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Outside time, all the time?

As I type this, my two older boys run around outside in our (blessedly) big back yard. The youngest was outside, too, until naptime overtook him with a thunderstorm of neediness. Everett asks, "could you bring me something to eat out here?" and I unhesitatingly say, sure.

I've just been reading this about a U.K. preschool whose students spend nearly every moment out-of-doors. And I've been "studying" my kids' behavior and finding an unsurprising result: the more time outside, running, jumping, digging, collecting worms, fighting all those bad guys who seem to inhabit our block, or just lying in the dirt with a serious expression and a dump truck; the happier everyone is. Everett's therapist asks, "what do good days look like?" My answer is "plenty of intense outdoors play" and I immediately wonder what I'm doing with him in public school at all.


For a lot of complicated reasons, I've been considering home schooling him. With what will I fill his days? I wonder, imagining dozens of mini-power struggles over adjective worksheets. And then discarding all that wonder with the thought that maybe, we'll just have math, reading and outside time. Lots, and lots, of outside time.

Out there, we have a hundred lessons in science, math, social studies, vocabulary, agriculture; it's the Green Hour supercharged. I wonder if we'll have enough for him to build the skills in which he's lagging while at the same time protecting him from the often too-stressful, too-troubled environment of the school he's attending. Unschoolers have already been convinced, I know. For those of you who do homeschool, unschool, free school, or some variant thereof -- even just for preschool -- tell me how you've balanced "curriculum" and teaching children the parts of speech, multiplication tables, and all that with a sufficient amount of outside time. Have any of you considered changing your child's schooling to allow more time outside? How has the thought process gone for you? Have you tried it and gone back to the way of the formal schoolroom? Have you just longed for more untrammeled running, free-range kid raising time? I'd love to hear your thoughts!


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Well... preschoolers don't need to do anything "academic." They learn constantly through osmosis. And playing outside. :) :) :) Kindergarten academics, I feel, are also optional. They will learn an incredible amount. My daughter is turning 6 in June, so has technically finished her kindergarten year. With just 30 minutes, 3x/week spent on reading/writing/math, she's doing 2nd grade math and 1st grade reading and writing. We do lots of Jewish studies too, so that's more that we do. And history, science, art, and music. And cooking. And home economics. We have science and history curricula, but we're just wending our way through them at our leisure. Even the rigorous outline in The Well-Trained Mind has 1st graders finishing their work in 3 hours per day.

Learning at home is very compact, and directed just exactly to the individual student's needs. Understand something right away? Move on! Need a little more time? Stick with it until there's real understanding. Child struggling or in tears? Then they're simply not ready for what you're doing. Back off for a while.

Lots of outside time is great. We do tons of nature studies (formal and informal), lots of long walks, and they play outside nearly every day unless the weather is really, really bad. I think it's especially great for boys. I think a huge percentage of those "ADHD" cases are really just boys being boys that need more outside and wiggle time. They're PHYSICAL creatures.

I know one family that did learning time from 9-12 every day that the papa was at work. That's it! Even through high school, which they generally finished at 15 or 16. That's pretty much what I'm hoping to do (though I don't care if they finish at 15 or 18). Learning at home provides a family with lots of breathing room. Our lives are relaxed. We keep it very simple. We do one scheduled activity each week (right now it's swimming lessons). The rest is our own thing, field trips with friends, and one-shot classes at OMSI, Tryon Creek, the library, etc. We LOVE this life.

Anyway.... I used to be a classroom teacher, and I feel that the one-on-one education (or 1-on-4 here!) is an incredible way to learn that is utterly different from learning in a classroom. It's a lot of work, but very, very worth it.

great timing on the article, sarah. this has been bouncing around in my brain for weeks now.

our oldest is signed up for pre-k at our neighborhood school and she's extremely excited to go to 'the big school' with the big kids. however, i'm a little less enthusiastic. ideally, we'd enroll her at a lovely waldorf school that she would stay in through high school. unfortunately, there isn't one that has a pre-k program that we can afford.

i was shocked to find out that the kids may or may not go outside every day. it never even occurred to me that they wouldn't go out! i suppose that since we pack around our raincoats and boots, i assumed that they would be taken to school too (we'll be walking every day so they'll be worn there anyway).

i find that as the girls get older, the less i want them to be restricted in their learning. i HATE that kids in PPS bring home an hour or more of homework a day. it's absurd to me that they don't go outside... every day. i find myself less and less inclined to send my kids to our neighborhood school.

for now, our 4 1/2 year old will go to our local public school but you better believe i will be exploring all of our options for the '10 school year.

