So much of my role with Rilla is staying out of her way. Giving her vast stretches of time to draw and play, giving her space to get messy in. (Actually, she’s kind of a type A artist—very precise about her materials and workspace.) And of course strewing, strewing, strewing, the good old Sandra Dodd coinage* that captures the essence of my approach to family life: leave neat stuff where the kids can find it—and be around to talk about it when they’re ready.
She spent half the evening working away at this owl. Yesterday it was a pair of goldfinches, because they’ve been delighting us at our feeders.
Here’s the book that has captured her fancy: Drawing Birds with Colored Pencils. Amazon tells me I bought it in August, 2011. It saw a brief period of use then, with Beanie I think, and has mostly lived on the field guide shelf until now. I don’t know if it was chicken or egg—whether Rilla found the book and decided to dive in, or went hunting for help because she wanted to draw birds. I’ll ask her tomorrow, if I remember. All our drawing and nature books are stashed on shelves in our dining area, right behind Beanie’s chair and directly in Rilla’s line of sight.
*Sandra’s strewing page begins with a quote, “I just strew their paths with interesting things,” captioned “long ago, AOL homeschooling boards.” I was there, reading along, nursing infant Jane, when she wrote it! And now, many strewn paths later, Jane’s preparing to head off to college. We made the first big dorm shopping expedition today. I can still see those early AOL conversations scrolling across my screen—I got my first modem and my first baby in the same month—and thinking, Ohhh, this homeschooling thing has possibilities, I’ve gotta talk to Scott. Amazing.
I’m a wimp in the cold. Much as I respect the Charlotte Mason “get out for a walk every day, no matter what the weather” principle, I don’t live by it. No well-bundled foul-weather treks for me, invigorating though they might be. The children are encouraged to get outside for fresh air every day, but if they want my company, they have to settle for the sofa, the fireside, and a good book. Preferably one full of heroic wilderness adventures in the elements.
But as soon as the weather begins to turn, oh, I’m there. Just try and keep me inside. Housework? Pah! The floors can take care of themselves. The kids and I have paths to tread, shoes to muddy, trees to meet.
In addition to field guides and the indispensible Handbook of Nature Study by Anna Botsford Comstock, there are a few other books that leap off the shelves at me this time every year:
Wild Days: Creating Discovery Journals by Karen Skidmore Rackliffe
Keeping a Nature Journal: Discover a Whole New Way of Seeing the World Around You by Clare Walker Leslie and Charles E. Roth
Roots, Shoots, Buckets & Boots: Gardening Together with Children and Sunflower Houses : Inspiration from the Garden – A Book for Children and Their Grown-Ups
by Sharon Lovejoy
Mrs. Greenthumbs: How I Turned a Boring Yard into a Glorious Garden and How You Can, Too by Cassandra Danz (for adults only)
Noah’s Garden: Restoring the Ecology of Our Own Backyards and Planting Noah’s Garden: Further Adventures in Backyard Ecology by Sara Stein
Onward & Upward in the Garden by Katharine White (A collection of gardening essays by the wife of E.B. White).
These old friends keep us busy during the wet and chilly days of March. Come April, we’re outside living the adventure instead of reading about it. I am intrepid! I am daring! No breeze is too balmy, no creek too melodic, no backpack too full of snacks for this nature-loving mother.
That is, until the weather turns hot.