Thursday, December 6, 2012

Waldkindergarten

I recently finished a fantastic book on raising boys - "Boys Adrift" by Leonard Sax.  In it, the author addresses "five factors driving the growing epidemic of unmotivated boys and underwachieving men" which are: (1) changes at school, (2) video games, (3) medications for ADHD, (4) endocrine disruptors and, (5) revenge of the sacred gods (what he really means is a culture that neglects the passage into manhood).  He makes some excellent arguments and, unlike some other "parenting" books I've read, actually has suggestions for how to overcome these obstacles (although I doubt most of his audience could afford to send their sons to a private, all-boys school like he advocates).  Anyway, it was a great read and one I'd recommend to fellow mamas of boys. 

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In addtion to reading, I've also been thinking about Germany a lot lately, especially after finishing "Bonhoeffer" a few months ago and hearing of our friends Brian and Janine's plans to move there next spring.  It's the land of my roots and the older I get the more intrigued I become with my ancestry.  So my ears perked up when, in the book, Sax started talking about early education in Germany and something called "waldkindergarten," translation: forest kindergarten. 

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It's where children spend their entire day outdoors, regardless of the weather, and learn by experiencing - touching, smelling, moving, seeing ... Which brings us to two other German words Kenntnis, knowledge by experience and Wissenschaft, knowledge learned from books.  Sax mentions that real learning takes place when Kenntnis and Wissenschaft are balanced.  In other words, reading about the leaves isn't enough.  I want my boys to touch them, smell them, run through them, hear the sound they make underfoot ...

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And so I've been inspired this week, and it certainly helped that we've had weather in the upper 60s for the past few days.  It bothers me that it's only early-December and we've already fallen into a "hang around he house" rut.  And since my children are all on Day 5 of some sort of intestinal bug, I was more than willing to skip cleaning the bathroom this week (more than once) in favor of some outdoor activities.

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And so we ran and jumped, slid and hid, swung and scavengered in the fresh air all week.  Lia is 14 months and still not walking, although I'm guessing it'll happen any day now.  I don't mind at all, until we get outside.  And then I feel like I either have to hold her the whole time or let her crawl around in the dirt, and I just hate to see brown, worn knees on all her cute pants.  She is able to stand in the toy castle/ship/whatever-the-boys-imagine-it-is-these-days, which is slightly less dirty than the ground.  And she's so excited.  You can tell she feels like one of the big kids, hanging out all by her big bad self.  Until one of the older brothers pushes by and knocks her to the ground.

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Then there's Jude, still trying to keep up with Jack despite that fact that he is younger and considerably smaller.  And Jack's always willing to invite Jude in to some new game, partly because he doesn't want to play alone and partly because he uses Jude to "test out" his ideas before attempting them himself.

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He still refuses to wear a coat, but will gladly don a sweatshirt. And then insists on keeping the hood up all day ... and chewing on the front until there's a wet spot all the way down to his chest.
Oh Jack.  This week he drew us a map to the woods (twice).  We had to stop and check directions with him several times on our walk (the walk that we do all the time).  Eventually he got tired of carrying a map around and asked me to take it for him.  He's also picked up on the game of "Hide and Seek."  Since I'm the only other person who understands the concept he asks me to play all the time.  He just hasn't yet figured out that you shouldn't hide in the same spot each and every time.  Or giggle when someone is looking for you.  I must admit, the whole hiding under the wood pile tarp was genius.

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My kids don't always want to go outside.  Sometimes I have to force/bribe them.  And of course, once we get out there they never want to come back in.  I'm learning that, like so many other areas of life, I have to set the example.  And so we'll go on with our own version of waldkindergarten.  We won't go out in any weather and we certainly don't go out all day, but I'll try to make time for fresh air a priority.  And since my 4 year old and I haven't had much success with letters and flashcards lately, I'm more than happy to carry our learning time outdoors.  In the years to come there will be plenty of time for books ... and probably not enough time for following treasure maps and hiding under wood piles.

2 comments:

Mrs. Thompson said...

Just found your blog via Military Spouse Blogging Community. I'm a fellow Coastie's wife and very new to the military life. I look forward to reading your posts. You can follow me at becca-thompson10@blogspot.com

J9 said...

Becca, so glad you found me! We Coastie wives have got to stick together! I'm gonna go check out your blog right now!

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