20 Nov 2014

Lessons from the Armitt II

The study of natural history and botany with bird lists and plant lists continues throughout school life, while other branches of science are taken term by term.Charlotte Mason, Towards a Philosophy of Education, p 220

Until I read Laurie Bestvater's book, The Living Page, I didn't know much about Charlotte Mason's Bird and Flower lists. Okay, actually I knew nothing about them at all. The quote above, is, I think, the only mention of them in her writings, and I guess I'd just skipped that sentence, without giving it much thought.

When I visited the Armitt Museum and actually looked at the Nature Notebooks stored there, though, I was struck by these lists. In particular, I was impressed by how little they changed from 1900 to 1950. In all the samples, the lists were there, and they were pretty much the same. I was also impressed with how easy these lists were.

Sample number: Name: Latin Name: Order: Date seen.

That's about it.

Let's have a look at some pictures, shall we, so you can see what I mean. Firstly, the flowers:

Then we have the bird lists:

And it's as easy as that. Page after page of lists, all very similar to the one before.
The next series pf photos shows you inside two lists that appear to have been kept by the entire school. The first list is just like the individual one; the second book contains the flowers in more-or-less alphabetical list. Simple, aren't they?

Keeping these bird and flow lists is fun, and quickly becomes pretty addictive. To give you an idea, here's a couple I've kept on my recent trips.

The next four photos are lists that Eve Anderson kept later in life, including during a trip to Zimbabwe in 1985. It seems list keeping is a lifelong joy!

Remember how I keep saying we make Charlotte Mason too hard? These pages remind me of this, because bird and flower lists are so easy. Even the youngest child can start keeping lists with mum writing them down. Do you have a list of birds that visit your bird feeder or your backyard? Make one. What flowers grow in your garden? Your local park? Your wildlife reserve? Take along a field guide and identify them. Write them in a list.

Lots of us procrastinate over lots of things in CM, but these lists are things you can start today. Take a look out of your window right now. What can you see? Even sparrows belong on a list. So do the weeds growing through the cracks in your driveway. They do have a use!!

Every notebook we looked at at the Armitt contained a bird and flower list, no matter how complete they were otherwise. Aren't you inspired now to keep one too?

More Lessons from the Armitt coming soon!

Find the start of the series for more lessons here.


  1. Ok, I have wanted to keep such lists but have been unsure of where to put them. So they get their own notebook? Or do you feel them in a section of your nature journal?

  2. They were in the back of the nature journal, Heather.

  3. Thanks so much for sharing these! I'll link.

  4. Very neat!!! Thank you for sharing us and for encouraging us not to make things too difficult!

  5. CM is easy and neat. School is overly complicated and messy. I love the "orderliness" of this--the habit of neatness I'm pretty awful at identifying things so I do find technology a help here--I snap a photo of the interesting or pretty plant, cloud, whathaveyou, then look it up at home. Great post for any age.

  6. Never too late to start one , no matter how old you are! Thanks for taking so many photos.

  7. Thanks for reminding me. I started my lists in the summer. Hmmm. I need to get back to those. I'm so glad you took the time to take pictures and then share them with us!!!!

  8. This was such a helpful post on list keeping and exactly what I needed. Thank you!

  9. I love these, thank you so much for sharing. Do you have any insight on the dates in the month columns?

  10. These pictures provide a wonderful visual. What is the distinction between the checkmark and the number listed under the months?


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