Tag Archive | natural world

Feel the green

I find it hard to stay in and work when it’s so glorious outside.

Not having young children here any more I don’t even have them as an excuse to get outdoors every day! But I still do – I know how it affects me, or rather how I am affected by its absence.

Walking along the local footpath towards me the other day was a young family getting their littlies outside.

“They love to be out here,” Dad said, as we stopped to chat. “Don’t want to be in much at all.” The children were about three and eighteen months, exploring everything around them while we spoke, far too restless and curious to be still for a minute. they reminded me of our two.

We were lucky to have rural space on our doorstep for ours to help themselves to, everyday if they wanted. And they did seem to want to, the eldest loving flowers and often taking drawing or books out there, the youngest with her curiosity about creepy-crawlies or experiments with mud – as described in ‘A Funny Kind of Education’!

And even now in their twenties and living in urban places for the work, they suddenly feel the need to go seek out green spaces, hungry for the healthy, calming inpact it has on them. They sip of it like nectar, knowing

The footpath above the city

what it feels like.

In fact, on a recent visit to the city where my eldest lives and is immersed at the current time in a stressful working schedule, we climbed up a footpath out of the city to seek the benefits – her choice for her few hours off. She recognised her need. So many don’t.

I shared this with the family on the footpath.

“You always return to your roots,” mum commented.

But I replied; “I hope not; mine were in London and I’ve no desire to return there!” We laughed. But I knew what she meant – she’d been away and returned to her rural roots too. I needed to escape my concrete roots to something that suited me better. Not everyone’s the same, I acknowledge that. That’s why kids need a diverstiy of experiences, to find out about themselves and their needs. Ours were able to experience concrete living too and actually our eldest thrives in the city – but she still needs to touch green sometimes.

However, I thought how lucky ours had been, as this young family is, to have had that experience of green spaces just as a reference in their lives. A reference to making them feel good, naturally, because it inherently does. It impacts on our physical and mental health in ways we’re only just beginning to really understand. So even if we don’t live rurally we need to seek out contact with nature to remain wholly well. And I worry about parents bringing up families in places where it’s hard to access that. Because it’s vital that you do.

Vital that you make contact with green things; growing things, the range of species and their needs alongside ours, green space to run about in if possible, on a daily basis. Because the habits that you adopt now will be habits that demonstrate a way of living that encourages and promotes their well being and health. Our own habits are the most important teacher of all. Not forgetting that this contact is essential for raising their understanding of the earth and why we need to look after it.

Finding green, feeling the green, understanding the natural benefits of green spaces, is a vital part of any education.

There are some great outdoor projects to get involved in on Springwatch – check out their garden survey. here

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Happy Spring: What better time…

Easter Holidays!

What better time than this to celebrate the season of rebirth, regrowth and the earth’s burgeoning vitality. When days of longer light can make me feel that my own sap is rising along with that of the trees and plants!

Spring amid the concrete

And what better time than this also to get yourselves and the children outside, experiencing and learning about our essential connection to the earth, how all species are connected to the life of others and imperative for the longevity of the planet, for our own health and wellbeing and that of the children.

I was reading recently about how the increase in childhood conditions and diseases may be exacerbated by our children’s decreasing contact with the earth, the soil, fresh air and green spaces in particular. And how parents should do all they can to reconnect, to encourage learning about the natural world supporting us, and perpetuate a care of it. From the tallest tree, to the tiniest insect, and all those essential organisms we can’t even see – it’s all important!

What better time to do this than when Spring makes it easier to be outside, when it is so pretty and inviting and downright dramatic with its April showers!

So why not get out to spot and experience:

  • Birds – with bits in their mouths, either for nest building or for baby feeding, or singing their Springtime songs
  • Insects – from creepy crawlies in the crevices to the first bee or butterfly you’ve seen this year
  • Rain – appreciating the fact that it is essential for survival. How often do you consider that? And consider also ways in which you can economise with your water usage – waste less of this essential resource
  • Young – the best time for seeing newborns, especially lambs. There may be a farm or a centre nearby you can visit, a river for ducklings
  • Plants, shrubs and tress that are beginning to leaf up or bloom. If you have a garden get the kids involved in growing things, in pots if you don’t, in order to learn about the vital elements needed in order to grow; nourishment, light, water – which we need too! Along with health giving contact with soil!

