Blink—And They're Grown

Parents, Families and Child Care

Nature: The Original Classroom

natures-journeyNature has a wonderful basic quality that has so many opportunities for learning. I believe that many of the things that we learn can be explored in nature. We learn nurturing and responsibility as we care for our parks, yards, feed birds, and plant gardens and flowers. We learn in the rain, in the water as we jump in puddles. We learn about feeling when we fall or when we have to come inside.

Nature is so valuable. The earth provides an amazing opportunity for learning and the potential from the excitement from being outdoors is electric. We see the value of nature as a way to create calm in our emotions. We spend a lot of time outside simply experimenting with the environment and investigating everything. We learn in the backyard, we learn at the park, we learn while on a hike, we learn everywhere.

The outdoors has provided a fantastic classroom for me and my children. We generally take at least one hike every week at a local park or in our neighborhood. Our son walks during most of the journey and explores everywhere. Exploring and being prepared for the journey is very important. I usually have a small bag with snacks, water, and wipes. We occasionally get off the trail and really find some interesting things. Recently we went on a hike a day after a rain and the creek trail was so muddy and full of puddles. I was prepared with clean clothes and towels in the car. What a wonderful opportunity to explore. He stomped through every puddle large and small as we were on our walk. Then it happened. His feet got wet enough that he didn’t want to walk any more. I had a few choices but I chose to put him up on my shoulders as we finished our hike. It was cold and messy but messy is fun.

About a week later we were on the same trail and it was rather dry but we found a wet space for him to learn and play with the water. I was interested in what would happen if he got muddy again. He was slow at first, but gradually got more and more wet. I got down in the mud near him and painted my face with a little mud. The best part was when he looked up at me and smiled and was inquisitive whether he could have some mud paint too. He lifted his face up with excitement and let me share some art on his face. We walked down the trail where my wife and daughter were waiting and my wife was surprised with our choice of organic facial material but it was such a wonderful memory. Yes, it will get hot or cold, rain or snow, and there will be scrapes, and the bugs will bite, but it is all worth the journey of learning outdoors.


Back to the Basics

An opportunity to go on a dream getaway presented itself to our family a few weeks ago, and we jumped at the chance. One of the wealthiest families in the country admires my husband’s work with inner city children and wanted to make their private ranch available to us for next to nothing. They didn’t have to ask twice!  Due to a parent session scheduled Tuesday evening, my modern day Brady Bunch clan left Monday, and I was to join them following my presentation. Before setting out on the long drive, I had to double back in order to pick up T, one of those inner city kids who has grown up to be an amazing young man, partly due to my husband’s mentoring. The trip to collect him was out of my way but so worth it.

Once T and I finally made it to the “cabin”, we were blown away by its opulence. As we entered the security code and passed through the gate, it struck me – I’d been an inner city kid myself – that we’d be staying in the lap of luxury. Making our way up the long drive, I wondered how the children were responding to living the lifestyle of the rich and famous.

Over the next few days, I was pleasantly surprised. All six of the kids, twenty-year-old T included, were more into their magnificent natural surroundings than the stunning interiors. The youngest, Liv and Levi, were obsessed with six-week-old Pointer puppies and spent much of their time in the old barn covered in them. My three teenage stepsons had a literal blast shooting guns (but not really hunting), and driving John Deere Gators through the hunting grounds -especially in the pitch black with us riding along getting covered with dust!

A canoe trip that combined periods of lazing away on the creek and paddling furiously through rapids produced many touching and hilarious memories that will now be woven into the fabric of our family’s history. Another day on the water, this time on a boat equipped with all the amenities, allowed me to tube with my children for the second time in their short lives. Lying there on that huge raft with them and T (my husband and the boys had opted to sit that round out), I looked over the heads of my children and watched T soaking it all in. The water, the hills, the sky, and the sun. Growing up where we did, our view had been a little different. T got that. And appreciated it.  Like I said, the drive to get him was worth it.

Other highlights were singing in the van on the way into town for ice cream. ALL the kids lying on beds they’d pushed together to watch The Lion King. Liv, who just turned eight, and Jordan who leaves for college next week, baking cookies together.  Serious sixteen-year-old James scaring the daylights out of everyone when he charged into a room brandishing an enormous deer head he’d removed from the wall. And converting our five pound cheese puff container into an aquarium for the frog thirteen-year-old John caught for our littlest guy, six-year-old Levi. T sleeping out on the back porch – soaking it all in again.

Leaving was bittersweet. Not because I’d miss the lifestyle to which we’d all quickly become accustomed, but because I’d miss getting back to the basics of life.

– Tammi

Photograph courtesy of charamelody.