Nature Study and a Peek Into Our Journals

One of my favorite things about using the Charlotte Mason philosophy for educating our children is it's instilling a love of learning in *me*. (my children, too, of course!) This is especially true of history and Nature Study. (We'll leave history for another time.)

I haven't always been interested in nature. I remember when I was young, my brother (5 years my junior) always wanted to watch nature shows on PBS. It drove me crazy. I thought it was the most boring thing to sit and watch a show about Kodiak Bears (that was one of his favorites that we had on VHS. We watched it. A lot. Not that I'm bitter.)

When our first child was born, I became a little more interested in the world around me. As a new mom, you see everything through your child's eyes and even tiny things become exciting! Look, a BIRD! Look Mama, a ROCK! 

Now that we're incorporating Nature Study into our daily life, I feel like creation is opening up to me like never before. My kids are excited about nature, too, because it's all they've known. And I think that's pretty great. :)

One thing I've noticed that comes from keeping a Nature Journal is it causes us to pay closer attention to the world around us. We're always on the lookout for things we can "put in our Nature Journals." Now, if we only drew in it as often as we intended!


A few weeks ago, Daddy was playing on the floor with the kids after work and lo and behold! he found this little guy in our living room! 

A Banded Tussock Caterpillar. Isn't he great? We put him in our little critter home and have been feeding 'Pirate' (the girls named him) elm, oak and maple leaves. He seems to be no respecter of leaves.

We're watching him closely for any signs of cocoon-making!

Did you know that some varieties of Tussock caterpillars actually can cause a rash if you touch them?? The one that we have doesn't--Daddy tested it out. ;)

Here he is munching on a leaf. See his two beady eyes?! (Amy, isn't that called a catch-light? ha!)

Not a week later, we found this little BIG guy girl (the girls named her 'Princess') on one of our daily walks. As previously mentioned, we all tend to be on the lookout for interesting things and on this day, I just happened to be looking down at the grass and spotted her. My finger is for scale but I didn't want to get too close, so it's not that accurate! ;o)

She is HUGE at about 3 inches long! I don't know what caterpillars are like where you live, but I have never seen one this big before. Ever. And see the big spike-thingy sticking out on her bum? WEIRD. 

It's a White-Lined Sphinx. Also known as a Hummingbird Moth. HOW COOL IS THAT?! 

We put her in a large jar and only a couple days later did she settle to the bottom to start her cocoon. Apparently, this kind of caterpillar burrows in the ground to make her cocoon.

I tried to get a good picture of the cocoon but this is the best I could do. It's at the very bottom of the jar in the middle of the picture.

Check out what she'll look like after she hatches! Isn't it beautiful? I. cannot. wait. 

And here are our journal entries: 

Oldest's of the Tussock (it reads "Banded Tussock Caterpillar"). So adorable.

Middlest's of the White-lined Sphinx caterpillar: (I die! So stinkin' sweet!)

And mine of 3 of the stages (I didn't do the larval stage). It was very relaxing to sit and draw this. :) I have to remember though, that the point of a Nature Journal is not necessarily just for beauty (although that can be part of it), it's primarily a science book. I should get better at labeling... 

I'm trying to journal a bit more in my Nature Journal. Instead of just drawing pictures of what we see, I'd like to tell a little story each time. How nice would it be for my grandchildren to find Grandma's Nature Journal someday? I want there to be a piece of "me" in it, too. Of course, I want the same for my children, so I'll have to model it.

You can see my Tussock drawing at the top of the next picture. :)

It took me a while to find the right shades of peach and brown for the wings. As a side note, I really need to invest in some good colored pencils. This box of random pencils from our local thrift store isn't cuttin' it.


Here are a few of my favorite Nature Journal posts:

Nelleke at Education is a Life - I love the idea of not over-complicating things.
Amy at ...these are a few of my favorite things... - They found a Tussock, too! :)
Angela at Wilhites Living Life - I can never believe how many cool critters they see on their walks!
Lisa at Olive Plants All Around My Table - Her daughter's drawings are so pretty.

OK! I'll let you hop on over to Joyous Lessons to see more beautiful Nature Journals and other Keepings.


  1. I ADORE this post! Your drawings are WONDERFUL, woman!!! Why have I not seen any before? Ahem. ;) I agree with you about journaling more...I want to do that also! G & L's drawings...soooo sweet! :) And that is cool about the burrowing catepillar!!!

    1. Thanks, lady! :) The kids were looong gone as I sat at the table and drew! LOL It *was* fun and relaxing, though!

  2. Very, very cool! We've caught caterpillars before too hoping they'd make cocoons, but they never did. I think we'll have to keep trying.

    1. Hmm.. I wonder why? :) I can't even believe I just happened upon the White-Lined Sphinx! So crazy!

      I have to tell you, once in a while I think of your {suspenseful!} caterpillar post! The one where your son took pictures of the Great Escape! TOO FUNNY!

  3. Very, very cool! We've caught caterpillars before too hoping they'd make cocoons, but they never did. I think we'll have to keep trying.

  4. That sphinx is amazing! We never seem to find caterpillars "in the wild" around here--I have no idea why. And especially not one like that big guy! You will have to update when he emerges.

    Your nature journal entries really are lovely. Great work. And I agree with you: it really is relaxing, isn't it? Especially when the kids are long gone and you're just left working by yourself... ;)

    1. Thank you, Celeste! :) I'm not sure how long I sat there by myself... lol

      I consider ourselves very lucky to have found that caterpillar!!! I'll share the pic when she (he?) emerges! :D

  5. Loved reading this, Catie. We caught a caterpillar and were really excited to watch it cocoon but it emerged as some kind of wasp! So disappointed but it was an interesting experience if not a pretty one.

    1. Hi Carol! I have to admit--I've been a lurker on your blog for a little while, so it's nice to see you here! :)

      I CAN'T BELIEVE IT EMERGED AS A WASP!!!! That's crazy! (And kinda funny?) :) What are the chances??!

  6. Beautiful drawings! I need to get better at labeling too! :) I'm a tad jealous of those cocooning caterpillars. Our girls kept one for a few weeks with high hopes, but it didn't make it. It was just a large yellow underwing moth though...not nearly as cool as the ones you have here!

    1. Thank you! :) I'm really new at this whole Nature Journaling thing, so hopefully, over time it becomes a little better. Practice makes progress, right? :) I wonder what makes a difference in them making a cocoon or not? The Tusscock that we have hasn't done anything yet... I wonder if he will?

  7. Catie, how cool to see the caterpillar of the hummingbird moth. I have never seen the larval stage, but we did have some amazing hummingbird moth's a couple of years ago in our garden. I guess we had the right kind of flowers to draw them in. It was incredible to see something so large flying around that was *not* a bird.
    And we are now crossing our fingers that we get to witness the metamorphosis of our Monarch caterpillar we have in captivity. Plus we have another caterpillar I found attached to a plant I collected. I stuck him in there too. We'll see!


Thanks for taking the time to comment. It's encouraging!