Quite a while back I started reading about Forest Kindergarten where early education is spent almost exclusively outdoors. We spend a good many hours of our lives out of doors but there was still something so intriguing to me about the intentionality of this type of learning. Basically, the idea is that in whatever weather, children are encouraged to play, explore and learn in a forest or natural environment with the adults there to provide support and to assist. So for months now I've been wanting to have a more "formal" day of this once a month and finally today, we had our first "Nature School" day. "Nature" because we hope to spend these days in environments other than forest, such as at the beach. "School" because well, our daughters often tell people that we don't do school because for some reason unencouraged and unbeknownst to me, they've decided that "school" is really only the things that they don't like doing. The many pleasurable learning opportunities that Dan and I help bring about aren't considered school thus we're trying to help them understand that it's all part of their "school" experience.
This morning, only an hour after our intended time, appropriately dressed and with food and other essentials such as Dr Bear, we headed out to a near by lake that we'd never explored before that we all agreed was a good first location.
Part of this idea is to allow the girls a lot of freedom to set the pace and to not really have my own plan of the direction the day will take. We want to give them lots of time to explore, play, imagine, ask questions while we offer our own observations here and there. Today we'd intended to discover a lot of animal tracks to identify and read about later at home, however the rain from the previous night actually melted most of the snow forcing some adaptations. We crossed streams, climbed rocks, played with ice, examined and discussed various trees, Lichen, and fungi, checked out holes, listened to the wind, and only one child got wet right at the very end. Even Penny was ecstatic to join us.
It was a great first Nature School. We hope to eventually invite some of our friends who are home educated to join us and we also intend to eventually spend close to six hours or so exploring and playing whereas today we managed about three which was still really great.
On days where we do this and it's dry, we all want to bring our nature journals and some identification books but for today we took pictures of things that we wanted to remember for later, both for drawing and for looking up information about.
I love that we can do this together. That together, we're learning so much about the things and places that we love. I love that the girls have the opportunity to play and explore in the forest, to take risks that mean things like sliding off a rock or slipping in a stream. I really believe this is teaching them resilience, courage, boundaries, and creativity, along with so many other life skills. These are the glorious days of educating the girls at home, the ones where it all just makes sense. It's days such as this that make the days where not much seems to makes sense or flow smoothly just a little easier.