A couple of weeks ago, my kids and I took a hike in some woods near our house as part of our school day. It served no real purpose, beyond getting us out of the house and enjoying the beauty of nature – which, I guess, is a pretty good purpose in itself, isn’t it?
Anyway, I printed out this scavenger hunt that I’d found online, to add a bit of a “this is more than just a wander in the woods” element to it. It was a warm day, but we went out in the morning before it got too warm. We wandered slowly, taking pictures, talking, enjoying the feel of immersing ourselves in nature.
It made for a really nice day. Our morning was relaxed and peaceful as we wandered through the woods, and when we returned home after a couple of hours and got busy on some actual “school” work, everyone was still relaxed, and no one was frustrated, annoyed or whiny.
So this week, I thought we’d try something new. We’re going to pack up our school stuff, the books, papers, pencils, whatever (well, except for the computer, of course!), and head out into the woods for school. We’ll take a sheet, and spend the day doing school out there, in the fresh air, sunshine and piney fresh smell of the forest. We’ll listen to bird calls as we read aloud, watch squirrels run around after each other as we discuss the difference between organic and natural foods, and enjoy the breeze as we each read our own books. But lest you think that I have this entire thing organized to be just like school, only in the woods instead of inside, there will also be plenty of time for them to simply wander around and do what they want.
When your kids have ADHD, difficulty focusing or sitting still can be a major issue. Getting out into nature can often help with that, though. I’ve talked before about how I let my kids go for a bike ride or two before we start school, or how we’ll take breaks so they can run around outside for a few minutes between subjects. But you can go even further with this idea and integrate nature into your school day by doing school outside. Sit on the porch and read. If you have a picnic table, sit at it instead of the dining room table to do worksheets. Take a walk in the woods and talk about how seeds grow into trees and trees drop seeds that grow, and so on – or look at various flowers and discuss their names, their colors and beauty, how they grow, why they grow where they grow. There’s science for the day.
I have learned that the more I’m able to get my children outside, the calmer and more focused they can be. It doesn’t always work – tomorrow, it’s supposed to rain pretty much all day, so getting outside is rather unlikely. Sometimes, we’re just too busy – too many things get scheduled in one day, and the unfortunate victim is time spent outside. But whenever I can, I try to make sure that we spend at least a little bit of time outside, and it does wonders. As the weather warms up now, we’ll be spending more and more time outside – for a while. Then it will get a little too hot, and we’ll have to start worrying about heat stroke and sunburn, and plan our days more carefully to ensure that we drink plenty of water and don’t overexert ourselves in the sun. But in the brief window before that happens, we will soak up the outdoors and love every second of it.
If you’ve never tried it, try it this week. Just pick something you usually do inside, and do it outside instead. Or take a walk around the neighborhood. Go to the park and do school there, or play on the playground and then go home and do school. Give it a try and see if it makes a difference for your kids.
You might be surprised at just how beneficial it can be.
Here’s a few photos from our journey through the woods: