Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Calender of Firsts - The After!



As I promised earlier this week, I have some "after" shots of our Calendar of Firsts to share.  Now, in thinking and reading about the topic, I came up with quite a few different options for organizing entries:
:: By date - Each date is given a line or column, and you can chart each "first" under the appropriate date.  Entries made in different years can be designated by pen color, or the year can be noted.
:: By sight - Each expected sight could be given a space: "First Daffodil," "First Blossoms," "First Red Leaf on the Maple," etc.  (This would be a particularly good option if one was focusing on firsts only in one's own yard.)
:: By month - Each month is given a spread of one or several pages, where notes can be made as needed.  Divisions might be made for each week of the month (Week 1 of August, Week 2 of August, etc.), or for each year (August 2013, August 2014, etc.), or it could be left blank to fill in as desired.
:: By year - A spread of pages for each year: 2013, 2014, 2015, etc.  Divisions could be made for each month or each week of the year, forming a kind of grid, or sightings could be kept as a running column, or it could all be more free-form.

I think all of these configurations could be useful depending on your goals--hence the perfectionist paralysis. ;)  In the end, though, I went with monthly spreads, and I decided to privilege flexibility over clarity, I suppose, in making my calendar basically full of blank pages.  I like blank pages--I like the possibility of changing my format year to year without having to start a new calendar.  


So for this first part of April, for example, I have a few specific dates noted: 
April 8 - first purple blooms on the boxwood hebe
April 9 - inch-round fruits on the plum tree

But I also have some more general season observations of things seen around the yard/neighborhood during my run last Saturday morning: 
In bloom around town - day lilies, hyacinths, wisteria  
Wildflowers - wild radish, mustard, winter vetch, poppies, dandelions, sorrel

I think this combination of dates and lists will be the most useful to us.  It suppose it makes this notebook less a Calendar of Firsts and more just a nature calendar in general...but I do hope to spot lots of firsts to note!  And I have to admit that being obligated to note just "firsts" makes me nervous--what if I miss something? :)  I also plan to keep it somewhat organized, working from the left so that there are implied columns for each year.  But not actually drawing the columns allows me more or less room to write, as needed.  I can also sandwich extra blank pages between the month-title page and month-image page in years ahead.



The format itself was simple: large-type month on the left-hand side and a seasonally-appropriate image on the right.  I printed all of it on cardstock for durability and popped them into the binder I had originally purposed for our memory work (which found a new home on Evernote).  It now lives on the shelf with our nature journals, ready to pull out as needed.

And speaking of Evernote, yes, I did contemplate just making a Calendar of Firsts in Evernote--you know I'm a devotee!  But in the end, I wanted my children to be able to page through it and add entries, and they aren't allowed on the computer yet, so hard-copy seemed the way to go for this project.

I also decided to combine this project with another little something I've been meaning to start more formally: some life lists.  


So at the back of the Calendar of Firsts, I printed out some blank forms for us to keep track with: birds, animals, insects, trees, shrubs, wildflowers, and so on.  I know birding life lists are common, but I have also found myself noting in the back of my nature journal (more scrawled lists!) various wildflowers I have spotted, trees I have identified locally, and so on.  So now these notes will have a more formal home--and hopefully will be in a more useful format.  Again, favoring flexibility, I decided to print these one-sided, leaving the back side of each page for further notes about species, descriptions of our sightings, sketches, or whatever else we may find useful to add. (Actually, I'm still trying to figure out what categories will make the most sense for us.  Right now, I have Trees and Shrubs, Wildflowers, Birds, Mammals, Invertebrates, Water Creatures, Reptiles, Rocks and Shells, Other Sightings, and In the Garden, which I'm planning to use for cut flower varieties and whatnot.  Shells probably would have made more sense in the Water Creatures section, but we don't usually find the creatures--just their shells--and we keep our shell collection with our rocks.  And should I make a separate page for "Moss, Lichen, and Fungi"?  Haven't decided yet.  So I may reorganize some of the lesser categories.  But this is good enough.)


Oh, and I have written about the horticultural map of our yard we have been working on--it's here too!  This binder seemed like the perfect place to keep a formal record of this project.  I drew a blank map of our front and back yard, photocopied them onto cardstock, and put them at the back of the binder to fill in by hand as I go along.  I'm happy to say that I have almost finished labeling all the plants on our property!  That's not saying much, I suppose--we have quite a small lot. ;)  But when we moved here, I didn't recognize hardly any of the plants, and this project has never been a top priority, so it's nice to see my slow-and-steady progress actually get me across the finish line!  Having it here, accessible to the children, makes it a field guide of sorts for them as they start to put names to the "faces" in our yard.  I'm hoping they become good friends. :)

I'm planning to use that blank pages opposite each map to make notes--when each plants bloom, other common names, gardening notes, and so on.

So now that this is up and running, I'll busy myself with populating the life lists with what we have seen already and with thinking more about the best way to categorize these sights.  If you have comments or suggestions, please do share.  As I said, the format I'm using allows me to reorganize and rethink the ways I'm keeping track of information, so I'm always open to suggestions.

