Knee Deep in Nature

Ok, I admit it—it’s difficult for me when my kids go back to school in the fall. I’m one of those adults who has a tough time saying goodbye to my children’s summer vacation. In some ways, it’s my summer vacation too because I hang out with them in their flow of the days. No alarm clocks, no schedules—just the adventures of the day unfolding before us. What are we going to get into? What are we going to explore? Or more importantly: what are they going to get into that I can tag along to experience?

I’m a believer in child-directed play and I stand back as much as possible because I love watching free play unfold. We adults have limited imaginations when it comes to play and the perspectives of children. Kids come up with things we could never think of. All children deserve and need self-directed play and adventures for their best growth and development. It’s our job as adults to support that play with the time, space, and materials necessary.

On this day the creeks and crayfish called us—wading in water, flipping over rocks, the sounds and smells of the creek surrounding us. This is full sensory immersion and a full on memory-making experience. I want my sons to connect to nature. I want them to explore and wonder. I want them to see the beauty of life and death and ask the deep questions that have no answers. I like seeing my children fascinated by the endless fascinations of nature—patterns of flowing water, shapes of smoothed stones, bugs skimming on the surface, schools of minnows scattering beneath our feet and crayfish, crayfish, crayfish. How do crayfish live? What do they eat? How fast and clever do you have to be to catch them? Will they pinch? Will it hurt? How many can I get? Then check out what they look like up close: tiny monsters! Small lobster cousins. Prehistoric life forms sharing our world. That’s a lot to learn and think about.

Do they get that stuff in school, in books or on Smart Boards? Yeah, sure. Is it different than real life? I would say so. I support public school education, though the system is limited. But I am having a hard time during Covid shut downs while school has been reduced to laptop computers on the dining room table. Schools are doing the best they can, and the teachers are amazing, but the best education for my sons in my humble opinion is knee deep in the creeks and gorges around our home. So we pull the plug and go outside. And there, amidst the wobbling rocks, and slippery splashes, I get to witness first hand the best education I believe children can have:  immersed in nature with time to explore and a supportive adult along for the ride—endless fun and learning!