I’m surprised how many mothers I meet who are afraid of nature. If a generation of mothers raises a generation of kids who are afraid of nature, what will happen not only to God’s glorious creation but also, what will happen to their child’s self…his or her spirit?
Yesterday, a mother talked to me about her idea of starting activities for the influx of teen boys. I mentioned that one of the activities could be to clean up the local river, as a community service. She liked that idea, “But…” she said, “Would it be safe with all the snakes?” She decided it would be unsafe, so river cleaning did not make the list of Things to Do.
why teach about nature? what we know about, we care about
I’m getting more than a little frustrated at this type of thing: fear without education (or you may call it reason or knowledge) . Just a bit of research, and this mom could discover, as I did when I decided to research my fear of snakes, that snakes are not everywhere, the venomous ones (they’re not “poisonous,” I learned) are usually the most still and sure to avoid you, and snakes are beneficial (without them, we’d have a lot of rodents around!). I learned these things to alleviate my fears, which were, I knew, disproportionately high.
So here we are: the teens won’t help clean the river because mama is afraid of a chance that a snake may strike.
A few weeks ago, we found a bat mysteriously lying on our back porch (captured by a cat on a roof?). It was whole and in perfect, yet deceased condition. It was small and furry, not at all as ugly or “gross” as I thought one would be. I already knew them to be beneficial so wasn’t particularly against the dead thing and its living relatives, but I still held quite a few assumptions. We looked at it without touching it and one of the children sketched it.
Later, I researched and learned a few bat facts to pass onto the children. We now realize that we should protect and admire bats, even more than we do the cardinals! What a revelation! We are now appreciative of the bats we see each dusk, as they fly up and down above the street, capturing mosquitoes.
So, mama, if you’re afraid of something, educate yourself. And as you learn, educate the children.
Let’s give them our knowledge, not our fears. Facts before fears.
“We could never have loved the earth so well if we had had no childhood in it, if it were not the earth where the same flowers come up again every spring that we used to gather with our tiny fingers as we sat lisping to ourselves on the grass, the same hips and haws on the autumn hedgerows, the same redbreasts that we used to call ‘God’s birds’ because they did no harm to the precious crops. What novelty is worth that sweet monotony where everything is known and loved because it is known?”Mary Anne Evans, aka George Burns, 1860 in the Little Blanket Book
children will guide us in learning about nature. we only need to get out of the way of their curiosity.
Children are born with curiosity. They frighten us mamas with their exuberance and their fearlessness. Though we will guide them away from thorns, panthers, and, yes, venomous snakes (or all snakes, if we are not sure), we must let them explore freely as we follow along.
Encouraging a child in their natural curiosity for nature does not take any extra effort from homeschooling parents. Your child can lead. Here is an example of child-led learning from our homeschool. The following was written in my 2010 journal:
She wakes when Daddy wakes this morning, at 5am, when not only do I not want to get up, but the sun does not want to get up, either. She's an entire-day-and-night person, who finds sleep a Great Inconvenience. But her sleep-requiring body hasn't let her see a dawn in the seven years since she was a wee baby who didn't know 5am from 5pm, much to my unrest. "Daddy goes to work in the middle of the night?!" are her first words today. I'm not at the speaking stage of waking yet, but take her to an East-facing window where the teeniest bit of light can be seen in the otherwise black night. After handing Daddy a homemade Egg McMuffin, a handful of grapes, and a cold water bottle, I suggest we go back to bed. She can cozy up with me in our bed, if she wants. The window is too much of a temptation. She is fascinated by dawn, observing it from the window, until I take her by the hand to see the Morning Star (or is that Saturn?). She likes the star/planet, but the eerie sounds of breaking dawn frighten her indoors. We crack the door just a tiny bit to hear. This is a lot less scary than standing outside in it. Through the door's crack, we hear a coyote howl. The door shuts. Soon, I suggest that since it's becoming more light, the coyote might have gone to bed now. She cracks the door open again. An owl hoots, roosters crow, a turkey makes whatever sound turkeys make. The cricket and frog sounds are fading. Our world is brightening. Soon, she tiptoes onto the veranda again. It's safe now; the birds are singing. A hummingbird buzzes to our nearby feeder. The mosquitoes, alas, come to us for breakfast. The river, the lowest point of our back yard, is still black, so she is still "just a little scared" of it. "When it's not black," she says, "then it will be morning." A few minutes later, I say, "It's morning, see, the river isn't dark anymore…you can see the leaves floating downstream. But it's still early. Let's go back to bed now." "Oh, no we can't," she says, "It's morning now. It's time for people to get up!" It's 5pm as I write this, and I'm tired. 5am is very early. But I did so enjoy introducing our little gal to her first dawn.
some days we purposefully learn: those are the days we nature journal
If you do desire to teach a child about nature on purpose (it is a wonderful way to cover the academic subjects of science or art), nature journaling is the easiest and most natural way to do so. You simply take paper and pencil, at minimum (you may get more fancy, if you like) into the outdoors and draw objects in nature: a tree, a squirrel, a beetle, a flowering plant. If it is not nice outside, bring an object inside to draw: a stone, an acorn, a leaf, a flower. Try your best to identify the object, and have the child write that name on the bottom of their drawing. That’s it! That is all that is needed for nature journaling.