I had been feeling a little guilty about the shortage of homeschooling with the girls in last few days so set myself the task of coming up with some interesting projects ready for tomorrow. Sitting in front of the computer I researched various blogs, education sites and old notations for any stimulating ideas. I saw none and had even less myself.
Turning my head to the outside world, I noticed the bird feeding apparatus lacked the usual morning congestion. It was one of my jobs while house sitting. Almost empty, with several sparrows sitting in wait, the container needed attention. The dog poo I was supposed to be picking up was also piling up along with last nights dinner plates. To hell with the lot. I wanted to be walking in wild woods, watching my feet on bare earth. That’s natural learning (and living) out there – beyond the confines of my window view. I realised poo was becoming a theme of our latest UK house sitting jobs and it didn’t sit well with me.
“Kids, get your jackets. We are going for a drive”.
A few days ago I had passed a beautiful river meandering along the English countryside and now I felt the urge to explore. I understand why they call it countryside over here. Their country is along the side of everything and along the side of every green area are hedges. Almost 80% of England is declared agricultural land therefore you mostly see green hedges (in Summer anyway). Towns are held together with social glue, tightly packed in like dominoes in a box and then, as if it’s the edge of a cliff, the houses stop to welcome the countryside. Masses of hedgerows also divide the farming landscape, allowing for frequent seasonal picking by us and the animals of the UK.
The girls are I are dropped off at the start of a 5 km round trip along a pristine waterway, lined with – you guessed it – hedgerows. I recognise a lot of the species of plants as many Australian garden varieties have made the epic journey from this motherland. It’s still early in the season before their delicacies ripen but already, a few minutes into this walk I can count 7 edible plants I know. The elder flowers are just bursting open, rosehips forming, nettle, dill, wild parsley and coriander on their final flowers and a long list of simple greens and larger tree species. I am in heaven. I am keen to try the burdock and wild asparagus but need to look for a few recipes.
Walking silently through the forest I look forwards some 50 meters to see my youngest daughter Jay, scaling down the embankment to explore the riverbanks I presume. I sometimes forget she like the outdoors for adventure rather than for the natural wonders. Seasonal changes, scents, life cycles, animal interactions and above all else the spiritual connections between self and surrounds have always been my draw card to get amongst the wilderness.
I need to remind myself to accommodate each childs interests even if the setting is the same for both. How we educate and open our children’s mind is best done by following their lead. No amount of researching or time spent preparing lessons can provide adventure or connection, it just pacifies my guilt about any lack of homeschooling.
Here now, in this forest of England the learning is occurring. Mine as much as the children’s. I still worry though about their spiritual growth and how to instill in them a sense of joy and connection to a higher universal energy but that is their own path. I can only provide the platform on which they can take that ride if they wish.
Almost 3 hours later our bus transport arrived to pick us up with a weary husband behind the wheel. He had been to the local town to purchase some screws and other building things that we simply could not make or find. The kids and I were tired, hungry and keen to make some elderberry flower and potato fritters we had been discussing on our walk. The only problem was we forgot to get some elder flowers. Boarding the bus we remembered an elderberry tree that lived just across the road from where we are staying and it had begun to flower.
Pulling into the driveway I noticed the elder flowers we wanted to pick were extremely high and surrounded by nettles. I instantly said that zucchini and potato fritters were equally as good but Nakeela our eldest, insisted she could reach. I left her at the base of the massive tree to prepare our lunch or dinner.
I started cracking eggs and grating potato, listening to the British butter sizzle in the pan. Health conscious vegetarian I am – vegan – not yet. I was just about to call ‘come and get it’ when Nakeela burst in through the back door beaming like she had just seen a rare species of British bird. She glowed a sense of mystery and love.
“A Black bird just helped me find some flowers Mum”.
Asking what she meant and intrigued by her radiant glow, I listened attentively to her story. Sometimes all kids have to share are their stories.
This is Nakeelas Black Bird Story.
Well, I couldn’t reach the flowers so got a bit sad. I stood near the tree, closed my eyes and asked for help from a bird. Straight away a black bird landed right beside me and looked at me. I told him I need some help. He knew I need flowers. He flew off down the road so fast I almost couldn’t keep up. He landed on the branch of an elderberry tree which had flowers on it. I walked over and picked them. Look at these.
Nakeela looked like I felt when my heart chakra explodes unexpectedly or when I have just come out of a 10 day Vipassana course – in love with the world and fully connected to the energies that flow around and within us.
Its moments like this when I feel I am doing something right – allowing natural learning to happen – and when it does happen, I need to remember it.
Spirituality and connection to our natural world is not something I can teach – it needs to be felt. I am merely here to assist in the process. Homeschool parents place so much importance on the learning we miss the point sometimes. That being learning comes from living, being involved and connected.
Too often parents feel they don’t know enough to educated their children and sometimes I see the opposite – that they believe they know everything. It’s a fine balance.
I believe the middle ground is the answer and that’s the fun part – trying to find it.
Learn to find the balance together with our children.