Making Math Fun – The Secret to Homeschool Math Mastery!

Math doesn’t come naturally for everyone, but there are some secrets to making it REALLY fun and for helping our homeschool students master it. We had the privilege of talking with Nadim El-Rahi, of CTCMath, for a recent episode of The Schoolhouse Rocked. In this interview, Nadim shared his passion for helping students (even the ones who don’t love math) understand it, master it, and even enjoy it.

Do you find teaching math to be a struggle for you or your child? If so, you will be encouraged by Nadim as he and Yvette discuss some of the big mistakes we make while teaching math, the number one roadblock many students face when learning math, how we can make math more fun, and spiral vs. mastery math. 

Nadim El-rahi, looks after all things CTCMath and has been working with the team for 7+ years. He has a degree in Math and Economics. He and his wife, Tamara, have been married for 4 years and have 2 children, Emma (3 years) and Chloe (1 year). Nadim’s children are not yet school age, but he has an enormous passion for homeschooling and great admiration for homeschool parents.

Yvette Hampton:           Hey, everyone. Welcome back to The Schoolhouse Rocked Podcast. As always, we have a great guest on today. And this is going to be a fun episode, because we’re going to talk about math. And you might think, “Uh, we’re not going to talk about math. That’s going to be boring.”

Listen to Nadim on The Schoolhouse Rocked Podcast (10/10 and 10/12/2020 episodes)

                                    But it’s not, actually, because I am learning that math is fun and if you’re anything like me, you might have grown up as a student who hated math. And when I say hated, I mean despised math. I didn’t want anything to do with it. It was the class that I dreaded most, probably from about middle school on. I just did not understand math. I mean I understood basic concepts, but as it started to get a little bit harder, I just really struggled with it and my brain just doesn’t function that way.

                                    But, believe it or not, there are people in this world who actually love math. And we are talking to one of them today. His name is Nadim El-Rahi and he is from CTCMath. And I know that you’ve probably heard a lot about CTCMath, and so we’re actually going to talk about math, we’re not going to talk so much about CTCMath today. But we’re going to talk about how to make math fun, and how to just engage your kids in and teach them effectively.

                                    So Nadim, welcome to the show.

Nadim El-Rahi:              Thank you. Thank you for having me, I’m so excited to be here. As you can see, I’m in my office. Ignore everything behind me, just focus on me.

We are very grateful to have CTCMath as a sponsor of The Schoolhouse Rocked Podcast.

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Yvette:                         It’s okay. While you are in your office coming to us from Australia, which, I think you told me you’re about 16 hours ahead of my timezone, which is Eastern Standard Time, is that correct?

Nadim:                         Correct, yes.

Yvette:                         Okay, so it’s seven o’clock here, so 11 o’clock in the morning your time?

Nadim:                         That’s it. You’re pretty good at math.

Yvette:                         Yeah, right? Well, and you’re tomorrow, you’re into our tomorrow. As you and I were talking earlier, you could tell us everything about what happens tomorrow. Winning lottery numbers… If the Super Bowl was on you could tell us who won the Super Bowl. It would be great.

                                    Well, welcome, Nadim, to the show. Tell us a little bit about you and your family.

Nadim:                         Sure. So I’m married to my beautiful wife, Tamara. Been married for four years now. We have two children, Emma and Chloe. Emma is three and a half, Chloe is one and a half. So I’m just loving the journey. Every day’s something new, something different, and it’s really fun. Parenting’s awesome.

Yvette:                         It is awesome. I could not agree with you more. I love being a parent, I love being a mom. It is the joy of my life, and as a homeschool mom, I get to experience it 24 hours a day, seven days a week. And I used to think that I would not enjoy that, I used to think, “Why would I want to be with my kids all day, every day?”

                                    But as it turns out, I actually really like my kids, and so I really do enjoy being with them most of the time. But in addition to thinking that I would not enjoy being with my kids, I also used to think that teaching them certain subjects would be really difficult, and math was at the top of that list. Math and science were the two things that I thought, “Man, if we ever homeschool, I don’t know how I would do that.”

