Nature Walks

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Nature Walks are an important part of our homeschool curriculum this year.  I began them with a sense of trepidation, not quite sure how they would go, and the girls LOVE them.

Currently, we do circle time and Nature Walks 3 days per week.  After we do our closing rhyme, I sing the little ditty for going outside: “Time to put our shoes on and our hats; it’s time to go outside.”   I then repeat multiple times until I am too distracted wrestling the two of them and my pregnant self into multiple layers of outdoor gear and trying to remember the “gathering baskets.”

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Alaskan chamomile!

Then we walk.  Depending on the length of our excursion and the time remaining until lunch, Allison might go in the stroller.  Once, we drove out to Neiman’s Peninsula, which, since we stay on base on it’s only 5 minutes in the car and we walk around once there, I consider to still be ok for a Nature Walk.  It’s not a hike, or a trek, or anything resembling an exercise walk for me.  It’s meandering.  It’s stopping to smell the flowers.  Every. Single. Flower.  There aren’t many left this time of year, but you get the point.

We searched intently for high bush cranberries but the birds got them first!

We searched intently for high bush cranberries but the birds got them first!

This is their time to move as they want to, to explore the world on their terms, at their pace.  I thought I might get a bit bored, but I am filled with delight as I watch them take a bit of this big world and interact with it in a way that makes sense to them.

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Our first Nature Walk was to a copse of trees that I pass by on my personal walks, but had never explored.  I knew that there was a rope swing, but I didn’t know what else was there.  Once we arrived and walked the 7 steps up the hill to the trees, it was blatantly obvious that nothing else was there.  My first thought was, “Oh, no.  What was I thinking????? There’s nothing to explore here!  No nature things to bring back to our Nature Table.  What a disaster!”

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Initially, that was Rachel’s thought, too.  I showed her a tree to climb, found her a nice stick for digging, and 30 minutes later I was dragging her away with promises to return on another day’s Nature Walk.  I could not believe how engrossed they were in digging  and gathering spruce cones and picking rose hips and balancing on tree roots and jumping down the “steps” created by the roots.  I was witnessing something truly magical.  As Steve said, if we let them watch screens for hours everyday, they wouldn’t be this enchanted by sticks and mud.

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I am so blessed to live in a place where Nature Walks are easy (well, at least when it isn’t sleeting at 45 mph).  And I am even more blessed to be the one with my girls as they marvel at the dozen different varieties of grass growing on one small hillside.

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This is our cat stealing gnomes and little wool pumpkins from the Nature Table

This is our cat stealing gnomes and little wool pumpkins from the Nature Table

After much soul searching, debate, prayer, journaling, and talking with friends, we have decided to do a Waldorf method of homeschooling.  It is the perfect fit for our family right now, and I am so happy that we are all so happy!

There are many reasons that I love Waldorf, and one is that it is actually tied into the Catholic liturgical calendar.  Michaelmas is a traditional Waldorf celebration that corresponds with the Catholic Feast Day of St. Michael the Archangel.

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My dragon

I still need to get into a groove with planning and finding stories and making story props ahead of time–I have big ideas for next year.  This year, though, we did manage to read the Tiptoes Lightly stories surrounding Michaelmas and go through most of the Waldorf Essentials K1 Super Sam adventures of Michaelmas.  Lacking a dragon for our puppet show, we decided to wrap a plush toy moose in a red play silk.  I failed to get a picture of this, but I assure you it was quite fierce.

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Allison mixing dragon dough

We also made dragon bread and I read a story that progressed as you added different ingredients.  The girls had an absolute ball with that, and Rachel wanted to know if I could find more bread stories.

Rachel's dragon

Rachel’s dragon

Our festival may not have been Pinterest worthy, but Rachel is still asking when we get to do the story again about the dragon who had hiccups!