Happy Hunting for Firsts!

** Edited to add - I've had quite a few email requests for my template, so I uploaded it to share.  Feel free to download Our Nature Calendar for use in your own homes--especially if you're on the West Coast, since I included images that are familiar to us locals.

25 comments:

  1. It turned out lovely! I really like your "life lists". Great job!

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  2. I love these!! Did you create all these documents yourself or did you find them somewhere? I would love to have copies if they are available!

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    1. I'd be happy to offer these to whoever wants them! My only thought is that for the monthly spreads, I chose plants that are in bloom locally during that season, so they may not be the same where you are. But let me know and I can email you a copy if you'd like. :)

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    2. I would love that! I have wanted especially to start some life lists; I would imagine those might be specific to regions also... different birds living in different regions, etc.?

      My email address is erinrlewis(at)gmail(dot)com. Thank you so much!!! We haven't been doing well with keeping up with our nature calendar, and we need something to inspire us to get back to it!

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  3. I found this link via the AO forum. This is such a beautiful book and great idea. I've emailed you requesting a copy.

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  4. Another Kelly from the AO forum. This is fantastic. Thank you for sharing!

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  5. Hi Celeste! Are you creating one of these for each of your children, or is it more for you, or your family as a whole? I have been toying with the idea of a binder notebook for each child that is ongoing for Form 1 and most of 2 with a timeline section, "firsts" section, copywork section, math facts being added as they are learned, "words" for my really little ones... haven't read the Living Page yet, so I'm not sure how in line with CM that would be, exactly. Thank you for the file!

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    1. We have been keeping it as a family. For us, that has been enough--the nature journals as individual projects, the calendar of firsts and life lists being done together. I imagine that as my kids get older, they will start to keep those last two on their own. I think it would be perfectly in accordance with The Living Page for children to keep their own calendars, but it depends on the child. If a child is eager to keep his own, great! If it's going to be overly parent-directed, I don't think it would be as valuable a project. I like to keep the required Keeping to a minimum to keep their interest high. ;)

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  6. Hey! I am a little confused about what a Life List of Firsts is. Is it a record of your first experience with an animal or flower? Thank you so much again, you website puts flesh on my homeschooling ideals! :)

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    1. In this post, I'm talking about two things that we keep in the same binder. Our "Calendar of Firsts" is a dated record of the seasonal observations we make each year (first wild mustard in spring, first buds on the plum tree, etc.). Our "Life Lists" are lists of animals, flowers, trees, etc. that we have seen. I usually note our first time seeing them if they are species new to us. Hope that helps!

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  7. Celeste, I have always enjoyed your Calendar of Firsts :-) Thanks SO much for including the download. It is so pretty!

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  8. I've only just seen this post, Celeste and really like how you've done the Calendar of Firsts - the idea of a blank page is definitely my style because I sometimes come up with a better idea & want to change things around. Did you draw your own pictures on your templates?

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    1. Haha, yes, that is basically the reason I went with a blank page too--I always come up with a better idea after I create something elaborate. :) This format is still working for us two years later!

      For the pictures, I searched for free black-and-white clip art images online and copied them as images into my Word file.

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  9. I followed the link here from the forum and I'm glad I did! :) All of my questions have been answered in your post and the comments. :) I love your Calendar of Firsts and Life Lists (I had never heard of that before!). Thanks for sharing this, Celeste. Just love your blog.

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  10. Hello! I was wondering if you could email me a copy of the pages you use in your calendar of firsts?? I have been very blessed by the way you format a lot of your notebooks, and have copied much of them! Thank you! my email is avglawe@gmail.com

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    1. You can download them here:
      https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B0yl2KT7qO4La1hkR3lzWEhkTVE/edit

      Hope that helps! :)

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    2. Thank you! I noticed of course after the fact, that you had already posted a link some time ago! Sorry for that!

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    3. It's no problem at all. :)

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  11. Hi Celeste, I wanted to mention how much I enjoy visiting your blog! Very inspiring and uplifting. I have only one student so far in Y1 and this calendar of firsts was a big hit when I mentioned it to my son that we have a place to add "firsts" :) And I'm also so glad I saw answers to my questions on the comments. Thanks for sharing the beautiful work your are doing with your children! Best regards, Mariana

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    1. Thanks, Mariana! I'm glad you are enjoying keeping a Calendar together! We have really had fun with it too over the years. Often the first thing my kids say when coming in from outside is "We have something to add to the Calendar of Firsts!" It really does become part of the family culture. :)

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  12. Just came across this while I was looking for info about timelines and book of centuries! I love your blog Celeste, thank you for sharing!

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    1. You are welcome! Our Calendar of Firsts is one of the easiest yet most interesting keeping we do in our home -- super simple to implement and gives us lots of great information about our local landscape as we begin to track these things. I hope you have fun with it! :)

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