Charlotte Mason’s Nature Journals in Missions to Modern Marvels

Dear Carrie

How are nature journals planned in a Charlotte Mason way in Missions to Modern Marvels?

Dear Carrie,

My daughter and I have enjoyed Heart of Dakota’s way of including a rotation of Charlotte Mason fine arts. She loved the watercolor painting and poetry in Creation to Christ. Next, she was thrilled with the art and picture study in Resurrection to Reformation. Then, she oohed and ahhed over Revival to Revolution’s music appreciation and composer study. Now, we see there is a Charlotte Mason style nature journal in Missions to Modern Marvels. We’re tentatively excited, but we tried our hand at nature journals when my daughter was much younger. She just didn’t do very well with it. I think I tried it way too young with her and expected way too much. So, my question is, how are nature journals planned in a Charlotte Mason way in Missions to Modern Marvels?


“Ms. Please Explain How Nature Journals Are Done”

Dear “Ms. Please Explain How Nature Journals Are Done,”

We’re very excited about the Charlotte Mason style nature journal we have planned in Missions to Modern Marvels! It is titled Nature Drawing and Journaling and is an outstanding product created by Barry Stebbing of How Great Thou Art! This resource was exactly what we were looking for, as it incorporates a love for nature, includes lessons on drawing from nature, guides students in keeping a nature journal, and works to look at nature as God’s glorious handiwork.

As this describes it so well, here is the product description of Nature Drawing and Journaling!

Nature Drawing and Journaling is a unique combination of nature journaling instructions, reflections, and space for your own work. Nature Drawing and Journaling will keep you observing & thinking for as long as you have time. Filled with Barry Stebbing’s 40 years’ worth of insights on studying nature and keeping an art journal, with patience and practice you’ll be able to create your very own! Supply lists, instructions on what a journal is (and is not), and hints on starting your own are provided. The journal pages feature journal entries, full-color illustrations, a quote at the top, and often full-page reproductions of Barry Stebbing’s journal.

Nature-inspired poetry pairs beautifully with Nature Drawing and Journaling!

In tandem with the nature journaling twice weekly, we included nature-inspired poetry from Wordsworth, Longfellow, and Whitman. We spend 12 weeks, which is a Charlotte Mason-style term, on each poet. Nature-based poems provide inspiration for journaling and give lovely narrative to describe God’s handiwork.

An Overall Look at Charlotte Mason’s Fine Arts Skills in Heart of Dakota

With this last choice of doing nature journaling in MTMM, we have done the Charlotte Mason fine arts skills in a 4 year rotation (as you have already mentioned). We did watercolor painting weekly along with Robert Frost’s poetry in CTC. Then, we did art appreciation with picture study in RTR. Next, we did music appreciation with composer study in Rev2Rev (plus classic paintings included throughout the Student Notebook). Finally, we did nature journaling in MTMM.

Additionally, we did classic poetry every year from Beyond Little Hearts on up. We did sketching practice with instruction through Draw and Write from CTC through MTMM. Not to mention, we scheduled hymn singing and hymn appreciation in both Bigger Hearts and MTMM.  I won’t get into high school and Charlotte Mason’s fine arts skills here, but I will just say, I think you and your daughter are sure to enjoy that balance as well!



How Best to Approach Typed Key Word Oral Narrations

Dear Carrie

How should we best approach the key word typed oral narration in Missions to Modern Marvels?

Dear Carrie,

My daughter is using Missions to Modern Marvels this year, and she is loving it!  For those of you new to Heart of Dakota, I highly recommend it! Now for my question. My daughter has used Heart of Dakota for many years, and she is excellent at giving oral narrations – too good maybe actually.  When it came to the day I was to type the key word oral narration she gave, I had a hard time keeping up with her. I didn’t want my typing speed to slow down her oral narration, but I couldn’t keep up.  She also wanted to refer to the manual now and then for key words.  Is that alright? I guess my question is, how should we best approach the key word typed oral narration in Missions to Modern Marvels?  Thanks in advance!