                                    And I was pretty terrified of that in the beginning because, like I said at the beginning of the podcast, I did not enjoy math growing up, it was very difficult for me. And I love people, I love nature, I love things like that. But math was just one of the things I struggled with.

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                                    And so coming into homeschooling I thought, “I can handle the elementary school years.” But getting into middle school and definitely into high school, I just thought, “I don’t know how in the world we’re going to manage this.” But I trusted that the Lord had a plan. And as He would have it, He has provided programs like CTCMath to come alongside us moms, who, whether we love math or struggle with math, can help us with teaching math to our kids.

                                    So I want to talk a little bit about math.

Nadim:                         Sure.

Yvette:                         And first I would love to ask you, what are some of the biggest mistakes that you see homeschool moms making in teaching math to their kids?

Nadim:                         Yes, and math is an incredibly difficult subject to teach and particularly in these old grade levels. But I think there’s a few things that we can just try to ensure that we don’t do during our homeschool day. One of the big things is the long, drawn out explanation. If you take too much time, or over-complicate the explanation, students will often get lost. So we try to keep it short. Try to keep the younger grades three to four minutes, higher grades six to eight minutes.

Watch the full video of this interview on the Schoolhouse Rocked Backstage Pass website.

                                    Another mistake that can sort of happen that’s linked with that is giving too many diverse methods, or too many methods to attack a problem. Now, every child is unique. So if your child loves math, and they want to explore different ways to answer a problem, by all means. You want to expand on their strengths. But what we find is sometimes parents will over-complicate it. So it’s important to keep it short and not go into too many methods. Find the method that works best for your child.

                                    Another mistake that’s often made is getting caught up in the hype of discovery learning, and we’re seeing this more and more often now. Don’t get me wrong, discovery learning has its place, and it is important, but let me give you a bit of an analogy. If you give a student a Rubik’s Cube, and you ask the student, “Hey, try to work this Rubik’s Cube out,” with no instruction, they’ll play with it, they’ll fiddle it, they’ll get it. Sure maybe one, two percent might get it, and that’s fantastic. But the majority, the vast majority, will get frustrated, annoyed, and put it down. And not want to go back.

Yvette:                         That’s me.

Nadim:                         But if I was to sit down with that same student, and show him a small algorithm, a small technique, a quick technique on how to solve that Rubik’s Cube, then they’ll be able to solve it. They’ll get excited, they’ll be passionate, they’ll want a bigger one. And then you can maybe go down that path of discovery learning with the bigger one, with the bigger Rubik’s Cube and whatnot. But throwing them in the deep end to begin with can often beat up their confidence.

                                    And again, each child is unique. That sort of leads to learning your times tables. We believe it’s really important to nail down those facts and have those facts at a young age. It’s proven, there’s many studies that if students have a solid understanding of their times tables, math is far easier in those older grade levels, and they can build on that.

                                    I know I’ve talked a lot about mistakes, but this is the biggest one, and this is the easiest one to commit. I want to start by saying this is not a criticism or anything, it’s just a self-awareness. And I think sometimes, and I’m certainly guilty of this, is getting frustrated when teaching. If the child senses any bit of frustration, you can throw things out completely, and you can lose them. So if you’re sensing the frustration, it’s important to get those levels down.

                                    A consequence of this can be that the student is scared or turned off coming to you, and this could be problematic in the future when they’re coming to you with far more difficult problems as they grow up, much bigger than math. So I think trying to avoid any frustration, it is difficult, but.

Yvette:                         You were just talking about the importance of not getting too frustrated with our kids when we’re teaching them math. And we talk so much on the podcast about how one of the most important things in homeschooling is to build that relationship with our kids. Because it’s all about relationship, and the purpose of raising children in general is to prepare them for adulthood. And so we need to build that relationship with them, and like you said, if it’s something that’s causing a real rift in our relationship with our kids, then they’re not going to all of a sudden think, “All of a sudden I just love math, and I love it when my mom gets frustrated with me.”

                                    That’s never going to be the case. And so, if I you can maybe give some suggestions of, when a child is really struggling with math, is it best to just put it aside for maybe six months or a year? Or back up and take it a little bit slower? Or maybe get a math tutor? I know a lot of homeschool families do that. What do you suggest, in order to protect that relationship that we have with our kids, what do you suggest is a good way to do that?

