Here, I share some of my concluding take aways from reflecting on my parent-child-nature relationship during this program and study:
Today was our 8th and final event of the spring program and study. I selected a few closing activities; a drumming "sound and seek" game and a "Hoot" rock ceremony. Of course, water was a big part of our morning too!
For this event my son was sick so he was not present. It gave me an opportunity to observe and participate more with the other families. For my reflection I drew a map of our explorations and activities. But I felt that this didn't reflect the full experience...I still needed words. So I started to write words to describe the general feeling of the parent-child-nature experience at each activity site. I recognized a total of five activity sites during this event; playground, pond dipping, snack, dock and stream.
After some experimentation I decided to come up with a bank of words that could describe the various roles that the Parent (P), Child (C) and Nature (N) played in the experience.
(to describe PCN roles in a specific experience):
Assigning these roles turned out to be a difficult task! What I realized was that these roles are not always stationary and evolve with the experience as well as often being fluid between parent, child and nature. I recognize that the meaning of these words in the context of the PCN relationship will vary for each parent and that the outcomes for another parent experimenting with this activity would likely be quite different. However I stuck with the plan to assign one word to each partner to see what would happen. I learned something quite important about my understanding of the PCN relationship - which adds to my appreciation of it! I will share my discovery after showing a six pics from this exercise.
What I realized during this exercise is that nature as a partner in the PCN relationship can often take on the role of "provider" and "facilitator" in the experience. For me this is so important because I often feel that these roles fall into my domain as the parent. Which can be exhausting and can add stress or create tension between the parent-child relationship. What a relief it is to realize I can lean on nature as a partner to provide these roles, in certain contexts, in an experience for my son! It allows me to step out of this role I take on and provide me with some space to: relieve tension; become present; have some autonomy; or just engage in the stillness or playfulness of it all.
Some other words I wanted to add to the word bank were: Invitor (this word doesn't exist!), Inventor, Demonstrator, Player, Leader...
However I wanted to keep the list short and I felt that some of the words were starting to overlap!
If you have other words to describe partner roles you have observed or experienced as part of the PCN relationship- I would love to hear them!
Dandelions, ducklings and special places
I'm starting to realize how it is the everyday things in nature that I often take for granted that are of huge interest for young children...however I think I'm getting better at anticipating this. An example of this was the ground squirrels at Fish Creek and at this event it was the dandelions! It felt like we could have stayed in each of these spots for the whole 1.5 hour program! I wonder what would have emerged then?
As an educator I felt like I should have planned the program around the dandelions however as a parent it was wonderful experiencing the group play unfolding around the dandelions - from picking bouquets, to watching them float down the stream and over a little rapid. I think treating everything as a "teachable moment" can zap some of the magic out of the experience for both adult and child. Which leaves me to contemplate how we as parents choose to participate in our children's emerging play in nature.
Sometimes I choose to direct and shape, sit back and watch or enter in the play. I think all of these choices shape my parent-child-nature relationship in various ways and I think they each have their value in our experience together...it's feeling for the right time to enter into one of these parental roles that can be a challenge.
My favourite moment with Francis today was when he laid on the snack blanket before families arrived and was looking up at the trees - here I had a choice: direct and shape (ex: "What do you see?"), sit back and watch or enter in the play or experience (ex: Lay down beside him.). I choose in this case to snap some pics...which felt more like sit back and watch. However, I felt like I intruded in on the experience...but sometimes I do that and sometimes I enter in and others times it's his very own. Thinking of that as I write this - I realize it was all three! Perhaps it is never really exclusively one or the other in the parent-child-nature relationship...but a careful...no a caring combination.
Spring Colours and Feathered Families
What I am left wondering:
Parenting in nature and what we are learning from each other.
What I feel
Excitement, satisfaction, cohesiveness, community, fun
What I saw
Community of plants and animals
A community of children
Comforts increasing in exploring and with the “routine” of the program
For older children a desire to take more initiative or ownership or have choice in their explorations and take the lead
Children starting to become a flock, a herd or a pack -leading and following
For myself: Wanting to stick to the planned program, keep on schedule. Adult world.
Children living more from moment to moment, feeling to feeling, experience to experience (assumption). How to blend these worlds? Have the experience work for both adult and child? How to learn from eachother?
Ground Squirrel Town
Heads popping up
Children leaning in
Cautious curiosity quickly turning into play and boundary testing
Boundary testing…always creating immediate friends and allies
How close, how fast and how many?
Boundaries between our above ground human world swirling and mixing with
Ground squirrel town
Mysterious homes below
Maybe, subtly and gently
Becoming part of our homes, ourselves
What I think
A group of families is starting to become a community of families
What I Wonder:
With a ready to live in contrary to my suggestions - son
What other conflicts besides getting dressed and into the car with arise today
Ok the step of getting into the car again proves to be the hardest
We are rolling, horizon is ahead
Although it is not bright there are possibilities
There are trains
There are snacks
There is a snack blanket and a family nature club blanket my son observes...or proclaims!
There are families
"When are we going home?"
We are carried forward, not backward, on a wave of families
Momentum to keep going, to turn ideas of home, for now, into...
Hide and seek
Energy and play is beckoned by the old brick house
Kids take charge
There are no hesitations
"Let the wild rumpus begin!"
Going home is forgotten
Believe it or not...the sun comes out
Tired but free of parent-child tensions