You may live in a concrete environment, but that is all the more reason you need to teach the children about the earth that lies underneath and to find ways to get them back in contact with it. Otherwise how will they know it’s there, grows our food, supports our lives, and that it needs our attention? Use the season to celebrate this earth and the abundance of life bursting around us, on which all ultimately depend, however city central we live.

Have a Happy Spring!

 

 

What is education for except to learn about our world?

It’s nearly time for the Big Garden Bird Watch again, run by the RSPB. (26th – 28th Jan)

I’m mentioning it because it’s a great activity for the family to do. To help you all get connected to the other species we share the planet with.

And that’s the most important lesson for the children to learn; the fact that we do only share this planet. We don’t own it and we’re not necessarily the most important species on it.

Everything is inter dependent on everything else. Every species has a contribution to make. Our contribution is to use our bigger brains to learn and use our privileged position at the top of the food chain responsibly and wisely! Otherwise our children’s children will not be able to enjoy what we’ve had.

Any activities that help get this message across are a valuable part of education. After all; what else is education for except to learn about the world we inhabit, the species on it, how we relate to them and how to take up a responsible place among them.

Education is not just about maths and english and test passing and qualification- getting for a good job and lots of money as most see it, even though that may be part. Education is about becoming an educated person. And an educated person is one who has understanding and empathy, a conscience and sense of responsibility to the world in which they live, as well as a collection of facts and academic skills which support that.

First and foremost education is about people – and other species – learning to live together; why else would we need to be educated?

Far more important than an English, Science or Maths degree although that can contribute; the biggest contribution we as an educated species make, is the way in which we use our education to help us live in the world with the others that live here, from the biggest mammals, through the human race, past the birds, down to the smallest insect and beyond into the minutest of living organisms. And I haven’t even mentioned plant life within that, the ecology of which we all depend. This is stuff the kids need to know about!

So any awareness, like that raised by the Big Garden Bird Watch, is a valid part of that education. And a useful activity for any home educating family! See the links for more!

 

Cringing for Christmas

Nature’s decorations!

Why do I cringe at Christmas?

Is it the expense? No – although it is a consideration.

Is it because I have to find pressies for relatives I hardly know. Not really – I like choosing and giving gifts.

Is it the thought of the potential for overeating a mass of stuff that’s totally unhealthy but that I enjoy so much? Partly – but I get over it!

Is it because I am a Humbug?

No. It’s none of those things. The real reason I cringe at Christmas is because of the burden the earth has to bear.

So this is a plea that your family – you and the children – consider ways to make your Christmas less of a burden for the earth.

Part of their education is about the planet. To understand it better. To build knowledge of its species. To appreciate how they are part of it and how to relate to it in sustainable ways. We cannot abandon our responsibility to that just because it’s Christmas.

It doesn’t mean a kill-joy Christmas. It just means finding a better balance to what you do. And asking a few questions:

  • How can we moderate the waste we make?
  • How can we give without the earth bearing the brunt of it?
  • What can we reuse, recycle, make, rather than buy? (Wrapping paper as well as presents perhaps)
  • What throw- away articles can we do without? (Wipes, serviettes, paper tableware, for example)
  • How can you make a Christmas that doesn’t cost the earth? Make more of it instead of buying it!
  • Ask before you buy: do I really need this?
  • And consider how much more stuff the kids really need? Love isn’t bought or given through presents.

Giles Brandreth has a lovely idea that he expressed in the media recently. He’s going to tell his grandchildren that he doesn’t want any more stuff. What he’d like from them instead is for them to learn a poem off by heart for Christmas.

