Last April wildflower walk of the year…and a few other beauties

The spring wildflowers are in their second flush, as the wild plums and bloodroot are nearly finished blooming. The warm weather has brought new hues to the forest, in a crescendo of vibrant colors.

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Trillium are in full bloom, adding a deep red to the woodland forest.
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The red oaks rely on wind for pollination, so their pollen is usually viewed as a radiating golden hue in the tree tops. This small branch was brought down in the wind, allowing me to admire the rich color and delicate leaves more closely.
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No true morels, yet. But we found a large patch of these rusty-eared gnarly beauties, with their untraceable folds and delicate ripples.
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The jack in the pulpit’s green on green provides subtle grace and requires a careful look, before the show-stopping red berries in the fall..
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Bellworts add their bright yellow to the edge of the woodland.

Sometimes it’s the forest, sometimes it’s the beach

Exploring different habitats - forest and beachFor our family, the forest is our everyday nature place.  We can walk to a forest for daily time in nature; we can drive 5 minutes to a forest — and we do, every week for Forest Freeplay.  But at the end of June we spent a few days in a completely different habitat: the beach!

The forest tends to be dim, with soft filtered light and a soothing hush.  Or it might have a continual throbbing undertone of cicada song.  The creek burbles by, and the children can climb on the muddy banks, over boulders, and across fallen logs.

Playing in the forest -- children's natural habitatGoing to the beach provides a natural experience of a completely different kind.  The sky is vast.  The Atlantic ocean is endless.  The water is powerful!

Taking children to new nature places -- the ocean!There are birds to be seen, shells to examined, waves to be ridden, and salty water to be tasted, and the sand — oh, the sand.  I think it is still coming out in the wash.

There is much to be said about the importance of connection to local places — Hunting Red* is just such a story!  Exploring completely new habitats allows you to come back and see your own familiar nature spaces in a delightful new way.

Where will your nature explorations take you this summer?

*Hunting Red is PocketMousePublishing.com‘s own book! It can be purchased through Amazon‘s affiliate program: full disclosure here.

Forest Freeplay: How we got started

How I started a Forest Freeplay groupA few months ago, I saw a posting on a local homeschool group about an informational meeting for staring a “Forest Freeplay” group.  We’d been getting outside into nature as family every day as our One Thing.  But I liked the idea of getting together with other families who valued time in nature.

I attended, hoping to meet someone who was excited about starting a group near me that I could join.  The hostess was fabulous — answering questions (What do kids DO?), sharing the experiences of leading a group, and providing lots of links to online organizations which support kids in nature.  Sign me up, I was ready to join a group!

Of course, none of the other moms lived near me.

So it was either feel sorry for myself that no one who lived near me wanted to start a group, or drive to another group.  But, I’m tired of driving.  I drive to the store, the library, weekly SCA practices, the community college, and to take my older ones to work.  And if we want to visit with friends, I have to drive.  I’m just tired of it.

There was, of course, a third option: start a group myself.

And so, with great trepidation, I posted a short announcement to the local homeschool group list.  Two families came out!

Every week I post a short little announcement with the details, including the statement: Plan to get wet & muddy! Every week we’ve had other families join me & my kids for Forest Freeplay — sometimes only one family, sometimes as many as six.  Yes, even on the two weeks it was actually raining!

By planning this weekly, I’ve committed us to two hours in the forest with others — socializing for the children and me (possibly more important!).  By going to the same spot every week, we observe the changing of the seasons and the effects of sun and rain.

For example, when the kids built this structure, the water was low & clear.

Child directed learning in a nature setting: that's Forest Freeplay!The next week the water was deep and rushing…but the structure held!

Forest Freeplay means letting the kids buildGot questions?  Ask me in the comments!

Previous posts on Forest Freeplay: