My boys are outdoor country boys through-and-through! They wake up and beg to go outside before breakfast is warm and table is set. We coax them into waiting until their bellies are full (and mom and dad are dressed), and in the summer we have to debate about the usefulness of clothes on a young boy as well. When fall swings around, there is no damper on the boys’ excitement for the outdoors, but we do have to change the experience slightly.
Less Sun, Still Fun?
The sunny, warm summers meant the boys could run free morning, noon, and night. They’d come in the house with crickets, grasshoppers, beetles, roly-polies, caterpillars, lady bugs, frogs, lizards, and handfuls of other cringe-worthy organisms. They knew just where to look to find the best critters.
When fall comes around the leaves die, the tiny bugs and reptiles seem to hide, the wind is cold, and the boys grow…bored. Where we used to coax them into staying inside during the hottest parts of the day, now we have to convince them there is something worth finding outside after the first run of the morning. We don’t get much snow in even the deepest months of winter, but in October? Nothing but gusty, brown cold. Mom and Dad have to put on their thinking caps when the seasons change.
Routine, Routine, Routine
The R-word is one I hate, and I’m not fond of that h word either. The only thing routine about our family is the places we go through the week at the same time every week: church, taekwando, Celebrate Recovery, my mom’s, repeat. During the winter, if we don’t slip outdoor play into our daily routine, it just won’t happen.
This year I’ll be talking a lot about practical life schooling, which is my focus in my homeschooling with my boys. They’re using an online curriculum for their main academics, which means Mom’s role is practical life application. Part of the challenge will be to include outdoor activities during cold months!
Practical Outdoor Play Made Easy
First, make sure you know what your kid likes to do outside, how they like to learn, and how they burn their tiny-human energy. If it’s looking for critters (spatial, logical), then maybe they’d also like to look for other forms of wildlife — or proof of wildlife (nests, scratches, tracks, droppings). If your kid likes to dig in the dirt (kinesthetic), maybe he or she would also like to stack firewood, rake leaves — and jump into them — and paint a fence.
Here is my list for this October/November:
- Yard Work: Clearing trash, brush, weeds, leaves away so that next year our yard can flourish (and we can enjoy the snow more thoroughly this winter).
- Nature Hikes: To find nuts, nests, bones, turtle shells, etc., that point to life in the woods. Also bird-watching is fun this time of year because some leave, and others arrive.
- Building and Maintaining a Bird Feeder: Build a bird house or feeder for those winter birds that stick around. Let the kids photograph the birds and make a book that they can add to as seasons change.
- Stacking Firewood: Mainly because the kids unstacked our firewood this summer, playing, they can stack it this fall. Discuss fire, responsibility, safety, and gain a little exercise.
- Fun Play Ideas: Dodgeball, catch, freeze tag, Olympic competitions, leaf/finger painting, and an internet’s worth of other outdoor activities to choose from.
- Star Gazing: I don’t know one kid that doesn’t like a bonfire on a fall night. This is a great time to star gaze with your students. If you have a telescope of your own: BONUS. If you don’t, your local library may have some to check out.
- Local Nature Excursions: Our regional Nature Center has fantastic programs, and many specific to homeschoolers. They also have backpacks full of themes activities for two-week check-out. If you live near to a nature center, conservation area, or zoo, there are many similar programs for homeschoolers. Also, many regions have fairs, fall festivals, and orchards with regular programing.
- Camping: My family loves to camp, and unfortunately we didn’t have the opportunity this summer. So we’re planning one fall campout before the weather turns too cold for our littles. If you are a camping family, plan ahead, and choose a camping area that has some educational programming during you stay.
- Have Fun: Your outdoor play may not be part of your specific schooling, but it is part of staying healthy! Set an example by spending time outdoors, and do something you love to do outdoors. Your enthusiasm will show.
- Include Others: Activities can be more fun when you include people you enjoy to hang out with. Spend time outside, then come in for some hot cocoa and popcorn by the fire.