, Carol. We have Nature journals, but I have seen and read so much about Science journals that we want really want to begin those, too. We are in week 1 of Term 3. Do you think it's too late in the year to begin those? Or should I wait until next year?


  2. That lorikeet is beautiful! I can't believe that's a common bird where you are. :)I absolutely love the sketch of the paper wasp nest. We get discarded bits of wasp nests all the time around here; I need to plan to do a bit of a study of one this summer.


  3. I was just looking back over 'The Living Page' & the pictures of nature notebooks in the book included entries that would be considered more science. eg on p.137 the human ear is in a nature notebook of a student in form IV (8th/9th grade). I don't think it's rigid. We just tended to start a separate notebook for science when we were doing more formal science around about age 12 as we tend to do nature study together whilst science is a separate subject according to their year/age. Bengy's science notebook is mostly narrations on what he's studying. So, in (a long-winded) answer to your question, Lisa, if they're doing their own science it might be easier to start a separate notebook…


  4. If you heard the racket they make when they all gather together you might change your opinion, Celeste! We have some gorgeously coloured birds but their voices don't match their beauty.


  5. The younger 4 are doing Apologia Astronomy and my 16 yr-old is doing Apologia Physics. I really wish I had known about Science notebooks earlier in the year, because I think they would have been so beneficial to my children, a Science \”keeping\”, of sorts.But better late than never; we are beginning Science notebooks next week. :)Thank you, Carol.


  6. I like the idea of a separate formal science notebook. My son has been writing answers to exercises and definitions his dad wants him to go over, but no drawings or diagrams or narrations. Again the blank notebook allows for more flexibility, so perhaps I should switch him over. thanks for sharing all these lovely photos and explanations.


  7. Hi Carol, I am very eager to begin note books with my young children, miss 9, master 7 and miss 5. Could you please tell me, as a guide, how many note book entries each child should be expected to do at these ages, and how many we should work towards doing per day as they grow? Is it one for each subject everyday, or every week? Some more guidance on how to implement it in my home would be so appreciated, thank you ๐Ÿ˜Š


  8. Hi Miriam,
    The notebooks I have here are Science & Nature Study. In a Charlotte Mason context, a nature notebook would begin whenever the child was ready but any ‘formal’ requirements aren’t started until a child is 6 years of age. Before that spending time outside just paying attention & being curious is the best preparation for nature study & science. I think there is a bit of confusion regarding notebooks. You don’t have to have them for everything – a nature journal is the best one to start with and you only need to have them draw an entry in once a week – it’s a long term habit you’re establishing & on the other days you can just keep an eye on the weather, birds you see in the garden. It’s pretty simple. I kept one along with my kids.
    Nature study is the foundation for science.
    As my children got older I had them start a science notebook for writing up experiments or doing s written narration on something they’ve read about.
    Some children and especially some boys struggle with the physical act of writing – doing some copy work each day, even if it’s only a few words or a sentence, is fine.
    The most important requirement with your 9 & 7 year old is to have them ‘tell back’ (.e. narrate) what you’ve read aloud to them. This is much more important than having them write something in a notebook at this stage. I know that seeing something written down looks like learning is happening but it’s not always the case.
    It’s a bit hard not knowing your situation and if you need more clarification feel free to email me:


  9. Pingback: A 16 Year Old’s Written Narration Samples | journey & destination

  10. Hi Carol,
    I have really enjoyed perusing your children’s beautiful notebooks here on your blog. Maybe one of your posts already contains an answer to my question, but I’m sort of flitting from post to post and I haven’t seen it. Can you describe the process – how your children started and how they got to the point of doing such neat, creative, thorough work?

    I had my 14 year old start a science notebook last year (he was 13 then, obviously), and I’m having my 12 year old begin one this year. Last year, all my oldest did in his book was write his science narrations. No drawing. He didn’t want to. This week I required a diagram. My younger one was happy to oblige. His diagram wasn’t very detailed, but I was fairly pleased, given his age, abilities, and the newness of the activity. My older one, on the other hand, was exasperated. “I don’t know how to draw a diagram!” He exclaimed. I told him he could simply copy one from the book if he wanted to. So that’s what he did. Almost exactly. However, I don’t think he had an exact understanding of what he was drawing. They narrated to me orally, using their drawings, and the older one’s narration didn’t show a good grasp of the subject.

    Have your children learned their notebooking skills from you? Or did you show them other examples in the beginning? I showed my children an example of one of your children’s pages (on a different science topic so they wouldn’t feel they had to do exactly the same), but they still don’t have an idea of drawing diagrams, ordering the information, either in frames or bubbles or some other flow, or putting in small bits of text with arrows pointing to the diagram.

    How can I help them learn to do this?


    • Hi Hannah! I don’t think I’ve posted about how we got started with notebooking. I started blogging 9 years ago when we’d already been homeschooling for years. However, I’ve been asked this question a bit more recently so I will have a think and put together a post soon.
      To give you a short answer though, I think there is a personality thing to it. There is also a confidence aspect, too – and I think from what you said about your 13/14 yr old that might be the case. This can happen with gifted kids who are perfectionists & also with those who believe they can’t draw. I’ll go into this on my post as it was something I had to address.
      I hadn’t seen examples of notebooking when my children started theirs but I found that their work did reflect their personalities somewhat. One or two were artistic, a couple were more succinct & technical.
      If they have done an experiment you could get them to describe what they’ve done in writing or draw a picture of what they used for the experiment & what the result was with some labels.
      I did start out with nature notebooks with each of them. They didn’t always like doing them but they did it once a week generally.
      I’ll try & find some of their earlier work and post it. BTW. I saw some Charlotte Mason nature notebooks when we were in the UK & posted about them here:
      (Scroll down the page a bit) They weren’t fancy & reflected the personalities of those who did them – some were interested more in journal type entries while others focussed on drawing.
      Anyhow, I’ll have a dig into the recesses of my brain & see what I come up with. ๐Ÿ™‚


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