Nature In Our Lives
Nature in Our Lives
Connie Goldin ©December 31, 2010, Mom to Madre
One of the best things parents can do for their children is to provide time spent in nature. There are so many benefits-physical, mental, spiritual, and personal-that it makes sense to make the effort. It is a wonderful bonding opportunity. Experiencing and appreciating our natural world is a great blessing and is important. No matter where you live, the seasons, including winter, offer different learning and play opportunities for children and families.
Even though I live in San Diego, I always feel the presence of our gentle winter in the cold night and morning temperatures and the early fall of darkness. It makes me want to hibernate. My own internal clock is run by light. When darkness comes, I am ready to call it a day. As soon as there is the tiniest hint of pending daybreak, I am up and the dogs join me. Light is such a basic need. It brings life and warmth, but also great beauty in its illumination.
When our oldest son (now 27) was in kindergarten and first grade, he attended a Waldorf school. It was an experience that was special and unique. The entire family learned from it. The Waldorf curriculum places great emphasis on nature and the importance of experiencing nature daily in children’s lives.
One of the first things discussed at the fall kindergarten parents’ meeting was light. The teacher explained that Waldorf schools let children experience the seasons and the changing light by using ambient lighting for as long as possible. It is an interesting concept. It made me think differently about light in our lives. The simple act of lighting a candle at dinner time gained more significance and beauty.
We are so accustomed to seeing bright primary colors-my personal favorites- in preschools and kindergartens. In this Waldorf kindergarten class, the walls were draped with crepe-like cotton, dyed in peach and pink tones. The tables along the walls had interesting collections from outdoors-branches, rocks, shells, seed pods, pine cones and leaves. There were household objects, like wooden brooms, that the children could use as they cleaned up.
Everything in the Waldorf classroom was natural-beeswax crayons, wooden toys and paint brushes, wool yarn, uncarded sheep’s wool, and cotton jump ropes. The teacher had a traditional rocking chair on the rug to sit in at story time. The children helped make bread every week from wooden bowls. They took turns sweeping. One look at this set up and I knew we had to enroll our child. Our child would feel at home.
Probably the best part of all was the large enclosed dirt playground filled with big trees. Play time was long and unstructured. The kids could dig, make mud pies, run around and play make-believe. There were no recess bells other than a hand-rung one-and children didn’t have to respond to whistles. There was no effort to teach reading until second grade. However, there was strong emphasis on storytelling, and reading children’s literature out loud. Language was enriched. Letters were taught through art. The children learned to knit which developed little hands and helped with counting.
It was a beautiful two years which ended for our son when the school moved to another location. Waldorf gave him an excellent foundation for learning and appreciating nature and beauty. The daily reading at home provided the support academically to transfer to a traditional school setting. It helped me think about the significance of seasons and the changes they bring, however subtle they may be.
After all of this time, I still feel the influence of those two years when I display beautiful shells or collect interesting seed pods for a bowl. I can smell beeswax in my mind. It is a wonderful smell. I appreciate our San Diego winter for the cozy feeling it brings. I love the quality of light that is unique to this season. I hold dear our family as it is today, all grown up. I treasure the memory of having and teaching our children about the beauty of the natural world when they were little.
Here is our family’s favorite early childhood book. It is the ultimate “cozy” bedtime book that has a lovely connection to little creatures living in the forest.
Little Fur Family by Margaret Wise Brown
Happy New Year to you and your family. Best wishes for lots of happy times spent together in nature. Mom to Madre