Friday, July 08, 2005

Yesterday's Nature Hike: A Charlotte Mason Experience

Yesterday after doing annoying paperwork for camp physicals, and many errands, we went on a nature hike with our neighbors. This preserve had letterboxing but I was rushing so much that I hadn’t prepared to do letterboxing today. I had never been to this local nature preserve. It had many small ponds, a couple of fields, and was mostly hardwood forest. There was one pine grove. The beauty of walking through a stand of 100 foot tall pine trees with a carpet of pine needles underfoot is hard to describe.

The skies were overcast and it was 72 degrees. We sprayed with a DEET insect repellent; mostly to ward off deer ticks and help us not worry about getting Lyme Disease. I was happy to realize that we were not inundated with mosquitoes and gnats. It was a great day for a nature hike. We spent over two hours hiking in a relaxed manner.

One of the best things was when the children saw something and were enthralled by it. At one point their noisy chatter ceased and they asked us to keep quiet and approach slowly. They had seen a flash of red in the bushes and there were a pair of cardinals. Later we saw a few spider webs in the grass which were covered in dew. There was a large beetle spied by the children and they insisted it was a dung beetle; I am not sure about that. There was a gorgeous orange fungus growing on the side of a tree. We spied a big orange toadstool and a large white mushroom. We also found red raspberries in bloom as well as a few ripe blackberries—it seems very early in the season for that.

We found one letterbox and one letterbox eluded us. We identified a tulip tree as part of the letterbox clue. One pond on this preserve and had a sturdy wooden bridge with a little island which I called a magical fairy island. I love it when the rocks are all covered by a carpet of moss. There were a lot of white water lilies blooming and a few yellow blossoms. I could have sat there for hours.

We found a bit of litter and I asked the kids to pick it up. We hauled it out and threw it in the trash. If I had taken a plastic bag with us I could have taken also, the broken beer bottle that we found.

It was just the right weather for a nature hike. We didn’t do any nature journaling.

I enjoyed spending time with my friend and we talked the entire time, catching up on stories, some about our recent family vacations, both spent with in-laws. We also talked about the book I read last week, “Liberation’s Children: Parents and Kids in a Postmodern Age” by Kay Hymnowitz. We talked about her theory that feminism is dead and about parents who over schedule their children.

I was also reminded of the wonderful article (which is not online) in last month’s Mothering magazine about instilling a love of local nature in our children. The gist was to avoid scare tactics and talk of endangered species and pollution until about age 10. Up to that point it was recommended that children spend fun time in nature and learn a bit about the creatures and plants that live in their area. Instilling a respect, curiosity, and wonder about nature in general, first, is a much more effective way for children to learn empathy for our natural world and will help them want to preserve it and not intentionally harm it. On the flip side, teaching children, first, that people (them included) are bad and are harming the Earth in irrepairable ways is not only depressing and instills anger, but it leads to a disconnection from the Earth. It is only natural that we emotionally distance ourselves from that which makes us feel angry, sad, depressed, or something or someone who is telling us that we are a bad, bad person just for being alive, living and eating and being on the Earth.

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