“Ms. Please Help with Key Word Typed Oral Narrations”

Dear “Ms. Please Help with Key Word Typed Oral Narrations,”

One thing my hubby did for the typed key word oral narration day was to have my son record his narration on his IPod.  My hubby told my son to try to include most of the key words suggested in the guide in his narration. He allowed him to stop and start the recorder in order to get most the words included. It took my son quite awhile, but he really got into it and actually did a good job including all the words eventually. It also was much easier to type from the recording, as the parent can pause the narration and catch up with the typing or replay as needed. This makes a typed narration much easier to do!

It’s fine to look back in the book for key words, but don’t narrate directly from the book!

Doing a typed narration like this works well if you have a child who has been narrating for awhile, like your daughter. Just make sure the child isn’t looking right at the book as he/she is narrating!  I will admit that my son did have to look back in the book while stopping the recording to see what some of the key words noted in the guide referred to. But, I didn’t think this was all bad either, as it drew his attention to the names and places and forced him to use them in his narration. It also gave time for the parent to catch up on the typing for the typed narration!

Keep in mind, giving key word oral narrations is a higher level skill.

Giving a key word narration that is also meant to be a typed narration is definitely a higher level oral narration skill. So, this wouldn’t be as appropriate for a younger narrator who still needs immediate parental feedback. However, it would work for those who have been narrating awhile and are ready for the next step.  We’ve been doing it this way ever since for the typed narrations and enjoying it immensely!


Missions to Modern Marvels: A Seventh or Eighth Grade Program with Optional Extensions

From Our House to Yours

Missions to Modern Marvels: A Seventh or Eighth Grade Homeschool Program with Extensions for Olders

Heart of Dakota‘s Missions to Modern Marvels homeschool curriculum has a target age range of 12-14 years old, with extensions for 15-16 years old.  Geared toward advanced seventh graders or typical eighth graders, this guide offers an inspirational look at the modern times. But, maybe just as importantly, it also equips students to be well prepared for high school. It also can be beefed up for high school, with minimal tweaks and with a little creative borrowing of credits from World Geography

Let’s “meet” the Learning Through History part of the plans!

So, let’s first ‘meet’ the Learning Through History part of MTMM’s plans!  The “Learning Through History” part delves into the time period from the 1890’s to modern day. It is an exciting period that appeals to most teenagers, as it directly relates to the modern world they are living in themselves today!  Just like most teenagers are going through a period of change, this modern time period includes major changes in the world via inventions, industries, discoveries, and modern marvels. This guide provides a “you-are-there” narrative look at American history set within a worldwide context. Students ‘meet’ statesmen, scientists, artists, musicians, writers, inventors, revolutionaries, and leaders of this time. Their accomplishments are celebrated, but in a way that still shows God is sovereign in all – including the making of history – even modern history.

Varied responses to the history readings keep learning fresh!

MTMM’s Economy Package is full of Charlotte Mason-style living books and resources that chronologically move through time together, painting one fluid picture of modern American history within the context of world history.  Varied responses to the history readings keep learning fresh, while teaching many necessary skills along the way.  Students respond by giving oral narrations, and some are typed by the parent as the student gives them.  Storytime living books connect to the weekly history theme and are either read aloud by the parent or independently by the student.

Mapping exercises, audios, primary source documents, Socratic discussions, notebooking, and projects offer even more variety!

Student complete historical mapping exercises and make connections using Map Trek and the United States History Atlas. They are also taken on an intriguing audio overview of history via Diana Waring’s What in the World Vol. IIIParents and students delve into provided Primary Source Documents via Socratic discussions.  Students keep a full-color student notebook of their trip through the modern times as well!  This notebook includes timeline sketches, period memorabilia, written narrations, and copywork form timeless speeches and quotes.  Students also respond to a provided “Snapshot in Time” by connecting a photograph or sketch with the history reading through captions, bulleted notes, outlines, quotes, excerpts, etc.

