Written by Heather Rose Artushin, NBTC Participant
The cold Michigan winters foster a hibernation culture that is undeniable - apart from the occasional trip to the lake or picnic at the park, much of my childhood was spent indoors. It wasn’t all bad. I fell in love with books and became a voracious reader. I made plenty of precious memories baking cookies with my mom and watching movies with my dad. We played board games and tinkered with projects. But when I moved south with my husband and 8-month-old son, making a home among the palm trees and mossy oaks in Charleston, South Carolina, I knew I needed to fall in love again - this time, with nature.
Tasked with raising a boy in the 21st-century, and wanting to do it as screen-free as possible, I decided time outdoors was the answer. So outdoors we went, exploring the Shem Creek boardwalk, walking the trails through Palmetto Islands County Park, digging in the sand at the beach on Sullivan’s Island, biking along Pitt Street and even “hiking” across the Ravenel Bridge high above the Charleston Harbor.
When my second son was born, and my firstborn was of preschool-age, I got serious about homeschooling and discovered the idea of nature-based education. The opportunity for my children to grow up in an environment that fosters learning outside the four walls of a classroom, or even a living room, ignited a spark in my soul.
Learning alongside so many talented educators in such a wide variety of settings all over the world in the online Nature-Based Teacher Certification course opened my mind to the simple but profound ways I can facilitate a nature-based education for my children right in our own backyard. From exploring our local flora and fauna to playing with natural loose parts, cultivating our cordage skills to constructing a fort out of fallen branches, my children and I learned together through the engaging, hands-on experiences offered in the course.
Most valuable, and unexpected, was how my own personal relationship with nature strengthened during my time in the course. The homebody I used to be is now much more at home in nature. I treasure our sit spot practice and nature journaling, amazed at how much more dynamic and ever-evolving the world outside our windows is when I just take the time to slow down and notice.
I have so much more to learn on my journey as a nature-based homeschool parent, but my time with ERAFANS has equipped me with the resources to continue learning long after the course has ended. That’s the thing about nature - it has ever more to reveal to us about itself. I set out to prepare myself to teach in nature, but discovered within a passionate student ready to learn alongside my curious children.
Heather is a homeschooling mother of two adventurous boys, and passionate writer and poet. Follow her @heatherartushin and visit her website, www.heatherartushin.com to keep reading.