Monday, 9 May 2011


Welcome to the May Carnival of Natural Parenting: Growing in the Outdoors

This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama. This month our participants have shared how they encourage their children to connect with nature and dig in the dirt. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.


Over on Code Name mama, there is a monthly carnival of natural parenting.

This months theme is about "Growing in the outdoors"

My daughter is now 10 and I wanted to share how the 'outdoors' has featured in our lives as a family.

For starters we live in a beautiful part of the world - what could be better than rural England? For all we complain about this green and pleasant land I wouldn't have it any other way.

Our home is surrounded by fields, trees, hills and there is even an idyllic stream - safe enough to paddle in.

As a baby we would take our daughter out in a sling wherever we went - so much easier and more practical than a buggy. It meant she was close to us which ensured her happiness and it gave us so much more freedom as parents.

One of our first walks was up our local hill to see the sunset. I have beautiful memories of that time when we would visit at around her bedtime and I'd nurse her to sleep while watching the sun go down.

As a toddler one of her first words was 'tatoes!' which she exclaimed as we dug into the earth searching for edible treasures. I remember her in a rain suit, steering her metal wheelbarrow in businesslike fashion with gusto along the paths grabbing all the potatoes she could find and happily eating them for tea.

As a pre-schooler she attended a Steiner kindergarten. Here the emphasis was on the seasons and outdoor play took place no matter what the weather. It concerns me that schools don't let children out when it's raining, close when it's snowing and don't let children climb trees in case they fall.

And talking of climbing trees, what better way to learn about your body? In our garden anything goes and DD has learned a lot about her body through climbing, falling, swinging and giggling her way through the giddying heights of tree tops.

Most of our homeschooling took place outdoors. Every day we'd go for a nature walk. We once did an entire term's project on the potato - it involved everything from sowing to tending to eating with a trip to the supermarket to compare quality and taste...

Often my daughter will climb the tree and have what she calls 'a moment'. It's a sacred time of bliss when something magical happens, when she totally connects with the Universe or converses with Mother Nature (the trees talk in our garden I'll have you know) and I've seen her cry with pleasure from it all.

Now she has an ipod (groan) and I admit I have to drag her outdoors sometimes, luring her away from the enticing Angry Birds, but invariably at the end of every day we use a walk through the country as a way to build bridges. The pre-teen years can be fraught with emotion, but this is our way of unwinding.

We visit horses, paddle in the stream, pick weeds for the rabbit and share things about our day. As she grows up and finds her independence, nature is a wonderful backdrop for us to reconnect and share some quality time as a family.

My daughter tells me she is going to live in a forest when she grows up, in a shall shed with lots of cats. So I think a love of nature is definitely still within her.

As for me, I find the pull of the outdoors gets stronger as I get older. As my life leads me more and more into the internet, my soul cries out for more connection with the Earth. My challenge at the moment is to balance both aspects of my life. I'd love to hear how you achieve this.


Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!

Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:

(This list will be live and updated by afternoon May 10 with all the carnival links.)

  • Get Out!Momma Jorje gives reasons she doesn't think she gets outside enough and asks for your suggestions on making time for the outdoors.

  • How Does Your Garden Grow?The ArtsyMama shares her love of nature photography.

  • We Go Outside — Amy at Innate Wholeness describes her family's simple, experiential approach to encouraging appreciation of nature.

  • My Not-So-Green Thumb — Wolfmother confesses to her lack of gardening skills but expresses hope in learning alongside her son at Fabulous Mama Chronicles.

  • Enjoying Outdoors — Isil at Smiling like Sunshine describes how her children enjoy the nature.

  • Five Ideas to Encourage the Reluctant Junior Gardener — For the rare little ones who don't like to get their hands dirty, Dionna at Code Name: Mama offers tips for encouraging an early love of dirt (despite the mess).

  • Connecting to NatureMamapoekie shares how growing your own vegetable patch connects your child to nature and urges them to not take anything for granted.

  • The Farmer's Market Classroom — Jenn at Monkey Butt Junction shares how the Farmer's Market has become her son's classroom.

  • Seeds — Kat at Loving {Almost} Every Moment's hubby Ken shares his perspective on why gardening with their kiddos is so important . . . and enjoyable!

  • Toddlers in the Garden — Laura at A Pug in the Kitchen shares her excitement as she continues to introduce her toddler and new baby to the joys of fresh veggies, straight from the garden.

  • Nature's Weave — MJ at Wander Wonder Discover explains how nature weaves its way into our lives naturally, magnetically, experientially, and spiritually.

