I'm reading Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder by Richard Louv right now and I'm inspired on many levels. I'm encouraged by what we're currently doing with our kids in the outdoors and challenged to do more. I feel, once again, that homeschooling gives us an unique advantage in spending time outdoors with our children (spending any time really). Damien and I are determining our children's curriculum and we've decided that the outdoors is a very important part of their education, and we don't have to fight busy school and work schedules to live those values.
This week I took the kids to the farm where we pick up vegetables each week during the summer. I let them wander, play and explore for at least an hour while I took photos and enjoyed sharing in their exciting discoveries. And although time spent at a farm isn't exactly an adventure, except for the challenge of avoiding piles of manure, I've noticed that our children's adventurous spirit travels with them wherever they go. Like catching frogs at the pond or trying to climb the apple tree, even if it means wandering close to the beehives. Our children are not afraid to explore the outdoors and I think it's in part because we spend lots of time with them outside. Kind of makes sense, don't you think?
Which brings me back to the book. Everything I've read so far is simply old fashioned common sense in our modern era of computer/tv/technology overloaded kiddos. (It's not the kids fault by the way if their parents, schools and communities don't make time and space for natural outdoor experiences.) Of course children should be outdoors more. They do better academically, emotionally and physically the more time they spend in nature. And our communities and families need to make this a priority for our children. Their health and the health of this planet depends on it.
Although we prefer the adventure and physical endurance aspects of mountain hiking, I don't think it matters much if you are hiking, fishing, birding, gardening, white water rafting or tree house building; families need to spend more time outdoors. Kids need to reconnect with nature as a primary childhood experience. That is the message of this book and I couldn't agree more.