Or ... "Advice from the Back-to-Nature Crowd"
And this is precisely the subtle difference between my childhood and children's lives today. We were outside if we weren't in school. The universal thinking was that children should be outside playing. If we were bored, "go outside." The assumption was that children simply cannot be bored if they're outside. Why is that? Because the Great Outdoors is an infinitely interesting, varied, challenging, fun place to be!
Schaeffer says that being outside produces creativity; it fosters creative thinking. I know that my writing (poetry and stories) are often spurred by sights in Nature. When I was younger, I was often outside, especially in my teens and early twenties. I loved to walk in the woods, the mountains, to bike long ways, to sit in the sand at night and hear the thundering ocean. I was often chased inside by intense Southern heat or mosquitoes, but the advent of autumn would lure me back out.
But ... since Schaeffer's books was written, computers, the internet, and cell phones have taken over our lives. Our children are growing up in a radically different world than we did. They have games on their phones that imitate outdoor activity. They can play tennis, golf, surf, and other outdoor activities ... on a Wii. How can boring old Nature compete with that?
I think Nature does. It's the relaxation Schaeffer refers to. What is "recreation"? Is it not behaviors that stimulate us to re - create, to create again, to give new life to ideas, art, words, music, elegance? In essence, we want to experience something beautiful and then re-make it, re-form it. The beauty found in Nature is true. There is no beauty found in a Wii game that imitates it. Playing a computer game is not recreation because it spawns no new beauty; it does not inspire.
Schaeffer's description of her "Treasure Hunt Meals" was delightful, wasn't it? I did a few things like that when the kids were little. Writing limericks, hiding Easter baskets, doing scavenger hunts. Children love to scrutinize puzzles and find hidden objects and ideas. Again, computers mimic this, but the mind needs the body to be involved as well, in order for the whole person to mature.
After Julia bought her little tablet computer, we set limits on her screen time. I noticed that even when she "turned in" her tablet to me, she'd then drift to the T.V., or sit by her dad and try to watch his iPad with him. Her brain became used to screen stimulation, it was difficult for her to find fulfillment elsewhere. This summer I've had to keep a tight grip on her screen time, forcing her to find other things -- reading, drawing, or going outside. It's difficult when the outdoors is very hot and very humid. I don't want to go out there; why should she?
There are seasons in life for all things. I realized years ago that summer in the South was rather like winter in the North: the weather forces you to stay inside and simply wait and endure. If you're going to play in water (pool/river/lake/ocean), then you can go outside. (Rather like snow sports in Northern winters) The best time of year to be outside in the Deep South, to do serious yard work and take long hikes and sit on the porch? That's winter. Maybe three weeks in January are actually "cold" but otherwise, a Southern winter is ideal sweater/jacket weather.
So I don't feel guilty staying inside in the summer. I'll be outside come autumn! I'm planning even more outdoor activities with Julia for homeschooling -- drives, beach combing, nature walks, kite flying, and boating. October, here I come!
|Julia, sailing last fall|
|The town-wide bicycle ride on Thanksgiving Day morning|
|A very happy me, sailing on January 1st -- bundled up but enjoying it!|