Research, economic principles, and a Christian state study further enhance the learning in MTMM!

Students use two forms of media to research each of the Presidents of the United States.  First, they delve into The Big Book of Presidents, and then they round out their research with The Ultimate Guide to the Presidents DVD. Not only is this optional Presidents’ study informative and entertaining, it also teaches students to mesh research from two different media sources.  Second, students dig into learning economics principles. This witty yet spot-on economics introduction uses two amazing living books as resources. In Whatever Happened to Penny Candy? and Common Sense Business for Kids students learn to summarize and log key economic principles.  Finally, students get to know the ins and outs of what makes their state special. This Christian State Study is sure to make its impact!

The “Learning the Basics” part of the guide has much to offer too!

In Who Am I? And What Am I Doing Here?, students focus on developing a Biblical worldview of self-image. This Christian parent-led study gives ample opportunity to discuss how to have a healthy self-image. Students draw even closer to the Lord during their own personal Bible Quiet Time with Faith at Work.  This inductive Quest Bible study has students delving into Romans, Galatians, and James, and includes prayer time, Scripture memory work, and written work.  Students round out their Bible Quiet Time with a hymn study via Hymns for a Kid’s Heart Vol. 2, which further connects to the history with some patriotic hymns as well!

Science takes a deeper look at 20th Century scientists, chemistry topics, and creation vs. evolution!

Living book science readings pique student’s interest in 20th Century scientists, chemistry topics, and creation vs. evolution. In Evolution: The Grand Experiment, students study current evidence both for and against the theory of evolution. The textbook, teacher’s manual, and DVD series work together to help parents discuss this controversial topic with their children. Author Carl Werner examines the still-missing links in the fossil record and points out the mistakes that have been made in the 150 years since Darwin’s Origin of Species was published. Finally in MTMM’s science study, students become the ‘scientists’ themselves by performing experiments with the Chemistry C500 Kit and Genetics & DNA Kit.  Science written narrations, DVDs, notebooking assignments, and written lab sheets emphasizing the Scientific process round out this exciting science year!

Students get to express their creativity with a Charlotte Mason-style nature study and with Write with the Best Vol. II!

Each year Heart of Dakota tries to showcase different Charlotte Mason themed studies.  In MTMM, students get to enjoy a Charlotte Mason-style nature study!  Students delve into studying nature with Nature Drawing and Journaling by none other than Barry Stebbing.  Likewise, students get to express their creativity in writing with Write with the Best:Vol. II! As students get ready for the upcoming rigor of high school composition, WWTB prepares them well by teaching note-taking, outlining, and summarizing.  Students also learn to write persuasive essays, expository essays, literary critiques, book reviews, newspaper articles, and speeches.

Finally, students round out their “Learning the Basics” skills with spelling, grammar, literature, and math!
  • Spelling: Choice of three sets of Dictation Passages
  • Grammar Lessons using the text Progressing with Courage: English 6
  • Literature Study using Drawn into the Heart of Reading Level 6/7/8
  • Writing Lessons with Write with the Best: Vol. II on
  • Choice of Primary Mathematics 6A/6B, No-Nonsense Algebra, Videotext Algebra, or Principles of Mathematics Book 1

In Christ,

Nature Journals Done Charlotte Mason Style in MTMM

More Than a Charlotte Mason Moment

Nature Journals Done Charlotte Mason Style

Point to some lovely flower or gracious tree, not only as a beautiful work, but a beautiful thought of God.  (Charlotte Mason, Vol. 1, page 80)

Hiking in God’s Creation As a Family

When I see a beautiful sunrise or sunset, I catch my breath!  Not only because I am looking at something lovely, but because I see the Creator in it!  Psalm 19:1  The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of His hands.