Nadim:                         Well certainly, I think if you are struggling, and it is a continual problem, I think you do need to maybe look at other resources and maybe outsourcing the teaching component of it. And you then become, maybe, the tutor, or they get to the bulk of their learning done, whether it be online, a personal tutor. What works best for you and your family. And then they come to you with a few problems.

                                    But in that moment of frustration, I think it’s very important to remove yourself from that moment. I think it’s very important to take a step back and say, “Can we move on to a different subject? Or is there something else we can do today?” This is what I love about homeschooling. The freedom, the complete freedom, to sort of make the decision of what your day comprises of, and what you’re going to set out to do.

                                    I think it’s important to maybe look at if there’s another method, using different methodology that you could try to explain the problem, or explain the question. Or if you don’t want to switch to another permanent resource, just finding a source for that particular concept that they might not be fully understanding.

                                    It might be that, because you know, math is a building block, and it’s important to build on concepts. It might be the fact that an earlier concept was missed. So you might need to do some revision from the previous year’s work. And that’s really important. So just self-evaluate, have a look at the situation, have a good think about it, and trust in different things.

Yvette:                         So how do you go back? Because math obviously is a subject that builds on itself. And if our kids get to a point where they’re just really struggling, and they just can’t get it, how do you back up? Because we’ve had that happen a couple of times, where I’m like, “Man, I just don’t know what you’re missing, here.”

                                    And partly because I’m not a math geek, I don’t know what it is that they’re missing. So is there a good system in place? Is there a good way to try to figure out like, “Oh, that’s the one piece of the puzzle that fell under the table, which is causing you to not be able to put this whole puzzle together at this point.” Is there a good way to do that?

Nadim:                         Yes and no. It comes down to the resource that you’re using, really, I think. Because math is structured in such a way, and some curriculums do this better than others, but if you look at the lessons, they’re incorporated within a topic. But within topics, it’s actually a stream of math, so it might be the stream of measurement. Or the stream of algebra, or the stream of numbers, depending on the grade level and whatnot.

                                    But there are particular streams, and there might be only three or four streams within a grade level that needs to be covered. So if a student is having trouble… Simple example. If a student is having troubles with grade four fractions, well maybe something was missing from grade three fractions. So if your curriculum is ordered in such a way that the streams flow through from grade level to grade level, and topics flow through from grade level to grade level, then you can easily identify the building blocks that happened prior.

                                    But, as we know as well, sometimes math draws on, particularly in the older grade levels, draws on other concepts from different concepts, and other grade levels, and if you’re not entirely sure, I would suggest that you… At CTCMath, we would encourage parents to reach out, send us an email saying, “Hey, my child’s having troubles with this.” And we’d refer it on to one of our math teachers, they would have a look at it, and make some suggestions.

                                    So it does require a bit of in depth knowledge.

Yvette:                         Detective work.

Nadim:                         Detective work and in depth knowledge of understanding the curriculum and how it’s structured.

Yvette:                         Sure.

Nadim:                         I don’t know if that answers your question, I hope it did.

Yvette:                         Yeah, it does.

Nadim:                         Email me, I’ll help.

Yvette:                         Yes, it does. And I’m just going to give everyone your phone number and say, “Call Nadim, he’ll help you.”

Nadim:                         I’m going to give you my email [crosstalk 00:13:45]

Yvette:                         I won’t do that. So let me ask you this, because I remember, several years ago, for the first time I’d heard … Now remember, I’m not a math person. And I’m sure math was taught one of two ways when I was growing up. But I remember hearing the term “spiral math” and “mastery math”. And I was like, “What in the world? What does that even mean?” Can you explain the difference between the two, and is there a better way to teach math? Or does it depend on the child and their learning style?

Nadim:                         Sure. I think everything depends on the child. When I make comments, I make them about their generalizations, and the majority of students. So I think everything does depend on child. But I do make recommendations all the time. And they’re based on what we see with the majority of students.

                                    So, quick definition. So mastery approach is when you focus on one concept at a time in math. Okay? As we know, math involves building blocks, but if you just focus on one concept and one particular thing.

