Mamma's School

Home Education Adventure

Category: Outdoor Adventures (Page 1 of 3)

Spring Equinox Picnic-Celebrating the Vernal Equinox

The Spring Equinox Vernal Equinox www.mammasschool.co.ukThis week it has been the spring equinox, otherwise called the vernal equinox.  So, we deviated away from our nature curriculum to have a closer look and some fun with this instead.  So what is it?  It is technically when spring starts.  It is termed an equinox, as all over the globe day and night is roughly equal in length, being 12 hours each.  We are in the northern hemisphere so have the spring equinox, whilst in the southern hemisphere they are experiencing the autumnal equinox.  The day and night length is not an exact science, and it has a lot more to do with marking key times in the astronomical cycle of the earth.  In a year we have two equinoxes (autumn and spring), and two solstices (winter and summer).  There is a lot of other detail I could go in to, but I’m keeping this at the level I am teaching my trio 🙂  The spring equinox has for a long time been celebrated as a time of rebirth, and there are many lovely festivals experienced around the world to celebrate it.  So we decided to have our own little celebration, a picnic!

The trio and I thought it would be a lovely idea to head over to the west side of the island to watch the sun set.  It’s now setting at about 6pm (bang on its twelve hour day/night cycle), and would be one of the last times the children would see the sunset until the autumn.  I love my children dearly, but I equally love their bedtimes as I am exhausted by 7pm, when the house falls calm and quiet!!  There will no doubt be the odd time between now and the autumn where they will stay up, but I wanted to be sure they definitely caught this sunset.  We knew there was a well positioned fire pit, so we packed up some food to cook, and headed over.

The weather was not totally on our side though.  It was a very blustery (and cold as usual!) spring evening, with quite a bit of cloud around.  When we arrived though, the sun was peeping through the clouds and the wind dropped a little.  We lit the fire, and I got cooking, while the children got playing.  This was going to work well being a family too, as Dadda’s bus has a stop on the island a 5 minute walk from where we were.  So, I messaged him, and he said he’d join us, getting off at that bus stop on the way back from work.  We enjoyed the hot food, followed by a dessert of toasted marshmallows, and then the wind really picked up!  Once the wind picked up, we ended up hiding behind a boat hut to protect us a bit as it was very strong!

There’s a girl in there somewhere!

We waited until the sun had set, peeping out from behind the hut to watch it, then packed up our things and headed home before we blew off!!!

 

Country Kids

Den Building – An Endangered Activity.

Yesterday was one of those afternoons where all three decided to be in the house, but they couldn’t settle to play without getting at each other.  I had some baking to do for visitors the next day, but once that was cracked, I chivied them into their outdoor gear, packed up some supplies, and we headed into the woods over the road.  I declared an afternoon of den building was required!  We’ve done this many times before, but not recently, and not since we’ve moved to Sweden.  So, with the sun and rain alternating, and to the backdrop of birdsong and woodpeckers hammering (we have a lot of woodpeckers in our woods!), my trio set about their challenge.  I deliberately stayed out of it.  This was something for them to be creative and work together, not for a grown up to intervene with their ideas and commands.

I have written about the benefits of outdoor play a lot before ( http://mammasschool.co.uk/parenting/outdoor-play-children-natures-sanity/ ), so why did I specifically take them out to build to a den?  Dens can be built both indoors and outdoors, but I needed to get them out the house, and life works a lot better outdoors for us.  Building a den challenges the little person both mentally and physically.  They are using their imagination and creative thinking to come up with a place that will stay standing, and provide a little bit of shelter.  Dens also provide a sense of self.  An adult might ruin this experience with their ideas of making it look nice and being functional, whereas the child is more interested in its purpose.  They are coming at den building from a completely different angle.  The children are problem solving as they try and make their construction stand up and stay up!  They are getting a great physical workout, but having a huge amount of fun in the process.  The main reason I sent my trio out there was for the benefit of team work.  It was to get them working together and enjoying each other’s company, with the sense of achievement at the end, that comes from succeeding at something together.  Ultimately, once the den is done, comes the fantastic thing that is role play.  The den turns into a fort, or a secret hiding place, or in our case yesterday, a house for playing out whatever scenario took their fancy.

