Reading Aloud Outside + Wise Child Learning Resumes!

After a very long hiatus, this website and blog is “live” again. Welcome!

A little garden reading.

Today I watched an interview at the Early Years Summit 2018: Outdoor Learning and Play with Juliet Robertson, an educational consultant in Scotland specializing in this very topic. Browsing her website, I discovered several posts devoted to reading books outside. As someone who has loved reading all my life (as a kid I’d check out a stack of books from the library and read through them all by the time they were due in two weeks — often rereading my favorites), and, as a teacher who experiences firsthand the learning and growth that happens when we are outside with anything we do, I am passionate about sharing books and story with kids while in nature.

If you are a parent, grandparent, teacher, or caring adult who enjoys sharing magical time with children, maybe these ideas will inspire you to read aloud to kids outside.

Juliet’s blog post:

Reading Books Outdoors

And here is my response to that post: “One of my favorite memories of my elementary school years was when our teacher took us to the nearby park and read to us books like Where the Red Fern Grows.”

That walk out of the school yard and all of us gathered in the shade of a painted concrete castle and my teacher weeping as she read aloud the very sad part of the book truly takes me to a place and time where I loved my teacher (I didn’t always), loved my classmates (ditto), and loved the lazy timeless listening to an amazing story.

A Cicely Mary Barker Flower Fairies poem with the flower itself.

I also wrote:

“As a homeschooling mom, I regularly packed a basket with a book, snacks, things we were exploring with our curriculum, and my daughters and I went outside to learn, work, and play. We always read aloud outdoors: anything from Harry Potter to favorite picture books to the Little House novels and more.” Read a post here from a blog I kept when I was a homeschooling mom in the suburbs.

“As an early learning teacher at a school on a farm I bring books outside and read books to the kids that tie in with what we’re doing on the farm and what’s happening in nature. What I read aloud usually ends up in our play and discovery time. Ex. I read the Herb Fairies book about the Chickweed Fairy, and then we ended up foraging for Chickweed and other wild and planted edibles, and making remedies. So much fun!”

The point I want to make is this: sharing time in nature brings about meaningful and deep connection, a love for each other and by extension, about what we enjoy together that is part of that connection. (I’ll write more about this in future blog posts). When we share what we love with those who we love or at least deeply appreciate, we all blossom. When we engage in learning or exploration that excites and share that, again: we all are nourished. When nature is part of our world, when we are engaged in and with nature, all our senses our activated and pathways form or deepen. We are human beings designed to be nourished, challenged, and to grow within the world of nature, and nature has plenty to say and enliven in us when we bring what we love (back) into it. Our imaginations, creativity, and intellect find fuel and “fire” in ways that build, strengthen, and expand us.

I hope these snippets inspire you to carry your reading and other connective time outdoors!

Heartstone kids enjoy Herb Fairies Book 1 – the Chickweed Fairy, in the company of Chickweed itself!

Children And The Magic Of Plants

It’s been a beautiful and full spring. In addition to teaching my Wise Child program, I’ve served as a teacher at the Heartstone Children’s Program (a nature-inspired Waldorf school for 4-6 year olds). Each day we spend time playing on the farm where our programs meet. The kids will nibble on all manner of plants (with the farmers’ blessing!)–herbs, broccoli florets, kale leaves, sour sorrel, roses, and more.  They especially graze on the sorrel and fennel! Watching the kids play with and amidst the plants and casually taste them, I’m convinced that every young child program should have an herb and vegetable garden specially for them!

Here are just a few images from this spring.

Tasting Johnny-Jump Ups - photo by Jane
Tasting Johnny-Jump Ups – photo by Jane


We gathered and tasted Johnny-Jump Ups (violets) after reading the Herb Fairies book about Violet. I find the demulcent, gently sweet taste reminiscent of Marshmallow root.

Sorrel is a favorite plant with the kids - photo by Jane
Gathering Sorrel – photo by Jane

Sorrel is a favorite plant with the kids!

At the farm: What an amazing place for kids to pass the day! - photo by Jane
The farm – photo by Jane

What an amazing place for kids to learn and play!

The day was wet with spring rain ... yet these two  kids were enthralled by the willow catkins. Enchanting! - photo by Jane
Enchanted by Willow – photo by Jane

The day was wet with spring rain … yet these two kids were enthralled by the willow catkins. Enchanting!

Finally ~ The First Lesson Plan Is Here!

