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“The Elixir of Youth”

When you see this title what you do you think of first? These days it could be a claim for any number of things… a way of eating, a juice cleanse, an essential oil blend, a hand salve ;), the right way to organize your home or closet. But would you think Nature Study?

In her book, Handbook of Nature Study, Anna Botsford Comstock speaks about Nature Study this way. Read what she says…

After all, what is the chief sign of growing old? Is it not the feeling that we know all there is to be known? It is not years which make people old; it is ruts, and a limitation of interests. When we no longer care about anything except our own interests, we are then old, it matters not whether our years be twenty or eighty. It is rejuvenation for the teacher, thus growing old, to stand ignorant as a child in the presence of one of the simplest of nature’s miracles – the formation of a crystal, the evolution of the butterfly from the caterpillar, the exquisite adjustment of the silken lines in the spider’s orb web. I know how to “make magic” for the teacher who is growing old. Let her go out with her youngest pupil and reverently watch with him the miracle of the blossoming violet and say: “Dear Nature, I know naught of the wondrous life of these, your smallest creature. Teach me!” and she will suddenly find herself young.

page 4, Handbook of Nature Study
A Monarch Caterpillar from last summer

This Spring I have realized one thing that I never understood about flowering trees: it is always better to walk under them than to drive past them. The view will always be better, you will be able to smell the fragrance of the blossoms, you will be able to see and even feel the petals falling from the flowers, and you will never miss the miracle of God’s creation. When you drive past them- it’s all to fast to take in, your senses aren’t awakened to their fullest extent. When we drive past everything in this life, we get in the ruts that Comstock writes about, no matter how old we are. Those ruts make look different for each one of us, but they are all similar in the way that keep us stagnant.

Check out our homeschool curriculum here: A Gentle Feast.

Drink in the Elixir of Youth today- go out, and experience some of Spring. <3 Kate

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Senses in Nature

One of our little girls has been so busy this year growing and learning. She is 2 years-old now and will be 3 this summer. She loves playing and pretending, and over the course of this past year her favorite things to pretend have been a puppy, a honey badger named Stoffel, and Kayan from the Lion Guard. She loves to ride her scooter or her balance bike on our walks around the neighborhood. She loves the water and the beach. She’s fun and also quirky- all herself rolled up into one little body.

This past week when the kids and I were out together on our Friday Nature Hike, we went to a preserve close to our home to check out what Sugar Maples look like as they start to flower and grow their fruit in the Spring. We took our time and walked 2 1/2 miles around the woods finding treasures, pretending and playing on the trail. I brought our wagon to push the baby in and to help our two other girls along the way.

When we started to round the last stretch of the trail to go back to the Sugar Maples and then our car, my 2 year-old started to scream in terror. All of a sudden, her senses were on overdrive and she was in a heightened sensory state, kicking and screaming, gripped in fear. At first, I couldn’t figure out what was going on because it happened so suddenly. And then I realized that it was the little bugs in the air that were causing this response. When we had started on the trail earlier that afternoon, the wind had kept the insects at bay, but on the way back- they were flying around and it was too much for her.

My 1 year-old was also getting tired and I had been carrying her for a bit, and when she saw her sister, she also started to become afraid and cry. So, as you can imagine, I had two little girls in tears, both fearful but one who was in a completely heightened state, a wagon, and two older children who were watching this, having no idea how to help or what was going on. I tried to calm my daughter down, but she didn’t seem to hear me or understand anything past what she was feeling. I shouted to her to stop, that they were only bugs, but walking any further was impossible. She was completely overtaken by her senses. After a few minutes of trying to help her and make her see it was okay, I was finally able to stick her in the wagon and put a blanket over her so that she couldn’t see the bugs and could calm down. We walked past the marshy area and found a grassy field to let her calm down and she fell asleep under the blanket while we recovered from the episode.

One of the reasons that we love Nature Study as a family is because it gets us outside, using all of our senses. There are many times that we have been out on a trail and we have barely made it through because someone is having a bad attitude, wearing the wrong shoes, tired, sore… the list would be endless if I focused on all of the obstacles of getting outside and enjoying nature together. This was the first time one of us had this kind of sensory response outside and I know, especially with our little girl, it won’t be the last.

Even after our Friday hike, she continued to struggle and showed the same response of fear to bugs in the air, and then even dust that she saw floating around in the house. Finally, we realized that she was seeing things in the air and also feeling her hair tickling her face. I’ve given her one of our baby muslin blankets that she can use if she is feeling too scared by what she sees. And we have been talking about her fears all day, praying about them, and encouraging her to pray about them. Today, we didn’t keep her inside, but instead took her to the park on a walk in order to ride her bike and play with some bubbles on the grass- helping her to understand her environment, the different changes in nature this Spring, and to learn how to not be afraid of small bugs. It’s not the end of this journey with her, because the bugs have only begun and she may have this response with other things as she grows. But we have been encouraged by the progress we have seen in her as we patiently help her understand her sensory system, and learn about it ourselves.

I’ll have to share more of this journey as it unfolds. Until then, get outside despite the obstacles! <3 Kate

Check out our homeschool curriculum: A Gentle Feast