Monday, July 10, 2006

I have just gotten the required summer reading list for Judah’s school teachers and a couple books caught my attention.

o Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder by Richard Louv

o Einstein Never Used Flash Cards : How Our Children Really Learn -- And Why They Need to Play More and Memorize Less by Kathy Hirsh-Pasek, Diane Eyer, Roberta Michnick Golinkoff

I am reading the first book (Last Child in the Woods) now. Though it’s definitely not in the “summer reading/beach book” category, it is holding my interest and making me feel guilty as hell for not taking Judah outside more often. It is all about how my generation is the last to spend time outdoors (think about that for a minute!!!). Kids in college today grew up in the MTV/videogame generation and as one kid in the book put it (this is sad), “I like to play indoors because that’s where all the electrical outlets are.”

I had a bit of a come to Jesus with myself over the fact that I am terrified of Judah ever going to play in the woods alone (not that I know where the woods are in my city). The mental picture I have of him in the woods is some pervie snatching him up never to be seen again, rather than him climbing trees and catching toads. I thought back to my own childhood and how my friends and I mucked about in the woods down by the Cape Fear River until nightfall all summer long where with nothing more then hedge clippers to clear the path in front of us, where we encountered everything from waterfalls to water moccasins. I spent so much time at the ocean, too. My childhood was very idyllic and most of my really wonderful memories were always outside on bicycles, in the woods, painting with mashed up tree berries, building forts and swinging from “tarzan vines”.

Now, it’s not like we don’t go hiking and take Judah to parks, because we do, but I think even then, we coddle him too much and worry that he might step in a patch of poison ivy or get chiggers, so we’re always like, “Oooo, Judah, be careful walking there!” etc…so, it really got me thinking about raising kids today in an urban environment where trees were planned by landscapers and what are the ramifications of how they will feel about nature. If I want Judah to be environmentally conscious at an action level and not just an intellectual awareness level, how can he become more experienced when he knows more about the natural world through Wild Kingdom on the Discovery Channel rather than having experienced nature as part of his every day life?

Another motivation to read this book came from my friend taking her son to her mom’s house in Arkansas. Her mom is a scientist with Greenpeace and lives “off the grid”. They spent a solid month walking in the woods, discovering nature together, with no TV, no radio, just in the middle of the woods, hearing birds and crickets and frogs. They saw frogs mating and then watched as the eggs became tadpoles. They brought a bunch of tadpoles home and are raising frogs in a little terrarium on the back porch…feeding them fruit flies and watching the tadpoles’ tails disappear as they grow. Very cool Biology 101 for a three year old.

I probably read too many of these kinds of books and should just go pick up the Kite Runner and enjoy my summer.