I’ve been getting a bit hung up recently with the fact that we haven’t been going regularly to any kind of outdoor learning group; we went to Exeter Forest School’s group for under 5’s for two terms last year (which we loved) and went to Embercombe’s Natural Learning Group a grand total of once earlier this year! We stopped the former as Sophia was somewhat outgrowing it and haven’t managed the latter again due to a combination of mitigating factors, the abysmal weather of the first few months of this year, distance and sometimes just plain forgetfulness. I was starting to beat myself up about this and our lack of intentional nature studies when I paused, took stock of what has been naturally occurring in our lives and laughed a little at myself for being a worrywart (again).
The first thing that came to mind (probably because I can see them from where I’m sitting on the sofa) is Sophia’s latest project of ‘growing’ butterflies. One of her birthday presents (thanks Uncle Ed!) was a kit where you send away for caterpillars and food, watch them eat and turn into chrysalises and then transfer them to the provided butterfly ‘aviary’ to watch them hatch before letting them go. They arrived on friday and we’ve all enjoyed seeing them get noticeably bigger every day. Sophia has decided that they like watching shows on the iplayer with her to wake them up a little if they aren’t wiggling enough! She’s decided to draw them and write a bit in her learning book about them and then do it again when they are in chrysalis stage and finally once they’ve undertaken their final transformation into butterflies. I think we’re all equally excited about the process!
To try and tie in with the life cycle theme we went to explore our landlady’s pond in hope of finding frogspawn or tadpoles. There were neither but seeing as we were there and had a lot of relevant books, we began a pond survey. Sophia and Isaac sat in our tent nearby (left up from our party) and painted the pond as they could see it and then we carefully began to try and identify what plants we could see in and around the pond. I was impressed that we managed to identify four different species. We’re going to go down again when the sun is out to measure the pond and possibly dip if I can find a net. We might also try and survey our section of stream which is apparently sometimes visited by otters, we haven’t spotted them yet but hope we do soon!
I mentioned our chickens in my last post and as I was pondering realised that all three of us are constantly learning as we feed them, collect eggs and watch them interact. This isn’t quite so intentional so much as part of our daily life (I’m impressed that we haven’t yet forgotten to let them out in the morning!) and joins our attempts at growing our own in being an ongoing informal learning experience, and a most enjoyable one at that.
Talking of vegetables, our potatoes, garlic, onions, pumpkins, tomatoes, strawberries, peppers, peas and runner beans are doing really well and so far we’ve only really failed with our broccoli, cucumber and sweetcorn (the first 2 died inexplicably as seedlings and the latter just never appeared!) so I think that’s not too bad going really. I’m hoping for some sunshine this week as I really do have quite a lot to do in the garden, as any gardener knows, there’s always more to do than you have time for! But I really need to put the pepper seedlings in bigger pots, plant out the sunflower seedlings and earth up the potatoes. Hoping I find time for it all.
This season of growing is a funny one, there’s the hurry of trying to plant everything you want to and nursing tender seedlings when they do appear coupled with the waiting, waiting for seeds to sprout, for plants to harden, for buds to bloom. Sophia has been quicker on the mark at wanting to spot elderflower this year than I but it’s just not quite time for them yet, all the buds I have seen have been tightly closed and green. So I’ve promised to point them out as soon as I see some in flower and she asks all the time, especially as we drive through the country lane and the banks are covered in the lookalike (to a young eye) that is cow parsley. But soon they’ll bloom and then we can’t start harvesting and making cordial. I’m going to try champagne this year as well. I’m also determined to persevere and make more. Last year we made a measly 4 bottles of cordial which disappeared in no time so I’m on the lookout for an abundant source of the beautiful flower so that this year we can make plenty.
And this is pretty much how my train of thought went last night. At which point I concluded that
a) we are already learning a lot from the outdoors, without going to any formal groups
b) we have started down the nature study route with the butterflies and pond survey
and most importantly
c) that at 4 and 2 there is plenty of time for us to attend formal groups and do serious nature studies and that right now, we’re doing more than enough by just spending as much time outdoors as possible.
They paddle in streams and the sea, dig in the earth, run through fields, chase chickens and cats (lovingly of course) and are happier outside doing pretty much anything than being inside confined by 4 walls. And we’re all pretty happy with that.