Editor’s note: The Sages- Clark, Kelly, Clark (8), Sophie (5) – are a homeschooling family who believes in “learning by living” with nature as their classroom. This month’s “My Outdoor Family” column features Kelly’s perspectives on a variety of outdoor-related topics, and readers can learn more about the entire Sage family on Kelly’s blog, SageTribe: Adventures from our village.?
How do you use the outdoors for daily learning opportunities?
From wild edible, tree, and invasive species identification, to finding out the name of the flower we love or working in our garden, counting down the months until the raspberries will be ready to fill our bellies, our family seeks knowledge and resources found outside. We plan our vacations around places we want to hike, and once on our travels, seek lakes over swimming pools, parks over malls, and woods over city streets. The outdoors recharges us, and whether we are in it exploring, or tucked indoors reading about volcanoes, the gifts of nature are the gifts we tend to seek before all others.
What is your outdoor family “history?”
When I first met my husband, our first date was a hike to a waterfall nestled in the mountains of Virginia. Our first trip together, camping our way from the Blue Ridge Mountains to Red Rock Canyon. We were married outside in a state park, and our honeymoon followed the same path, hiking the rainforests on Vancouver Island. This was probably the main connection that brought us together.
My first seven years of motherhood were spent working full time as a teacher. My mornings and afternoons were spent mostly inside the classroom, so in the evenings I needed to be outside as much possible. Bike rides, after dinner walks, trips to the park and creek were as normal as the other parts of our daily routine. Two years ago I left teaching to homeschool my kids, and one of the greatest gifts I’ve discovered is that I no longer need to wait until evenings or weekends to explore.
What are some examples of favorite outdoor activities?
Our small Indiana town has a wonderful park system lined with trails and creeks, and we love meeting with a local homeschool co-op throughout the week to play, skateboard, or hike. Like most children, ours are drawn to water, so we often seek out creeks filled with crinoids, bryozoans, brachiopods, gastropods, bivalves, and trace fossils.
We also enjoy the local farmer?s market and many “you-pick” farms in our area. But our favorite way to be outside is in our own backyard, digging in the garden, swinging in the hammock, climbing trees, making forts, and building memories.
Are you raising your children with a set of “outdoor values?” What are those?
Our outdoor family values are no different than our indoor values: Be kind, be curious, and pick up after yourself. The children know to respect all living things, and from a young age were taught never to stomp on bugs or destroy a plant “just because.” They often bring us trash, shaking their heads in disgust at whoever was too lazy to dispose of it properly. We strive to instill in our children the awe and appreciation of, respect for, and responsibility to care for all living things. Spending our lives outside, we think, will naturally gift them these values.