Sunrise in South Dakota

I believe this is what Charlotte Mason saw, and that is why she loved the idea of keeping a nature journal!  Many of us have read Charlotte Mason’s Volumes, and we long to instill this love of nature in our children.  We aspire to our children looking at nature in awe.  But, more so, we hope our children look deeply at nature in awe, and the closer they look, they delight in God’s hand in it all.

Our ideal picture of keeping a nature journal may not match our reality of trying to keep a nature journal.

I see many a homeschool moms trying to duplicate Charlotte Mason’s ideal picture of keeping a nature journal in their daily lives.  However, time constraints, weather constraints, and just daily life’s constraints and responsibilities prevent nature walks and nature journals from happening.  As a young mom, I remember being incredibly inspired to keep a nature  journal having read Charlotte Mason’s works.  I recall taking my little sons on a nature walk.  I believe my oldest son was 4 years old, and my youngest was just barely 1 year old and in a stroller.  Our house was in town, and not in the most affluent area, mind you.  We were young, and the house we could afford had a very small backyard.  As we walked, there wasn’t much nature; there was much concrete.

A Failed Nature Walk

We tried to sketch bugs, frogs, and butterflies.  I was upset my 4 year old son’s nature journal entries looked more like unknown blobs.  I took it over, sketched the best frog I could, and had him rewrite the word ‘frog’ a few times so it was legible as a caption.  Failure.  I knew it.  NOT, what Charlotte Mason envisioned.  My son actually asked me to put aside the nature journal, as it just didn’t ‘turn out right.’ Hmmmm.  Not what I was hoping for in a nature walk.

Nature Journals As a Focus in MTMM

It turned out my sons just needed to mature a little.  They needed years in the Psalms in the Bible and in lovely Christian-based studies of life science to appreciate nature. In short, they needed to love God’s creation and mature.  I also needed to mature.  It became clear, I needed to realize I couldn’t do everything well all at once.  Hence, the reason nature journals are added as the focus of one of the Heart of Dakota guides.  Missions to Modern Marvels (MTMM) to be exact!  One year to hone in on this, to do it right, to make a nature journal my sons felt proud of!  There are other years Heart of Dakota guides include the concept of ‘nature journals’ as well.  Just in the form of science notebooking entries, amazing God-honoring experiments, outdoor activities, etc.  But, nature journals themselves SHINE in MTMM!

One of Riley’s Nature Journal Entries
Skills leading up to nature journals help students keep a nature journal they are proud of!

So, as you are feeling inspired yet overwhelmed by Charlotte Mason’s ideals on nature walks and nature journals, know they are coming! They are an amazing part of MTMM, and they will come at a time your child can actually feel proud of what they are recording in their nature journals.  Other HOD guides lay the groundwork for this.  John Audubon’s bird studies, Arabella Buckeley’s plant and bird studies, Fulbright’s astronomy study, and so many more – lead the way for students to truly be able to fully enjoy the compilation of a nature journal!  Likewise, step-by-step Draw and Write… drawing assignments,  history projects, history notebooking entries, and science experiments help students acquire the skills necessary to be able to create a nature journal they can be proud of.

Classic poetry study further inspires nature journal entries!
MTMM draws upon all students have learned previously, so they can keep a nature journal they love!

So, this blog’s focus is Charlotte Mason’s nature journals and how HOD has this covered in such a beautiful way that you don’t have to feel the need to add it on your own to other years!  HOD’s guides all include celebrating and showcasing a love of the Creator’s handiwork.  But, MTMM draws upon all children have learned previously, so they can focus on keeping a nature journal they’ll love for years to come.

