Getting Out in Nature and Bringing Nature Indoors - SLO Classical Academy
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Welcome to Down Home, San Luis Obispo Classical Academy’s blog! We are a classical school offering several options to make our education work for families with infants through high schoolers. Our signature hybrid program, which is part-time classroom and part-time home instruction, provides an engaging education for preschool through middle school (with full time options available). We also have a university model high school. This blog is meant to support and encourage on the home front because, in so many ways, the heart of what happens at SLO Classical Academy happens down home.

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Getting Out in Nature and Bringing Nature Indoors

{photo by Rachel Neumann}

After last week’s stimulating Pedagogic Ponderings on Last Child in the Woods: Saving our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder, we are looking for ways to get out more! Spending time in nature develops a child’s sense of wonder, freedom, and creativity, as well as thinking skills. It provides hands-on learning and exploration. Today we hope to further inspire you to incorporate more nature into your life, and offer a few tips on getting outdoors, as well as bringing the outdoors indoors. 

  • Of course, the best way to get kids out in nature is to go with them! Track A parent Rachel Neumann shared with us that she regularly gets together with a group of moms and kids to go on nature walks. They meet once a week and each mom takes a turn leading the group. Some weeks they just let the kids explore on their own, and other weeks someone guides the group. Rachel and her kids also enjoy exploring nature trails in their neighborhood almost daily. The kids collect sticks, rocks and leaves, and they keep a nature journal to record their discoveries when they get home. She also utilizes the collection of field guides and nature books they have collected over the years. Here are a few photos from recent outings:

{photos by Rachel Neumann}

  • If weekly, organized walks aren't quite the thing for you, remember that any time spent outdoors is beneficial, even if it’s just in the backyard. We know of families who occasionally take school to the beach or a park, for a refreshing change. Make sure to leave time for free play and exploration!
  • Or try doing one homeschool subject outside each day (or each week), and see how it affects everyone. Or take a short break during a homeschool day to go outside and draw something with your kids. It adds variety to your routine, clears the brain, and lets a little more nature soak in. 
  • But it doesn’t have to be about “school” – have family time outdoors, meet up with friends for a playdate at a trail, or next time you plan to eat out at a restaurant, get your food to go and eat outside at a spot where the kids can roam and explore nature. They (and you) will treasure these moments and memories. 
  • Here's a fun idea – go on a nature hunt with a “nature bracelet” using duct tape (or masking tape, if you don't want to cut it off later), secured sticky-side-out around each child's wrist (see photo below). Kids can collect small items like leaves, flowers, feathers, twigs, etc., and stick them to their bracelet to enjoy for the rest of the day. You could even make a scavenger hunt out of this, giving them a list of items to look for. Our own Mrs. Wilson made these with her Little Wonders class – click here to see her blog and what she did.

{image credit: Mama's Homestead}

  • How about the idea of setting up a Nature Table or display somewhere in your home (or letting the kids arrange it)? This can literally be a table, or a small shelf, or bookcase, a row of jars… even something as simple as a tray. Then, when you are out exploring our beautiful central coast with the kids, they can bring their treasures home to showcase. Plus it creates an opportunity for kids to study and examine objects from nature when they are indoors. Here are a few photos showing Nature Table ideas:

(click to enlarge:)

1. Nature table from Twinkling Along

2. Summer nature table from The Laughing Monkey

3. Nature tray from Hilltown Families

4. Nature tray from An Everyday Story

5. Nature cabinet from Homeschooling-Ideas

  • We would suggest that immersing oneself in nature is best done without the distraction of electronic devices. But if you must have your smart phone with you and want to put it to good use (besides taking photos), you can download one of the many apps designed to help you find nature trails, identify wildlife sightings, recognize plants and insects, etc. Yes, there are field guides for your phone! Search “field guide” in the App Store or Google Play Store for options. 

So if you're experiencing any Spring Fever and just want to be outdoors more, please do! We hope these tips are useful, and that you’re a little more motivated and armed with ideas to get outside, play, and explore with your kids. Time spent outdoors is just as beneficial for grown-ups as it is for children, after all! Please leave any additional suggestions in the comments below, or tell us how you and your family engage with nature!

SLO Classical Academy is not affiliated with any of the above mentioned websites, businesses, or individuals.

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