I'm very interested in home schooling. Is there a decent online resource(s) for getting started?

ah - subject dear to my heart.
My son attends (but is currently taking a break - more on that later...) an amazing outdoor waldorf pre/kindy at Tryon Creek called Mother Earth. These kids are outside, in forest and at the farm for the whole day (9-1.) I can't speak highly enough about the program. There are no academics; just songs, stories, crafts and outdoor experiences.
I don't think there are many spots left for next year, and perhaps already a waiting list. But I do think this will be a growing option in the future. Hopefully an eastside option too...I know our Mother Earth school hopes to expand, including other sites, as well.
My son is currently wanting to be at home, and I am assuming that homeschooling might be in our cards as well. Read some John Holt and you might be overwhelmingly inspired to go homeschool/unschool. I'm not yet focusing on academics, but there are plenty of methods/ideas that would allow for very little time spent "in books and worksheets."

This is why we homeschool and our boys love it.

A favorite of many local outdoorsy homeschoolers is Trackers NW - http://www.trackersnw.com/portland-youth/home-school.php

The Life is Good Unschooling Conference is coming up at the end of this month right here - it is a WONDERFUL place to gather first hand stories -http://www.lifeisgoodconference.com/

There is much more but we're on the way out the door for now. Good luck in your explorations!

Amen! My mother has always rolled her eyes in disapproval when I've said my boys go outside every day, rain or shine. (She's of the "they just have to learn how to manage themselves inside in the rain" mentality.) At a minimum, they are riding their bikes for a bit if I want to have any chance of coming inside afterwards to fix dinner.

Here is a NY Times article with some similar themes/questions as this post.


this post hits home with me. I've been thinking a lot about outdoor time lately. I have a very active 18 month old and a curious and imaginative 3.5 year old and the times I find that I enjoy being with them the most are when we are outdoors. They love it and I find it so much less stressful than being indoors. There are no chores staring me in the face, no computer beckoning my attention away. If a drink spills its no big deal, if crackers get smashed, toys thrown, voices raised, water splashed.....its all OK. I have been craving a camping trip like crazy lately and I realize this is the reason. When we are outside we lose ourselves in hunts for worms, observations of seedlings and in the practice of pouring water from one cup to another again and again.
I've been ruminating on the idea of starting a small outdoor (focused, if not exclusive) elementary school for a while. I have a piece of property in mind and a vision for what could be created there. Its a dream for now, but with a community of like-minded families, maybe something will come of it someday.

I am one of those convinced unschoolers. When I learned about unschooling (when my child was under a year old) I felt like I had found my true home. Historically speaking, I was a complete "success" (by any traditional school standard) as a student yet I have so much more faith in the path I'm on with my child. I know she won't need any formulated curriculum and is in fact thriving. By asking myself questions such as, "What is the point of school?", "What does it mean to be educated?", "What makes a person successful?" (and many more) and educating myself about the way children learn, the history of the compulsory school system, etc. I am totally confident that this is the right path for my family.

There are so many homeschooling and unschooling support and information lists online (many local ones as well) and I have received many reading suggestions from these lists. The most prominent authors for me have been John Holt, John Taylor Gatto, Ivan Illich and Matt Hern's compilations and
this online magazine keeps me busy for hours with back issues:

The Oregon Home Education Network is a good place to start for homeschooling info: http://www.ohen.org/
For additional local online support:

I'm taking a course this summer that focuses on teaching science outside, so I'm wondering if there's a third choice, advocating teachers and administrators to take the classroom outside.