Common topics for nature journals make it easy to keep a journal wherever you live!
Two days in each unit of MTMM focus on nature journaling using lessons from Nature Drawing and Journaling.  In this book, award-winning artist Barry Stebbing shares 40 years’ worth of insights on studying nature and keeping a nature journal. Full-color illustrations, inspirational quotes, journal entries, and copies of Stebbing’s own journal will have you making your own Charlotte-Mason style nature journal in no time.
You may find you want to keep your own journal alongside your student! But, no comparing – every journal is precious to the one creating it!
Clear instructions, poignant reflections, and space for your work are provided in this spiral-bound softcover book. Also plans include over 47 nature-related art lessons to guide your student in learning to sketch and appreciate the outdoors. Art lessons and nature journal sessions are scheduled twice weekly for the student to enjoy in Missions to Modern Marvels. The nature-themed poetry of Wordsworth, Longfellow, and Whitman is scheduled once weekly to enhance the nature journal sessions.
William Wordsworth’s Poetry
Nature journals are covered beautifully in HOD, so there is no need to try to ‘add them in’ other years.
So, rest assured!  Nature journals Charlotte Mason-style are a part of HOD’s guides.  First, in the form of loving the Lord’s Creation. Next, in the way of learning to draw and record thoughts well. Finally, in the fruition of keeping a nature journal in MTMM.  I hope this helps you enjoy the journey of Charlotte Mason style skills leading up to the actual keeping of a nature journal in MTMM, knowing this is covered beautifully in HOD already!!!
Have fun seeing your own student’s nature journal come to life in MTMM!
In Christ,

A Smooth Transition from Singapore Primary Math to High School Algebra

Dear Carrie, 

We have used Heart of Dakota from the very beginning and loved it! My son will be in Missions to Modern Marvels this year. He has now completed all of the Singapore Primary Mathematics books through 6A/6B, which he finished in Revival to Revolution. I am a bit confused by all the different math options this year. I’m guessing we will transition to Videotext or No-Nonsense Algebra?  Foerster’s Algebra seems too much for an 8th grader! Is there a math choice that is the natural progression after finishing all the Singapore math books? I maybe should add that he is good at math and is even looking forward to more algebra! I don’t want to push him too hard, but he also will be discouraged if he’s not being challenged. So, what math would be the best bridge to get him from Singapore 6B to algebra in World Geography?


“Ms. Confused about Math”

Dear “Ms. Confused about Math,”

There are a lot of terrific things about the Singapore Primary Mathematics U.S. Edition 1A through 6B! However, one difficulty is that it stops after 6B and switches to a new writer and a new format! As high school approaches, it can be tough to figure out a good transition between one math program and another. Since one size doesn’t fit all, we offer many different ways to meet your math goals depending on your student.

My son found the transition from Singapore Math 6A/6B to Principles of Mathematics to be seamless.

This past year my third son used Principles of Mathematics Book 2 after exiting Singapore 6A/6B, and it worked well! He went into Principles of Mathematics Book 2 right after Singapore 6A/6B without ever doing Principles of Mathematics Book 1. The transition was seamless even though the programs are different. We had a good year with some concepts being very easy, and others being a bit harder.

Even for a strong math student, Foerster’s Algebra I is better saved for a student’s freshman year.

Even though your son is good at math, you’re right, Foerster’s Algebra is better saved for a student’s freshman year. It would be a challenge to do Foerster’s Algebra I as an 8th grader. It is a wonderful course, but it is also very rigorous. The problem-solving that makes Foerster’s math stand out also requires a more mature student to process what is being asked. So, having a bit more maturity on one’s side before heading into Foerster would be a bonus.

Principles of Mathematics Book 2 provides a good transition from Singapore Math 6A/6B to high school Algebra 1.

If you have an 8th grader coming out of 6A/6B successfully, I’d suggest doing Principles of Mathematics Book 2 next. Then, you could begin either VideoText, Foerster’s Algebra 1, or No-Nonsense Algebra as a freshman. This would help your student firm up any needed skills, making the transition to Algebra smoother in the long run. It would also make the 8th grade year less intense math-wise. Ultimately, this path will give your student a great foundation for the rigor of the math coming in high school!