Tag Archive | wildlife

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!

 

Building skills with the Big Garden Bird Watch

It might be a bit late to get a pack for the Big Garden Bird Watch this weekend but it’s never too late to encourage the children to learn about the bird life around them.

Find out more about what to feed your birds at www.rspb.org.uk

Find out more about what to feed your birds at http://www.rspb.org.uk

You might feel you’re not that interested in birds and neither are the children. But there’s more point to it than that.

Doing activities like this encourages the development of the skills children need for science in general.

The snag with the curriculum of science most parents are familiar with through their own experience in school is that you can feel very much removed from it. But the basis of science is quite simple really; it’s based in understanding the world and the things within it. As Albert Einstein famously said; ‘the whole of science is nothing more than a refinement of everyday thinking’. It evolves from there!

And the best place to start is with the things that are relevant to children now, the things they see – birds for example. And bugs. And flowers and plants. And  wondering about things, like what they’re are made of, what materials are used, where they come from, and why – from homes to helicopters to trees. And from these small beginnings their study stretches into the bigger questions like what’s the earth made of, what space is, and bigger aspects of chemistry and physics.

Yet the skills needed to pursue science into more complex subject matter are based right back in activities that are seemingly small and insignificant. Like bird watching for example. For this encourages the children to practice the most fundamental skill of all scientific study – observation.

From there will come other valuable skills like; questioning, identification, hypothesising, language, (through conversations about what they see), analyzing, classification, extended study and understanding how everything relates to each other as well as to them.

So use any opportunity you can to get the kids interested in the world that’s near to them and it will build the skills and understanding needed for when the time comes to study those things that right now seem further removed! The Bird Watch offers such an opportunity.

For more ideas you might also like to explore:

https://www.buglife.org.uk/

http://www.wildlifetrusts.org/

http://www.froglife.org/

www.rigb.org

 

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.

Acting wild!

20151231_105913Heck it was wild out there at times this weekend. I keep up my daily walk in the wilds even when it’s blowing fit to knock me over.

Yesterday I got a ducking. And the day before I got my cheeks bitten with the stinging cold.

There will be a time I go out there and it’s all soft and gentle and hanging sweet with birdsong.

Doesn’t matter what the weather I always go. Because with all these years of going I’ve learnt the importance; it changes my mood, it gives me inspiration, it keeps my mind and my muscles fit – the heart being the most important one. And besides, despite my complaining and not always wanting to go when it’s a real challenge out there, I know it’s the answer to a sense of holistic wellbeing. You see articles like this about it all the time.

Even though we’ve tried to tidy it all away and ignore it, being out in the natural world is something we naturally need.

We all need it. Me, you, families, kids especially, young, old. Everyone does. We need it to be regular and ongoing. Only then will we reap the benefits. Being shut away from it is affecting our overall and longer term health dramatically.

Which is why the Wildlife Trusts have started a 30 days wild campaign. To get people, especially families, to reconnect with nature. Doesn’t matter where you live, there’s ways to do it even in urban areas.

Check out the link – and sign up for the inspirational pack. And go act a little wild for yourself, each day, and see if it puts you and the children in a healthier frame of mind. You might also find that, not only do you reconnect with nature, you reconnect with each other better too.

Singing of holidays

spring16 003I’ve been editing my new Home Ed book; one just for all those wobbly days when you wonder what the hell you’re doing! It’s to reassure you you’re doing good, because I remember what it’s like when your mind turns deceitful and messes with your confidence. This book is to get it back on track.

I’ve been determined to get it done, it’s a lot of work and I’m that stuck to keyboard I think my fingers now have square ends. And I also get slightly loony when I’ve been shut inside, too still, for too long.

So I’m just a bit desperate to prise bum off chair and get outside; enjoy the Spring delights this weekend even if it is in the rain.

Delights like:

– Rippling Lark song as they sing over their territories and show off to a mate. When did singing stop being a way to show off to a mate? Have you sung to a mate lately? The blackbird is the best at it; I hear him morning and evenings on branches and rooves and TV aerials.

– The perfume of the soil. I guess you don’t often hear soil described as having perfume. But the scent of it turned under the harrows, drying in the Spring winds, is as delectable as the smell of the shore when you roll up at the seaside. I drink it in.

– More light than dark hours in each twenty four, increasing every day till the solstice – fair makes my sap rise! When my sap rises I feel I can achieve anything – bit like the Lark. Even singing.

– The beginnings of buds, blooms and blossom that decorate all natural spaces wherever I go – rural or urban, from the tiniest green jewels on the hawthorn hedges to the blousy buds of the magnolia in town gardens.

This is how I’ll be celebrating this Spring weekend – hope you find some delights too and enjoy yours whatever you’re doing.

Happy holidays!

Nurture your kids with nature!

It’s the Big Garden Bird Watch this weekend. 

This has nothing to do with big gardens so don’t think because you haven’t got one you can’t take part! It’s just an opportunity to bring the kids closer to nature and help wildlife out at the same time. Not to mention a day out at one of the events.

(Check out the details here)

But why bother?

Well, involving your children in activities like these not only helps the birds (or butterflies, or bees, or frogs, or bugs, or whatever – they have their own organisations too if you want to look them up), it helps the children as well.

Firstly, creatures are usually fascinating to children. So learning about them makes learning fascinating in itself. this will increase their skill of learning to learn and therefore their desire to do so. This enthusiasm and skill in learning will spread across to other subjects and activities so both their knowledge and ability to learn will snowball.