  • Becoming Green — Kristina at Hey Red celebrates and nurtures her daughter's blossoming love of the outdoors.

  • Little Gardener — Rosemary at Rosmarinus Officinalis looks forward to introducing her baby girl to gardening and exploring home grown foods for the first time.

  • Cultivating Abundance — You can never be poor if you have a garden! Lucy at Dreaming Aloud reflects on what she cultivates in her garden . . . and finds it's a lot more than seeds!

  • Growing in the Outdoors: Plants and People — Luschka at Diary of a First Child reflects on how she is growing while teaching her daughter to appreciate nature, the origins of food, and the many benefits of eating home-grown.

  • How Not to Grow — Anna at Wild Parenting discusses why growing vegetables fills her with fear.

  • A Garden Made of Straw — Kelly at Becoming Crunchy shares tips on making a straw bale garden.

  • The Tradition of Gardening — Carrie at Love Notes Mama reflects on the gifts that come with the tradition of gardening.

  • Gardening Smells Like Home — Bethy at Bounce Me to the Moon hopes that her son will associate home grown food and lovely flowers with home.

  • The New Normal — Patti at Jazzy Mama writes about how she hopes that growing vegetables in a big city will become totally normal for her children's generation.

  • Outside, With You — Amy at Anktangle writes a letter to her son, a snapshot of a moment in the garden together.

  • Farmer Boy — Abbie at Farmer's Daughter shares how her son Joshua helps to grow and raise their family's food.

  • Growing Kids in the Garden — Lisa at Granola Catholic shares easy ways to get your kids involved in the garden.

  • Growing Food Without a Garden — Don't have a garden? "You can still grow food!" says Mrs Green of Little Green Blog. Whatever the size of your plot, she shows you how.

  • Growing Things — Liz at Garden Variety Mama shares her reasons for gardening with her kids, even though she has no idea what she's doing.

  • MomentsUK Mummy Blogger explains how the great outdoors provides a backdrop for her family to reconnect.

  • Condo Kid Turns Composter and Plastic Police — Jessica from Cloth Diapering Mama has discovered that her young son is a true earth lover despite living in a condo with no land to call their own.

  • Gardening with Baby — Sheila at A Gift Universe shows us how her garden and her son are growing.

  • Why to Choose Your Local Farmer's MarketNaturally Nena shares why she believes it's important to teach our children the value of local farmers.

  • Unfolding into Nature — At Crunchy-Chewy Mama, Jessica Claire shares her desire to cultivate a reverence for nature through gardening, buying local food, and just looking out the window.

  • Urban Gardening with Kids — Lauren at Hobo Mama shares her strategies for urban gardening with kids — without a yard but with a whole lot of enthusiasm.

  • Mama Doesn't Garden — Laura at Our Messy Messy Life is glad her husband is there to instill the joys of gardening in their children, while all she has to do is sit back and eat homegrown tomato sandwiches.

  • Why We Make this Organic Garden Grow — Brenna at Almost All The Truth shares her reasons for gardening with her three small children.

  • 5 Ways to Help Your Baby Develop a Love of the Natural World — Charise at I Thought I Knew Mama believes it's never too early to foster a love of the natural world in your little one.

  • April Showers Bring May PRODUCE — Erika at NaMammaSte discusses her plans for raising a little gardener.

  • Growing Outside — Seonaid at The Practical Dilettante discovers how to get her kids outside after weeks of spring rain.

  • Eating Healthier — Chante at My Natural Motherhood Journey talks about how she learns to eat healthier and encourages her children to do the same.

  • The Beauty of Earth and Heavens — Inspired by Charlotte Mason, Erica at ChildOrganics discovers nature in her own front yard.

  • Seeing the Garden Through the Weeds — Amanda at Let's Take the Metro talks about the challenges of gardening with two small children.

  • Creating a Living Playhouse: Our Bean Teepee! — Kristin at Intrepid Murmurings shares how her family creates a living playhouse "bean teepee" and includes tips of how to involve kids in gardening projects.

  • Grooming a Tree-Hugger: Introducing the Outdoors — Ana at Pandamoly shares some of her planned strategies for making this spring and summer memorable and productive for her pre-toddler in the Outdoors.

  • Sowing Seeds of Life and Love — Suzannah at ShoutLaughLove celebrates the simple joys of baby chicks, community gardening, and a semi-charmed country life.

