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Monday, January 17, 2011

Why Nature?

Reading stories like the Little House Series, Caddie Woodlawn, Heidi, and Children of the New Forest, it's difficult not to want to experience nature with our children. To be somewhere wild where there is adventure, beauty, spontaneity and freedom to explore.

Spending a few hours outdoors together as a family this past weekend, I couldn't help but notice what nature really does afford our kids.

For one, unpredictability. Every day is different and you never really know what you'll stumble upon; not even the adults know all in this realm of a child's world. How wonderfully exciting.

And a good romp about gets the body moving and the blood flowing which does all kinds of wonders not only for the body, but also for our state of mind. On this particular day, there was fresh air, a new carpet of greens from the recent soaking, blue skies and lots of warm sunshine...




We also found interesting clues suggesting there might be others in this space...




Clues left behind for those with wondering minds...



Clues as to who they are and what they eat...




Clues showing you where they've been and what they might look like...



And if we adults could but leave them to wonder, to search for and seek out answers instead of always telling, telling, telling... what a treasure is that truth a child discovers on his own! How much more will his curiosity grow when there are mysteries to be solved, wonders to be pondered, discoveries to be made.

...professional teachers, whether the writers of books or the givers of lessons are too apt to present a single grain of pure knowledge in a whole gallon of talk, imposing upon the child the labour of discerning the grain and of extracting it from the worthless flood. ~Charlotte Mason, (Vol. 1, p.175)

Everything is directed, expected, suggested. No other personality out of book, picture, or song, no, not even that of Nature herself, can get at the children without the mediation of the teacher. No room is left for spontaneity or personal initiation on their part. ~Charlotte Mason, (Vol. 1, p.188)


Nature (and sometimes the trash we find left behind) affords opportunities for makeshift inventions...




And places to test their viability...




And a chance to work out how to dock your new invention so it won't float away...




...or get pirated by critters who come to these shores also.




Nature affords a child useful tools...




and a chance to figure out how to hone them...




fill them...




determine which side holds more water...




how to carry things carefully over rough terrain without spilling...




how to maneuver awkwardly long pieces while keeping it vertical to avoid spillage...




and how hard work contributes to the greater good - in this case providing cooking water for their little chef in the kitchen :)




and how many hands makes light work.




Nature teaches balance, the potential consequence of inattention, and how simple tools can be used to our advantage.




and it can also remind us that while we are able to imagine and create a great many things, it is ultimately the Sovereign will of the Lord that prevails.

Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the LORD that will stand. ~Proverbs 19:21




it teaches us about beauty, light and shadows...




color and contrast - the art of God.

It refreshes the soul.





and last but not least, it can give a good laugh...




Could I have planned all this in a lesson any better myself? I doubt it. Maybe a better question is, why would I want to when it is so readily available without the effort?

Out in this, God's beautiful world, there is everything waiting to heal lacerated nerves, to strengthen tired muscles, to please and content the soul that is torn to shreds with duty and care. To the teacher who turns to nature's healing, nature-study in the schoolroom is not a trouble; it is a sweet, fresh breath of air blown across the heat of radiators and the noisome odor of overcrowded small humanity. She who opens her eyes and her heart nature-ward even once a week finds nature-study in the schoolroom a delight and an abiding joy. What does such a one find in her schoolroom instead of the terrors of discipline, the eternal watching and eternal nagging to keep the pupils quiet and at work? She finds, first of all, companionship with her children; and second, she finds that without planning or going on a far voyage, she has found health and strength. ~Anna Botsford Comstock, Handbook of Nature Study

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