Ok, I'll bite. I can definitely see the many benefits of home/unschooling, especially when parents themselves are educated and have set goals for their kids (you'd be surprised how many homeschooling parents can't articulate what they want their kids to learn). And for those parents, I say, AMEN! Homeschool. As a public school teacher, I can assure you that kids aren't getting more than 3-4 hours a day of "academics" anyway. Between special classes, assemblies, passing periods and lunch, it's about all that's left for sit-down academics. And not that I agree with it, but the hour of homework is to make up for that lost time in school. When teachers are pressured to make sure kids "perform at grade level" (read: pass state tests) it can be stressful trying to fit it all into one day.
The thing I worry about more is the social aspect. I know, people say that when their kids are homeschooled, they have more social interactions, more time for friends, etc. But what I am talking about is the all-too-important learning how to deal with people (whether we like them or are similar to them or not) as they are. That may mean learning to deal with a teacher they don't like or whose style is different, or classmates who irk them. I can think of a hundred people my preschooler interacts with. But because we are who we are, we socialize with and interact with people who are similar to us, be that culturally, socially, politically, or what have you. Even on public transit, which we take often, we have the kinds of interactions that I condone and monitor. I feel like I am rambling, but I have a point I am trying to make. :)

I'm not saying that preschoolers, etc need ANY kind of academics, but I'm more thinking of the kids who are homeschooled throughout junior high / high school. What's your take on that, homeschooling mamas?

I am all for homeschooling/unschooling etc. for those who want to do it. And I don't at all buy that HS'd kids won't learn how to interract with people they don't like. Kids learn this, wherever they are. People have been learning to do this since way before the advent of mandatory schooling.

But I do want to say that my kids in PPS go outside every day rain or shine, as part of the curriculum, in addition to recess. And it was only in 3rd grade that my son started having homework, and it's certainly not an hour's worth per day. More like 15 minutes 4 days/week.

I'd also like to say my PPS kid goes out at least once per day, every day, and sometimes up to 3x/day.

He is in 1st grade and does get homework Mon-Thurs, but like Zinemama's kid, it's only about 15 minutes per night.

Not to take away from the homeschooling discussion, just trying to point out that all PPS schools are not window-less dungeons kids get locked in for 8 hours a day. :)

Great thoughts here...think about how our children (especially boys) learned in the 'old days.' It was practical and relevant...hunting=eating/surviving; apprenticed to knights & kings & ship's captains. Meaningful work. Today our kids (again, especially boys) are not called on to do important, relevant work for their families...they want to be depended upon. Explore these topics in the Boys Alive! Bring Out Their Best! workshop...which just happens to be coming up this Saturday, May 9, 9-12:30. Register at: http://www.parenting-advice-from-mom.com/reserve-now.html

I think about homeschooling my 5 year old, but I can't figure out what to do with him all day. He is a high HIGH energy kid who loves spending time with other kids. Is anyone willing to share your typical homeschool/unschool day?

I don't want to digress too far from the OP, but just my personal thoughts after a few more comments appeared...

One of the most important lessons I learned from having a child was to question everything and listen to my instincts. This made it very easy for me to question the compulsory schooling that I had previously accepted as a norm/right/mandate for my (and my child's) life. Compulsory schooling is actually a very recent invention and looking into the history of how it came to be and what it is now helped me to see why I felt so at odds with it myself and for my child.

With respect to socialization, oh, there have been so many eloquent essays that address that issue. My experience has been that the socialization I witnessed and experienced in schools was barely if at all relevant to future interactions with society and community (since I did not plan to spend my whole life in the traditional school setting). I take issue with all manner of segregation I experienced (age, class, intelligence, race) and so many other issues.

I believe that kids are learning all the time and learn best when intrinsically motivated. I don't need to decide what my child will learn, she will learn best based off her own interests and her own goals. I know how random the curriculum choices in schools can be and I know that it would be a crap-shoot at best to figure that my child would actually be interested in any given topic at the moment it was to be addressed. The TIME suck of school leaves little time or energy left for kids who want to pursue their true interests on their own (this wasn't necessarily the case 50 years ago when my parents were in school).

The book "The Book of Learning and Forgetting" by Frank Smith is a great look into learning with respect to schooling and has seemed very relevant to my experience.