  • Experiencing Nature and Growing Plants Outdoors Without a Garden — Deb Chitwood at Living Montessori Now shares some of her favorite ways her family discovered to fully experience nature wherever they lived.

  • Garden Day — Melissa at The New Mommy Files is thankful to be part of community of families, some of whom can even garden!

  • Teaching Garden Ettiquette to the Locusts — Tashmica from Mother Flippin' (guest posting at Natural Parents Network) allows her children to ravage her garden every year in the hopes of teaching them a greater lesson about how to treat the world.

  • Thursday, 5 May 2011

    Fairy houses and washing machines

    What a lovely time of the week - one where I can share a bit of my life along with all the readers of Michelle's fantastic "Reasons to be cheerful"

    So without further ado I present to you:

    Reason to be cheerful 1

    Thoughtful gifts.

    These crystals were bought for me by my darling daughter - she just saw them when out with Grandma one day and thought of me. The little dish was a gift from a journalist in America who, likewise, saw the dish and thought of me. Isn't it wonderful when people think of you? When the sun shines over these crystals they kind of dance in the air ;)

    Reason to be cheerful 2

    my washing machine.

    I know, not exactly romantic is it? But sometimes I'm just SO grateful for the modern conveniences that make my life easier. I get fed up having to load, unload, hang out, hang up all that laundry but my goodness, imagine doing that down at the river side with a couple of stones?

    Reason to be cheerful 3

    Fairy houses

    At the back of our house is a beautiful line of trees. One in particular holds the fairy kingdom and we leave presents such as small feathers in the door way. Sometimes we find gifts too ...

    Stop for a moment, take a deep breath and tell me what you are grateful for right now...

    Random acts of kindness

    Nothing makes me happier than helping someone else.

    If you think about it, I bet no matter how tough a time you are having, if there is the opportunity to reach out to someone else it makes your own day seem brighter.

    It might simply be that you realise you're not the only one with problems.

    It might make you grateful for what you have.

    Or it might be that warm fuzzy feeling you get when someone smiles at you and you KNOW you've changed their day.

    Random Acts of Kindness is something I've been passionate about for many years. There are numerous books, sites and movies about the theme such as 'Paying it Forward' and I remember one of our favourite books when my daughter was small was called 'Because Brian hugged his mother'.

    The idea of the book was that a small boy called Brian started the day by hugging his mother.
    That made her happy so she made her husband's favourite sandwiches.
    When her husband saw his favourite sandwiches he helped an old woman gather water.
    The old woman was happy so she baked something for the wood cutter - and so it goes on.

    It brings together the ideas of karma, of the butterfly effect, of reaping what you sow, of what goes around comes around and helps you realise that no matter how small your action (a simple hug in this case) the happiness effect can ripple outwards. You might never know where or how far those ripples go, but they are powerful enough to change the world.

    Has anyone ever let you pull out on a busy road? Chances are you went on to let someone else out later or found yourself naturally performing a Random Acts of Kindness during the day...

    So getting myself a bit psyched up and excited about my ROAK day I ventured into our local town to browse the charity shops and to get some food. I know that outside one of the supermarkets there is always a guy and his dog. I would hazard a guess and say they are homeless or living in some kind of supported accommodation and I'd made up my mind I was going to buy them lunch.

    What a grand gesture I thought to myself, letting my ego have a good old run around...

    The trouble was, they weren't there.

    So I came across a musician who was busking and I thought I'd drop them some money - I NEVER do this. But you know what? Here is where I cringe; I was actually too embrassed to do it. I didn't know how much to give and I just felt a bit stupid stopping and drawing attention to myself.

    So then I felt depressed.

    I wanted to give but it's almost like I was trying too hard and nothing was working out right (note to self, take more notice of the Law of Least Effort).

    I looked for someone to give my parking ticket to when I got back to my car, but there was no one around who needed my ticket.

    What on earth was the Universe trying to tell me?

    Then I started to over analyse; perhaps I HAD performed a simple Random Act of Kindness, but just not noticed. I started to hunt through my day like a bloodhound looking for clues and evidence.

    I found nothing.

    Seeking deeper into despair I gave up...

    Hmpf. FAIL!

    What about you? What RAOK have you done today? Over on The Wean Machine you can share you RAOK on Claire's linky or simply go over there and infuse yourself in all that kind goodness that others are taking part in.

    Wednesday, 4 May 2011

    April captured

    For this week's gallery, Tara, over at Sticky Fingers, wants us to post up a photograph that encapsulates 'April' for us.

