"Escaping the inside classroom," could I really have said that? Yes, and I meant it too!
This time of year, people get restless for outside, are easily distracted, and attention spans can begin to diminish. So, why not take advantage of the season, up your homeschool game, and take advantage of the out-of doors?
Have you considered Wild Days??? What are Wild Days? Wild Days is a term coined by Karen Rackliffe, a homeschool mom who promotes nature journals. Wild Days are the days and times we spend out-of-doors. Has the weather or the pandemic kept your family inside? Are your children driving you crazy with cabin fever? Cold weather are coming to an end! Summer is around the bend. This is the perfect time to begin venturing outside. I love how summer comes, just as we need it! When the weather begins to warm it is normal to want to be outside. I feel God created us that way! Instead of panicking with, "What about the curriculum?" Make this annual change part of the curriculum!
Studies have shown that being out in nature is good for both mental health and physical health. I feel it is also vital to developing minds!
3 Ways to Escape the Inside Classroom...
Horticulture through Gardening
I wrote a post on 25 Lessons Your Garden Can Teach Your Family. Consider growing a garden this year, whether you till up part of your yard or do container gardening. Now is the time to plan, plant some late spring and summer crops. There are a multitude of curriculum benefits to gardening! Gardening or Horticulture, not only provides food of known quality, the potential for peak nutrients, and exercise, gardening provides a springboard in to natural sciences and life lessons. As the garden ripens and we harvest the food, more lessons are available in how to prepare meals with the produce and how to preserve excess to nourish us in the cold days ahead.
19 Lessons a Garden Can Teach
1. "Reap what we sow"
2. Delayed gratification
4. We can do hard work
8. How food grows
9. Beneficial insects
13. Lunar cycles
14. Law of the harvest
15. Team work
16. Companion Planting and that Good Companions help us Grow!
19. Our reliance on God and so much more
Natural Science through Nature Walks and Nature Studies
This is the perfect time of the year to begin nature studies. Children can view plants, animals, and insects as they emerge in spring and mature in summer. These changes can happen fast and make for the perfect science curriculum, fueled by children's natural curiosity. If children learn to keep a nature notebook or nature journal, drawing, writing, graphing, classification, and more can be part of the curriculum, naturally.
Development and Socialization through Play & Park days
Park days are more than an opportunity to play and to socialize! Organized, adult led sports practice is no substitute. Time spent walking, running, climbing, spinning, swinging, jumping, balancing, sliding, brachiating, bouncing, and crawling are not just mere child's play. These activities help develop attention span, develop the visual pathways for reading, build coordination, expend pent up energy, prepare the brain for academics, help develop the executive functions, develop manual dexterity for writing, and more. Developmental psychologists are seeing that the early academic focus of the last 20 years has resulted in less time in these essential free play opportunities. This has led to a rise in many children exhibiting ADHD symptoms, which in turn can result in executive function issues. Studies show that if we delay academic focus until about age eight-years-old, we can eliminate about 73% of ADHD symptoms in children through 11.5 years old. While early academic focus seemed promising, giving young children an academic edge, that edge is usually lost by third grade. About third grade is when children with play based focused early experiences sailed pass their early academics peers.
This loss of play is also compounded by a reliance on screens to calm children and occupy children. This is resulting for many children in a loss of focus, loss of attention span, impulse issues, self-regulation issues, and a scattered brain that is overstimulated. Computer games and screens tend to build the more primitive part of the brain, the area of impulse. This may be great for fighter pilots, but not for most children. This is done with sacrifice of development to the part of the brain that makes us most human, the frontal lobe, where executive functions develop. Scientists are seeing delayed development and atrophy of this area of the brain in children who spend hours on screens. Executive functions are higher level cognitive skills, self-control of behavior, impulse control, attention, inhibitory control, planning, problem solving, decision making, working memory, cognitive flexibility (being able to switch between tasks), and more. While screens are not evil, they can be a distraction from healthy development and for at least 10% also can be addicting. So, take the time to leave screens home and get to the park!
If our children are struggling with executive functions, they may need more free play outside, even if they are beyond preschool years. I believe in neuroplasticity (the ability of the brain to create new neuropathways) that the brain can continue to grow, develop, and make new connections.
I believe that Charlotte Mason was wise in advising spending as much time outside as possible in different weather. Yes, "whether the weather be fine, or whether the weather be not...," just bundle up if it is cool and wear rain gear of it is misty, moisty outside. You can come home and warm up in a hot bath and put on dry clothes! Take meals Al Fresco or outside when you can. Take walks and nature walks. Grow a garden. Slow down and do less of what is trending in the world and the results will be more. These activities are not something to add to a busy life. Let this be part of the curriculum this summer.
Consider how meals Al fresco (outside), nature study, park days, and gardening can revamp your curriculum this spring and summer. Instead of fighting the urge to be outside, why not consider making summer part of the curriculum? Work, play, eat, and explore! Make the world part of your classroom, learn from the master teacher, and ...
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