Oh, I could write a novel about my experiences and thoughts but should really stop for now!

Interesting post. Especially in light of a big decision that I just recently made here in Sweden.

First, here in Sweden, in the typical community schools, "formal schooling" does not start until the age of 6. There is no real preschool. Furthermore, the many of the daycares which are run by the government (kommun) are "natur", meaning the the majority of their time (on average, half of the day)is spent outside. Eating, naptime included. My children regularly have been on nature hikes, etc. Also involved in gardening, science experiments, etc. Teaching only occurs "when the occasion arises", which of course it does most all the time, but there is no formal practice of numbers, letters, writing, etc. Also, it should be noted that the ages were all mixed, so when they began, my 1.5 year old and my 3 year old were in the same class.

My daughters were very happy there at the beginning. I figured it was good and they had much to learn with getting used to Swedish weather and learning to speak Swedish....

However, after about 1 yr, my older daughter, started tomplain. Just in little ways. Asked if she "had" to go there today, etc. Always seemed happy when I left her and was there to pick her up though. The little one was fairly regularly crying a bit when I left her and running directly to me when I got there to pick her up. Both loved their teachers...

My assessment after about 6 weeks..they were a bit bored!

There are other schooling systems here in Sweden, outside of the govenmental run community schools, just like in the US...big difference is that they are still free. Here in Uppsala we have 2 large Montessori (from daycare thru middle school), a Waldorf, and several others.

I have moved my children to one of the Montessori schools primarily for more stimulation. Still in a much more relaxed environment than the typical community preschools in the US, more than what they had been offered at the community daycare here. They still have lots of outdoors time...in fact, every Wednesday, most of the day is outside on a big nature hike/picnic (rain, snow or shine here!)

I personally could not consider taking the responsibility of schooling my children. For several reasons, I feel completely inadequately trained. Although I studied some child development in medical school, I feel that I learned just a bit...but enough to know how important it would be to know more before I worked with children on a regular basis.

Also, I feel that it would negatively affect my relationship with my child...this is probably a real personality thing, but I am a perfectionist and often times have very little patience...I would expect too much...

And lastly, as mentioned before, I worry about the socialization aspect. Perhaps because of our uniquie situation with being new to a new area without nearby family or friends...I think that it is important that my children learn to be with other adults and know that they can having trusting relationships outside of the home.

Why not consider schools with different methods before taking all the responsibility on yourself?

Just wondering how home schooling and/or unschooling can work for families that have two working parents (if in two parent households) or for single parents? Seems like at least one person needs to be at home all the time which can be impractical, expensive and/or possibility elitist. We can't all be SouleMama (http://soulemama.typepad.com/), live in the woods and make money off our crafts and blog. Of course we can make changes/sacrifices, but maybe it is better to strive to improve all schools to a level we can all attend (see earlier posts re: school choice in Portland). Just a thought.

Just to clarify, my children did not get bored after 6 weeks, rather 1 year. I took 6 weeks to think about what was going on!

courtney: I've heard some anecdotal estimates on how much a 2nd or single parent could work and still sustain home/unschooling (16 hrs/wk? 20 hrs/wk?) but I think it would vary so much from situation to situation. I know a couple authors (Holt and Gatto I think) have written about how home/unschooling can really help maintain and strengthen the family bond (which traditional schooling can undermine) especially in non-traditional family settings (single parent, etc.) but I haven't personally looked into how that would be accomplished. Clearly, the alternative caregiver(s) (family, friends) would need to be on board. There are also some 'free schools' and such which try to replicate the home/unschooling environment for children whose caregivers have to work, etc.

And just my 2 cents to the question from Rebecca about taking on the responsibility...I wouldn't have it any other way. For me, it's not about my level of qualifications except that I alone am uniquely qualified to know my child best and know how best my child learns. And thus, I have chosen a path for my child which I think will suit her best. I think of myself as her facilitator to the world. I cannot tell her who to be but I can support who she will become and I am so happy to have the option to do so in the way we feel will work best.