    My photo still carries on from last week's theme of 'green' because to me April is all about new life in the hedgerows and my garden. My hubby has to start cutting the grass, we need to weed the vegetable patch every day and last thing at night we go out for a walk through the local stream to engulf ourselves in the changes taking place around us.

    A week ago, after a day planting in the garden, we walked through a field which had been recently ploughed. The farmer had planted up and these seedlings were pushing their way through. After my very 'abstract' method of planting, I couldn't help but notice how these looks like the running tracks we had for athletics at school.

    I was also rather envious of his straight, weed-free lines of seedlings...

    Tuesday, 3 May 2011

    Floorboards and feathers

    I'm a list tart, so imagine my delight when I came across Kate's Listography!

    Each week she posts an invitation for all listaholics to share their 'top 5' lists, focusing on a particular topic.

    This week it's all about simple pleasures, which couldn't be more fitting for me. I'm an easy-to-please gal and derive the utmost pleasure from the simplest of things that money can't buy.

    Sunlight across my floorboards

    Yep, go figure. It brings me tremendous satisfaction to be the first one downstairs in the morning and to walk barefoot across warm floor boards that smell of dust, linseed oil and home.

    A freshly plumped bed

    I have a decadent bed - it consists of feather mattress, pillows and duvet. Can you imagine what a feather mattress feels like? This is heaven in my bedroom and when it's all plumped up and I have fresh line-dried sheets on there I'm as happy as a happy thing on a happy day.

    A clean bathroom

    When my husband cleans the bathroom and invites me to take a bath, what could be better?

    Petting a, erm, pet

    Whether it's a rabb it, dog or cat I don't mind. If it's soft and furry it gets my vote, especially if that fur brushes against my feet or legs. (but cats are best because they rumble and purr too).

    Watching the sunset

    Sometimes it brings tears to my eyes that there can be so much beauty in one moment.

    What about you? I'd love to hear one simple pleasure that you indulge in.

    Sunday, 1 May 2011

    We're learning about the planets!

    DD has decided she wants to learn all about the solar system, so we're creating a lapbook.

    We love using lapbooks as a form of presenting work because it can turn the 'ordinary' into a work of art. It means, as DD is artistic, she can take pride in her work - getting her to just write things bores her, she loves to illustrate too and used to get frustrated at school when the emphasis was on the written word.

    A lapbook, in case you've never heard of them,  is where you make lots of mini books and then you put them inside a big folder. Each mini book focuses on one aspect of your chosen topic. This is great for breaking the topic down into smaller components (a brilliant life skill, right?!)

    The folder is so big you have to rest it on your lap to read it - that’s why it’s called a lapbook.

    I've looked through our rapidly increasing bookshelves and found "The Young Astronomer" which is a Dorling Kindersley publication, but we'll be requesting a Project Box from our local library which is a fantastic resource for homeschoolers.

    A Project Box is a big box containing books and dvds which you can keep for a term. It saves you having to wade through the library catalogue yourself to find appropriate material and the staff who put together the box will create one that is age appropriate. This service is totally free to home educators - how cool is that!?

    I have to say, I'm getting quite excited. We'll start gently with a bit of papier mache I think - I want to show DD the difference in the sizes of the planets compared to the sun ;)

    Do any of you use lapbooks?

    Here's one she made a few years ago called 'All About Me'

    Open up the cover and see all the mini books inside:

    Each mini book can be opened too to see what we've learned:

    Thursday, 28 April 2011

    Reasons to be cheerful - take 2

    Talk about being the new girl on the block!

    Yesterday I posted up my Reasons to be Cheerful 1,2,3 courtesy of the lovely Michelle over at Mummy with Heart.

    When I arrived the linky had closed. I thought "Blimey, this woman moves fast and doesn't give us much time to join in!"

    NOW I realise that it opens on a Thursday evening to run during the following week - duh!

    Michelle picked up through twitter (I am on there as UKMumBlog if you'd like to follow me, although my account has been suspended twice and I can't figure out why) that I am an optimist, so it wasn't a challenge to find three more things to be cheerful about today!

    Reason to be cheerful 1

    Cats who love nothing more than to be carried around like a sack of potatoes (come on, admit it, you want to kiss those paws)

    Reason to be cheerful 2

    Hobby horses celebrating their Birthday (I'm sure Ella, the pink hobby horse, is blowing)

    Reason to be cheerful 3

    The shape little fingers make when they're dragged along a chocolatey mixing bowl

    If you could stop to reflect, what are you cheerful about right now in this moment? I'd love to know!