Showing posts with label nature. Show all posts
Showing posts with label nature. Show all posts

Monday, October 7, 2013

Bringing Nature In :: Part III :: Flora and Fauna

Linking up with my friend Nicole over at Frontier Dream's KCCO this week! 

This is the third part of a series that I started writing about this past summer. The first part, about bringing nature into your child's play and playroom, is going to make its way into the Autumn/Winter edition of Rhythm of the Home Magazine - so I apologize about not being able to view it right now due to publishing rights. The second part was on bringing nature into your child's bedroom, or more specifically how we did it on our little ones' rooms (which I now- four months into the new room- can attest to its benefits!). And finally, I am on to this third part about bringing flora and fauna into your home, for your child's sake and your own. 

Our grumpy box turtle named "Toodles"
There's quite a few ways that you can bring flora and fauna in. One of the first ways we did it was by getting a few little critters. If you're like me at first you might be a bit iffy about this. I was. But any good naturalist will tell you- as well as Richard Louv who wrote "Last Child In The Woods"- that to be closer to nature you have to study and observe it. You have to have a personal connection with it. And one of the rites of passage of childhood and first connections for children come when they bring little critter indoors for a bit to watch them. They learn about them and learn to love them. That love will last them a lifetime. It will spark an interest in them the continue to grow and grow. They will start to see more fauna outdoors than before once they start bringing in critters. Now let me say that we don't allow in dangerous critters. No spiders or anything that we can't identify. No large critters. But we have adopted and released a baby bunny, a duckling, a gosling, a few baby birds- not fledglings, turtles, tadpoles, frogs, toads, lizards, and a myriad of bugs and butterflies. 

Little Ribbit- our fire bellied toad
Currently we have a plestiodon- a skink with a blue tail, a itty bitty baby snapping turtle, and our permanent store bought pet toad- who eats live crickets so we also have a few dozen of those. We also have about 10-12 wood toads in our backyard and one grumpy box turtle who meanders about in my compost. Richard Louv related in his book how some of his earliest experiences with fauna shaped his love of nature inextricably later in life. He retells a funny story about saving turtles in the spring from being run over with his family in their pick-up and then keeping them all summer long in his backyard and then releasing them. 

Another way you can bring flora and fauna into your home is by keeping a nature tray or table. We keep a Waldorf nature table that reflects our month and season in the corner of our dining room. On it I have a small tray for our favorite bits of nature we collect. But now that the kids are older and we're learning about trees and their outdoor world in much more detail, lots of nature comes into the house. I need a place to put it all so we could touch it, identify it, draw it. 

Our nature table mini tray

So I opted for an old ruined roasting pan on a low bench next to our Atelier. The kids have corners for related pieces of nature that they find and divided up on their own. They love to just sit with this tray in their lap and their field guide in their hands trying to find which nut came from which tree. Does it look a little unkempt? Is it maybe an eyesore? Possibly. But the way I see it is that there is a finite time in my life that I will have 'eyesores' about. One day my house will be clean and consequently empty. I don't mind the clutter now, especially if the kids are relishing the experience and learning about their world. I am positive it will stay with them throughout theirs lives as it did with me. (So thanks Mom and Dad for buying me safety goggles and a hammer to cracks open rocks with!)

Nuts galore

Lastly this is another big one here for us. I love to grow our own food and garden. At every house I have lived at with a yard in the past 5 years, I have kept a garden- even when I still lived in an apartment/town house complex. That equals...4 gardens (as well as string of berry bushes). Also at the one place I lived at with no yard at all, I had a window herb garden! At first I wasn't used to gardening with kids. I remember in horror when a little toddler Deirdre (my oldest who is now almost 6) pulled up a tomato plant when I was weeding- she was trying to help! Kids love to garden. The gravitate to my garden. The love to eat the food they pick- even when they usually dislike it otherwise. It's crazy really. So making gardens kid friendly is a big deal for me. It makes my life easier and the kids have tons of fun. Plus all that yummy and beautiful goodness makes its way back into your home! It's another great way to bring nature in. 

Currently we're only growing broccoli and cabbage- as well as our herbs. The kids each have their own special garden in a box, all to themselves since it's part of their school work. They water it, weed it, prune it. and decorate it. I have my big garden with the bulk of our plants in it. But it is also kid friendly. I have a path through it that is wide to they can walk on it and not be too caught up in stepping on something. I use hay mulch in the garden so they can clearly see what's a plant or a weed. They can sit in it and explore- or just relax. Right now they have been using it to hunt for trolls. They think trolls like cabbage :)

I hope this gives you a few good ideas on how to bring more nature into your home. I cannot recommend Richard Louv's book enough. It's another one of those game changer books for me. It's right up there with Rahima Baldwin Dancy's, "You Are Your Child's First Teacher". Go read it! 

How do you already bring nature in? What critters do you have? How do you garden with the kids? I'd love to you, so please share! 

Also if you could please be thinking about my family and praying for us over the next few weeks, I'd be very grateful. A lot of changes are have happened at Craig's work and it's effected us quite a bit. So many things are uncertain. We all could use lots of wisdom, strength, and provision. 