Hey Sarah--Most homeschoolers, even the ones that follow a fairly rigorous curriculum, spend far less time doing indoor academics than they would at school. Most homeschoolers I know personally or thru HS forums, blogs, listservs, etc., spend an hour or two a day on academics at most in early grade school. With the tailored, one-on-one instruction you offer as a homeschooling parent, you can get a lot done in very little time. If more outdoor time is what you're after, I don't think you have to worry that your boys will get less if you're homeshooling. Finding balance is a lot easier when you are in charge of your schedule.

As far as catching up or keeping up...one thing to keep in mind is that schools today have a rather accelerated schedule compared to what many of us grew up with and with what children experience in other developed parts of the world. In the Finnish education system, for example, children are not taught to read until age seven and by age ten they're "caught up" and have the highest literacy rates in the world.

If you decide to homeschool your boys, you may want to consciously put yourself through a "de-schooling" process--letting go of the notions most of us carry inside that are only appropriate in a school setting. See Sandra Dodd's piece on the subject...plus lots of links for more info here: http://www.sandradodd.com/deschooling . Like letting go of any unconsciously accepted beliefs that have no real basis in real life, letting go of grade levels, test scores, standards, and the like is liberating. And if you really want to get yourself worked up into a frenzy of righteous indignation, read some John Taylor Gatto, like his Against School piece that appeared in Harpers a while back ( http://www.spinninglobe.net/againstschool.htm ).

With regards to PPSTeacher's concerns about HS kids not encountering enough people they don't get along with...my six-year-old has already experienced that in her homeschool crowd. There are kids she likes and kids she decidedly doesn't like. She deals with that as well as I expect most kids her age would. What I see passing for "socialization" in school concerns me gravely--it strikes me as the blind leading the blind. How do children, segregated by age, help each other grow up into conscientious, compassionate adults? I want my kids to spend time with other children their age and learn from their experiences, but I think their parents and other adults are better equipped to help them cope with social difficulties. I respectfully disagree that there's some positive character-building going on while we're not getting along with people who are placed in authority over us and supposed to facilitate our learning. I've seen and heard about so many kids ground down by teachers who didn't like them, didn't like kids/teens generally, or who were just plain lousy teachers. I wouldn't want to waste my kids' childhoods in such a situation and wouldn't consider it beneficial for them. I have watched so many parents shift their kids from classroom to classroom, school to school, searching for the right fit for their child, when the very best fit was probably right there all the time.

My best to you and your boys, Sarah.

This is an interesting discussion to me as I consider homeschooling but have many concerns about how it would play out in my family. That aside, I just have to address the comment about having a parent at home possibly being elitist. I've been at home with my kids since they were born and we are anything but elite. Trust me on that.

home (and other readers): bad choice of word/s and implication on my part. please accept my apology.

Thanks! I try to have pretty thick skin about most things parenting related, but I did wonder about that.

thanks for all your interesting, insightful perspectives! I just wanted to make a bit of clarification: Everett *does* get a ton of outside time at his school (he attends the Pioneer School, for kids with behavioral or other challenges that make it hard for teachers in a general education setting to integrate them into the classroom -- lots of kids with asperger's are there, for instance). they get to go outside three times a day, generally, and don't really have a lot of homework. but when a kid gets home around 3:30 and has 25 minutes of homework (15 minutes of reading plus super-easy worksheet/spelling practice), even just three days a week, it makes for very little "free" time and I know it's not enough for him; many days he's outside until it gets dark and I have to drag him in and put him straight to bed (baths are a rare occurrence here).

also, I do work from home, which makes it a bit easier to integrate education -- especially if I'm only doing one or two hours a day (as many of you have mentioned) for Everett.

my main problem with his current situation is that the socialization is, by and large, pretty terrible. the children there are all struggling with some sort of social developmental issues, and many of the stories I hear from recess play is how this group of children was at war against that group of children. I fear that he's getting as much reinforcement of his worst character tendencies as he is help building the social skills he needs. at home, surrounded only by those who actually love him and whose influences I am controlling, his social development would be far less fraught with unknown factors. also, though I do love some of his teachers with a deep and abiding affection, there are others whose philosophies I disagree with thoroughly and I feel are only reinforcing what I see as an ineffective, Victorian punishment-based school system; one that just doesn't help him build skills.