Learning poetry has a beneficial effect on the brain, helping with language development and flexible thinking – so he’s perhaps giving them a gift in releasing the kids from present buying whilst boosting their development at the same time!

But whatever you do for Christmas, creating or learning poetry or whatever, please do it with consideration of the earth.

The kids can suffer from SAD too

It’s around this time of year that I begin to feel the effect of the diminishing light hours.

My spirits and motivation drop like wilted geraniums left in the frost, my energy and enthusiasm along with them. I imagine I’m like the trees whose sap is seeping back to their roots, discarding their summer leaves so they’ve not got much to do till next Spring. I want to be the same!

It becomes very difficult to feel any kind of joy in stuff when I don’t get enough daylight. I soon succumb to being a SAD person. Achievement can be difficult. I have to work hard to combat it. Hence the daily walk recorded on my Instagram feed. 

I also realised it could be the same for the kids. Confined inside on dull dark days irritations and conflicts could soon cloud the atmosphere of generally happy home educating days. So, grey and cold or not, if we didn’t have another other activity planned out of the house that day, they got dragged out for a walk of some sort. And despite resistance, it lifted the mood every time – even if sometimes it was just gratitude at being back in the warm! (You can read more about our day to day Home Ed life in ‘A Funny Kind of Education’).

With the continual reports of rising mental health issues among children at younger and younger ages I do wonder if this is a major factor. Kids are outdoors less and less, indoor virtual entertainment being both easily accessible, attractively seductive and convenient for parents too perhaps, especially for those less keen on braving the weather. Kids are outside in natural light and spaces for smaller amounts of time than ever before. It’s got to have a detrimental impact – as it does on many adults.

Increasingly it is thought that natural daylight and time outside, especially in green spaces, is vital for our mental wellbeing, for kids too, as well as giving them time to run off excess energy we might not have! This is what Mind, the mental health charity, have to say about it.

And more reasons why our kids need to be outside are outlined in this piece in the Huff Post uk.

So, just as we would never consciously do anything to harm our children’s physical health, perhaps we need to apply that principle to their mental wellbeing too, making sure the lifestyle choices we make aren’t damaging. Getting the family out for their regular dose of natural light and space needs to be part of those choices, wherever you live.

(See The Wild Network for some ideas)

 

How do people get so ignorant?

How could you litter this place?

I just had a super little holiday in the Yorkshire Dales. The best thing about it was being outside on the hills and hollows from dawn to dusk almost, the weather being absolutely perfect.

It was the perfect holiday for me because outside in a natural environment is where I really love to be and, as you’ll know if you’re connected to me on Instagram, I’ll take most weathers. But last week’s constant light and sunshine was an amazing bonus I couldn’t resist. So constant, in fact, I nearly had heatstroke.

The only thing that was less than perfect was the bag of rubbish!

There we were tramping up this hill, so far from anywhere that only the dedicated few would make the effort to go. So you’d think it would only be folks who really appreciate it who’d go there. Yet what does one of those folks do? Decide to leave their plastic bag of picnic rubbish; sandwich packets and plastic bottles, polluting that glorious environment, expecting someone else to pick up after them.

I ask you – what kind of mentality do they have?

We were in exquisitely beautiful countryside, we’re actually able to walk this land as a privilege not a right, we are as such extremely lucky, and that’s how people wish to repay that privilege? By expecting others to clean up after them as they take their personal recreation and enjoyment. This being land where people live and work and depend upon for their livelihood? Never mind the risk to other living things.

How do people get so ignorant? I fail to understand what kind of education they can have had.

As I walked back down the hill, I picked up the dangerous bag, carried it back and disposed of it.

It would have been easy not to.

But I’ve learnt from my daughter. Her integrity almost puts mine to shame. I would never throw litter down – but I don’t often pick it up after others either, as she does.

She and I were walking together through the park in town where someone else has flung their discarded litter about the place. There are bins provided – very near – but no, it’s too much effort to carry litter to a bin. So she picks it up and puts it in the bin in passing. Such a simple unselfish act, she takes upon herself. She does it whenever she walks through and sees the need.

