Today is classic winter weather in Morgantown – cold rain. As winter approaches and the days grow shorter, I can’t bear to waste a beautiful day indoors. Recently, on one such day, I packed a blanket, snacks, water and school supplies and off we went to the WVU Core Arboretum.
Homeschooling?! Who wants to stay at home! Let’s go outside! Our arboretum is one of our favorite local outdoor spaces.
All afternoon the kids played. There is a bamboo stand there where they pretend to be pandas and climb the tall stalks with their toes. There is the edge of woods where they build their fairy houses. There are the tall pines with low swooping branches for climbing, balancing and bouncing on. All kinds of adventures take place here; pretending to be birds nesting and flying, horse races, fort defending and secret hideouts.
All with educational interludes! I have “school” conveniently organized by subject in flat 8.5″ x 11″ storage containers that can go anywhere. At this particular location you don’t have to lug everything in a great distance. The parking lot is close enough to bring in one subject at a time. While the kids get back to their bird flights, I fetch the next assignment, and take a break myself.
When I called them back that day to work on the next item, I heard responses such as “Sure thing, Mom!” and “Be right there!” Music to my ears! No fussing, no tears – just plenty of play and plenty of work. We accomplished more that day in a more harmonious way than we do on a normal day indoors.
The experiences I have had with my children reflect recent data. Children are more responsive to structured learning when they have had an outlet through natural play. While we all know that even as adults we can focus better on the work before us if we have had a chance to expend our excess energy, a recent study showed that 30% of children ages 8 and 9 years old get 15 minutes or less of recess during a school day. That is appalling to me! Numerous studies show that children with outdoor, free parts play and students with green views and opportunities to garden show improved physical activity, diet, academic performance, concentration, problem-solving skills and self-esteem. Please, get your kids (and yourselves!) outside! See the Children and Nature Network’s research page if you need more convincing…http://www.childrenandnature.org/documents/C118/ .