The Value of Outdoor Preschool

Today is the first day of preschool.  


Leif has the privilege of going to one of the first outdoor preschool and kindergarten programs in Nashville.  It is perfect for him since he doesn’t function well inside.  His parents don’t either.  We are both very outdoorsy people.  

My husband grew up in the suburbs but was an avid hunter and fisherman during his teen and early adulthood years, traveling all over the United States for different experiences.  He overcame his drug addiction by hiking the Appalachian Trail.  He followed up with two degrees in Biology, and working in places like The Everglades and Kentucky Lake, where we finally met.  

I grew up out in the middle of nowhere.  I still remember the day we got a Wal-Mart nearby.  It was a 30 minute drive, but the whole community was excited.  

We gardened and rented our land to farmers who raised large animals like cattle, horses, pigs, etc.  They weren’t ours, but I still spent hours roaming about with them in the fields with my dogs.  Anytime I wasn’t in school, I was climbing trees, foraging, or playing in our creek.  Way back on our family land there was even an old settlement with a few cabins and a graveyard.  It took an hour to hike back into it, but occasionally we would go there and picnic as a family.  

I always dreamed of living in the suburbs until I actually lived in the suburbs.  Now I ache for the joy of no neighbors and being surrounded by nature as far as the eye could see, spending hot summer afternoons paddling a canoe along the shore until we spotted the perfect beach to comb and take a dip in.  

When I think about this, it is no wonder that my husband and I found one another.  I wanted a taste of his childhood and he wanted a taste of mine.  Every time I get frustrated with him, I have to remind myself that when we are together, we balance one another in the most perfect of ways.  There almost are no words to describe it.  I embody his growth and he embodies mine.  As long as those are treated as a synergistic spiral of upward growth, our possibilities are endless.  We just must both constantly choose to move forward and learn.  Sometimes that is easier said than done, but having this awareness is a profound gift for our family.  

Today is the first day I have the house to myself in several months.  I have conflicting feelings.  I love the silence.  It is music to an introvert’s ears.  I don’t get silence nearly often enough.  


On the flip side, I already miss my husband and baby.  They both bring me so much joy and comfort just with their presence.  At the same time, I recognize my need for silence for my sake of sanity.  Parenting is also a balancing act.  

This is why I need to get certified in yoga, balance.  

I am happy that despite living in the city, we have so many resources for our children here in creating a healthy reverence for our natural world.  This is something that is still lacking in my generation, although, we are an improvement on the previous generation.  My husband comments on my inherent deep connection to the earth.  I always smile and say, “This is my ancestral land.”  I have a close connection to the Cherokee on both sides of my family just a few generations back.  My husband’s ancestry is entirely European.  I would be interested in seeing him navigating Norway at some point in our lives. 

Growing up in the country, I learned a lot of skills in finding small game, navigation, wild foraging, etc.  This was just a part of our everyday life.  We had such a large tract of land that we just meandered our self made hiking trails to our places of interest.  Along the way, we might gather berries, flowers, or even a couple of rabbits if we were especially hungry.  It was a wonderful thing for a child that desired independence.  

My mother had a signal bell.  She would know where my older brother and father were and if I wanted to join them, she would signal the bell.  She would then send me on my way along the trail I was to take.  My brother and father knew to look for me and if I took too long, they would head along the path to tell me to hurry along.

This knowledge and connection to my earth mother gives me a sense of trust in my intuition that I’m not certain I would otherwise have.  I know that no matter what happens to me, I can live off the land.  I don’t know that many people in this day and age can say that, and it makes me feel sad.  It forces you to be a prisoner of a system that thrives on prisoners.  I can do a lot of what I desire because I am safe in my knowledge and ability to care for myself.  My husband has this same privilege, although, he is a bit more dependent upon tools than I am.  Then again, a big man needs big game, I suppose, and they aren’t as easy to catch with nothing but your hands. 

 

It is very reassuring to me that programs are popping up in the United States that value this connection and foster it in the early years, when the connection is most natural.  I hope that it becomes the norm for our youth with all of my being.  I know it is something I value deeply.  Even my 11 year old, who tries to resist it with all he has, lights up when walking barefoot along a hiking trail.  

Humans are beautiful creatures in their natural habitat.  

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