This is officially our third year of homeschooling. Our time has consisted of many trials and errors, mostly ending up in living life at home and bringing the kids along for the ride, instead of “schooling” as it is traditionally defined. While it may sound good in theory, I realize we need a better routine for smoother days and to have a more Heaven-like experience. Like probably all home educating parents, I’ve studied a lot of theories and philosophies, and while I have my ideal of what a true biblically-based education should be, it has been much more difficult putting that into practice.
Recently I listened to a podcast about an outdoor school in which the kids are outside for the entire day, rain or shine, year-round. It started me thinking about doing our learning outside all day long. Why not? Didn’t God create the first classroom in a garden?
Although I know we’ve probably read these quotes many times, they took on a new meaning to me as I re-read the wisdom from the Spirit of Prophecy in light of considering schooling in a different environment than before. From the pen of inspiration:
“The system of education instituted at the beginning of the world was to be a model for man throughout all after time. As an illustration of its principles a model school was established in Eden, the home of our first parents. The Garden of Eden was the schoolroom, nature was the lesson book, the Creator Himself was the instructor,” Child Guidance, p.294.
To me that means that not only should we pursue an outdoor schoolroom as was modeled in Eden, but that God Himself will be our Master Instructor when we use His book of nature. Praise God for taking the pressure off this mama!!!
“The fields and hills-nature’s audience chamber- should be the schoolroom for little children. Her treasures should be their textbook….Parents may do much to connect their children with God by encouraging them to love the things of nature which He has given them, and to recognize the hand of the Giver in all they receive. The soil of the heart may thus early be prepared for casting in the precious seeds of truth, which in due time will spring up and bear a rich harvest,” Child Guidance, p.48.
Doesn’t it sound like the hearts of our children will be more reachable and prepared to hear God’s voice through the love of nature? Sign me up for that too please! Not to mention the numerous Bible characters who spent their time learning in nature … Jesus, David, Moses, Jacob, Isaac, Abraham, Abel, and Adam, to name a few.
Of course nature has many physical health benefits as well. Have you seen the articles proclaiming, “sitting is the new smoking,” based in part on this research? Basically science is catching up with the Spirit of Prophecy, and showing that exercise for a relatively short time each day does not offset the effects of sitting for hour upon hour. Makes sense doesn’t it?
Here’s what Ellen White was inspired to write about it:
“The human body may be compared to nicely adjusted machinery …. One part should not be subjected to constant wear and pressure, while another part is rusting from inaction. While the mind is tasked, the muscles also should have their proportion of exercise,” Fundamentals of Christian Education p.72.
“The benefits of physical labor in the open air have the advantage tenfold to that obtained within doors,” The Health Reformer, September 1, 1873, Par.5.
To put this into practice, my plan is to include time for the physical exercise as much or more than the mental, depending on the age of our children. More to come on our daily schedule in a later post …
Another area of health I’m keenly aware of is eye health and vision development. This one is more personal to me as I have very poor eyesight due in large part, I believe, to intemperate habits of reading and studying early on. I still struggle with turning off the research part of my brain and letting my eyes and mind rest.
My understanding is that our eyes were created in such a way that the muscles are at their optimal length (not too long, not too short) when we are looking at objects about seven feet away. When we are reading, our muscles shorten to enable a sharp near focus, and over time the muscles can no longer lengthen properly, hence creating a need to look through “corrective lenses” that allow the eyes to see at longer distances while the muscles stay in a shortened position. Unfortunately, it doesn’t fix the problem of the shortened muscles, but rather encourages them to stay short.
Beautifully, God created our world with an abundance of nature scenery to enjoy both up close and afar to achieve that perfect balance. It’s not at all like reading a book for hours on end. In contrast, the scenery of the great outdoors is always demanding our eyes adapt to focus at varying distances. I hope to teach my children that reading is great in moderation, but nature is to be our living textbook.
These are just a few of my top reasons for having an outdoor-based learning environment over the coming school year and hopefully for many years to come. While there are many nature activities and things to study about nature that we will include, my aim is more on how to utilize a living outdoor classroom and purposefully move more often — not just for an occasional nature walk, study, activity, or outing, but as a lifestyle.
After digging for information on how to put this into practice, I came up with very little, and what I did find was heavily influenced by non-Christian themes. So, although I’m no expert in either outdoor living or homeschooling, I will share our experience over this school year in hopes of encouraging others’ love of nature and of nature’s Creator. This will be our attempt at educating with an outdoor lifestyle in an indoor society.
Here are some things we did over the summer to begin shifting our homeschool to an outdoor-based environment. So far we haven’t bought anything extra, so it is budget-friendly, though I do have a mental list of things I’d like to buy when we can.
What looked like an area of relaxation to me looked like a ship with masts to climb to them!
One of our first orders of business was to encourage more outdoor time even in the summer heat by setting up resting and play spots in the shade to entice the kids to enjoy the simplicity of being outside. We also put up a mesh tent over our picnic table to remedy being bothered by mosquitoes and bees while eating.
Though we don’t have a very large porch, we cleared off an area and spread a comforter on the ground for a more comfortable learning nook. We also put up curtains made from sheets to block the hot morning sun that shines on the porch mid-morning to early afternoon. We try to wear light cotton clothing, as that helps us stay cool and well-ventilated in the heat and humidity.
Is this type of schooling even possible in this day and age? I believe it is, and I’m bound and determined by God’s wisdom and inspiration to figure out how to immerse ourselves in God’s nature lesson book to keep our hearts receptive to the gentle voice of the Creator and Savior so we can be ready for His soon coming! I hope you’ll join me on the learning journey in this world to prepare our hearts for the glorious new world to come.