Today I’m joined by my lovely friend and fellow unschooling blogger Andrea Sunshine as part of a mini series ‘Life Without School | Real Families’. You know how much we love connecting with the natural world. I know this will inspire you!
I sit talking with my friends on our rugs, holding our babies and commiserating with each other about sleepless nights and toddler tantrums. Out of the corner of my eye I spy my children, walking up the hill holding a large tree branch with several of their friends from our group. They quickly discuss who should hold which part and which direction they will take. The branch is heavy but they work together to get it to where they deem necessary. Once it is lying on the earth, they run to the dry creek bed and each carefully choose a rock. They return to the branch where we watch them pound the rocks into the flesh of the wood. I hear one child say, “We can’t shape the rocks like this, the wood is too soft.” Most of them run back to the creek bed to try banging the rocks against other rocks. A few children remain, enjoying the effort of pounding against the branch even if it won’t have the outcome they expected. Us mamas, continue talking, all the while watching this amazing learning take place so easily and freely.
Later we see the children explore the back-burned ruins in the trees beyond the clearing and notice them take sticks covered with black soot to their rocks discovering they can draw with them and someone mentions it’s called charcoal. Later still, games of hide and seek, sword fights, treasure hunts and tree-climbing start and finish with little structure or rules, the main themes seem to be around enjoying this time in the fresh air and the sunshine. I sit back and remember to say a silent thanks to my incredible partner in this unschooling journey – nature.
Before I became a mother I appreciated Mother Nature’s gifts in the ways I assume we all do – experiencing the seasonal changes around us through windows and occasionally physically through the salty water in the ocean or the winter chill in the air. But now, I see so much more. I see how my children are connected to nature in a way that I must have felt as a child but have long since forgotten. I see how they explore every blade of grass, rock and stick before they are even able to speak. I see how the grass beneath their feet provides the perfect padding for babies learning to walk. I see the trees curving and bending to the sky, some shedding their leaves and others full of unique blossoms enticing little legs to stretch their muscles climbing and reaching. I see the sand at the oceans edge teaching children how even beautiful things crumble and fade. I see the vastness of the sea capture their imagination with mystery and danger all the while causing shrieks of summer joy as their bodies slip through the water and jump the shallow waves.
I see so much where before I saw nothing. I see knowledge being soaked up every time they step foot outside our door. I see now how much value my children place in their time in nature because they choose to spend so much of their day with the sun in their face. And because I have seen their joy and their connection to the earth I know I have to support it, and that I have to fall in love with it too. And I have.
I look forward to our camping trips in the bush. I enjoy them all the more when we’re far removed from the reach of civilisation. I like to see my children be free to explore and discover and experiment and test and try in all the amazing arenas that are out there in nature. I couldn’t buy a resource that gives my children all of that if I tried. I couldn’t compute or translate or even record all of the learning that has happened outside of the walls of our home in the last six years. It’s infinite. And it will continue to be.
A wise man said to me, “How will the children appreciate the environment, how will they appreciate nature if they never dance in the rain or sleep in the sun, if they are always corralled to ‘go outside’ under limits and rules? Children need to be at one with nature if we expect them to have a connection to our world.” I couldn’t agree with him more. I am seeing that my children have a secret friend in nature and although she was always speaking to me, it is only now that I am listening to her and understanding her language. I am so grateful that my children opened my eyes and my ears and for my not-so-silent friend in our unschooling journey. We do dirt, we do wild and we do free and there is no other way I would rather it be.
Thank you for reading!