The current lockdown has provided many challenges. Being a supportive husband and father is tough enough at the best of times, let alone the extra pressures that come with running your own business… so throw the daunting concept of home-schooling into the mix and you have yourself a very uncertain cocktail for the immediate future.
There’s loads to take away from today’s inspiring #lockdown guest blog from dedicated dad Lee Wood, the owner of St Albans’ based company Ember Designs – This special blog is illustrated with his stunning photographs.
On the whole I’m quite a positive person, and at times ‘a perfectionist’ to boot – that’s just the designer in me. This led me to want to provide my six year-old daughter, Eleanor, with the educational platform she deserved. We all sat down and planned a routine together, trying to keep a level of familiarity with Eleanor’s normal school day. We were presented with a devastating amount of printed worksheets from school – a sustainability issue in itself – which we addressed.
The great outdoors
The first few days went by without incident, but I knew we had to think ‘outside the box’ if it were to be a success. It felt too regimented, and was difficult for us both to enjoy and really engage with. My wife and I knew that this was something completely out of the ordinary.
So, with this in mind, about a week into the lockdown I decided to introduce Eleanor to the best teacher possible: the great outdoors.
As a family we’re already quite engaged with nature, but the amount of online resources which suddenly became available really opened our eyes to new projects and local groups we could engage with.
I’m not saying for one minute that the National curriculum was totally replaced by, amongst many, the Sustainable St Albans lockdown activities. It simply became a valued source of opportunities to help plan certain sessions.
Craft ideas, foraging recipes and literacy suggestions were all sourced and replicated with great enthusiasm.
Dividing wildflower seeds became the new maths, penning a nature journal formed part of the English lesson and building a new garden pond was … good muddy fun!
We could see that many families were also taking part in this type of activity and social media showed many happy children learning outside and many parents thankful for the good weather.
Word soon got out about the popularity of providing some lockdown learning for the ‘online generation’ and within a matter of days, most of the environmental organisations had produced ‘downloadable’ activities and/or online guides to this and that. We tried, and failed, to keep up with the vast selection available.
Back to basics
Within a fortnight, Eleanor and I were inundated with updates from all the big-hitters; The Wildlife Trusts, Woodland Trust, RSPB, the list goes on. All providing yet more alfresco adventures. Learning had never been so much fun and it was almost in danger of reaching saturation point, so we got back to basics…
Just nature, Eleanor and I.
I was, and continue to be, happy for the growing number of email updates to guide, but not restrict, our ventures.
Every child is different, every garden or balcony is different, and the range of activities suggested is vast. There isn’t a prescription or syllabus for learning about nature and the environment.
We need to remember the magical feeling of grass under bare feet when the dew is still damp, the cold shiver when you first stand in a clear river on a hot day, or the joy of a sunflower growing.
Work sheets, schemes of work and extension activities are fantastic and have their moments.
However my hope is that at the end of this period of home schooling, with all the challenges it entails, we have also unearthed a new generation of budding explorers, bug hunters and a discover a new found respect for the joyous world just outside our windows.
Here are links to some of the sites we’ve found useful:
Author and photographs: Lee Wood