                                    Spiral incorporates revision, so incorporates learning with a buildup of concepts, which both naturally overlap. Okay? So what’s important? I believe, both. I believe both are important. But in separate parts of the day. So separate parts of the math lesson, I should say, not the day.

                                    So when it comes to teaching the content, I believe mastery is the best approach. Focus on the one concept. And that way, if you focus on the one concept, and master that concept, you can build on it. Practice problems should be related specifically on that lesson that was just taught.

                                    So if you have a look at your homeschooling day, and I said keep the explanations to three to four minutes. So if we take a math lesson and we say it’s 30 minutes. Three to four minute explanation, 20 minutes or 15 minutes practice problems, where it’s just focusing on that concept. Now, depending on the concept, there will be some spiral learning there, there will be some earlier concepts covered.

                                    But then the last five, 10 minutes, spiral. Revision. Going back earlier concepts, mix-up of problems, what you just learned, what you learned last week, what you learned last month. Change it up. So when it comes to the teaching and the delivery, mastery approach. But incorporate spiral revision towards the end of a lesson. Does that make sense?

Yvette:                         Yeah, so basically it sounds like mastery is when they’re learning the concept for the first time. They master that concept. And then they practice it through the spiral method, right? Spiraling, to me, sounds just like practice. So you just go back, and you just keep practicing it so that you don’t forget it.

Nadim:                         Correct, but with the practice problems, I would focus solely on that concept that was just taught. It might be… Let’s take a really simple example. Multiplication, and we’re looking at four times tables. Okay? So questions we’ll just, four times certain numbers. Four times two, four times six, four times 12, and so on and so forth. Focus on that. And then, maybe in the last five, 10 minutes, include earlier multiplication that you’ve learned. So mix it up. Have fours, threes, and twos.

                                    And that would ensure that some revision, the mind thinking, and a spiral approach, a more wholesome approach to the actual… Because when you sit down and you attempt practice problems, you’re not just focusing… A test, for instance. It’s not just one concept, it’s a whole range of concepts.

Yvette:                         Okay. So in talking about multiplication tables, times tables, have you found that there’s a best way to teach that to kids, or? Again, I’m assuming it’s depending on the child.

                                    But here’s the thing. When you’ve got, as many homeschool families do, when you’ve got six kids, you can’t have six different ways to teach multiplication. So have you found, because you’re a math whiz, I know this about you. Have you found the most effective way that works best for a family in general? Like, “try this with all your kids.” And then you might have the one kid who doesn’t learn that way and then maybe you can try a different approach with them. But does there seem to be a best way to teach multiplication?

Nadim:                         Rote learning. Sit down, write it out, keep working through it, keep revising it, keep practicing it, keep learning it. Bounce it off siblings, if you do have those six children. Get them to test each other, quiz each other. At the dinner table, throw a few problems there. Rote learning.

Yvette:                         Okay. Just over and over and over again.

Nadim:                         Over and over.

Yvette:                         I remember, we used to do Classical Conversations years ago, and we don’t now because we travel so much. But when we were in a community, that was always a fun thing with rote memorization, is that we would do fun things like toss a ball back and forth, or do jumping jacks. Or, you know, whatever. Just fun things that would get kids to remember those different facts. And so yes, I agree. Rote memory is definitely, for times tables, the best way to get kids to memorize them.

                                    Now, do you suggest doing them where it’s like, do all the twos times tables first. Then all the threes, and all the fours. Do you stack them like that? Or does it make sense to just try and kind of learn them all at the same time?

Nadim:                         I would learn twos, learn threes, learn fours. Now, you might want to, once you get to the fours, you might want to introduce some other math concept, because they might be sick of times tables, and then go back and do five, and six, and seven, and whatnot.

Yvette:                         It’s kind of funny, because we’ve covered a lot of topics on The Schoolhouse Rocked Podcast, but math is not something that we have talked about, yet. I mean, we kind of interspersed it into different podcast episodes, but we have not actually done an entire episode focused on math. And as I have been homeschooling my kids, and as we have gotten deeper and deeper into math, one of the things that I have really noticed and that we’ve become really aware of in our family, and I’ve talked about this on the podcast before. But it’s that math, everything that we teach our kids, we want to use those things to point our kids towards their creator, towards Christ.