PS: I am linking up with Linda at Natural Suburbia  Nicole S at Frontier Dreams, and Carrie at Crafty Moms Share. These are also some of my favorite blogs so hop over for a look! 

Love and Light,

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Family Time :: Back Creek Park

Osprey and her chick!
Since our move back in December from Newport News to Yorktown, we've slowly been discovering our new surroundings. I had lived in Newport News since August 2005, when I first began college at Christopher Newport University- now my alma mater. When we got married and had Deirdre, we stayed in Newport News as well. We've moved 5 times since then but they all we within that city, until now. Granted Yorktown is not far from Newport News. All of the cities in Hampton Roads are pretty close to one another, but it does change our rhythm a bit. I have been struggling to dive in to my new city and love it for what it is versus coveting other places for what it is not.

So since it has warmed up, we've been going out and driving around and getting lost and finding our way home. I call it having an adventure. I usually pack a picnic dinner and trow a quilt in the trunk and off we go.

In upper Yorktown, there are lots of little rural areas that seem to go on forever until you hit water. One of those places is called Dandy, and in Dandy there is a lovely little park called "Back Creek Park". It's small and it doesn't have a playground. But what it does have are boats and docks which are teeming with marsh life.

Before I discovered my love of history and language, I really wanted to be a marine biologist and worked quite hard to that end. I volunteered and interned at the Virginia Aquarium for 4 years as well. While there was another plan for my life, what that has left me with is a good knowledge of sea life as well as a decent knowledge of our local marsh life. Being able to share that with my children is indescribable. It just makes my heart burst in love and thankfulness.

At times I really miss being close to the ocean. A part of my soul is tied up in the sea. But being so close now to this water and the York river has been a nice affirmation that this is where we ought to be right now. And I am at peace with that.

Also, Please try and do a test comment on this post for me. A few friends have said my comments aren't working. I think I fixed the problem. But I need someone else to check!!

Until next time,

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Bringing Nature In:: Part II :: Our Waldorf Woodland Bedroom

We have had a BUSY weekend over here. My house is a mess- but a huge productive work in progress. After the move this past December, I sorta just wrote off a few rooms in the house. Mainly the children's bedroom that Deirdre and Jonas share as well as our bedroom. It was functional but not pretty. Since I feel like we spend very little time in those rooms, I focused on getting the playroom, family room, dining room, and kitchen in order. But now we've been in the house for six months, the state of our rooms started to bother me. While they weren't terrible, I just did not like being in them. They felt disorganized to me. They took longer to clean. They just felt off. 
Since I have been working on bringing more nature into the children's play and our lives when we're indoors, I thought that bringing it into their bedroom might be a good idea too. During the first seven years of a child's life, they are extremely sensitive to their environments. They consciously and unconsciously imitate their surroundings. This is one reason why in Waldorf, it is recommended that children have beautiful and natural toys. It's not just for the developmental benefit of open ended playthings, but also for the way in which they, our home, ourselves, impact our children as they unfold during these critical first years. Another reason for working on their bedroom was to improve their sleep. While I am blessed with children who do and have generally slept well and for 12 hours at a time- plus naps- I wanted to continue to make sure that their room was conducive for good and restorative sleep (which is paramount to their development as well). 

So here is my little room project. I am very very pleased with the finished product. Most of the decor in this room was re-purposed!!! I got the gnome print from an old book we already had. The fabric and paint I used on the logs I already had on hand. I brought in logs and branches which were free and just added to them. I also reused a lot of decor I had on hand from the kid's old bedroom and the baby's nursery. 

I lazured the walls yellow. The base coat is a light blue and the top veil was made with Stockmar lemon and gold yellow. The lazure was in the end not hard. I was nervous about it but it was fairly simple- just labor intensive. I did this alone, it is a small room, but I recommend having a helper. 

We added bunk beds since the kids are a bit older. So far it is working well. before we had floor beds, which is common with Montessori. I liked the floor beds, but it was time for a change. I hung our two Kinderkram mobiles up in to corners of the room. We got them from Bella Luna Toys and I cannot recommend them or Sarah's store enough. Just lovely. 

I made a branch tree with felt leaves for the corner near the window. I added on some decorative birds and butterflies as well as a nest we found on a walk. The tree was spray painted with gold glitter and sealed with shellac. I also picked up a white ceramic mushroom that I paint red with glitter to set near the tree. 
The kids also requested two gnome and tomten doors for their magical friends David and Timmy. They were worried about them having trouble getting in and out of their rooms. If you're new to the blog, I tell the children nightly stories about David and Timmy's adventures and have been doing so since January 2011. I make them up and they're simple- but boy do they love them! 

To complete the woodland room, I farmed some of their favorite gnome prints in the window frame. I love home rustic it looks. Lastly in the far corner near the door I made some stump mushrooms with fabric and one painted. I also made a burlap 'dream' banner in Waldorf lettering to hang over the stump mushrooms. 

