I’m so happy to introduce you to my friend Celeste Cruz today. I met Celeste online a number of years ago because of our connections with the CM world through AmblesideOnline.
Our friendship has grown through blogging, Instagram, Facebook, Fitbit, and Voxer. Celeste has inspired me in innumerable ways from her dedication to running, reading & commonplacing, and living a CM lifestyle, and her dedication to notebook keeping – including her personal nature journal.
I find it so hard to believe that Celeste hasn’t always been doing nature journals! Her pages are so beautiful and I think you’ll agree. She conveys her ideas in words just as beautifully in this post and at her blog.
Please tell us a little bit about yourself, your family, your homeschool, and the ages of your children.
My husband and I live in the San Francisco Bay Area with our eight children, all ages ten and under, with #9 (a tiebreaker boy!) due this summer. We have homeschooled from the beginning using the Charlotte Mason method and absolutely love it.
What is your hobby?
One of my favorite ways to spend my free time is in nature journaling.
How long have you been doing your hobby?
About six years, being more consistent in the last two years.
How did you get started or interested in nature journaling? How would someone else get started?
I know that in your “Mama Needs a Hobby” series, you contend that we moms need a hobby just for us, apart from homeschooling, because homeschooling isn’t our hobby — it’s our vocation and job. I agree!
But I’ll admit: I originally began keeping a nature journal when my oldest two were kindergarteners because I wanted to be a good teacher-model for them.
It wasn’t something that I ever would have started on my own. I am not naturally an outdoorsy person. I couldn’t identify more than a handful of birds at that time (seagull? crow?). I had given up drawing in grade school.
But I believed in the Charlotte Mason method and her reasons for advocating so much time outside and recording one’s observations. Basically, I chose to start keeping a nature notebook, not for fun or leisure, but because I was committed to my educational principles.
But I found that the more I spent time observing, the more I saw! And the more I spent time drawing, the better I could draw! Now something that I started for my kids and our homeschool is most certainly my own.
I think getting started just takes some time outside and a blank page. That’s one of the beauties of nature journaling! It is more about the posture than the right materials: being willing to take risks and try something new, determining to carve out time for things that are important but not practically urgent, slowing down to notice and record.
These postures are important for most hobbies, really, but especially for something like nature journaling, which has no visible side benefits such as losing weight (like running or hiking) or making functional items (like handicrafts or cooking), focusing on the process rather than the product is essential.
What kind of equipment or resources are needed to do it? Are there books or instructional guides that you’ve personally found helpful?
A pencil and notebook are truly all you need to get started, so this can really be a bare-bones hobby and you’d still find contentment there. But I for one am motivated by pretty, functional supplies, and I know many other moms are too!
For my basics, I personally carry a couple drawing pencils (I like one soft like a 2B and one hard like a 2H), a nice notebook with smooth drawing paper, and a couple illustration pens (one super thin and one a bit thicker).
If you’d like to watercolor, which can be a lot of fun to experiment with and is extremely useful once you have gotten the hang of the medium, a nice, small set of paints, water brushes (they hold water in the barrel so you don’t have to carry an extra container!), and thick watercolor paper are essential. I also like a white gel pen for adding highlights.
My two favorite books for mom are The Laws Guide to Nature Drawing and Journaling and Clare Walker Leslie’s Nature Drawing: a Tool for Learning. The latter was the first nature journaling book I bought because I saw it on a used book swap and had seen it as a recommended drawing resource by some homeschool curricula in their upper years.
Leslie has a set of drawing exercises in there that are so freeing for those of us who haven’t attempted drawing in years and years (and are great to use with kids as well). And then I bought The Laws Guide a couple years ago and it quickly became my new favorite resource.
Not only does it have drawing exercises but it gives us SO many different ways of recording — equally helpful for those starting out and those needing fresh inspiration. I like his approach to looking at journaling from an artistic and scientific perspective, which is similar to the Charlotte Mason approach.
Where can we learn more about it?
The first place I would suggest is John Muir Laws’ website and YouTube channel. I know this site has popped up everywhere in the homeschool world these days, but for good reason — he really makes beginning very accessible!
Sitting down for one of his hour-long YouTube workshops with a hot beverage and a sketchpad and pencil makes for a wonderful evening of Mother Culture.
How do you make time to participate?
With so many little hands around, I have had to get creative with my journaling time. My ideal would be to go out to a county park a couple times a week with my supplies and just observe and draw for an hour. That never happens, but I daydream about doing just that when I’m retired!
For now, I go out with my kids once a week on a nature study outing with friends, and I carry my journal along to get some sketching in there when I can. When we get home, I get the littles settled for naptime and draw along with my older kids if we didn’t get a chance to do so in the field.
Most of my journaling, though, happens on the weekends. I spend some quiet time each weekend recording my observations and painting a bit while the kids are busy with Daddy. It’s a particularly delightful way to spend a Sunday afternoon!
Committing to a weekly entry has been important for me in developing the habit because, in a busy household, it’s easy to let the things I enjoy fall by the wayside in light of all the other demands on my time. I know all you moms can relate to that!
Where can others find you online?
The best place to find me is Joyous Lessons, where I share the joys of a Catholic Charlotte Mason education at home. I began my blog six years ago and have logged many, many posts since then — if you search my “Nature Study Outing” tab, you can some peeks at my nature journaling.
My other online home base is Instagram. If I’m posting about my nature journaling there, it will most likely be in my InstaStory so that it will disappear 24 hours later. 😉 I also help organize conferences and retreats for Charlotte Mason West.
Dawn here again … Isn’t her work lovely? Celeste hosts a monthly blog linkup called “Keeping Company” where moms who post about the nature journaling, commonplacing, and other keeping habits can share their work and encourage one another.
If you’re on Instagram, she includes posts that utilize the #keepingcompanycm hashtag. Even if you don’t participate, peeking at the work shared there is an enjoyable way to be inspired. Celeste certainly inspires me every time I read her words or look at the images she shares. She has taught me to be a better teacher, mother, and friend.
Celeste certainly inspires me every time I read her words or look at the images she shares. She has taught me to be a better teacher, mother, and friend.
She is the author of the free ebook: I Am, I Can, I Ought, I Will: Charlotte Mason’s Motto Explained for Upper Elementary Students.