Tag Archive | the earth

A reminder of THE most important subject

A short pictorial thought this time to remind you, whilst you can get out and about during the holidays, what’s THE most important of all subjects for your child to learn about. You’ll see why when you read the original post here.

Do let me know your thoughts!


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!



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 earth is more important than maths and grammar

Bread in the making!

Pulling out of London on the train recently I love to look upon the back gardens. Behind the terraced streets these little green oases must offer some much needed sanctuary to the wildlife (never mind the humans)!

From the centre of the city, where the soaring icons, office towers and blocks of flats butt up against each other without a scrap of space between, we begin to pass these tiny, tatty back gardens where people are making such a champion effort to provide that sanctuary with what little space they have. And even those rammed in high-rise blocks boast boxes and planters and gardens on rooftops in gallant attempts to create a little natural space where nature can flourish among places covered in concrete. Sometimes it does it on its own and a buddleia protrudes from a wall and weeds grow on sidings. But many Londoners are giving it a helping hand, creating spaces to invite insects, birds and critters we’ll never see to drop in.

When I see these awesome attempts to give nature a welcome I am filled with awe and wonder. And immediately stop taking for granted the abundance of natural space and greenery I have round me where I live now. I grew up in a top storey flat in London so I know what it’s like to be concreted in. I know how precious these few natural oases are. We didn’t have one!

I’m also thinking about the children who live without them now. About the generations of children who never experience countryside. And how they will ever be able to understand the significance of nature and natural science.

From the tiniest miniscule organism, through all the plants and animals, to the largest oldest tree everything has importance in the ecology of the planet. Everything needs a place. And we depend upon it all for our food, for our air, for our survival and that of the planet. And I worry that those children with shuttered, sheltered existences will never have the opportunity to know anything different, will never truly understand that significance, being so far removed from it on their pavement journeys between home and school and their virtual lives of indoor entertainment.

Surely this knowledge and experience is far more essential to an education, will have far more impact on a future, than times tables and grammar? It is imperative. But as kids follow academic curriculum and obedience to indoor culture I wonder how nature will make its impact known.

So I urge all families to help your kids understand the ecology of the earth that is battened down beneath that concrete, understand that it is still what everyone needs for their survival wherever they live, whether they have contact with it or not. Cities and towns have places to go to get down to the earth, they have planters and gardens and parks, and even farms, where that understanding can begin. And failing that you can simply stand in the supermarket by the fruit and veg and ask the question; where does all this come from and what aspects of nature do we depend upon to get it here, from the bees that pollinate, to the insects and leaf matter which make the soil, the animals that fertilise it, to the workers who make it possible. That question will take you on a journey.

The earth may not be under your feet as it is now under mine, but it is just as essential to your life. And it’s essential to every child’s education that they understand that!

Short days and earth songs

The coming of today's dawn

The coming of today’s dawn

When it got to June I panicked. It’s because I then know it’s less than a month till the longest day when the daily dose of light begins to dwindle again. And light is important to me. It’s important to everyone in fact, but most don’t seem to feel it, or recognise it, as I do. Most manage city lives without this awareness of the earth’s natural rhythms.

I don’t reckon this is healthy. If we’re not aware of the earth we’re not sensitive to its needs as well as ours. When we’re not sensitive we can pollute and desecrate as if it didn’t matter.

What will we leave our kids then? The scenario from the Michael Jackson Earth Song video.

Understanding the earth is one of the most important parts of education surely. Far more important than Grammar or spelling, how many wives King Henry the Eighth had and in what order. We can live without knowing those things – we can look them up. We can’t live without awareness of the planet or there will be no food, no resources, no light, no kings and queens to learn about.

It’s essential our children respect the earth and to do that they need to be connected to it.

Connecting with it at this time of the year is not without its challenges.

But worth it, so get the gloves, hats and thermals out and get the kids out there. There is always something to be fascinated by, discover, experience. And you’ll enjoy being back inside all the more afterwards. (Here’s a site to explore) (And another)

And now it’s December we can take comfort from the fact that it will soon be the shortest day of the year. And a few days after that we’ll be blessed with more light hours each day – well – minutes to start with, but it will inevitably happen.

And it will continue to happen for as long as we are sensitive to the earth’s needs as well as our own – something to remember over Christmas.

For the most meaningful present we could ever give is remembering to be sensitive and respectful through all the present giving, dustbin-filling, wasteful practices and over eating! Help your children understand that our love for the earth is as important as our love for one another; that without it we would not be here.

Ask them how can they help it this Christmas?

Christmasses will come and go – only as long as the earth goes on forever. That’s down to us and our children and our children’s children and so on…and only if we’ve educated them to understand that the earth needs love and has its own song to sing.

Meaningless crap!

sundaygardensundown 005

perfect for decoration

Apologies for the title but I can’t think of anything else to call it.

It came upon me when I was standing writing this first draft in a damp notebook out in the dusky field, with dripping stems and little creatures settling into night. And I haven’t managed to refine it – the title sums it up too well.

