In terms of outdoor activities, I think we hit it out of the ball park in the month of August. Even with sick days in the mix, we managed to get our kids outside every day. And as far as our vacation goes, we spent almost every minute of every day outside... the only way we could have spent more time outside would have been if we had gone camping instead of staying in a cottage on a lake.
At the very end of July, Jack taught himself how to ride his bike, and we have been encouraging him to practice this skill as much as we can. We are looking forward to some bigger family bike rides in the future.
In August, we rode bikes, paddled, hiked together, visited Niagara Falls, and even introduced Jack to the joy of cliff jumping (small cliffs for him, obviously).
And as always there were many trips to the park and even time swimming with friends at the lake – Jack has fully embraced the skill of snorkeling. It is one of his all-time favorite things to do.
While on vacation, I read the book Last Child in the Woods by Richard Louv and I am even more convinced (if that is possible) to make sure our children spend time in nature on a daily basis.
My childhood was not one full of activities or weekends spent playing organized sports. I wandered in the woods, rode my bike unsupervised, or studied the clouds for hours on end. On Sunday afternoons I would sit in the sun on my back stoop and dream about life, letting the warm sunshine soak into me.
Family camping trips, swimming in lakes, and hikes in the Rockies as a teenager – these are the things that have stayed with me my entire life. And this book points out that these types of experiences are disappearing. Replaced instead by a culture of fear – fear of strangers and fear of nature itself.
Paradoxically, younger generations of children are taught they need to "save" nature, but they have limited personal experiences in nature. The advancement of technology has pushed this nature connection to the side. Recess is being replaced by standardized tests and children are not being allowed to immerse themselves in the natural world.
The ideas presented were not really new to me. They are things my husband and I discuss regularly and are making a conscious effort to do differently with our own children. The book just reminded me of the importance of why we are doing what we are doing, and also has made me think more about the future and how spending time outdoors might look as our children enter the school system.
Below are some of the passages from the book that spoke to me:
Within the space of a few decades, the way children understand and experience nature has radically changed... a kid today can likely tell you about the Amazon Rain Forest – but not about the last time he or she explored the woods in solitude, or lay in a field listening to the wind and watching the clouds above.
In nature, a child finds freedom, fantasy, and privacy: a distant place from the adult world, a separate place.
As we grow more separate from nature, we continue to separate from one another.
...as more parents keep their children inside the house or under rigid control, youngsters will be deprived of chances to become self-confident and discerning, to interact with neighbors, or to learn hot to build community...
What if farms and ranches were to become the new school yards, offering lessons and hands-on experience in ecology, culture and agriculture?
The dominant form of education today "alienates us from life in the name of human domination, fragments instead of unifies, overemphasizes success and careers, separates feeling from intellect and the practical from the theoretical, and unleashes on the world minds ignorant of their ignorance." In other words, today's practices help create the know-it-all state of mind, and the accompanying loss of wonder.
We cannot care for God if we do not care for his creation. The extent that we separate our children from creation is the extent to which we separate them from the creator – from God.
This past Sunday when we got home from church, Jack said he wanted to stay outside to look at the beautiful view. He laid down on our front porch, in complete quiet and stillness for quite some time... I think we are doing something right.