and I was raised by a homeschooling parent (I was only homeschooled for a year but one of my sisters was in homeschool through high school graduation) whose income was always pretty impressively below poverty level, so I'm in agreement with 'home but not elite' :)

Sarah, I've spent alot of time working with children in school settings you describe. I'm a social worker, not a teacher, so my work has been from the mental health end of things. You are very spot on with the observations you share here. The programs are fantastic in some ways, and lacking in others. I've seen kids thrive in them, and I've seen parents feel helpless at not having any alternatives to that path, knowing it wasn't the best fit for their child. By and large, I've seen kids re-integrate into the mainstream, the earlier they start, for what that's worth.

Here's the but...if you have the means and the where-with-all to find a better fit for your son, consider it. I don't want anything I'm saying to be seen as judging, either those programs or parents/children who are there, because I can fully respect both. But, I think all kids will do their best in an environment that is a great fit for them, and if you have a kid that needs to have accomodations, then accomodations are needed. If the public school can provide that for you, great. If it falls short, and you think you can do more accomodating in some other way, then it will only make your child more successful. There is so much about parenting that is temporary, and this too may be one of those things. If right now homeschooling makes sense, it's no less worth trying than anything else. It can always be re-evaluated.

But, your original topic was more about being outside than homeschooling per se, as I read it. I wholeheartedly agree with your observation on it. Behavior problems just seem to disappear when we're outside, which is why we spend alot of time outside at my house. I just came in from the outdoors where I was huddled in the cold watching them ride bikes. They're happy, I had my coffee and a book, what's not to like!?

I'm a former unschooled kid, and I think it's a great idea! I was home for 6 years, age 10-16 (when I went to University-Go Ducks!). I did all sorts of interesting things, including a part-time job, music lessons, travel, yoga, and living in the real world. I would even barter babysitting time for yoga lessons with my yoga instructor. I did just fine in college, better then many of my classmates because I was used to self-directing my time and studies, and had more in-depth understanding of many subjects because I had been given the time and free reign to read as much as I wanted, usually primary texts, not textbooks and have many conversations with my parents over those books. Not to mention the other homeschool parents and family friends that were happy to talk to to me about their favorite topic. I learned to ask a lot of questions. I'm now a successful and happy adult, married and an RN, with a deeper relationship with my parents then anyone else I know. There was no real structure in our homeschooling, just regular library visits and weekly events with other homeschool families. My parents both worked too, and it worked well for us. When I was a teen I had lots of babysitting jobs in the middle of the day for other homeschool families who were "tag-team parenting" and need a couple hours coverage during the day a few times a week. Other families help each other out. Chill, read, breath. My brother didn't seem to learn to read until he was 12, and then at 18 got 100% on the reading section of the TASP (Texas's college entrance placement test). Go outside and play.

I saw some kids at the park with their preschool the other day. My heart was warmed until i heard a teacher screaming "NO RUNNING!" at two little boys. um, they're in the park. . . and they can't run???? And those kids' parents are probably told that they get "plenty of outdoor time". yuck.

I would've loved to have had a homeschooling cooperative or something. But for a single WOHP it is pretty impossible. I have not know anyone who was reliant on one single outside the home income that could do it. I wish there were more parents of color homeschooling because the school system (traditional and alternative) tends to be lacking in terms of history, etc of people of color. I spent a lot of time supplementing when mine was little.

I heard that the time needed to replicate "school academics" on a one-to-one basis is 5-10 hours per week. After you subtract the distractions, transition times, busy work times.

If you have two parents and one can WOH and the other can homeschool, that's great but most folx don't have that option. For those who are doing that tricky balance,it may not seem exclusive.. . but some families really can't. I also worry about diversity. The homeschoolers I have known are pretty segregated, The Christian homeschoolers aren't mixing so much with the alterna homeschoolers/unschoolers.