I think that covers it all. Phew. Like I said it was a BUSY weekend, but oh so worth it. The kids love their new room. They are sleeping better and seem to be more peaceful. I am just finishing up Rahima Dancy Baldwin's book, You Are Your Child's First Teacher, for the second time. If you have children under seven, I highly recommend it. 

How did you do your child's room? Did you see a difference in their sleep? Have you incorporated more natural surroundings into their bedrooms? If so, how?

Until next time!
Blessings, Nicole

Also Our $75 Nova Natural giveaway is still going on until 7/19!
Don't forget to enter!

Also please check out my blog hops tab to see all the lovely blogs I visit and am linking up to this week! 

Linking up this week with Frontier DreamsMagic OnionsNatural Suburbia, and Crafty Moms Share and a few others! Please check out my 'where I party' page! 

Friday, June 21, 2013

Bringing Nature In :: Part I :: The Playroom

Play is the mechanism by which children learn—how they experience their world, practice new skills, and internalize new ideas—and is therefore the essential “work of children”.
- Dr. Vivian Paley from her book, "A Child's Work: The Importance of Fantasy Play"

Through play, children learn
about the world and engage in activities
that encourage their cognitive, emotional, and social development. 

- Dr. David Elkind from his book, "The Power of Play: How Spontaneous, Imaginative Activities Lead to Happier and Healthier Children"

When people hear that I am a Waldorf homeschooler, the first question they usually ask is, “What is Waldorf “? The second most times is, “I love your toys, but why so simple? Why open ended? Do they really help”? Well, I am here to say that yes they do help and it's not just Waldorf teachers and advocates who say this. It's also prominent child developmental psychologists, former public school teachers, and linguists who say the same thing- that children need to play, that their play does not need to be tinkered with by adults, and that children need suitable, simple, opened ended toys to play with in order to get the most out of their play.  This is precisely where Waldorf, and other educational philosophies, get it right and do it well.

What then could be more simple that having a basket full of natural toys in your playroom? You don't need expensive blocks. You don't even need expensive toys. Really a basket of shells, rocks, and pine cones will do!

Children can get overloaded by too many toys. It overwhelms their senses and it can diminish their play and focus. I know we've all been there too when we walk in our bedrooms at night and have to tidy it up before our minds will calm down and sleep. It is the same for children.

Joan Almon, Coordinator of the U.S. branch of the Alliance for Childhood, and former chair of the Waldorf Early Childhood Association of North America, said that "children were most relaxed and played best if the space was fairly simple but pleasing to the senses. It should be calming and lovely, but not so beautiful and complete that the children hesitate to move anything or disturb the order". This is where we as adults can step in and help. We can create environments for our children that are relaxed, beautiful, and filled with natural and  simple toys. In a way that they will not be overwhelmed or underwhelmed.

We also need to make sure that children can easily clean up their playrooms. Almon goes on to say "Play is a messy business in the best sense of the word, for it is hard to create without making a mess. A good play environment invites you to come in and change it – but it is orderly enough that it is easy to clean it up again. There’s a place for everything and it becomes fun for the children to know where each object lives and put it back at the end of play time."

So this Autumn, as your child’s play turn inward and takes place indoors more often, why not try bringing more nature in? Reassess what toys you have in your home and how you have set them up. Does every toy have an simple home to sit when play is done? When you sit in the room do you feel calm or cluttered? If your answer is the latter, than your child might feel the same way too. Over and over again as I was researching why natural simple and open-ended toys were best, again and again, researcher after research said that the simpler the play materials, the more effective they are at stimulating play. And if play if the child's' most "essential work" then ensuring that we bring nature indoors for them and having open ended toys for should therefore be our essential work as their parents.


Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Mulling over Living

I have been mulling over the topic of "living" today. What a silly thing to mull over really, but not in an existential sense. Tonight I wanted to write an update about our moving plans, our new home, and how we are going to try to make a clean start at green living in this new place- much more so than we do now. 

However after watching the French film "Welcome" tonight with a group of church friends, I felt that I just wanted to share some of the beauty of our lives and the world around us with tonight. God has left us to be stewards of his creation and for this reason I want to live a 'greener' more conscious life. I want to leave my children with a beautiful world, not a dying one. I want them to know nature's beauty and glory. I want them to respect and love the Lord's creation, as it should be. 

So here is a bit of our world. I would be remiss to not share it with you in a post about 'living' since it is the world we live in. The only one we have. 

The Rhodora 
by Ralph Waldo Emerson
On Being Asked Whence Is the Flower
In May, when sea-winds pierced our solitudes,
I found the fresh Rhodora in the woods,
Spreading its leafless blooms in a damp nook,
To please the desert and the sluggish brook.
The purple petals, fallen in the pool,
Made the black water with their beauty gay;
Here might the red-bird come his plumes to cool,
And court the flower that cheapens his array.
Rhodora! if the sages ask thee why
This charm is wasted on the earth and sky,
Tell them, dear, that if eyes were made for seeing,
Then Beauty is its own excuse for being:
Why thou wert there, O rival of the rose!
I never thought to ask, I never knew:
But, in my simple ignorance, suppose
The self-same Power that brought me there brought you.