So much of what drives me to write my Little Woodlanders series is to demonstrate how one can make a whole lot out of even just a little. I may not be able to afford spending $12,000/year to send my kids to a Waldorf school or Forest School or some other nifty, alternative form of education with an emphasis on the outdoors. I may not be able to afford all the artisan, handcrafted items, clothes, and toys that lend to a high profile blogger/Instagram worthy aesthetic. I may not have my own property and small homesteading set-up with a lush garden and a collection of cute but smelly farm animals. I may not already have the knowledge or skills to make, prepare, and preform so many things to give my kids a full, wholesome upbringing. I’ll tell you what I do have though.
I have a home full of love and warmth to offer my children, and I have time to read and further my knowledge, time to teach myself a few of these things slowly, and time to implement things as we go. And the greatest gift: a gloriously beautiful, yet simple landscape of green, natural beauty around us. It might not be a pristine beach, or rugged mountains, or foggy forests that stretch on for hundreds of quiet, quiet miles. But we do have our own outdoors, our own small stretch of “wild”, and the Creator God made this portion of the Earth just as much as He made the next. There’s a small garden/yard outside our apartment. There’s a nearby park. And there’s a nature preserve woodland area on a very gentle mountain range nearby (smaller than the Ozark Mountains, for all my midwestern friends). But it truly is beautiful in its own way. It has its own steadfast worth. And we are learning to practice stillness out in nature, to slow down, breath deeply, and soak in all of the beauty and quiet lessons that God has chosen to share with us. Sure, I can often still hear the far off traces of city life while in the woods, and I can see power lines in the park, and I swear every dog on the planet must be in my neighbours yard, barking up a storm. But we are learning to make the most of our own rich, diverse natural world here in our little corner of the Earth.
I encourage you to go out with new eyes to see what’s around you, and to make the most of it. Wanderlust is a lovely sentiment, but not so far as allowing it to diminish the beauty of your current home and surroundings. Don’t let discontentment breed. As I look at shaping a nature-based, holistic childhood and learning experience for my little ones, I keep all of this in mind. We must make the most of what we have. And it’s truly opened my eyes to beauty I never even noticed before.
One way we decided to practice this mindset this summer was to plant our own little garden. Despite living on the top floor of an apartment building, I decided there was not a reason in the world that my little ones and I shouldn’t enjoy the beauty and opportunity for learning by having our own small space for growing plants. On Summer Solstice, our little garden of herbs was planted, cascading from its third story height. It’s tiny, but so very well loved.
We’ve been going out each morning after breakfast to water our garden together, and our very own little clusters of green growing things have done so, so well: Chives, Parsley, Lemon Balm, Spearmint, Basil, Oregano, and Rosemary. Except the Cilantro. I’m sad to say that he just didn’t make it.
I could pretend I know tons about gardening and plants in general, but to be totally honest with you, I spend more time reading and googling things and learning from complete zero, than intuitively knowing what’s best for my little garden or being out in the wild. I’ve had to learn so much of this for myself, in order to pass it on to Margot and Cassian. But that’s the whole point really. I want them to learn, to grow up with this knowledge of how to plant and tend the Earth, and to appreciate the created world that God has given us. If that means I need to do the hard work of learning things for myself alongside them, then it’s worth it. I’m able to show them how it’s done, fostering an inquisitive spirit. And it’s so humbling, yet already so rewarding. I think back to when I first formed these values, as I held little Margot in my arms at just a few months old. She’s just turned 3 now, and we’ve come a long way and learned so much together as family. We’ve been deeply transformed by our time outdoors with God in His creation.
I’ve watched Margot learn to crawl and to walk outdoors, and now I’m watching her learn to explore and to climb trees. That’s been one of her favourite accomplishments this summer too. She’s really just so proud of herself, and I am too! I’ve been showing her how to position herself as she scales the low branches of a couple choice trees around us, and learns the extent of her abilities. She’s gotten quite good at it too. She’s always so happy and content, perched just like a bird and watching the world from her own small height.
As hot as it’s been this summer, we often didn’t venture out very far and just stuck to the garden or our balcony for outdoor time many days of the week. We would need to be indoors by 10:00 am most days, since the sun was just too hot, with it’s bright, white-hot warmth in this part of the world. I’ve really experienced nothing like it. A totally different kind of heat than where I grew up in the American Midwest.
After getting going in the morning and having breakfast, we would usually head outside almost immediately and run around for a bit. Margot exploring every corner of the garden, and Cassian now taking his turn in learning to walk, and always trying his best to keep up with her.
The garden has provided so many odd little activities for Margot that I probably wouldn’t have come up with on my own, and truly, a child frequently outdoors needs less and less guidance on how to “have fun”, play, and explore. Some games Margot came up with was using pine needles to poke holes in leaves, slowly dissecting pinecones by tearing off each little piece, picking flowers and suspending them from bushes (kind of like a summertime Christmas tree!), “painting” with the still tightly closed buds of wind-pollinating plants, and of course, back to her ever favourite designs and patterns with the smooth stones and old tree stumps. Her designs are getting better and better too!
It’s still a vicious battle between Cassian and I, me endlessly pulling various items out of his mouth and him howling at me over it. I would be lying if I said it didn’t get annoying after awhile. But I try my best to maintain perspective and appreciate the passion and wonder being instilled in him from such a young age. Remove the choking hazards, and then hand him a nice, smooth stick that really won’t hurt him to suck on for a bit. Good to go once more. For 30 seconds at least until he finds another bug to eat or rock to try and swallow.
Margot and Cassian have had a full summer of making new creature friends here and there together too. An endless population of snails, especially outgoing after a summer rainstorm, and the neighbour’s cat, Honey Beast, who is incredibly patient with my heavy-handed kids.
One morning the cat tried to escape into a thick patch of bushes, and I cracked up as Margot and Cassian tried to stomp in right after him, Cassian taking the lead crawling as fast as he could. They’ve inherited a deep love for animals from their daddy I think. And it’s really so lovely to pass on and share in our interests and passions with our children. Me passing on my special love for green, growing things, and Taylor passing on his love for all creatures, animals and insects alike. Our children are turning out to be such a blend of Taylor and I, and with their own unique twist of course too! I love seeing who they are becoming slowly unfolding.
This is part of a Little Woodlanders series! Also check out…