You see, I’ve had a couple of excursions to city lately and it’s a bit of a shock!

I love the city and the contrast of it and had some shopping to do towards Christmas. But I get a bit overwhelmed with the crowds and the crush after this rural solitude, especially as we visited a huge shopping outlet which I would normally recoil from in terror. But I was even more overwhelmed than normal.

Actually, I came away appalled.

It was the amount that did it! The mountains of totally meaningless crap that people are persuaded to buy for those who have everything they need anyway. Most of it disposable meaningless crap that has no doubt cost the planet in resources to produce and will doubly cost the planet when it ends up in landfill after Christmas.

The pointlessness of it! The vulgarity of the amount!

Could we not all take a serious moment to consider this? To consider the cost earth-wise of all this dustbin bound paraphernalia? Of yet another present for a child who probably is inundated with presents to the point of boredom, another ornament or plastic trash for the Christmas house already creaking under the strain?

The earth will certainly be creaking.

More does not mean better. But judging by the amount we buy at Christmas this seems to be the ethos we’re upholding and the lesson we’re teaching our children.

Don’t get me wrong; I like buying gifts – a few. I also like making them, purchasing them second hand, or finding something that’s valued. And I suppose I have my share of meaningless crap too – just not that much – the decoration, wrapping and gifts have been thoughtfully created or reused. Nature has a hand in it too.

But couldn’t we create a more meaningful way of gift giving and enjoying Christmas with loved ones than one which is charged with commercialism, materialism and trashes the planet far worse than the living room floor is trashed  after present opening?

What kind of lies is this telling our kids? That the more we buy the better Christmas is? That the more presents we get the more people love us? That waste or pollution doesn’t matter at Christmas and yet another set of lights or disposables is okay?

I don’t think so.

As the sun sinks itself into its rosy bed for the night and my nose and finger ends start to chill I ponder this. I ponder ways of making Christmas more meaningful than materialistic. With less cost to the purse and the planet. Less commercial hype for the children. And more imbued with a sense of togetherness than a sense of buying.

Meaningful lives cannot be bought. They are made. Meaningful celebrations are the same. And we certainly need to think about the meaning in planetary terms.

The 29th is Buy Nothing Day (check it out) – we need to do it for far more than a day!

Memories for your loved ones

autumn14 007You know the time of day when the busyness ends; when you get in, put shopping away, make supper, eat supper, tuck children in bed and, duties done, you finally sink down onto the sofa with a big contented sigh?

Well, I always think that’s exactly what the earth must be doing right now.

It’s settling itself into the soft shoulders of the season its bounteous duties done. It’s drawing its resources back into the ground to nurture and enrich it for next year. It’s laying low whilst autumnal gales race and roar through stems, ripping off the last of the leaves and heaving down those branches not strong enough to bear another growing season. The animals and birds hunker down in the earth’s embrace, managing to survive on the minimum of nourishment that remains around them and sleep it out until it’s worth going out again.

Quite frankly, I sometimes feel like doing the same.

But eager for exercise and light, and keen to see what’s afoot in the changing tides of landscape, I go out.

Sometimes it’s unimaginably still and calm and quiet, maybe with just the faintest of distant ploughing noise, or ethereally misty when the silence is only punctuated by the robin’s shrill melodious solo.

Other times the elements slap me round the ears, pour tears down my face and I huddle by the hedgerow like the winter blackbirds before returning to that settee to watch the Blue tits from behind the comfort of the window. They cling to the rocking feeder and sometimes pop into the bird box for shelter too.

And although we bemoan the drawing in of the dark at this time of the year, the elements still give us something spectacular.

I watched many an autumn sunset fall over city rooftops as a child. Now I get to watch autumn’s most majestic finales across the uninterrupted scape of sky that this fen land offers. I get the light from horizon to horizon. And if we go to the marsh or the estuary we get it doubled as it reflects in the water.

The sunsets at this time of the year are the most spectacular, igniting the sky far better than any bonfire. We watch until dark, silently sharing with grown up kids now too mesmerised to speak. Silhouettes of birds go out to river for the night. Pheasants chuckle from the dark land side. And hares scuttle across the path of the headlights as we hurry home again and hand the night time land back to them.

So despite the desire to hunker down indoors, get out and observe the passing of a season. Seek and share a sunset with your loved ones, however little or large they are; they’ll always remember.

And never be too busy as a parent to give some time to making them those memories!

last of 2013 022


What can you give back?

barley beautiful 003I’ve been outside staring at the beauty of the land so much I’ve not got another post done! I was standing looking at the soft evening light settling over the barley far more beautifully than this photo tells.

Then I realised that is another post; a post about appreciation of this glorious earth.

We could all do with appreciating that far more than we do. Even from the centre of a city and not surrounded by exquisite barley fields as I am, there is a need to take a moment to appreciate that under all that concrete still lies the earth.

The earth that provides every resource you could possibly need from food to the elements that make up the technology we’re so addicted to we miss seeing the natural world because we’re glued to screens!