                                    So one might think, “Well how in the world do I do that with math? How do I teach math and Jesus at the same time?” Well, math is so perfect, because math is absolute. It is in perfect order, and it shows that we have a God, we have a creator who is a perfect God of perfect order, and he is a God of absolutes. And so just like two plus two will always equal four, it has always equaled four, it’s never going to change, it can never be revised by anybody because they decide that they want two plus two to equal five. They can’t do that.

                                    And in that same way, we don’t get to change the order of God’s creation. And so math is just one of those things, that again, points us towards just an incredible, awesome creator. He made up math, we didn’t make it up.

                                    And it’s amazing to me how when you look back into history, you can see how mankind, how humans have been able to develop their minds when it comes to understanding math. And they’ll have these big huge problems, that, in a movie or something, you’ll see them writing a big, some kind of math problem up on the board, and it seems like the impossible problem and then they get to the end and they’re like, “Oh. Well there’s the answer.” And there’s only one answer, you can’t have more than one.

                                    And so I love that about math, because it’s not a subject that I enjoyed growing up, but I do enjoy that I get to point my kids to their creator by teaching it. So I would love to talk about how to make math fun. And I know you’ve got some suggestions on that. So talk to us a little bit about this. Talk to the mom like myself, who does not love math, who struggled with math growing up, and who really wants my kids to grow up not dreading math, but being engaged and excited about learning it.

Nadim:                         Yeah, for sure, for sure. I think the first thing is to tap into your child’s interests. I think to work out what your child’s interests are, and then try to relate that back to math. An example. Me, growing up, I loved cars. I loved the model of cars, I loved the various types of cars. So one thing I would have loved and enjoyed as a kid was surveying the models of cars on long road trips, just outside my home. And then tabling that, and creating graphs and charts.

                                    So I think it’s important to tap into your child’s interests. So if they like cooking, well cooking is a fantastic example. There’s a lot of fractions involved in measuring. What I really like with cooking is, when you find a recipe for four people, but you’re cooking for six, and just multiplying the quantities, that always makes math fun. You know? It’ll add a really practical element to it.

                                    Another example are board games. And these might be better suited to those students who really, really don’t enjoy math, who really don’t like math. So let’s draw out some fun in board games. My little three year-old, Emma, she loves order, and she loves helping out. So what we get her to do is set the table. And we get her to count out how many people are going to have dinner, so then she’s got to count out the plates, and count out the forks, and count out the knives. Because she wouldn’t have an extra fork, or a knife, or one short plate. She’s a bit of a perfectionist and Tamara and I laugh about it.

                                    So really tapping into your child’s interests, and going with it, my brother loves bargains. So our best buys, when we go to the shops, he’s great at picking out the best buys and the best value for money.

Yvette:                         Yeah, you know, math is one of those things that is fun to kind of incorporate into just life skills. Because the whole purpose, of course, of raising our kids is not to raise kids, but it’s to raise adults. And so we get to take these things that kids learn in a classroom in a workbook, or in an online program like CTCMath, and they get to use them in the real world.

                                    And you talk about your brother, he enjoys bargain shopping. Well, it’s great to be able to go into a grocery store and look at several different items. You know, you look at sour cream, and see, “Okay, how many different items are there? What is the size? How much do they cost? What’s the better deal?” And just trying to figure out that way. And of course, weighing bananas, if you’ve got bananas and they’re 85 cents a pound and you need three pounds of them, weigh them with your kids and think, “How much is this going to cost if we have three pounds?” And just doing that logical math with them. Because that is really what prepares them for adult life, for life in general.

                                    And so it’s a fantastic… Gas is one of those things, too. You know, when you’re pumping gas, and you think, “Okay, gas is so much per gallon, and we’ve got to put 30 gallons in the car, how much is it going to cost us if we’re on empty?” Those are the things that really will allow kids, like you said, to have fun and to start realizing that, “Oh, math is not just something I do on a worksheet, but this is part of my everyday life as an adult. I have to understand these things.”

