Tuesday, November 29, 2016
Nature Walks with Young'uns
As part of our Charlotte Mason homeschooling approach this year, I've scheduled in some regular nature walks with the kids. It's just every-other-Friday right now, alternating with our homeschool co-op's meetings.
So far - with the exception of one ill-fated trip through some uncharted and very hilly woods the day after a huge rainstorm wherein all my kids became truly convinced that we were utterly and irrevokably lost and all four of them began bawling in terror - it's been quite lovely.
After the aforementioned incident, I've learned to keep it small, and keep it simple. So far, I've picked little patches of forest that I'm already familiar with near our home. I live in Pennsylvania, afterall, so *all* the nature is forest. And it's quite hilly around here, which means most of these forests also have a creek running through the bottom, which is awesome for exploration.
Each of the kids carries a backpack containing a nature journal, a pencil, a water bottle, and one piece of fruit to snack on. I usually sneak a few tree or bird identification guides into the big kids' backpacks as well. I wear the baby in the Ergo, outfit myself in what my husband calls my "combat boots," and off we go.
We just take a leisurely stroll down the paths we find, and I encourage the kids to notice certain little things I might see or hear. But for the most part, they are much more observant than me. It must come from being so close to the ground! On even the most seemingly ordinary stretch of path, the kids can find plenty of things to keep them interested - spiky seed pods from a sweetgum tree, a decaying log, some ever-pervasive shelf fungus...
It takes a little while for me to get in the "mood" of the nature walk, so to speak. But after twenty minutes or so in the woods, I feel myself starting to calm down. To breathe more easily, and loosen upand just let go of my tensions. It's truly rejuvenating for my soul, and I find myself longing suddenly to move out of the city and live a simple quiet life surrounded by the outdoors.
I've found it best to keep the length of the walk pretty quick. Maybe forty-five minutes total. That's short enough that the kids aren't too tired, and their curiosity hasn't been burned up. At some point aferwards - though not always the same day, as I'd prefer - I have the kids draw a picture of something we saw in their nature journals, and then they dictate a little description that I write for them.
For all my talk of wanting my kids to approach science firstly through a love of nature and by using personal observations of the world, I know never would have built in the time for this in our schedule had I not been trying to give Charlotte Mason's education approach a fair trial. It seems like such a simple thing - a short walk in the woods every now and then. But I've been so amazed at the things the kids have noticed and learned, and the spark it has ignited in their minds.