We all have our various reasons for why we have decided to homeschool our children. One I hear again and again is that parents don’t want their children cooped up indoors all day. In an effort to spend more time out of doors, let’s talk about how we can incorporate a nature walk into our homeschool rhythm.
What is a nature walk?
At its core, a nature walk is just a scheduled time that you plan to be out of doors. It is a chance to you to stretch your legs, unplug, observe and explore as a family.
All you need to do is think about where spending some intentional time outside could fit easily into your day.
When to go for a nature walk?
I feel like the word ‘scheduled’ that I used above can sound kind of heavy and limiting. Just think of where going for a walk could naturally fit into the rhythm of your homeschool. Does everyone need a break after math is finished in the morning? Are the children climbing the walls after lunch? Maybe, everyone needs some fresh air after their afternoon naps or quiet time.
The best thing you can do is to pick a time in the day that will be easy for your family to commit to. Often in the summer we save our walks for after dinner. It’s generally a little cooler by then and with the longer days it’s easy to fit it in because we don’t go anywhere after dinner.
In the winter I prefer to go on a nature walk in the morning before lunch. It’s closest to the warmest part of the day here, the sun is definitely up and we don’t have as many day time commitments in the winter months.
There is no right or wrong time for a nature walk. There is only a time that is good for your family.
Where to go walking?
Anywhere. That is the easy answer. No, you don’t need a forest or an expansive park to go on a nature walk. It could be a simple as going on a loop around your block, taking the time to notice what birds happen to be in the trees.
The point of this isn’t about where you go, but simply about going. It’s working the routine of spending time in nature into your schedule. It’s about learning to enjoy being outside even in less desirable weather. It’s about remembering why you deiced to homeschool in the first place.
Why go on nature walks?
Unless you have been hiding from the news feeds, you have probably heard about the benefits of spending time in nature.
Spending time out of doors has many benefits for our physical health, mental health and even crosses over into academic performance and competency. Spending time in nature has even been shown to decrease levels of anxiety and depression.
According to the Centre for Disease Control (CDC) children 8-10 years old spend an average of 6 hours per day in front of screens. The numbers don’t get better. 11- 14 year olds spend an average of 9 hours per day in front of screens. 15-18 year olds is an average of 7.5 hours. Most of their day is spent sitting in front of a screen.
This is not to say screens are bad, but it’s an opportunity to remind ourselves about what our goals are with our homeschools.
If you would like to take a look at more scientific data about nature walks, here is a link to a review of the various studies done on nature walks. While the data in the article focuses on adult participants, please remember this walk is just as much for you as it is for the children.
Resources for getting kids outside
If you are building a nature walk into your homeschool rhythm for the first time, it can seems a little overwhelming. Especially if you stumble down the path of nature study outside (YIKES!!!). Keep it simple, the point isn’t that this is a ‘learning’ expedition. A nature walk is just about being outside together. Sometimes some really cool things happen, a lot of them time nothing exciting happens and that’s ok too.
You truly don’t need to do anything to on a nature walk. But some times when we are adding new things to our homeschool it can help to have a compass to point us in the direction we want to go.
If your children are reluctant about getting outside try getting some fields guides for your area and make a goal to identify one new tree (or flower, or bush) each walk. You could always do a nature scavenger hunt. You could make your own or there are LOADS on Pintrest that are often free if you are willing to give them your email address.
You could also try a family challenge. Set a goal for how many hours you want to be outside and what the ‘prize’ will be once you get there. Maybe it’s a fun movie night or a trip for ice cream. Whatever it is, everyone is going to enjoy meeting your outdoor hours goal.
If you are looking for some more in depth resources, here are a few of my favourites:
1. How to Raise a Wild Childs by Scott Sampson (yes, Dr Scott from Dinosaur Train has a book and it’s fantastic) all about why it is important for children to spend time out of doors.
2. Outdoor Kids in an Inside World by Steven Rinella. Steven Rinella (of MeatEater) wrote this amazing books that is full of tips and tricks for getting your family to spend more time in nature. He also includes personal stories about he and his family like to enjoy nature together.
3. 1000 Hours Outside is a blog & podcast dedicated to children spending time outdoors. If you are looking for hands on resources about spending time outside, definitely check it out.
Tell me in the comments, do you have a nature walk in your homeschool rhythm? What is your favourite way to spend time outside as a family?