And even if you cannot stand and stare as I do sometimes, you can instead channel your appreciation into the way you lead your life, the way you shop – or not. The way you waste, reuse, eat and drink, save or recycle, throwaway or make do.

And show your kids how to do the same, how to look after the earth which provides it. Your appreciation will in turn become theirs.

So maybe you can find your own bit of nature to stare at this weekend and appreciate what it gives. Then maybe think about ways your family can give back!

Remember ….. the earth!

It is that time of year for remembering those who gave their lives so that this country could be free. And indeed remembering those affected by all conflicts.

The number of people still living and remembering the world wars is dwindling and with them dies an attitude that we could do with practising today.

I remember sayings like ‘waste not, want not’ and ‘make do and mend’ being bandied about by older relatives when I was tiny. They were just sayings the ‘oldies’ came out with like ‘little children should be seen and not heard’ which I think we disregarded!

But as much as that latter saying does need disregarding, the others are worth remembrance. Not necessarily to remind us of war, but to remind us of another kind of destruction we are engaged in now; that of the planet. Mostly through our waste and greed.

The respect these people had for their resources during the wars, although born out of the necessity of the times, is something we could definitely do with practising, before there’s no time left to do anything about it.

To older generations who lived with so little, as food, petrol, various provisions and resources were rationed, the thought of wasting food or throwing away something that could be mended, was abhorrent. They became the founders of real recycling!

And we could certainly learn something from their thrifty attitude. Not only because we’re all so penny-squeezed, struggling to afford heating, some even using food banks, but for the wider reason beyond the personal.

For the reason that we soon won’t have any resources left to heat our homes whether we can afford it or not. We will have a desolated planet, no food will grow if we don’t stop polluting the air and the earth. There’ll be no resources left.

The daft thing is we can all make such a big impact on slowing this rate of destruction down, just by the smallest of adjustments in our everyday consumption and attitude.

For example:

–          Next time you buy something unnecessary (paper towels are an example) just remember that every time you buy something you destroy something!

–          Remember to switch stuff off. And what about limiting yourself to just one set of xmas lights rather than smothering your home in them with vulgar irresponsibility. Natural decorations are just as beautiful.

–          Remember jumpers? Put one on (Charity shop for it) and turn the heating down, or off in rooms you don’t use.

–          Suggest your workplace does the same. I cannot believe how stiflingly hot shops, offices, libraries, schools are. It’s criminal and sets an irresponsible example.

–          Be mindful of every gadget you use – it is costing the earth! Change your mindset on needing that latest technology.

–          Get creative, make instead of buy. Make from scratch or with whatever is to hand rather than buying wasteful kits covered in packaging. There are many thrift and making sites for ideas.

–          Be conscious of packaging; change your shopping habits to avoid it. Remember those during the war never used it!

The action you take to preserve the planet, or trash the planet, will be the action your children take. And eventually it will be their planet. Consider this: how do you want to leave it for them and their children? What do you want to teach them about preserving resources?

And if you really want to investigate how much you can do without read Mark Boyle who lives without money as a way of demonstrating how we can live in less pollutive ways.

And this weekend it’s worth remembering not only what people went through during the wars, but also their attitude to respecting resources. Perhaps we could make their attitude our own and show our children how to do the same.

Do your kids know where your next loaf’s coming from?

 Isolated? Quiet in the country? No.

I was gardening to the sound of engines this weekend. And a billow of golden dust on the washing. Even as late as September the combine harvesters are going. It’s been a nightmare year for most farmers, the oddness of the climate affecting nearly every crop.

Some people like to think the farmers are just moaning again. But believe me, I live in a crop growing area and they’re not. And for most of them farming is nothing like the rosy picture portrayed on Adam’s Farm in Countryfile on the BBC.

For many this dreadful crop year will be the end of their livelihoods, the end of their lives as they know it and goodbye to farms which have been handed down through generations. It’s incredibly tough. That’s why there’s such a high incidence of suicides among farmers.

Most people don’t ever think about farmers at all as long as their food is in supermarkets. The land, and the people who work it, their hard work, never enters their head. Here though, it’s in my head all the time; food growing governs the nature of this environment and was a huge part of our educational activities when we were home educating. Sometimes we could see our food from plant to land to cooking to table – and what is more important a lesson than that. A lesson about how our lives our sustained and how dependent upon the earth and the workers we are to sustain it.

Wherever you live I think it’s essential to teach kids that lesson – that respect. Even if you can’t show children how it’s grown, showing them food in its natural state is a starting point, discussing how it ALL has to be grown – even the ingredients of a McDonalds – the meat too! Somebody labours over it. And how it is thanks to the earth that we have it.

If the kids don’t know that, how will they know that they need to respect the earth? That the earth matters? It is as vitally important as what they do with their waste, our needless consumerism, the climate. As is the plight of the farmer who has toiled this weekend, even through the night, to harvest the grain which even if indirectly puts food in our baskets.

But do you know what?  While he’s been doing that he’ll probably not make sufficient income from this year’s meagre crop to put food in his own.

Worth thinking about that! Our children need to know.