                                    You mentioned board games. Do you have specific board games? The first game that comes to my mind is Yahtzee. Our family loves Yahtzee, we play that all the time. That, and Rummikub, those are my two favorite games. I like Rummikub because I almost always win. And I like to win. Are there board games that you recommend that are great for teaching math?

Nadim:                         I’m super competitive as well. I’m super competitive. Look, any games… I tend to lean towards the games that involve a bit of money transaction. So I always liked Monopoly. I think it gets you thinking about a different side of math. More probably the counting side of things, but Monopoly, any game of strategy really incorporates math, because you’re breaking down a problem. You’re breaking down, “What’s the best way?” So it might not involve numbers, but if it involves some sort of strategy, then certainly you’re using your math brain.

Yvette:                         Yeah, for sure. Playing games, often times, is really good for engaging kids’ brains with numbers and with math and even with accounting. Are there other activities… Well, first of all, are there any other games you would recommend? And I’ll actually, if I have time, I will do my best before this airs, I’ll try to see if I can find some good math games. Because I know that there are lots of homeschool moms out there who actually, they love games. They love playing games.

                                    And again, that goes back to the relationship with our kids. I mean, how much fun is it to play a game with your kid? And I will say, if you have a child who’s super crazy competitive, and they cry when they lose, that is such a great opportunity to reach the heart of your child.

                                    I remember my oldest, when she was real little, we would play games and she would get upset when she would lose. And that’s natural for most kids. I think most kids do that. And it was fun, well it wasn’t fun for her to cry, but I remember just thinking, “What a great opportunity this is to teach her how to lose at a game, and how to be a gracious loser.” She’s not a loser, she’s wonderful. And so I taught her, when she was really little, I would teach her to say, if someone else won… And I would not let her win. I would never let her win a game. But I would teach her to say, “Congratulations, Mommy, I’m so happy for you that you won.” And it was so funny because she was so little and she would lose, and she would first start to get emotional about it, and then she would say, “Congratulations, Mommy, I’m so happy that you won.”

                                    And over time, it really did teach her that if you play your best, you always want to do your very best…

Nadim:                         Yes.

Yvette:                         But it’s okay if someone else wins. And when they do, we get to celebrate with them. And so, that’s a little bit of a rabbit trail, but are there any other games that, in thinking through it, that you think, “Man, these are just great games for teaching math”?

Nadim:                         Yeah, and just quickly on that, I think that’s a fantastic opportunity, really taking the opportunity to teach a little lesson there and teaching our kids to be a little kind, you know? Teaching kindness.

                                    There’s many… Connect 4, is another game of strategy. Again, you’re sort of thinking ahead, and thinking on how to break down the problem, or how to best achieve the desired outcome of getting those four in a row. And again, I’ll reiterate, it doesn’t have to be numbers. So chess, or anything like that.

Yvette:                         Yeah. And strategy games, like you said, those are fantastic.

Nadim:                         Strategy games, yep. There’s a card game that I liked to play that I don’t know if you would have heard of. It’s called 400. You’ve basically got to get cards to… I’ll send you the rules, how about that?

Yvette:                         Okay. Oh, fine.

Nadim:                         It’s a counting game.

Yvette:                         Oh, yeah, that does sound fun. I would love to hear that. Our family loves Farkle. I don’t know if you’ve heard of that game.

Nadim:                         No.

Yvette:                         But it’s a really fun math game. You have to count the dice and stuff, and it has a terrible name. I hate the name of it. But it’s a really fun game.

                                    So what else? What are some other ways of making math fun with our kids?

Nadim:                         Yeah, I think if you’ve got a lot of leaves outside, I think it would be pretty cool to go out and sweep them up and think, “Okay, how many bags are we going to fill up?” Play a bit of a guessing game where you sort of estimate how many leaves you’re going to fill up. That’s another situation of making math fun.

                                    And bringing it out in nature, that sort of stems to nature. Everything follows growth patterns. Even if it’s just researching, just jumping on the internet and researching models of growth of trees, of all sorts of things. Growth and decay.

