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Nature-Deficit Disorder??? Interesting topic to think about during this beautiful weather....
Susan Richman, 3/17/2010

Susan Richman is the Editor of Pennsylvania Homeschoolers, and the mother of four homeschool grads (fourth one graduating from college this spring!). She's also a Pennsylvania home education program evaluator, and serves on the PHAA Board of Directors, and is the AP Coordinator for the PA Homeschoolers AP Online program.

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*Our dog Sadie-- my current hiking companion about our farm... she's always ready for an outing!* 

I hope many of you have had a chance to get outside with your kids over these last few glorious days. I'm in awe that just a week ago our rural driveway was still full of ice and snow, and parts of our yards were still 10 inches deep with the white stuff from the February storms. Now, the daffodils are peeking up bravely, even developing buds. I took a wonderful one hour hike about our farm property yesterday with our dog-- and remembered many walks and hikes I used to take with our kids when they were growing up.

So, when I was looking at the website from the National Environmental Education Week email I just received, to see if anything might be of interest to homeschoolers, I came upon this fascinating little section of their website:

http://www.eeweek.org/resources/survey.htm 

This section includes a link to an article called Growing up Denatured -- it about the work of Richard Louv, and it was published in the New York Times in April 2005. Louv, who coined the term 'nature-deficit disorder' (a bit of a joke on 'attention-deficit disorder'... but a serious joke) was very concerned that with all the factors that are tending to make our kids quite removed from the natural world.... concerns for safety and exaggerated fears of child abduction, latch-key kids who must stay inside till parents get home from work, lack of natural areas nearby to many homes, the over-scheduling of kids into too many time-demanding adult-organized activities and lessons, and most especially the lure of computers and TV and other electronic media entertainment.

The Environmental Education Week site encourages parents to read this article aloud with their kids, and then have them take an accompanying survey on how much time they spend in various outdoors activities. Then kids are challenged to interview their parents to see if the different generations have indeed had different experiences. Results can be entered into an online survey form, if desired-- the results will be compiled by the NEEW organization, and findings will be published on the site.

I think all of our own children would be able to report that they indeed have had about the same amount of unstructured outside playtime as I did growing up in the 1950's and early 60's. I had acres of wood behind our suburban home, and my sister and I spent many happy hours exploring, climbing, building forts, imagining, investigating, and following paths to unknown places. I just recently was looking over a Google map of my hometown (in preparation for going to my 41st high school reunion this summer!), and I could finally see just where that 'secret' pond was in relation to our property that my sister and I found one day while out in the woods for hours.

We're fortunate enough to have raised our kids on a 138 acre farm, with woods full of trails and paths, fields, streams, creeks, old stripmine roads, and more. Besides going out with me regularly when young, all our kids spent free time just exploring on their own, too. Jesse especially loved building forts and treehouses all over the woods-- starting out with lashed together structures three stories high, and eventually ending up building a little 'cabin' all made of recycled materials at the top of the hill above our pond. I think he literally imagined he might move up there at some point. They've also all enjoyed the regular summer backpacking trips with our son's inlaws. I'm pleased that one of our daughter Maya (Molly) and her husband's favorite things to do in Israel is to go out on hikes in the many wilderness areas not far from where they live. And our daughter Hannah gets out rock climbing outside of Boston, Jacob loves to go snowboarding and skiing with his wife in the mountains near to Seattle, and Jesse was just out canoeing the other evening with his kids in the sound near to their Norfolk VA home.

And yes, there is lots more on the National Environment Education Week site that you might find useful and helpful-- the theme for this year's NEEW, April 11-17, 2010, is the Water-Energy  Connection, and there are links to many useful articles investigating this topic, and even a teacher 'webinar' coming up on March 31st about it. See: www.neew.org for full details.

How much time do your kids get to spend outdoors in the natural world? Does it match up to what you experienced? Do you have to 'push' your kids outdoors to play-- or are they eager to get outside? Do you struggle with video game addiction that works like a magnet to keep your kids inside too much?


Comment by NatureDad, 3/18/2010:

This book, out just this week, looks like it would be a great resource for parents and educators: The Green Hour: A Daily Dose of Nature for Happier, Healthier, Smarter Kids.

http://www.amazon.com/Green-Hour-Happier-Healthier-Smarter/dp/1590307569

 

 

Response to this comment by Susan Richman, 3/18/2010:
Sounds like a great resource! Thanks for sharing about this one :-). Thanks! Susan Richman, Editor, PA Homeschoolers.com


Comment by , 3/22/2010:

Enjoyed reading your reminiscences! I grew up in the Petworth area of Washington DC in the 50s and early 60s. We had a small yard in the back that opened to a crosswork of alleys. We loved the alleyways and played all kinds of games from dodgeball to hide-n-seek and divided into armies and waged acorn battles in the fall. There were two parks nearby, circles, where we would go skate and climb trees. The first time I saw deer was when I was 18 or 19 and drove to New Kensington PA for a funeral. I was fixated on the deer I observed in my coming and going, and counted near 100.  Now living in South Buffalo I see deer all the time.  Bear have come through our property, we have a skunk living too close to the house, quite a few fox, annoying raccoons, and a large population of rabbits. A large variety of birds and squirrels keep us entertained too.  A highlight one summer was watching a cougar for some time as he meandered around in the back of our property.  Watching the wildlife is actually better than television!  It does help to have our computer desks where we can look out the windows though.  I'm glad that Alexa and husband Seth take advantage of so many opportunities to be close to nature while living in San Francisco. Lex recently videoed a small octopus!  Homeschool let us be real students of nature and we love PA Homeschoolers!

Response to this comment by Susan Richman, 3/23/2010:
Thanks for your kind comment here, and for your own memories of growing up! And you had a COUGAR on your property!!!! My goodness!!!! Aw, sweet that Alexa recently saw an *octopus* and then thought to share it with you all back home :-). Yes, definitely all of your kids enjoyed many times in nature growing up! Good idea to have our computers at least facing an outside window, so we can easily look outside regularly-- and hopefully dash out every now and then :-). Again, thanks for posting here! Susan, editor, PA Homeschoolers


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