As usual our little lady took command of the project, but I was careful to mention quietly to her to try and use listening ears with the mini men.  They have ideas too, and then I left them to it, to work at their team building and negotiating skills between them, and hopefully produce a den whilst having fun at the same time!  She marched them off deeper into the woods (we had stopped by a fire pit so we had a central location for them to return to), to select their site.  They then went off in search of supplies.  She was very lucky, and managed to find a huge sheet of plastic tarpaulin!  Whilst they set about their construction I busied myself making a Kelly Kettle fire for hot drinks, and a little fire for marshmallow toasting, as den building works up an incredible appetite…especially if your are 9, and in the past few days have developed hollow legs!

After a bit of sustenance I headed back into the den location with them, to see what they had excitedly been chatting about over the camp fire.  They had made a fantastic den, but they had also located a rope swing, and some excellent climbing trees.  I watched them play and enjoyed listening to them, before the rain started.  Whilst we don’t head indoors when it rains (that is a whole other story to tell about how rain is fun!), I did think it was a chance to get cosy inside the den with a new story book I had brought out with me in the backpack (all three of mine love stories).  So we crawled in and read our book.  Our little lady started it off, and then I took over so she could enjoy being read to as well, which is important that I remember the fact that although she loves reading, she loves listening too.

They had a great afternoon, and were in a much better mood when we returned home, cooperating better together 🙂  With children playing out less, having less unstructured play time, and more scheduled activities, den building (both indoors and out) is in real danger of disappearing from their play, but is vitally necessary for their development.  Go on….get them out there today (or challenge them to build one indoors if you really can’t face going out!), and sit back and wait to reap the benefits of their play session.  Then maybe you could facilitate a feast for them in their hideout too.  Honestly, you will have a few hours of peace, it’s worth it for parents too.  If going outdoors, take a book to enjoy. If at home, just enjoy the calm to get some of your own down time 🙂

Den Building-An Endangered Activity. The Importance of Den building children den building www.mammasschool.co.uk

 

Country Kids

Bike Ride Adventure!

The temperature has risen a degree above zero, so the snow has melted.  The boys have been desperate for a bike ride for ages, so today we headed out on a bike ride adventure.  I’m usually to be found running between the 5 year old twins, either chasing them to stop, or picking them up off the floor.  The little lady goes up front and they are not allowed past her (she actually responds to stop commands, so when she stops they hopefully will…behind her!!).  Today I decided that I would take my bike too, in order to keep up.  Then I also decided that we turn this into an adventure and try going further afield.  All slightly nerve racking having two wobbly novice riders on the roads (we don’t have pavements here!).

An issue with the boys bikes is that they have a pedal brake, making it hard to get the pedals into the right position ready to push off.  Last time out we perfected using the brakes to stop, rather than our boots 🙂  This time we were aiming to perfect starting out 🙂  Lots of wobbles and topples later, and they were getting a lot better.  I had taken supplies to break up the trip with a little bit of beach play and a snack, to give them a break from the bike ride and concentration.

 

We stood the bikes up along a footpath, and while the children played on the rocks, I set up the Kelly Kettle for a brew of hot squash and hot chocolate.  When those were poured, we lit a fire on the beach, toasted marshmallows and made our marshmallow sandwiches.  Once refuelled we headed off on the other half of our bike ride.  This last part involved quite a busy road, so I was quite a nervous wreck when we got back home.  However, we had done it, and we’d had an adventure along the way!!  I was so proud of their concentration and listening.  Plus the effort their little legs put in over the 2 hours we were out was amazing 🙂  They feel really chuffed with their efforts and they have a big story to tell Dadda when he gets back home 🙂

Bike ride adventure outdoors healthy www.mammasschool.co.uk

Country Kids

Romantic Sunset Picnic….With Three Children!!