Yvette:                         Yeah. That’s fine. And you talk about estimating leaves and things. That’s something that you could even do with pasta, or M&Ms, or something like that. Put a bunch in a jar. I know that’s always a fun thing. Sometimes, we go to the library and they’ll have some sort of goofy jar with candy in it or something and, you know, “Guess how many M&Ms are in this jar, and the winner wins the whole jar.” And things like that. Yeah, those are great for kids, great for them to just learn how to logically think through that kind of stuff.

                                    We have a few more minutes left, so what is the number one roadblock that you see that students face when learning math?

Nadim:                         I think the number one roadblock by far, it’s a great question, is confidence. They’re a bit down on confidence. That once that confidence is beaten, that once it’s down, a shield goes up and nothing sort of… It’s difficult to get through to them or make any headway.

                                    So confidence. We’ve got to really rebuild that confidence. It’s just brilliant when they see things in a different way or an explanation from a different angle that really gets to them, and then you see the “a-ha” moment. The light bulbs go off. And the “a-ha” moment, and the change of expression on their face. So finding confidence is a big one.

Yvette:                         Yeah. I totally agree. I’ve experienced that many times with both of my girls, where they’re just struggling through a concept and then they just get it, and they’re like “Ah, I get it! I get it!” And they get so excited about it, and you’re like, “Yes, yes, you get it!”

                                    And it is hard to not become frustrated when you’ve explained it to them so many times, over and over, but then there’s just that, it’s like a switch that just, “Oh, yeah, I get it!” And you know, that happens with many things, whether it’s spelling or math or, I don’t know, just a variety of different subjects. But math seems to be the one that…

Nadim:                         It’s a big one.

Yvette:                         That concept just clicking over, and just encouraging our kids along the way. And it’s one the great things about homeschooling is that we have our grade levels for everything, but as homeschool families, and as homeschool students, they don’t have to adhere to a specific grade level of anything. They don’t have to be in third grade math, or eighth grade math. We can cater to how God created them and what their bend is towards math.

                                    I have one daughter who does not like math, and I have one who really likes math, and she really gets it. But my daughter who doesn’t like math, she enjoys other things much more than her sister does. And so it’s great to be able to just see how God has created each one of them with their specific gifts and abilities.

                                    So one last thing that doesn’t actually have to do with math.

Nadim:                         Sure.

Yvette:                         You’re in Australia.

Nadim:                         Yeah.

Yvette:                         I would love to know, what is the homeschool climate like in Australia? Is it growing? Is it even existent? I know you and I have talked before and you’ve said you thought about maybe homeschooling when your kids are of school age. What does it look like there?

Nadim:                         For sure. It is growing. That’s the great thing about it, it is growing, and it is getting bigger, which is fantastic. It’s not as big, of course, as it is in the US. I think the difference here is that there’s a lot more options available to parents with just the way government funding works. Every school receives government funding, so there’s actually a lot of parents who go off and start their own schools. A lot of people get together and start off their own schools.

                                    There are more options in that. But I think as things change, and I think when our government, if they start to regulate curriculums and what is taught, I think you’ll see homeschooling just absolutely take off here in Australia. We have very close friends of ours who homeschool their six children. It’s fantastic to see. I can see that they actually tap into a lot of the US resources, which is awesome. With my involvement with CTCMath, I’m getting in touch with more and more Aussie homeschoolers as well, which is great.

Yvette:                         Yeah. That’s fantastic. Is it something that, if there’s a family who’s homeschooling, do others kind of look at them like they’re crazy? Like, “What in the world are you doing?” Or, because I know here in America, it’s not everywhere. But the majority of this country, I mean I never hesitate to go out in public with my kids during a school day. And never, literally I don’t think there’s been one time where anyone has just said, “Oh, you guys are homeschooled? That’s terrible, you should be in school, you should be in public school or private school.”

                                    People may think that, but no one’s ever actually said that to me. And more often than not, people will actually say, “Oh wow, you’re homeschooled? That’s great. I have a sister who homeschools, or a niece who homeschools.” Or something like that. And it’s very widely accepted here, overall. Is it widely accepted there as well? Or are people still kind of sitting back wondering what this homeschool is?

