Tuesday, April 13, 2010


I know that some homeschooling families might consider an afternoon at the creek a "break from school work," but for our family, time spent enjoying nature is what our homeschooling lifestyle is all about. Armed with a bag that usually contains at least a book or two to read aloud or alone, sketch books and pencils, maybe the camera or magnifying glass, some kind of hand crafts, and of course some snacks and water, the kids, dogs, goats and I head down the hill for an afternoon of creekschooling.

I have no doubt that the learning that has taken place along the banks of our creek is just as productive and worthwhile as any that would have come in a classroom or at a desk. In fact, it might be more so, because the kids are actually interested and having fun. I never hear them complain "awwww, do we have to go to the creek now?" or try to get out of going. They enjoy seeing the changes and so do I. We always start with a little exploration, finding out what's new in this familiar place. Each season has it's own uniqueness. Over the course of the year, the creek swells and dries up. Green grass turns yellow, then goes to seed and dies off, and then a soft new carpet of green grass pops up again. Wildflowers turn into stickers that poke into our socks and dogs feet. Sprouts grow into seedlings and then little trees, unless of course the goats get them first. Egg sacks become tadpoles, and then croaking frogs.
We explore a little, and then find a spot that has the right mix of sunshine and shade, and some place to sit and hang out for a while. I'll read aloud, and the kids will draw or sew or in some way have their hands busy. Sometimes one kid will want to read on their own, and I'll work on a math concept or writing project or whatever the other kid has going with them.

Of course, creekside bookwork does have it's distractions- namely mischievous goats who try to sneak up and nibble the pages of paper. Several of our own books have bite marks in the corners, but the library does not appreciate this, at all, and it can be quite costly. It's also sad when a drawing someone was working hard on  loses a chunk to the jaws of a pesky goat. Dogs also run through the creek and shake off all over whatever we have out. We can't bring certain things like large board games etc down there, and we can't spread out too far either, since we sometimes have to pack up in a hurry and chase a wayward animal who decides the grass is greener somewhere else.

Still, the benefits are worth it. What kid wouldn't rather spend their day at a creek than in a desk? We are not the schooliest type of homeschoolers, but sometimes we come across a workbook or some other piece of curriculum that is a good match for one of my kids at the moment, and we usually bring it along to the creek with us to work on. Besides the obvious nature observation and journaling, my kids have done math, calligraphy, and recently written messages in Egyptian Hieroglyphics at the creek. They've learned new drawing techniques, written poems and stories, and studied people and places from around the world down there. Environment really does make a difference, and the sound of water trickling over rocks tends to relax the body and mind for whatever lies ahead. That's why stores sell those pretty little indoor desk waterfalls to relax stressed out people, but whenever possible, I'll take the real thing, and so will my kids.
It comes with bugs, mud and annoyances, but CreekSchooling is one of the things I think my kids will remember from their childhood. I know I will.