Our little lady goes to Sjöscoutkåren on a Tuesday, out on an island with an amazing view.  Dadda attends the free government run Swedish lessons in the evenings, so the mini men have to tag along in their PJ’s starting their night’s sleep in the car.  So with sunset now occurring an hour before Sjöscoutkåren, what better way to celebrate Alla Hjärtans Dag (Valentine’s Day) than with a sunset picnic.  We lit a fire in the fire pit to keep us warm, we watched the sky change through a rainbow of colours, we listened to the bird song as they started to roost at dusk, we got to see a few murmurations, and we got to see the stars come out and spot a few constellations.  It was only -2°C, there was no wind, and this sunset picnic was a perfect end to the day 🙂

For our sunset picnic I had made heart shaped sandwiches, served with a side order of jam croissants, and heart shaped Swedish biscuits (pepparkakor).  I had also taken a table runner and a nice candle (that would stay lit outdoors!) to make it a really special sunset picnic. I wouldn’t normally be quite so extravagant outdoors, especially as I usually have to lug it up some hill!  I completely forgot their fruit (bad mummy moment!!) but I did totally remember the marshmallows 🙂  I had taken flasks of hot squash and hot chocolate with us as well.

With the fire lit, we needed to put it to good use toasting some yummy marshmallows.  Always a favourite.  The stars were starting to come out by now and Venus was shining brightly.  The children were trying to get snowballs to reach the sea, and we were treated to huge murmurations of birds.  Eventually it was time to dampen the embers and head off to Sjöscoutkåren, but everyone was very chilled and happy having had their sunset picnic outdoors, listening to and watching a natural spectacle or two 🙂

sunset picnic valentines day outdoor cooking www.mammasschool.co.uk

 

Country Kids

Snowy Hike Searching for Supplies & Tracking

This week we are studying evergreens, and we NEED supplies.  Plus an evergreen or two would be a bonus to look at!  So this week’s hike had an ulterior motive behind it.  There is a lovely hike at the southern point of the island.  It takes you through rocky open terrain, scattered with a variety of evergreen trees.  Then you meander through a pine forest, eventually coming out into the open on a peninsula jutting out into the sea.

We came across many different shapes and sizes of animal tracks on the hike.  The only one I could identify with any certainty were the deer tracks.  The tracks seemed to be going our way too, so I wondered if we may get lucky with a sighting.  However, as usual, we had the raised voices of childhood accompanying us, as well as the odd scream as someone stepped forward only to suddenly sink up to their knees in snow!  So, I am guessing the deer heard us coming and retreated back to safety, having had plenty of warning.  It was lovely though being able to see such great tracks everywhere due to such deep snow.  That makes them easier to see.  It also allowed plenty of discussion about what had caused them.  Which then led onto discussions about animals’ feet size and shape.

We successfully collected a variety of evergreen samples and cones for our week’s theme, as well as some moss and lichen for other things we will be doing.  No hike of ours would be complete without some sort of outdoor cooking, so we sat and enjoyed the (very cold) winter sun, gobbling a tasty snack.  That treat will be in another post 😉 Finally, after we had packed up, it was time to return back home.  The hike was hard going as the snow was so deep, but I’d chosen a much shorter route today to take account of this.  Plus it was so nice to be out in the sunshine, something we have not seen for a month now (apart from one appearance of a couple of hours a few weeks ago!).

Immersed in Nature and Island Exploring.

In Sweden there are a LOT of little islands. We live on one for starters! These little islands are very often inaccessible by foot, and many people have boats, as a lot are good for exploring. Some though are connected by little foot bridges, and today’s adventure was onto one of these (and there are many more for us to explore!)  The local maps mark the fire pits on them, so I chose one to head towards so the children could have some outdoor fire-cooked food and a play while we enjoyed being there.

After we parked the car, it was about a 1 km little hike to the fire pit. We often see swans in groups of 2-5 around the waters that surround us, but when we got there, in the water between us and the mainland, there were 20-30 swans, so this must be where they “hang out”. The children had a fantastic play while I set up the fire and unpacked the supplies. We were really pleasantly surprised to find a little tiny wooden covered area with a large jerry can, some wood, and some paper. We had come prepared, but I liked having the jerry can as it meant we could fill it with sea water and have a bit more on standby in case of needing to dampen the fire quickly. It is a very beautiful and peaceful spot.