Secondly, as well as those benefits, this type or learning outdoors and about outdoors, makes the learning first-hand. First hand learning engages far more senses than doing it academically. Once these other senses are stimulated the children are stimulated. Stimulated brains develop into intelligent brains, so mental development increases. Physical activity promotes mental activity.

As if that wasn’t enough another benefit is that being outdoors has an added positive impact on well-being, on physical health and strength, and consequently self-confidence.

Children who are outside frequently, who are physically active, are reported to be less stressed, less hyper, and to have more self confidence than those who are not. It also counteracts the sad fact that these days too many children spend far too much time indoors becoming frightened and ill at ease once outside and with physical activity. They lack confidence in the natural world if it is unfamiliar to them. Which is not at all healthy for them, or healthy for the natural world, as we need contact to build understanding; understanding the way in which we relate to it.

Birds are one small part of the bigger picture of the natural world in all its forms. But this is a great opportunity to get your kids connected and acquainted with it in a way that both the birds and the children benefit.

A great way to nurture your children with nature!

A time for Peace surely!

The sun was out and the sky winter blue. Time to get out and chase away blues of another kind!

I walked round the edges of the ploughed earth where a flock of Fieldfares rested, turned through the tunnel of treessnow geese 003 and just saw the back end of a deer disappearing. Then out onto the open marshland where a flock of wild geese grazing there took to the wing with a gush of wind and gabbling. As they went quiet again, snippets of Larksong serenaded me as I walked back under the blue.

And seeing this tranquillity laid out before me I couldn’t help but think of all the terrible things that are happening in the world and feel incredibly lucky for these moments of peace around me.

Even if the blues were making me suffer I know it is nothing compared to the suffering of thousands of others right now. Despite what we have to confront sometimes, most of us are incredibly lucky.

So I am also incredibly grateful to be back here in front of the computer again,  in a country that is at peace, and find it bewildering to think of the mindless slaughter that is being inflicted elsewhere.

If there was one sole purpose of education that overrides all others it must surely be for children to learn how to live with others with tolerance, understanding and compassion, and be educated for the perpetuation of peace.

May peace be with you this season.

Got your bag?

bags 003

Just some of my many lovely home-made bags

‘Have you got a bag mum?’

The inevitable question as the girls and I go on a charity shop treasure hunt. I delve into my shoulder bag and produce one. Chelsea’s made me many a gorgeous bag over the years, with trimmings and adornments. The latest has velvet handles!

I don’t always remember and sometimes succumb to a plastic one. I console myself that from a charity shop it is at least one that’s being reused and not one that’s ending up in a hedgerow, a river, or the mouth of a whale.

The fence alongside the local landfill sight is trashed with them, limp litter – and the adjoining land. They’re splattered there by the wind and the bushes hang with plastic shreds – not pleasant. If you’ve never seen a landfill site you should go find one – it’ll hopefully make you think about your plastic consumption.

It’s taken all these years and imposing a silly charge, to get people people’s attention about this plastic bag waste. To bring our attention to the bad habit of expecting that every time we shop someone will put it in a bag for us. And that’s all it is; a mindless, lazy, indulgent habit. My mother and all our mothers before her would have been in the habit of never going shopping without a bag.

Now, these habits we have, that we’ve rarely considered before someone shoved a charge in our faces, is costing the planet and its other inhabitants far, far more than five pence. As many of our habits do, like shopping for things we don’t really need, never mind taking a bag to put it in.

I want to break that habit. Not because I mind paying for a bag. But because when I walk the tideline, or admire the land, I don’t want the plastic I see there to be my fault.

And we are all at fault over this!

When I’m in the city shopping centre, and nearly everyone I see is carrying a plastic bag, I cringe at the thought of where it’s all going to end up.

Probably in landfill.

Whilst we shop, mostly for things we don’t really need, great tracts of the lovely countryside and seas we so like to visit and enjoy are polluted as a result.

We have so many habits we need to change. This is just one small start of the over-shopping, over polluting problem.

So yes; I have got a bag.

Have you?

Mood miracle!

I know it's not that sharp but can you spot the three species we managed to capture in this pic?

I know it’s not that sharp but can you spot the three species we managed to capture in this pic?

It’s amazing how one little moment can become a mood miracle!

Last week was a bit of a wretched one. They can get like that sometimes, can’t they!

I’ve done book events for the new book ‘Who’s Not In School’ and much travelling recently, working in between, and was a bit exhausted with it despite meeting lots of lovely complimentary and sweet people.

So I strode out under the sky early this weekend; for even cloudy is supposed to help the spirits. The tide was seeping over the marshland in that calm and comforting way it does, lifting birds and gently filling creeks. I watched it a while.

Then coming back to the garden I saw that our Buddleia was bedecked with more butterflies than I’ve ever seen in one place. So rather than going in and getting involved back indoors, probably back at laptop, I took a cuppa and sat there and watched them. Not something I’ve ever done – or thought of doing – before.

There were so many I started to count and in just a few minutes counted ten different species. And there were more than one of each species so you can see how many there were in all.  I was totally absorbed.

And then I noticed something else had happened; something honeyed had happened to my spirits.

The doldrums of the week had vanished. Banished by mindful attention to the butterflies and that natural life outside the laptop.

I must remember, must remember, must remember, to take a few mindful moments outside each day and then maybe the week wouldn’t get so far down as wretched. I used it all the time as an antidote to children’s indoor moods. I’ve got to remember that I need it just as much!

And if you’re interested in butterfly watching you and the kids can get involved with the butterfly count this August – another great reason to be outside.