Saturday, July 14, 2012

Last Child in the Woods ~ Chapters 15, 16, and 17

This has been a crazy, whirlwind of a week. I wasn't sure if I was going to get the chapters read in order to post my thoughts. But I sat down yesterday in the midst of some crazy moments and read. And, just READING about Nature soothed me. I can't imagine how at ease I would have been if I could have actually been sitting by a pond with a fishing pole in my hand. I haven't done that since I was a kid. Maybe I should take it up again.

(Well, that's a bummer ... I came back to add my thoughts on Chapter 16, and Chapter 15's thoughts were no longer here. So, here goes again.)

Chapter 15. Telling Turtle Tales: Using Nature as Moral Teacher. "Let Nature be your teacher." ~ William Wordsworth

When I was a girl, my dad took me fishing all the time. We lived in a town with a large Amish Community. My dad has a plumbing construction business, so he would barter out work in exchange for us having use of their well-stocked ponds. My dad did not hover. In fact, his rule was that if I was going to fish, I had to bait my own hook and take my own fish off the hook. If I got my line stuck, I was pretty much on my own because he was likely on the other side of the pond enjoying his fishing time. These were the best days in my relationship with my dad.

Kids today don't fish or hunt, or do so infrequently. Or, as parents, we want them to do it "right". And that takes the fun out of it. A quote stuck out to me on Page 194 ... "Remove hunting and fishing from human activity, and we lose many of the voters and organizations that now work against the destruction of woods, fields, and watersheds."

I had never heard of Wildcrafting! But what a great way to learn about the local flora and fauna! With our potential move, this will be very important. It is a small town, so there is no nature center on which to rely. We are going to have to figure it out for ourselves. On our Friday nature hikes, I plan to have the kids explore at our local parks, on the Katy Trail, maybe even at the creek across the street from my childhood home. They can collect a sample, or record something in their nature journal, and we will come home and learn about it.

My kids each need a brand new nature journal. We have some adventures to record. Have you read Pocketful of Pinecones by Karen Andreola? It has the same vibe as this chapter, and the next.

Chapter 16. Natural School Reform. "Teaching children about the natural world should be treated as one of the most important events in their lives." ~ Thomas Berry

I got some great teaching tips from this chapter! I always wanted to be a teacher when I was growing up. I took another path. I was an attorney. Yuck. But, as I look at the state of education today, I realize that I would not be happy in today's classroom. I would not thrive in an environment where I was not allowed to teach in a way that displayed my passion for a subject.

This chapter talks about Finnish schools and how they value free play in their students. They have their kids do a 45-minute lesson and then outside time for 15 minutes. I have found myself teaching this way this summer. I will divide our day up into "sets". We will do a set, then have playtime. Then do the next set, then have playtime. My kids have responded so well to this!

Again, Pocketful of Pinecones by Karen Andreola is an inspirational story about a mom who uses the "basic idea .. to use the surrounding community, including nature, as the preferred classroom." (Page 206). I am as inspired by that story now as I was when I first read it two years ago. Having both my little ones home this next year will make it so easy to teach in such a way. Although I am sad that Dawson is going back to public school (believe me, I am sad, but I gave him the right to make his own decision), it will be easier to submerse us in these philosophies of learning, because we won't be pulled between high school work and elementary work all day.

I was also inspired by the "Real World Learning" topics starting on Page 206. I did a search and found a great site called Googol Power that has nature math activities for kids. There are many other sites like it, for all age ranges. I also learned that the founder of Square Foot Gardening has a book called Square Foot Garden Lesson Plan for Children that has actual lessons in math and science, in addition to teaching about how to make a square foot garden. At our new house, we will have space behind our garage, in a side yard, just big enough for about three gardening boxes. I think I'll get that curriculum and get the kids involved right from the start.

Chapter 17. Reviving Camps.

For me, Chapter 17 set out the obvious: that some changes need to be made to make nature more accessible to kids, primarily through camp experiences. I can remember my church camp experiences in Junior High. I went to "wilderness camp". We camped in tents, pottied in latrines, and cooked our own foods over a fire. The "sissies" were down the hill at "cabin camp". I have some amazing memories from those camp experiences.

My daughter, Kyndal, typically attends a summer church camp. She stays in a "cabin" that is as large as a university dorm and so cold from air conditioning that she has to take sweatpants and hoodies to sleep in. She never participates in any outside activities, except to possibly hit around a volleyball. And, the main event at camp is "date night".

Yes, a true revival of camp is needed.

Chapter 17, and the end of Part V "The Jungle Blackboard" ends with a description of the Third Frontier in which we are fully ensconced: "detachment from the source of food, the virtual disappearance of the farm family, the end of biological absolutes, an ambivalent new relationship between humans and other animals, new suburbs shrinking open space, and so on." The question is asked if we are in a place where we can usher in a Fourth Frontier. That is the next Part of the Book.

Next week we will read Chapters 18, 19, and 20. It's a lot of material, so get started reading now! Leave me a comment below, or a link to your post about Chapters 15-17.


  1. I finally got the book from the library. I'll come and join in later!

  2. the school my daughters attend is very nature and the arts oriented so I think sometimes you just have to search for the right school for you and your kids. Unless of course homeschooling is your choice then go for it! I'm not against homeschooling by any means! What ever works best for you and your family right?! :)

    Back to their school: They have a nature trail,a fountain, a nice meditation garden (with benches, flowers, it is so pretty and peaceful)also a big garden they plant and use for food or the families can come and take some veggies for dinner. They get outside tons through out the day (all grades from k-8) and most of their field trips are outside and either nature or art oriented.

    I have read this book and enjoyed it a lot some chapters more then others.

  3. Nicole, I enjoyed your comments on these chapters. I'm excited to look into the book on Square Foot Garden lesson plans. Both of my kids have their own SFG but I had no idea there was a lesson book to go with it, thank you for that information! I've also added Pocketful of Pinecones to my list of books I'd like to read. I shared in my post how we were already using some of the ideas from these chapters to incorporate nature in our homeschool.

    Home Schoolroom


We all know that in this crazy world of homeschooling, we need all the (adult) support we can get. Please leave a comment if you so wish!