Homeschoolers often worry that they aren’t doing enough, that they’re doing too much, or that they aren’t doing the right things, whether too little or too much! We’re faced with pressure from society, family, and friends and sometimes feel like we should go big, or go home (or rather, back to school).
Even within the context of learning in nature, it’s easy to feel like we should be embarking on grandiose adventures, visiting distant wild areas, learning from knowledgable nature interpreters, and more. A visit we had at our neighborhood park last week turns that notion on its head. This is a natural area less than one full block from our home. It’s a space that we are becoming intimately familiar with, as some weeks we might visit three times for picnics, sketching, tree-climbing, and foraging for healing plants.
On this particular visit, we spread out our blanket, and said hello to our favourite grandfather tree that stretches his arms out over us, providing shade in the sweltering heat of summer.
The kids took off to visit their evergreen climbing trees, only to find that the lower ‘rungs of the ladders’ had been cut off, which would sadly mean no climbing. However, the sting of the loss was momentary; because of the trim, running out of the trees was a sticky sap to engage with. The kids marveled at, touched the tree sap. Milo even tasted it, and wasn’t impressed with his findings. While observing so close to the bark, they found sapsucker holes, and even what Cohen called a “nature spile” on one tree’s trunk.
Breann spotted both a bird and a swallowtail butterfly in the trees and prompted us all to be still and quiet in order to observe and capture the moments in photographs.
Excitement grew as we watched the busy work of bees on creeping charlie and dandelions and also shared in the joy of said dandelions by spreading their seeds through human-powered wind dispersal.
While searching for healing plants unsuccessfully in the freshly mowed areas around the trees, we were joined by a cat, who enjoyed prowling through the forest undergrowth, to pop out for visits now and then. In previous years, we have found an abundance of chickweed and plantain in these areas that are now mowed. We did find a small patch of chickweed, and decided to leave it unpicked so that it would have a chance to flourish. Hopefully the park staff won’t be regularly mowing these areas!
Not ready to go home empty handed, the kids diligently harvested the smallest spruce tips from several of the trees, and we took them home and turned them into Spruce Tip Tea, and Spruce Tip Shortbread for Father’s Day gifts.
Each of us found a natural item to bring back to the blanket and we sketched for a while, had our lunch, and then went to explore the flower garden at the nearby museum. Throughout our time there, the kids visited with several park goers and their dogs. They also approached a staff member at the museum, and inquired about volunteer opportunities.
Next time someone asks me what I did for school with the kids, I won’t be ashamed to say that we just hung out at the neighborhood park.
This post was shared as a part of Thank Goodness It’s Monday.