I agree that it may not seem exclusive, or "elite" (the word that came to mind for me was privileged, but I think we all mean the same thing here, with no offense intended), but it's simply not a choice a lot of families have. My mother was a single WOHM in Manhattan and there's no way she could have done anything of the sort. She couldn't even manage the hours after school, let alone during. I was a full time day care kid. For us, my husband and I are both self employed WAH parents and we could certainly homeschool if we chose to, but we never would. We absolutely adore our daughter's school and are adamant supporters of public schooling. Of course, we know the system is flawed, but I don't think that means we should chuck the baby with the bath water. People make such a fuss about charter schools and the PPS lottery, but isn't homeschooling the extreme version of the same thing? I don't get why people got so riled up about the question of finding community when you lottery out of your neighborhood, but no one has even batted an eyelash at the subject of home schooling. For the record, I don't have a side in that particular debate, I just find it interesting that it doesn't seem to apply here.

Before I offend anyone, I just want to clarify what I mean when I say "privileged". I think everyone here can agree that spending uninterrupted hours with your children during the week is a gift. I certainly feel lucky and yes, privileged, that both my husband and I get so much more time with our daughter than my mother and his father had with us.

As a preschool teacher and mother of a four year old boy, I've seen how essential outdoor time is. The children thrive in a well balanced day of indoor art, academics, and music with time to explore the wonders of our "urban homestead" when outside. The program runs for four hours. During that time we always spend at least an hour outdoors, on the best days we're outside for at least two. We love eating lunch, gardening, digging for worms and insects, painting, using chalk, playing games, playing with the bunny or hens, discovering the edible plants, and so much more all while getting the fresh air and exercise our bodies need. With a Montessori and Reggio influenced curriculum, I'm finding more and more ways to bring those philosophies outdoors.
~Kellie Maledy
Giving Tree Preschool

e., i've been pondering the same observation you just made for the last year. sorry for getting off topic. but people do get so riled up about the public school vs. charter vs. private vs. lottery program, yet i never hear homeschooling referred to in that discussion. like you, i don't have a position here, kindergarten is still a few years off for us and i have a more exploring to do.

I could not agree with you more. You are absolutely right on all accounts with regard to the privileged status of homeschooling families. Home schoolers are in a place where you actually have a choice in the matter. Perhaps home schoolers are scrimping as a result of their choice, but they have the choice to make. A rarity indeed.

I also wonder about the impact of the decision to homeschool has on the community of the children being homeschooled. By refusing to participate in one's own neighborhood shool, a negative impact can result. A school's culture is created by parents, teachers, admin and kids. It's an organic process and can be a beautiful thing.

The Mother Earth K was started by myself and a few others as an offshoot of Shining Star Waldorf School about 3 years ago and ended up over at Tryon Life Community Farm. Last December we let that program go off on its own (at its own request) as had been previously anticipated and it remains a stunning success despite the rainy cold winter weather and the children are thriving.

We are hoping to open a new eastside similar outdoor program for preschool-K aged children as the outdoors all day (or most day) has had an amazing influence on these urban little ones.

The hours were set 9:30 am to 1:30 pm, to take advantage of ice thaw or slower mornings to be sure the kids got good hot breakfasts and plenty of wake up time.

Clothing was not really an issue and warmth has not been a huge problem given that the children tend to be warmer than adults and with wooly sweaters and proper boots and hats, tend to be actually too hot.

The time spent in the woods is interesting as well as the teachers reported that the children found it to be significantly warmer and coats, etc. came off once the spot of the day was decided.

The children also spend time in a yurt-dome where they have a quieter time and rest time or play. The farm is currently using a cob rocket-cook burner but this was actually forbade by our insurer as well as any live fires around the youngsters. The initial insurer was more prohibitive than the current one thru the farm, and I understand they are freely using wood fires now.

The other situation that is nice at Tryon are the animals. The children enjoy the chickens, the goats, and other animals that live around the place.

I think we need more such programs for our older children, and to emulate the Forest Ks of N. Europe. Our climate is actually kinder and warmer and the health benefits alone are worthwhile.

Every day, outside time. Year round and try hard to find the most unstructured wildnerness close to you. Avoid pre-formed playgrounds and find streams, cricks, meadows, woods, and more.

Magical beings reside there.

Marsha Johnson

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