"...boys' leisure should be spent in the open; that the blue sky is the only proper roof for a normal boy's playground; also that the open spaces are the places where God intended young people to live, work and play."
~ Dan Beard, Founder of Boy Scouts, 1930
Like all great ideas in our home, our child's interest in wilderness and survival started with a book. We saw it coming during the reading of My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George. So what did we do? We nurtured it!
When a child is interested in something is when they absorb the most. We would go to the library or bookstore and provide resources to feed this wholesome pursuit of knowledge (which in turn increased the fervor for outdoor play). While your children may think that they are on summer break, the wise parent will know that school is still in session. Learning is a way of life, not simply a season in your life.
"Of course, it is only now and then that a notion catches a small boy, but when it does catch, it works wonders, and does more for his education than years of grind."
~ Charlotte Mason, Victorian Era Educator
We purchased non-fiction books on wilderness and survival such as The Survival Handbook: Essential Skills for Outdoor Adventure and The Encyclopedia of Survival Techniques.
Our very favorite book of hands-on crafts and activities was Kids Camp!: Activities for the Backyard or Wilderness by Laurie Carlson. This is a great tool for some outdoor family fun! It includes projects such as how to sew your own camp clothes, make your own camp gear with milk jugs, tin cans and such, craft a camp journal, make a soap on a rope, recipes for easy on-the-go snacks and suppers, simple tent making, knot tying, nature study suggestions, games like how to make your own golf course, sailboat, kite, scavenger hunts, you name it! I love this book!
An excellent source of survival-style fiction we enjoyed was The Sign of the Beaver by Elizabeth George Speare. This story takes place in the colonial times (so they are learning history and nature at the same time). There is a movie, based on the book (The Sign of the Beaver DVD) that you can watch together on your family film night.
It was also the perfect opportunity to read The Swiss Family Robinson by Johann David Wyss. This is a challenging book so we downloaded the audio version to lighten the load of our lips. There were many Christian principles taught in this classic family survival story while being very informative (this book is a nature study in itself!).
Don't exclude your young ladies! Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O'Dell would be an excellent survival themed book for 9-13 year olds. Baby Island by Carol Ryrie Brink (7-10 years) would be great for younger girls who are reading chapter books. Acorn Pancakes, Dandelion Salad and 38 Other Wild Recipes by Jean Craighead George is another fun choice for daughters as it teaches about cooking with foraged food.
"Education is not filling a pail but the lighting of a fire."
~William Butler Yeats
Our family movie night included Frontier Skills with Little Bear, Wilderness Family Trilogy (family adventure drama), My Side of the Mountain (based on award winning novel) and The Endurance (this biographical movie is geared toward an older audience as the survival story of Ernest Shackleton is very dramatic).
These books and movies inspire knowledge in forgotten areas of life! They will teach boys to be industrious men, protectors and providers… They will encourage girls to be skilled, resourceful and courageous in unforeseen circumstances…
Though this interest lasted a year in our home and does flicker back once in a while, the knowledge will last a lifetime. When a subject captures your child, encourage it and watch it grow (this is pain-free education at it's best)! You will be amazed by how much they learn by themselves when you provide the "tools". And a knowledge of outdoor survival and appreciation for the great outdoors is certainly worth its weight in gold. Go ahead, open a book together and live the adventure!
"A truly good book teaches me better than to read it. I must soon lay it down, and commence living on its hint. What I began by reading, I must finish by acting."
~ Henry David Thoreau
"So, Boys of the Open, throw aside your new rackets, your croquet mallets, and your boiled shirts—pull on your buckskin leggings, give a war whoop and be what God intended you should be; healthy wholesome boys."
~ Dan Beard, Founder of Boy Scouts, 1930
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