the best part of education

“Every child should have mud pies, grasshoppers, water bugs, tadpoles, frogs,
mud turtles, elderberries, wild strawberries, acorns, chestnuts, trees to climb.
Brooks to wade, water lilies, woodchucks, bats, bees, butterflies, various animals to pet, hayfields, pine-cones, rocks to roll, sand, snakes, huckleberries and hornets;
and any child who has been deprived of these has been deprived of
the best part of education.”

– Luther Burbank

Crickley Hill_E on top of a fallen tree wearing DUNS willow top

I’m not sure I’d recognise a wood chuck if I saw one and I certainly wouldn’t willingly expose my children to snakes in the wild or hornets but using the outdoors as a classroom is certainly something we embrace.  We are lucky to have some fabulous areas of outstanding natural beauty in Gloucestershire and one of our favourites, Crickley Hill, is just 15 minutes away by car.

Crickley Hill - E butterfly trail wearing DUNS willow top
Whenever I take the boys up Crickley Hill I know it’s for my benefit as much as theirs to amble about the escarpment and meander through the woods.  The National Trust manage the site and last year joined forces with Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust to encourage more wildlife onto Crickley Hill.  All through the summer there were different nature trails on offer for young explorers and E enjoyed learning about different butterfly species as he raced around the escarpment.

Crickley Hill - the best part of education_family bimble

I spent a lot of time at Crickley Hill as a child so for someone who’s a bit inept when it comes to map reading it’s nice not having to give any mental energy to staying on the right track.  My internal sat nav at Crickley at least is finely tuned and I always know instinctively how to get back to the car park.  It’s lovely to think that this will become a special place for E and L not only for the family time we spend here but the adventures we have with friends exploring dens and climbing on fallen trees.

Crickley Hill_E and Fin copy 4B

I have a picture of 2 year old E emerging from a  den in the woods at Crickley on the picture shelf in his room.  It’s a only a simple A4 landscape size but I love it because it serves as a reminder to keep things simple when it comes to spending quality time with children.  They don’t need lots of input when taken to places that fire their imagination, just warm, attentive interaction.  The next time we visited Crickley Hill after taking this photo I felt sad to see this den had been dismantled where some other explorers had used the branches to fashion their own den elsewhere.  So this snapshot of E’s childhood adventures also serves to remind me that the joy is in the journey not the destination and the memories live on long after the creation has fallen apart.

10-4-14 - Crickley Hill_E outside den 4B

In case you’re wondering about baby L, he had a lovely time too.  I only carried him for the last 20 minutes of a 3 hour bimble when he ran out of steam.  He was a back-of-the-head blurr in the photos I snapped on my phone so here’s one of him receiving the best part of education from one of our cats.  Billy has been teaching him that gentle downward strokes on the head are rewarded with purrs and hammer-like bops with scratches!
IMG_20170911_222412

September 20, 2017 at 12:26 pm 1 comment

telling tall tales

E loves nothing better than to role play and weave stories. Since starting school and developing his writing skills he’s started to experiment with creative writing. He wrote this epic story entitled “Euan’s tall tales” for his best friend back in March and it’s been sitting forgotten in my drafts folder just waiting for it’s debut!

To Iri

I hope you get crazy by these years on these days and also on Sunday I bounced on a trampoline and I hurt myself and I got off the grass and I didn’t know where I was.
I found that I was in a desert with lots of cactuses but they weren’t just normal ones they were electric! When I touched them they electricked me!

the end

Footnote from E:  ‘‘don’t worry this didn’t really happen, it’s a tall tale!!!”

September 16, 2017 at 10:45 am 4 comments

truly brave

”If you’re afraid and still go forward, then you are truly brave”
– Napoleon Bonaparte

Babies are amazing.  Feisty and determined they teach themselves to roll, grab, climb walk and talk simply by being unable to resist the urge to do so. Their self-belief (not that they know it as that) is unshakeable – they see others around them doing all these things so effortlessly, why not them too?

