Monday, September 22, 2014

The Power of Nature

Walking the property with Lucky Dog.
 While the weather is still warm the kids and I are tryipng to send as much time outside as we possibly can.  After the historically long and cold winter we had here in Michigan last year I have been trying to be proactive in my preparations for this year.  I have experienced the healing benefits of time spent out of doors as well as the negative effects of going without time spent soaking in the sun and smelling the roses.  If I had to choose the number one bonus of living in the country it would have to be the abundance of nature available to us at all times.  This is in stark contrast to the nearly 20 year sentence I served in our previous, very urban, residence.  (No, city living is not for me.)

I was richly blessed in the realm of nature growing up, despite my lack of recognition or gratitude.  Even though I grew up in the city, my home had the feel of the country.  From the street you'd be none the wiser, but a short walk down the driveway opened up to a small sampling of the benefits of country living.  My mom grew up on a farm.  She always planted an AMAZING garden.  I grew up with home canned tomatoes, peaches, pears, and bread and butter pickles as well as an assortment of jams.  There was a small shed that looked like a barn, a raspberry patch, and several city lots worth of undeveloped woodland for tree climbing, fort building, and just plain exploring.  It was so much fun!  We had mature trees in our yard for lounging under on lazy summer days with a good book and a cold drink.  For a time we even had a couple of travel trailers for camping out at night.  (With a little black and white television for late night viewing of Benny Hill and Monty Python, probably the most risque thing on television at the time.  I'm still not sure if my mom knew we were watching those shows, or how much she would have even been bothered by it really.)

Now that we are raising another batch of children, I have tremendous gratitude for the location of our family home.  With all the emotional healing we have done over the past two years my appreciation has done nothing but multiply.  I can think of no better place to repair broken hearts, grieve lost dreams, and refresh mind and spirit than in the center of the quiet hum of nature.

So, how am I preparing to foster the love of nature within my children and nurture our connection to the out of doors during the winter freeze?  Here are some of my ideas:

The kids enjoying the sand table I plan
to convert for indoor use this winter.
1.  Clean out the sand and water table.  (You could also use a plastic sandbox.)  Stash it away inside.  Pull it out on one of those "cabin fever" kind of days, and fill it with dried beans and small toys.

2.  Keep the playdoh put away until winter settles in.  Use it for various activities on and off throughout the winter months like creating fossils with plastic animals, making nature impressions from items in our nature box, shaping animals and other critters, and general creative play.

3.  Fill the feeders, and make sure they are placed in convenient places to view from inside the house.  Keep a log of the birds we spot, and draw some of them in our nature journals.

4.  Gather items like leaves, twigs, flowers, and acorns for crafting.

5.  Track the weather throughout the winter watching the sky and reading books about the changing of seasons.

6.  Continue to take walks outside as the weather permits.  (Be willing to drop the day's plan to jump through the window of opportunity, especially after long periods of not being able to venture out.)

7.  Spend December learning about the history of Christmas and the true spirit of the season while crafting gifts to give to others.

8.  The very moment the opportunity presents itself, build snowmen.  (If you don't seize the moment, it will never happen.  Perfect packing snow does not fall according to my homschool schedule, ever.)

9.  Talk about fruits and vegetables, look at seed catalogs, and plan our garden for the spring.  Start some seeds.

10.  Keep track of events at the local nature center.  Participate in the activities, or just visit now and then.

Bella found a perfect walking stick
that she used during our walk and
discarded before returning home.
Here are some fun resources for further exploration:

I have TONS of resources on Pinterest

Family Education is always a good source of ideas.

Nature Detectives is a great site out of the UK.

Nature Rocks is a fun site with a search feature that you can customize to your own criteria; season, duration, location, age group, etc.

American Forest Foundation has some interesting ideas and resources.

Nature Explore has some fun resources for families as well as information about creating an outdoor classroom (One day!) and a free download for starting your own nature club.

Project Learning Tree is a great resource for using nature as education.

I hope these ideas and resources encourage you in making time in nature a priority for your family, whether you live in the city or the country or somewhere in between!

My current crew exploring our property.
Avery found a turkey feather!

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