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!

Why I Love The Herb Fairies Books

The Herb Fairies are a marvelous book series by Kimberly Gallagher. I was part of their 2013 book club, which involved the tales, plus wonderful resources for kids (and kids at heart) for making herbal remedies, yummy foods with herbs, and fun activities.

Recently, Herb Fairies had a video contest for 2013 members. I’m excited to say that my video won the grand prize in the Testimonial category!

Anyway, take a look at my video (it’s only 2 1/2 min. long), and maybe you’ll be inspired to check out The Herb Fairies!

Signs Of Spring ~ Lesson Plan Is Here

Hazel Catkins ~ photo by Jane Valencia

Just posted is a Lesson Plan For Early Spring, the Northeast time of year — a time associated with perception and the stirrings of new life. For inspirations regarding how you might share this magical time with children please read here.  Enjoy!

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!

Gravestone Rubbings

Early last week our newly formed homeschool group headed out to the local cemetery to create gravestone rubbings in honor of this threshold time of year and the upcoming Dia de los Muertos, the Day of the Dead.

It’s been pouring rain, so I wasn’t sure how long we’d want to be out there. Some of the kids are comfortable in any kind of Pacific Northwest weather (it seems to me!), and some are not. Amazingly we all found ourselves captivated by our activity–exploring the cemetery and making rubbings of the gravestones, using crayons on Rite-in-the-Rain paper (waterproof paper!).

Rowan (Mountain Ash) berries on a gravestone
A child makes a gravestone rubbing
A sweet offering at one gravestone -- a stone that says LOVE
Gravestone rubbings with beeswax block crayons

So why did we choose this activity? Isn’t the idea of doing gravestone rubbings kinda … morbid? Perhaps disrespectful?

Years ago our family began doing gravestone rubbings when celebrating the earth festivals with other families. Here, at the time when many traditions say the veil between the worlds and between the living and the dead are thin, and when (as in Day of the Dead) the ancestors, and our loved ones who are passed are celebrated, honored, spoken to, it feels right (to me) to do something like this with children. My experience is that they love it, and that they are fascinated by this very tangible expression of time, and people who have lived and died before they were born, or died more recently. We didn’t find gravestones marking anyone we knew, yet we all felt the connection. I suppose because these were people who lived in and died on our island, in our community.

And the leaves falling from the trees, and the gray clouds thick, and the mist in the air. This deep autumn nature speaks to me of change, time’s passage. It signals to me to look at death, and to remember those who have passed on, the gifts of my ancestors. We told stories in the cemetery, and we wondered at the people who are remembered here.

Some of the children made rubbings of the designs on the stones–birds, roses, a violin. Of images that meant something to them personally, or of names the same as their own. We ended up with some lovely layerings of such things.

One way that children can meet with the truth of death, of passage in a way that is gentle yet filled with mystery is indeed to visit a cemetery, whether you know anyone there or not. Exploring the gravestones, searching for the oldest you can find, or the oldest lived person, or the youngest (always sad), or … there are as many ways to venture into something like this as there are people on the earth.