Earth Day is approaching, and as I pondered what to write, I thought about the barrage of recycling projects public school children do each year and tried to remember what made me a natural conservationist from the time I was small.
One of my very first memories is sitting in a meadow of violets and picking fistfuls of them for my Nana. Some were white with dappled purple, and others were solid purple. I was entranced at the beauty of those colors.
I would spend hours flipping over rocks looking for Red-backed salamanders, and my favorite Red Efts. The Yellow-spotted salamanders were a prize to find also, but to this day I think the tiny feet of a Red Eft are pretty close to magical.
Nana had a beautiful flower garden. In the early spring I hunted for Lily of the Valley, and in the summer the garden would erupt in purple iris and scarlet poppies. We spent hours watching the birds that came to her feeders. The first photograph I ever took was of a black-capped chickadee in flight.
Today the thought of frogs being disfigured from the polluted waters in is deeply troubling to me. The Colony Collapse Disorder that’s destroying the honeybees is impacting my family directly because the pollinators weren’t coming to my vegetable garden. A few years ago, I had to hand pollinate many rows of vegetables. Even with my intervention we didn’t get a good harvest that year.
Here on the east coast, we’re losing huge colonies of bats, and as a project this year my kids will be building bat houses like the ones we see in the woods on our hikes. (Did you know – one bat will eat 1200 mosquitoes every HOUR!). Thankfully I still have the one little bat that flies in a set pattern all over my backyard at night. I know that when I see him (or her) Spring has truly sprung!
The former owner of our house cared for his lawn with tons of chemicals. The first years living here we had so few fireflies, I could count them on one hand. Now on summer evenings, my yard is a firefly wonderland. Did you know that you can tell what kind of firefly it is by what height it flies at?
If you’ve been keeping up with any nature news, you might have learned that we’ve lost over 90% of the Monarch Butterflies due to unknown reasons. Scientists are asking people to plant milkweed to help feed them and give them places to lay eggs and attach their chrysalis.
We become conservationists by learning to love nature, and there is no better way to do this than what Charlotte Mason called Nature Study. In her books, she talks about taking a day trip to let the children spend the afternoon in a meadow, while mother sat and read a book. I don’t know about you, but that sounds like a perfect afternoon to me. (Of course I’d probably flip over a few rocks; old habits die hard.)
One of the best books for nature study is Anna Botsford Comstock’s Handbook of Nature Study. It is huge. It looks imposing and intimidating. Don’t let it be. It’s broken up so it’s easily useable; it has relevant poetry and projects to do. Somewhere in a binder I have every subject broken up into season, and I will get that typed up and posted here for you all. It is SO much fun, truly.
Another delightful book is The View from the Oak. It is wonderful for explaining the environment of creatures through their senses, not our own. It might be hard to track down, but it’s a wonderful asset to the family library.
Cultivating a conservationist doesn’t start with knowing how to recycle. It starts with loving nature so much they couldn’t imagine not recycling. Then we wouldn’t need one single Earth Day because we would be living earth day every day.
Briana Elizabeth has been at this homeschool gig since her 23 year old son was in 7th grade, and his psychiatrist told her that he had to be homeschooled. Her son never went back to public school that year, and the following year, she pulled her 4th grade daughter out of public school. Her five other children have all been homeschooled entirely. It was baptism by fire, but she wouldn’t trade it for the world. Through the years, she has in the end, not only educated her children, but herself, and homeschooling has brought about a whole paradigm change of living for her family. The education that had seemed only possible for the elite was possible through classically homeschooling.