Small Successes and a Trip to the Zoo

I hate strongly dislike going to the zoo when it is hot and crowded. But going in November when it’s 32 degrees and all the other kids are safe and warm in their classrooms?

Yep! That’s the time for us!

Yes, it was freezing!! But it was awesome. There was a private school field trip at the zoo the same time we were there, but I think they had about 50 kids total and they left after an hour and a half.

How long did we brave the cold?

5 hours!

Because we are crazy.

And the animals, I think, like it better when there are less people there, too. The elephants did a little show just for us. The polar bears were so funny! We got to watch the zookeepers feed the gorillas and the orangutans. The sea lions showed us their head stands. The turtles were actually moving. And the tiger humored us by lifting his head a few times so we could see him better.

And the lions?

Well, one of them came right up to say hello. Beautiful. And terrifying at the same time.

They probably could have made that glass a little thicker, just for my nerves’ sake.

The greatest homeschool success of the day was that we actually remembered our nature journals! It is my great dream in life to have a homeschool full of beautifully detailed and impressively painted nature journals to tout around town and show people when they ask how our homeschool is going. I remember first hearing about nature journaling – and the entire Charlotte Mason method of homeschooling – and thinking THAT is what I want to do.

Just look at these awesome examples! Can you imagine teaching and rearing your children to be able to independently produce something like one of these! To be able to carefully observe, record, ask questions, find answers, and investigate? Not to mention to be reverent, respectful, and find peace and joy in the world God has created for us? (Ok, one or more of them might be from a mom, but still. It’s the concept.) (PS. All of these just came from a google search of “nature journal examples homeschool.”)

nature journal example 1nature journal example 2nature journal example 3nature journal example 4

But up until last week, I don’t know that we’ve ever successfully taken our nature journals out with us anywhere.

Because I always forgot to bring them.

And secretly, I am afraid that if I try to make my kids sit down and observe nature – like a leaf – they will revolt and get up and run away. I like that they run and play in the trees. I like that investigate and explore kinesthetically, too. So I always have this inner battle of whether I should hand them their notebooks, some colored pencils or watercolors, and sit them down in front of a flower or a bug, or whether I should just let them run and jump and pick wildflowers and dig in the dirt. Usually, the decision is already made for me by the time we get outside – they are ready to play.

And I always forget to bring the nature journals.

But I’m working on it. See? This time, I brought them!

AND we remembered pencils, too.

Instead of requiring them to pick an animal or two to sketch, at each animal in which they took a special interest, I asked them if they would like their notebook and a pencil.

Here are the results…

From the preschooler – a colobus monkey


A lion named Ba’ Shush (this is not the real lion’s name, but he renamed the zoo lion after his stuffed animal lion at home that he had named when he was 2 years old.)

From my 1st grader: An unnamed lion. He wanted it to be a boy lion, so he drew the shaggy mane on her, even though he knew it wasn’t accurate.

An Amur leopard

From my 3rd grader: lions (they were the big hit of the day.)

Another Amur leopard.


And an ostrich.


And from my 5th grader:

Nothing. He didn’t sketch anything.

But the other night he made this great sketch of some ancient Greek cyclops warriors!

The Cyclops Wars

That’s got to count for something.

So, maybe we aren’t quite up to par with the nature journal examples I copied and pasted up above. But we’re making progress.

Baby steps.

You know, if you can’t celebrate the little successes, this homeschooling business is going to be really, really hard.


The next nature journal challenge will be sitting the children down in front of a leaf and seeing what they can come up with!