The children were soon immersed in imaginative play by climbing rocks or hiding in bushes, or balancing along fallen trees. Two of them clambered over to boulders in the sea, climbed them and sat watching the swans for a while. I have talked in posts before about the importance of children being out in nature. Unless we expose them to it now, allow them to enjoy it, and learn about it, they won’t grow up respecting it, or wanting to protect it, and it already has enough pressure on it! There are also the health benefits of a healthier life style (or in their eyes, forced hiking!!), and everyone being a lot less stressed and argumentative. They literally live for the moment when they are immersed in nature and being able to play in amongst it. Every second is a game, every step of a hike has the potential to reveal hidden wonders, and they return back home a lot calmer.  They think more creatively, they push their boundaries, they both learn to assess a risk as well as take a risk, they collaborate better and communicate better…the list is endless.  I see all this in my own children, so I know it works being out there in nature, and I know it improves my parenting skills too as I am calmer and more relaxed 🙂  A big benefit for my twins is they are learning so much when they are outdoors.  They are never going to be conventional learners, but out here in nature, they are switched on to what you are saying, prepared to get involved more, and enjoy it!!  That is why we take so much of our life outside too.

We cooked our treats (posted on the outdoor cooking post for the week), made our hot drinks, and just enjoyed being in each other’s company. No one wanted to leave and we promised to bring Dadda back here. However, with daylight fading rapidly and a narrow footbridge to cross, we reluctantly headed back along the trail to the car. Everyone was so relaxed and happy, that when we got home, they played and were happy until supper was ready! It so often works like that, and it makes all the hassle of wrapping three little people up to go out in the Swedish winter weather worth it 🙂

 

 

Country Kids

Dummy Trees and Love Trees.

I am going to start doing things a little differently regarding home education, and the blog 🙂  Each week we have a theme we follow from the nature curriculum.  We have been doing this as well as independent maths, Swedish and English.  I am now going to try and incorporate everything, plus some art and craft under that week’s theme, and then write about them in separate categories (I have now given the blog a category menu as I had written so many posts, they needed splitting up a little).  Then the week will be finished off on the blog with a nature curriculum overview (similar to what I have been doing), going through what we have been doing in our journals and reading.  The hope is both lives and blog will flow a little better and be less disjointed.  There will be other adventures in between, but this just helps me get my head around everything I want to do for the children….there is so much out there as a home educator and wanting to explore a new country, it can become a little overwhelming sometimes (well daily, when adding in the general amount of work looking after three children in itself entails!!).

So, this week our topic is winter trees.  Today, due to swimming lessons late afternoon, our plan was to do our weekly exploring hike of a new area, and at the same time collect supplies for the winter tree activities in the week ahead.  I am discovering I need to bribe the children outdoors for a hike (the walks tend to be freezing and long for little legs), but once they are outdoors they have a blast.  So the bribe of choice every time at the moment is geocaches!  So, off we set to an island called Dragsö, which meant that we could head back to the swimming lessons without too much of a problem.

We were totally unsuccessful in our geocaching quest, but that doesn’t matter, and isn’t really the point!!  The main thing is that we had fun on the way and also learnt a thing or two.  The first geocache in the hunt was near a “pacifier tree”.  We came across these on our first forest walks shortly after moving to Sweden.  We were deep into some woods one day, when we came across a tree with hundreds of brightly coloured dummies hanging from it.  I thought it was a rather a strange thing to find in a wood, and carried on.  Then when we started investigating the woods which we live by, we discovered one in there too.  On researching this, this is the way Swedish parents encourage children to sensitively part with their dummies.  It becomes a special adventure for the child and family to say “goodbye” to their dummy, and the child hangs it onto the tree.  So, that is one Swedish tradition we now know about that we didn’t previously.  However, we couldn’t locate the geocache.  What did happen though, was that all three children found the ice over the sloping rocks made a fabulous slide!!  So we stopped and played a while 🙂

The second geocache site was where we found a love tree!  A special love tree sculpture (by Lars-Erik Sundin) has been placed at the top of the north west lookout point.  Here, couples in love, seal their love by attaching a padlock with their initials to the tree.  Tradition says you throw the key away so that the love is everlasting. I have also read that a lot of proposals happen here….thankfully today my three didn’t bulldoze their way through one of those!!  We had a good look at the tree and a chat (my trio aren’t quite ready to comprehend that romantic notion so were all rather puzzled by the whole idea!), and then some tree climbing ensued after not locating the second cache either!!

So 0/10 for cache finding, but 10/10 for nature’s playground opportunities and 10/10 for learning new things!  That made it a pretty successful hike.  We got loads of supplies for the week’s activities………oh, but we were late for swimming!!  You can’t have it all though when steering three children through the day!

