We are still in the middle of the British winter, and I am starting to feel it.
The kids have been cooped up indoors for many weeks now so today, I decided to bundle them up despite the cold weather and take them to a local park. One of the advantages of home education, many advocates will tell you is the fact that you will have plenty of time to spend outdoors in nature. There are boundless nature curriculums out there, I subscribe to one as well, which I will write about in another post.
But suffice it to say to this ex-desert dweller and to someone who spent most of her childhood in the hot Middle Eastern climate, malls and ‘concrete jungles’ (if you’ve spent any time in the Middle East, you will know what I mean), exploring nature doesn’t come naturally. I know the host of benefits being in nature brings and have read books and blogs about them. I have heard about the healing and therapeutic power of nature, about how it affects your mood and I have experienced it first-hand. My children, I’ve found thrive in nature, they don’t mind the cold, wet and muddy (here in England) or even the hot, sweaty, dusty and sandy (in Dubai). They are always eager when I tell them of an impending visit to the park or our local nature reserve. And of course, they are not at all worried about the mess.
The truth is that it’s really hard for their mother, for me.
I find it challenging on so many levels:
- For one, getting all the kids dressed and ready is a challenge in itself. Depending on the weather, I need them to wear warm clothes, boots, socks, and rain jackets. I also need to pack supplies: food, water bottles and now additional things for the baby.
- Coming back from our walk means baths, cleaning out boots which are often muddied with mud and sometimes dog poop and washing jackets and clothes.
- I’m an introvert who loves to stay indoors and snuggle up on the sofa with a good book and a cup of tea. Going out with four young, lively children requires a lot out of me. It requires forethought, patience, and lots of energy.
This week was “Winter Pond Study” in our nature curriculum, so I asked the kids to get ready and took them to a pond park nearby. The time they took to get ready was relatively stress-free and I was at the park in no time with three excited kids in tow. The kids jumped out of the car after I parked and rushed out into the cool air. It was breathtaking (of course). Acres of green grass, magnificent looking trees swaying in the breeze, fresh air and lots of delightful animals to look at. The kids rushed with their bags filled with boiled rice and started to feed the ducks.
“Look mummy, there are Canada geese and Chinese ducks and Mallards and swans and look…pigeons!!”.
In their excitement, they couldn’t stand still in one place. It was like they had to take it all in in one fell swoop: the air, the nature, the animals. They finished feeding the animals and stomped on the wet grass. Then they found a small stream and spent time picking stones and pinecones from it. They got wet and muddy and cold and dirty. But they were happy. They ran through the fields like they owned the place. I sat on the bench and watch it all.
“Mummy, please can we come back here soon?”
“Yes”, I said.