Thank you for your patience in waiting for my lesson plans. Here is the first:

Lesson Plan No. 1 – January 2013: Trees, Trees — A Winter Wander

As I mention in the Lesson Plan, this first one reflects the musing time of year that is winter after the holidays. It’s a collection of inspirations, rather than a plot-a-course-of-action plan.

Lesson plans are posted in the second half of the month. Please feel free to comment and to ask questions. What you say will influence future blog posts and lesson plans here!

And please feel free to share your adventures with the Lesson Plan in the comments, either here or under the Lesson Plan itself.

May you have fun experiencing the magic of the trees with your children!

Entering The Garden

We’ve just completed our second week of the Wise Child Learning Program. We’re delighted and grateful to have the organic medicinal garden of Sister Sage Herbs as one area where we work, learn, and play!

I like to start sessions (when they take place in fine weather) with what I call a “greenfire”. Basically, it’s a circle created by the kids (and/or adults when present!) and myself with stones or sticks, leaves or flowers, etc. or all of the above! from the natural world. The “greenfire” serves as our imaginative and centering fire during our time in that place.

Here is our first greenfire:

Our first "greenfire"

We’ve taken time beginning to get acquainted with the herbs in the garden. I was delighted to discover one of my favorite herbs in abundance, Evening Primrose (Oenothera spp.).

Evening Primrose - one of my favorite herbs!

During our first week, we compared and contrasted plant “lookalikes”. Here are Chamomile (Matricaria chamomilla, grown in the garden) and Pineapple Weed (Matricaria discoidea, a common wild chamomile on the dirt roads nearby.

Chamomile (growing) and Pineapple Weed (in her hand)

We have each chosen a new plant friend to get to know deeply this year, and whose area we will give extra-special care (weeding, etc.!)

I chose this one–or perhaps I might say, it chose me! Every time I walk even a little close to it, I find my clothes and hair coated in in its “cockleburrs”, its seed-heads with their stiff hairs and hooked ends.

Agrimony (Agrimonia eupatoria)- sometimes called "Cockleburr" or "Sticklewort" with good reason!

We’ve each created three-line poems inspired by our new plant friends. Look for a “Lesson Plan” in the near future about how to do this process!

We created poems about our new plant friends

An ongoing project this year is add to our “Weather Trees” — drawings we made today of a leafless tree. Each day we’ll color in a leaf to represent the weather. Today’s leaf was inspired by the morning fog that dispersed to sunshine.

Both in the garden and in other areas of the surrounding land are ripe raspberries. We can’t help but enjoy some!

Ripe Raspberries always beckon!

That’s just a snippet of our time in the garden, and of our day!

Learning From Each Other

I just returned from a family reunion in which I passed time with the kids and youth, ages 4-18. I was entranced by the four-year-old’s earnest connection with numbers, telling me all he knew about 18 and a hundred on the one hand, and exploring insects with great fascination on the other. His six-year-old brother told me about planets and told me that 9 + 9 was 14. “You know what ten plus ten, is right?” I asked him (knowing that he did). “Yes–20,” he answered, and at that point he revised his answer to 18, his little brother’s favorite number.

Two girls, ages 9 and 11, joined in on the conversation, and talk turned to infinity and googles and googleplexes. Then the teens joined in. For me, it was yet another perfect moment — the youngest child’s love of numbers launched a whole discussion among all the kids about what they loved best about numbers. They shared ideas and stretched them. I just chimed in with questions and an occasional guiding thought or challenge (“Wow, you just counted backward by two! Can you count by threes also?”). I shared my own love of numbers and patterns, but also just listened, amazed as usual about how much kids know and share when they are passionate about things. They truly became each others’ teachers, without anyone even aiming to do so.

On a walk we noted a huge Douglas fir clinging to a steep hillside, roots exposed nearly as massive as the trunk itself–the tree doing all it could to keep a stronghold on the bank and support its towering weight. Questions spilled about that tree and its neighbors, and the nature of that steep bank (was it carved out for the road or was it natural?).

Again, all of us — young and old alike — learned from our shared ideas, our shared experience, and connected with each other in the process and with (in this case) the tree and the land itself.

The Wise Child Learning Program is about sharing these kinds of experiences. I aim to nourish each child’s imaginative inquiry, his or her unique perspectives and gifts, and to share from the roots of our passions. My aim is for us to experience a learning adventure — sharing ideas with one another, learning from each other, and connecting with each other in fun and compassionate ways, as well as with the earth that is our home. We will share stories and create stories, listen to each other, and listen to the plants, animals, the land. We’ll play with words, and adventure with academics but from the perspective of nature, music, imagination, projects.

Will your child or children be joining us this year?