Unschooling is all about kids learning naturally from the world around them. There is information and knowledge to be gained from books, videos, TV shows, craft projects, play time, and pretty much anything else your child occupies their time with. Learning can come from literally anywhere and while it’s up to your child to pursue it, it’s your job to provide them access to people, places, and resources that inspire them to want to know more. One of the very best sources of inspiration is right outside your door.
Nature, wilderness, and the great outdoors can supply us with incredible things to discover, endless lessons to be learned, and unforgettable moments that will bring pure happiness to both you and your child. There are things that can be experienced in nature that are not only educational and enjoyable but that will speak to and excite your child in ways that reading something in a book never could. Actually seeing life, earth, and the environment up close and personal, especially on a regular basis, can profoundly affect how a person views the world around them and how they choose to interact with it.
Where to Explore
When it comes to exploring nature, there’s no limit. Inspiration can be found in the petal pattern of a single flower, in the vast blue of the ocean, or in the intricate workings of an ant colony. It can be fun to sometimes suggest new places to your child and other times give them opportunities to pick the spots they’d like to explore. You can get outside and go pretty much anywhere but if you need some ideas to start with you can try some of the following outdoorsy spots.
Beaches are always teeming with life and a lot of children love investigating what could be living in the tide pools, discovering that there may be clams living under the sand, and checking out the different types of seaweeds that have washed up on the shore. The can start to understand how tides, currents, waves, and undertows work or they may ponder why seawater is salty and freshwater lakes are not. A day at the beach can simply be a fun day of playing and exploration or your kids may have questions that they want to write down and research later.
Forests and Trails
The forest is another habitat where life hides under every rock, within every log, and up every tree. There is so much to see, hear, smell, and feel in the forest that you could spend all day just letting your senses take everything in. Some fun ideas for trail hikes is to bring a bird or plant guide and play a game trying to see how many different species you can spot. Pathfinding, scavenger hunts, and animal tracking are other great forest activities that can teach kids a lot about nature.
Meadows and Fields
Packing up a picnic and heading to a peaceful meadow or wide open field can be one of the most relaxing atmosphere on earth. This is a perfect place to cloud gaze, ponder the big questions of life, and just spend some time reflecting. This is also an excellent spot to identify different flowers and think about what types of animals might live in an environment like this. You could discuss the survival tactics that smaller animals might have in these open areas and how they find protection from predators on the land and in the sky.
Mountain Treks and Cave Exploration
There is always plenty to see and learn when hiking in the mountains. Children may wonder why the base of the mountain is lush and green while the tops are capped with snow. You can discuss questions they have, encourage them to research the ones you can’t answer, and provide tidbits of info if they didn’t think to ask. You can let them know how the atmosphere changes as you get higher in altitude or ask them to give you their theories on how mountains were formed. If there are nearby caves to explore you can discuss the formation of stalagmites and stalactites, how echoes work, and why there are sometimes small streams or drips of water within a cave.
Different Types of Farms
One of the most fun and interesting places you can take your kids to a local farm. Plenty of large farms have sections that are open to the public while others may allow a tour if you reach out simply ask someone. There is so much for kids to learn from any kind of farm, whether it’s a berry farm, a dairy farm, a wool farm, or a corn field. They may be interested in how the animals are cared for, how crops are planted and harvested, or how the machinery they see around the farm might work.
What Can You Learn From Unschooling Outdoors
You might be able to guess what your kids will wonder about in any given environment but they also might shock you with the things they notice or the interests they develop from these outings. There are endless subjects that can be discovered when adventuring through the outdoors such as wilderness survival, marine biology, agriculture, insects identification, geology, geography, understanding biomes, or identifying edible plants. Art loving children may also enjoy nature photography, painting the landscape, or creating a craft project with the leaves and flowers they come across. Aside from all this knowledge that can be gained, exploring the outdoors is also just wonderful exercise for both you and your kids.
When you spend a lot of time outside rather than just reading books or watching educational videos you seem to gain a different type of knowledge. Being completely surrounded by a new environment provides a deeper appreciation for certain subjects and provides you with sensory experiences that you’re less likely to forget. Exploring the outdoors isn’t just educational, it’s incredibly fun to get out there and come across all the new and surprising things that exist in this world. Kids that become passionate about these experiences may even like to join a local wilderness or nature club. If you don’t have anything like that in your area may like to try starting your own with a few other kids who also love to play and learn outside.