3-5-17_L climbing into the lego box copy 4B.jpg

Tears of frustration are an inevitable step on the journey to developing a new skill but giving up is just not in their nature. If only I had a scrap of the unshakeable ”I can do this” spirit that baby Luca encapsulates. I’d be … well now… there’s the question…

September 11, 2017 at 10:04 pm 6 comments

wordless Wednesday

September 6, 2017 at 7:00 am Leave a comment

a bronze wedding anniversary

Today is our wedding anniversary and I had no idea what symbolises 19 years of married life.  I had to look at one of those funny gift idea websites and apparently buying G a ”stunning bronze statue” or a ‘Grow old with Me‘ sundial will show him how much I care.  When I broke the news to G that I could love him without saying it in metal ware he gave me a wry smile and said “or you can buy me a new cymbal”.  I didn’t of course, we still don’t even exchange cards, bringing up children together is all the evidence we need of enduring love.

My best friend.  So lucky to have found each other at 19, so lucky to still be together. Parenthood is the greatest strain on a relationship and it was gifted to us late in our marriage.  Perhaps that’s our greatest strength too, that we supported each other through some difficult years and learnt to do so without taking each others struggles personally.  It reminds me of lines from Kahlil Gibran’s ” On Marriage”

…let there be spaces in your togetherness, and let the winds of the heavens dance between you. 

… Love one another, but make not a bond of love

… Fill each other’s cup but drink not from one cup.

…Sing and dance together and be joyous, but let each one of you be alone.

…Give your hearts, but not into each other’s keeping

…And stand together yet not too near together: for the pillars of the temple stand apart, and the oak tree and the cypress grow not in each other’s shadow.

Our other anniversary stories:

11 years12 years15 years16 years, 18 years

September 5, 2017 at 3:26 pm 4 comments

Do less, observe more, enjoy most

Porlock Weir_kids playing copy 4B
”Do less.  
19-8-17 - campsite bridge_rock collecting copy 4B
Observe more.  
16-8-17 - Luca rock painting copy 4B
Enjoy most.” – Magda Gerber

Childhood unplugged.  Beautiful memories from a care free few days camping in Porlock with friends.  I admit I find it difficult at times to be less interactive, to do less and observe more, but when you see how much children flourish when pursuing their own ideas and the joy they feel when accomplishing things themselves it makes my own struggles a easier to bear!  Granted steering my daredevil toddler past open fires and rocky drops into the river was a little nerve tattering at times but on the whole the benefits of an outdoor, child led life won out!

My favourite place in this area of Exmoor is still Dunster Beach.  G and I sat on the sand and just watched the boys at play. We admired the beautiful view out to sea and counted our blessings many times over.

19-8-17 - Dunster beach_brothers exploring seaweed copy 4B

Collage _ E writing on Dunster beach copy 4B

19-8-17 - Dunster beach_L with seaweed copy 4B
Our gorgeous bringer of light, so proud of his seaweed find (yes he did try to eat it!)

 

September 3, 2017 at 8:00 am Leave a comment

Me and Mine project [August 2017]

What a wonderful summer holiday we’ve had. I learnt the hard way last year, when I was still recovering post natally and running around with E while newborn L napped, that you need the quiet days sandwiching the exciting outings. The first week of the school break this year had no agenda, nowhere we needed to be and we just re-connected after a hectic last few weeks of term. We lounged, we sauntered, we read, we crafted and we lego’d (and if that’s not a verb it should be!)

In the second week we visited my brother and family in Germany.  We had the loveliest time and actually managed to get this family portrait taken on a morning out to a local farm park.  It was blisteringly hot in the week when the UK was being rained on almost constantly so it really did feel like a summer sun holiday to us.  I love this photo because it was choreographed entirely by E who had the whole plan in his head of staggering subjects on the hay bales (and telling us very specifically where we had to sit and look).  L obviously found it very amusing as he’s laughing straight into the camera.  Good job E.

If you’ve not been to Germany it’s well worth considering as a holiday destination as it’s so family friendly and has beautiful countryside.   We loved taking the family dogs for a walk in the woods and the public parks are terrific too.

Even commerical venues like the Playmobil Fun Park we visited are entirely focused on families spending quality time together in ways best suited to children (think sand pits, climbing frames, water parks etc and no rides and long queues).  Entry was very reasonably priced at 11 Euros compared to the extortionate theme park prices we have in the UK.

It’s so nice to have this little nudge each month to capture the memory of time well spent together. I’m sharing our family portrait as part of the Me and Mine project hosted by Lucy at Dear Beautiful. Check out her page here to see what other families have been up to this summer. Perhaps I’ll see you there next month?

August 31, 2017 at 9:45 pm 4 comments

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