Sunrise Picnics and Sunset Views.

This morning, as part of our nature curriculum extension activities, we had planned to watch the sunrise and eat a breakfast picnic whilst doing it.  What we hadn’t planned was the -9 degree temperature plus strong winds (making it very bitter), and high tides and flooding (making our lovely jetty spots a no go for sitting on as they were all under the water!).  I think we made the most of it though.  We wrapped up in all our layers, we took heated pain au chocolats and hot chocolate with us, and we sat on roll mats, inside sleeping bags 🙂  We just about managed 25 minutes!!  It was lovely though.  We timed it perfectly just getting settled as the sun started to peep over, and the trio munched happily until the sun had risen well.  By then their hands were numb (with ski gloves on), their smiles frozen fixed in place, and there was a slight whimpering wish to clamber back into the car!!!  Our southern end of the country is a lot warmer than the rest of the country, but we moved here to experience four seasons in their entirety and I feel we are getting the chance to do that.  

The plan for suppertime was to have a sunset picnic, but we decided with the sun setting and the temperature having not risen any higher all day, one meal outside was probably enough, and 2 might be pushing it….especially trying to eat pasta off a fork with ski gloves on!  So, we just went to enjoy the spectacle instead 🙂  We weren’t disappointed, with the sea freezing now and the ice creeping further from the shore, it was really lovely to look at, and very wintry!

These last three photos, show birds flocking together.  However, we were just too far away to get a good photo, and when they were doing their best aerial stunts, the camera couldn’t pick them out as they blended into the dark background of rocks and trees.  It was mesmerising to watch though, and now we know they do this at dusk in this spot, we might head back again, this time making sure we are closer in time for dusk 🙂

 

Eat an Apple Straight from the Tree……

img_9720After finishing most of packing our house up this morning, while the rain hammered down outside, we got outside for a few hours this afternoon in the autumn sunshine.  We were showing one of our little ladies little friends the good play spots around the Alver Valley Country park.  There was much puddle splashing (and squelching home), blackberry munching, and tree climbing, and it was a lovely 2 hours.  The fact that the sun shone was a huge bonus.

 

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There was a lot of balance practising going on as well, along horizontal branches.  Our mini man no.2 was rather taken with this activity and would balance along to the end, jump down, and start again many, many, times.  One of the National Trust missions is to eat an apple straight from the tree, and we found a tree heavy with apples, they looked like cooking ones, but everyone was game to try one.  To our delight and surprise, they were really yummy!!  So, we can now tick that task off our lists 🙂

Packing wise, I think we are done now, bar the odd hairbrush, and spoon, and rejigging the cases (which total the correct combined weight, but are very out of balance and some overweight, and others very underweight).  A puzzle for me to do on the last evening!

Jumping over Waves – No.20

z56Today’s mission….jumping over waves!!  With the weather forecast looking sunny all day and a busy three days ahead of us ruling the beach out over the weekend, all three were told it was a beach day (funnily enough, no arguments with that, in fact relief they weren’t going to be there in freezing cloudy windy weather!).  So we packed up our van and headed down for nearly 6 hours.  In the morning the sea was quite calm with very little wind, so the children amused themselves hunting for treasures out on the spit, having stories, and playing games.  I love it when they all get really involved with their make believe play, and the first game involved the body boards and being pirates.  Then the boys made a “road” with sand and pebbles and used toy cars to play on it, which then turned into a complicated parking game.

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With lunch eaten, it was time to turn their attentions to the sea.  The boys are really beginning to show a want to go into the sea now and use their boards.  Mini man no.2 is still more up for it than mini man no.1, and big sister is fantastic at either pulling them along on the boards, or trying to teach them to go out on the boards, then turn round, face inland, and use the waves to move them.

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Then mid afternoon, the wind really picked up and produced some good waves worth jumping over, which all three had a blast doing.  They then dripped all over their National Trust books to stick the stickers in.  The boys had to head off to their swimming lesson, but our little lady was able to stay with her friend who had joined us, and get a good 45 minutes of swimming and boarding in without worrying about her little brothers.  She loved it and would have stayed longer had she been able too.

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