When I was younger than seven, we lived in a house with a huge yard, with a few trees in one corner along a drain ditch glamourously referred to as a creek. Three of the trees had grown close together and we called them the "telephone tree" ... this was when there were telephone booths. Our home was on a court (cul-de-sac if you will) with a service road far behind us with a few houses whose yards backed up to ours. There were two houses along the side of our yard. Only one house, the far corner, had a fence, so otherwise we had the run of the space because there were, shockingly, other children in the houses. I still remember some of the names of the children: Carrie and Chrissy, Holly, The Twins and Mandy, Daniel, Benjamin, me and my brothers (who are also twins, but we were never the twins and Dawn).
There were two other houses on the court. Behind the house opposite ours, there was a "woods" which to us, again, seemed immense, but in reality was small. We played Dukes of Hazzard in the court on our bicycles, I was never Daisy no matter how much I begged. We built snow forts there because there's a lot of extra snow plowed from the middle of a court. The girls next door had a huge (at the time) wooden play set. We played "Ghosts in the Graveyard" when it was getting dark.
My memories of being a small child are all outside, almost none inside. Until the year we had a babysitter who loathed the out of doors, so we were always inside. We had a babysitter because my parents divorced and my dad had custody. We moved, when my dad remarried, to a slightly smaller lot with fewer neighborhood children and fewer outside things to do but walk to the pool.
So, there I remember inside. Except at my grandparents' farm where we spent our mom's weeks in the summers. Then we were outside a lot, swimming in their pond, playing in an abandoned corn crib (called our clubhouse), weeding their immense garden (not my favorite), and exploring the crab apple trees and tractor barns.
I don't ever remember, as does Esolen, thinking big thoughts, being intrigued by nature, staring at the sky, being around animals other than sheep or dogs or cats.
Part of my problem with these sorts of books is that I think the writers are the exception to the norm; do most children enjoy wandering with their inmost thoughts on death and proving God's existence? Are children really that introspective? The examples he gives are wonderful, but I have to think something at home was done so the examples wished to think on Dante or other long thoughts. That being outside wasn't by itself the solution.
As an adult, I'm more like that babysitter above, I don't really like outside that much. In the winter, it is cold outside and inside I have a nice furnace. In the summer, it is hot outside, and inside I have air conditioning. I like reading books, I don't like bugs. I've never liked gardening much, dirt is dirty you know. I have planted a garden some of the past few years and am currently planning one for this year (M-girl's wishlist: Herbs, Carrots, Red Peppers, Cucumbers, Tomatoes, Eggplant, Green Beens, Peas, Lettuces, and Sunflowers).
We don't have many other children at home in the neighborhood for the children to play with, although this coming summer will be better for the three to play together. We have a few trees in our yard, but no squirrels and few birds. There's a woods (with a gravel path) close enough for me to walk with them. We have had baby bunnies in our yard, but with our two retriever type dogs, we wonder at the bunny parents and their choices. In suburbia, even the edges, open land to roam in is not really all that available ... it belongs to somebody.
I have a plan. And it involves [gasp] zoos and parks. And year round schooling. I'm such a rebel.
We've always had a zoo membership. We enjoy going for an hour or two, or the morning. We enjoy meeting friends and wandering. I think we're going to try more functional zoo trips. Our Elemental Science studies will include studying animals, so for our Friday sessions, we'll try and spend a quantity of time at those exhibits observing and drawing.
One Friday a month (I'm starting small), we'll go to a local state park where there are a lot of undeveloped areas overlooking a lake, and we'll track an area for the year. Maybe the fourth Friday each month? And then explore the park. We don't have to go far, maybe 5 minutes by car.
And I'll force all of us into our yard in the afternoons. Maybe I'll take a book and a blanket and look at the sky. Starting small, maybe I'll remember how I loved to be outside and recapture some of my childhood.
This post is for Cindy's Book Club Party. If you want to know what the chapter was actually about, go there and feast on the discussion at various blogs ...