We’re often accused of making our home schooled kids dependent – or depriving them of independence by keeping them at home. (Total balderdash as you can read from this recent post) Yet I see her independently taking responsibility not only for her own rubbish but for the rubbish of those ignorant gits who are dependent on others picking up after them.

Ironic isn’t it!

The hills and remote places were otherwise glorious. And do a great deal to heal the sometimes less glorious thoughts that creep in about the less glorious others we have to share them with.

I do hope you’ll never be one of them!

A song for comfort

At this time of year I love to hear the blackbird song. He’s singing his rights to territory and of course serenading a potential mate. His song is the most delightful – up there with the more famous songsters the Nightingale and the Thrush.

I find these moments connected with nature immensely comforting and enriching – whichever I need at the time.

It was the Blackbird song that also prompted a short story from me which surprise surprise won a little competition at the time – not something I normally do. (Copied below)

And following a recent bereavement I was put in mind of how important it is to build these strategies to overcome tricky times in our lives and encourage our children to do the same. Life never runs smooth. There are smooth currents at times obviously, but also rapids, waterfalls and undercurrents to continue the analogy! And part of our duty as parents and educators of this next generation is to be honest about them and help the kids find ways to negotiate them too.

Some find music helps, some use gaming, some use art or social media. Some throw themselves into work. Or running or walking. Or writing – as I do at times. Love from others always brings solace. We are all different and all need different strategies that will help us do this; child or adult. I’m aware in my adult children how they have begun to develop their own. But more importantly how they do not take their spiritual and mental well being for granted but treat it seriously, acknowledge that it needs serious attention at times, and this is something we continue to talk about.

Looking after oneself, mentally and emotionally is as an important part of any education as the academic. We have to see that side of it is not neglected – not easy in schools I fear. In fact, many parents turn to home schooling for that very reason. But however your children are educated make sure some time is spent understanding and nurturing the spirits as well as any other part of the curriculum.

As for the story:

When I was little my mother would take me with her on her walk round the city’s evening streets. The reason she went was to listen to the Blackbird sing.

I felt a bit odd just standing there, unaware at the time that this was my first experience of the power of nature to feed our spirits. What I was aware of though was a special aura of peace upon her face as she stood upon the grey pavements and listened.

Growing up I began to learn a little more about this power. Freed from the taunts and terrors of schoolgirls that were my daily diet I’d spend hours walking the marshes where I could be alone in a completely natural environment. Here the traumas of adolescence were released into a feast of distance and solitude. When I was in a natural place, I could be myself, naturally. No need for artificial smiles, bravado, or attachment to gang behaviours you didn’t believe in. You could just stare at the horizon and be peaceful. You could simply be – although I wasn’t aware it had anything to do with the spirits just then.

But that practice has stayed with me always and now I know differently.

Now I know that in order for us to be well; body, mind and spirits, we need to check in with the natural universe from where the spirit comes. We need contact with ourselves and contact with the earth and the wider universe. Simple awareness will do, meditation, call it what you will, but it won’t be denied.

As long as I have that, a pain in the hip or a twinge in the joints can all be eased. It just takes a moment of appreciation in the way the sunshine can lick the fields into loveliness and I am well. A walk in the raging winds can whoosh deep rooted storms away from both the land and the soul. The song of the rising Lark can pick up my spirits from my boots and lift them high enough for me to see the light all around and beyond the oppressive troubles we attach ourselves to so deeply we become consumed. The lesson in my mother’s face taught me that early on.

When my mother died I felt crumpled and consumed with grief. I lay on the soggy bedcover not wanting to face the world. Yet something told me to get up and open the window and seek the solace I have always found in a breath of fresh breeze, the smell of soil or sea, the touch of nature’s palm. So I did.

And I do not believe that it was coincidence that, at the very moment I leaned from the bedroom window, the sweetest shrillest blackbird began to sing!