The girls running around on a journey of discovery.
Summer is slowly drawing to a close. Days are gradually getting shorter, temperatures aren’t soaring quite as high, and most families are preparing for their version of a new school year.
We are going to begin homeschooling with Miss Moo and Miss Roo this fall. There are several factors in our lives that have lead us to this path and we are embracing it as an opportunity to discover many blessings. I have been doing a great deal of research to dust the cobwebs off the knowledge of my preschool teacher days. One thing that Drew and I have discussed is the need for more nature and earth in our girls lives and in their education. Recesses and play are important, but exploration is key.
This past week the girls and I visited Tuckahoe Plantation, the boyhood home of Thomas Jefferson. Our morning outing started as a quest to see the cows that our local farmers had grazing in the fields lining the Plantation’s driveway and maybe sneak in a little history of the area and the man. It resulting in a nature outing where sensory and discovery reigned.
Don’t Be Afraid of Dirt
Using sticks to garden.
Children love to run and discover along the pathways that they design. Visiting a Plantation with open fields and lawns for discovery after several days of showers means one thing – muddy feet. Moo loved getting her toes “squishy” as she ran. She noticed that little pieces of grass stuck to her legs after she emerged from their lush homes. She also noticed when areas were dry verses when areas were, well, soaked. She didn’t think she was doing anything wrong by stepping in mud and watching it make footprints because I reacted to her discovery rather than my notion of appearance.
Don’t get me wrong, this exploration was difficult for me. I despise having wet feet. However chasing after an almost 3 year old and a 16 month old didn’t give me much of a choice. What I DID notice was that I too got lost in the sensations of the experience. I was much more aware when were were in lush garden areas verses areas sloping towards roads and fields. I also noticed that there was a SMELL that lingered with the damp grass near the house that wasn’t present where we loaded in and out of the van.
My Little Tree Hugger
Moo has always been a tactile child. She’s never been afraid to get dirty, shove her hands into any type of sensory activity, or to feel for differences among objects. As we approached a field that housed some magnificent horses, she was drawn to a lovely old tree growing next to the fence. She ran towards the tree gazing up at its branches. Then suddenly she threw her arms around it in an embrace. She genuinely hugged the tree. She gazed at it and took a step back and began asking questions.
We discussed how the bark of the tree was like it’s skin. She noted that the bark was hard and not soft like her skin. She smelled the bark. She glanced down the trunk to notice the tree’s roots and how they went into the grass. The tree was dry where the grass was wet. All observations through her senses. All done in her own time.
As we continued on we found the stump of an old tree that was similar in size. Moo climbed in for a closer look. She noticed that it was empty now but still had roots like the live tree. She pointed to the bark of the tree that was “harder” than the other tree. (I am guessing this was her discovery of brittle but I’m not entirely sure.) She also mentioned how large the trees were compared to the flowers growing in the garden.
When a Zoo Just Won’t Do
My girls have been to the local zoo several times this year. The first time the animals were interesting to then for perhaps a minute or so. By the last trip, they didn’t show as much interest in the animals as they did in following the paths that led around the exhibits.
Seeing animals in their natural habitat is much more mesmerizing to the girls. Roo loves cows and sadly they were all deep in the forest at the time of our visit. The horses grazing in their large field were of interest to her, however, and she stood talking to them and pointing for more than five minutes. Moo climbed the fence to get a better look at the horses and began asking questions about their eating habits, diet, and general state of living. Then we found the chickens.
Chickens are magical for my children. They cluck at them. They point. Moo always gives me a play by play of their actions. She has learned enough about them by now to tell me they peck to eat their food and sometimes they eat bugs. She could point to a boy chicken and a girl chicken. She also thought that they seemed happy in their woods. Multiple experiences building upon one another. It still amazes me.
Share in THEIR Discovery
One of my recent bedside reads has been Sharing Nature With Children by Joseph Cornell. This book is a fabulous resource for activities to try with children of every age range. I encourage you to find it at your local library if you are interested in getting your children into nature more. My favorite thing about this book so far is the resounding notion that you must let your children lead their own discovery if you want to nurture their love of nature.
Our surprise nature outing was my first lesson in child-led discovery. We have been to local parks and trails several times, always with my notion of teaching the girls about animals, trees, and the like. This was the first time I had no intention of talking about bark, why horses graze, or how water mixes with dirt to become mud. However, because of Moo’s interest and , we covered more in our hour long adventure than we could have covered in three hours in a structured, “classroom” setting.
Take your children places. Have a picnic outside. Find a local farm and go see a cow. You might find an enchanting journey waiting for you to create with your children.
Have you even found lessons in the strangest places? What nature outings work best for you?
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