Newsletter~ Wild Days: Exploring God’s First Classic

What are Wild Days? Wild Days was a term coined in "Wild Days: Creating Discovery Journals," by Karen Rackliffe, a home school mom who promotes nature journaling. These Wild Days are the days and times we spend in the out-of-doors.

Has the season's weather kept your family inside? Are your children driving you crazy being home bound? One good thing about weather, it is soon to change! This is the perfect time to begin venturing outside, during the cooler part of the day. I love how the weather changes 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!

Three Ways to Explore God's First Classic

I. Gardening

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 spring crops like peas and to start some seeds in pots inside. 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. 

19 Lessons a Garden Can Teach:
1. "Reap what we sow"
2. Delay gratification
3. Planning
4. We can do hard work
5. Systems
6. Attention
7. Seasons
8. How food grows
9. Beneficial insects
10. Birds
11. Rodents
12. Weather
13. Lunar cycles
14. Law of the harvest
15. Team work
16. Companion Planting
17. Cooperation
18. Weather
19. Our reliance on God
For those who look deeper there are spirital lessons, life lessons, and so much more...

II. Nature Walks and Nature Studies

This is the perfect time to begin nature studies. Children can view plants, animals, and insects in any season. The changes of weather 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 journal, drawing, writing, graphing, classification, and more can be part of the curriculum, naturally.  If mom keeps a nature journal, she leads the way!

III. Park Days and Outdoor Play

Park days are more than an opportunity to play and to socialize! Organized, adult led sports practice is no substitute. Time spent climbing, spinning, swinging, running, jumping, balancing, sliding, brachiating, 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, 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 ADHD diagnosis, which in turn can result from lack of executive function developing activities. Studies show that if we delay academics until age 8 we can eliminate about 73% of ADHD symptoms. While early academic focus seemed promising, giving young children the 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.

The loss of play is also compounded by a reliance on screens to calm children. This is resulting for many children in a loss of focus, loss of attention span, 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.  Screens are not evil.  However, we cannot let them displace the important self-initiated play needed for children's healthy development.

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 parents to have their children spend as much time outside as possible in different weather. Yes, "whether the weather be find, or whether the weather be not..."Just bundle up if it is cool and wear rain gear of it is misty, moisty outside, wear light weight fabrics in the heat. You can come home and cool off. Take meals outside when you can. Take walks and nature walks. Grow a garden. Slow down and do less and the results will be more. This is not something to add to a busy life. Let this be part of the curriculum the seasons.

Consider how meals Al fresco (outside), nature study, park days, and gardening can revamp your curriculum this season. Instead of fighting the urge to be outside, why not consider making the four seasons part of the curriculum? Work, play, eat, and explore! Make the world part of your classroom, learn from the master teacher, and ...

Whatever you do...

Enjoy the Journey!

This post was originally written 10 July 2917 and was updated 26 June 2019.

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