Nadim:                         I think it is widely accepted. I think the issue that might sort of play on people’s minds, which is really unfortunately still the stigma of the sort of social ramifications. Which of course, we all know, is not true, and is completely wrong. But just sort of educating people, I suppose. Explaining it out to people.

Yvette:                         That is one of the big, big reasons behind Schoolhouse Rocked. Why we’re making the movie, why we’ve got our blog and our social media outlets, all of those things are to help people open their eyes up to the just great blessings and benefits of homeschooling. And so hopefully we can help do that down under as well.

Nadim:                         For sure.

Yvette:                         Nadim, thank you so much for your time today. I appreciate your math encouragement, and we appreciate you guys. We appreciate CTCMath. You guys have been very supportive of what we’re doing and so we are very grateful for you. And people can find out more about you at, is that correct?

Nadim:                         Correct, yes.

Yvette:                         Okay, perfect. We will link to that in the show notes, of course. I’ll try to find some fun math games, in addition to the ones that you have recommended, and I’ll put those in the show notes as well. And you guys, thank you for listening. Nadim, have a great week, and listeners, you have a great week, too. We pray for you guys all the time and we are so grateful for your support and your encouragement. And we will see you guys back here again next week. Bye.

Nadim:                         Bye.

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The Importance of Outdoor Play

“It is not our job to make sure our kids don’t get bored. Actually, boredom is the number one thing that breeds creativity. When you get rid of all that, and you send them outside in the rain, or the mud, and they have to find a stick, or a log, and they end up coming together and working as a team, and the worlds that my children create when they’re outside are absolutely incredible to me. And the stories that they live out when they’re out there, because you’ve taken everything away, and they have to use their creativity.”

Above all, Aby Rinella is a follower of Jesus, but she is also a lover of the outdoors. She writes and speaks on homeschooling, motherhood, parental rights, the culture war, and more, and she has a passion for encouraging and inspiring women to live the life they were designed to live.

Yvette Hampton:           Aby’s first visit to the Schoolhouse Rocked Podcast to talk about “The Why of Homeschooling” has been, by far, one of the most popular episodes we’ve ever done. We have gotten such a great response from that episode, and letters that have come in from some listeners tell how God has worked through that episode and really encouraged their hearts as to why they are homeschooling, or why they are choosing to homeschool in the coming school year.

Today, we are going to be talking about something that we haven’t talked much about, A while back we had someone ask us to talk about the importance of outdoor play, and I thought, “this is the perfect one for Aby”, because the Rinellas are a huge outdoors kind of family.

Aby, tell us what that looks like for your family.

Aby Rinella:                  Well, my husband and I have three kids, in fifth grade, second grade, and soon to be kindergarten. We very outdoors oriented before we had kids. We loved to do anything and everything outdoors, and we happen to live in a mountain town. We loved to hike, backpack, fish and hunt, and that’s just kind of who we were and what we did.

Listen to Aby Rinella on the Schoolhouse Rocked Podcast (6/11/2019 Episode)

So when we had kids, we really just didn’t believe that that part of our life needed to end. We believed that God had given us these kids, and we could work them into that. So from the day we first had our children, they have been out with us. You know, three days out of the hospital with one of my kids, we were out hunting with that child, and so it’s really been the way that my kids have been raised. But really, we spend, I would say, more time outdoors than anything else, and we have been taking our kids with us from the beginning and all throughout. It’s really important to our family, but more than that we really think it’s really beneficial to our kids as a whole.

Yvette:                         Yeah, you and I lead completely parallel lives in a lot of ways, and completely separate lives, in a lot of ways, and it’s so funny when I talk to you and we, you know, you talk about you guys being outside, because you live in Idaho, where it is stinking freezing cold. Now, I’m a southern California girl, and we’ve been in Georgia for a little while, but I’m in the part of the world where it’s hot. And even through the wintertime, it’s not unusual for us to wear shorts and a T-shirt, because it can still be hot. It gets cold too, but that’s unheard of in Idaho, you would… well, I don’t know, maybe you would wear shorts in the middle of winter. But typically, it’s really cold there.

And so, you, even through your homeschool time, you still find ways even in the snow and in the middle of winter, to get outside and experience just the beauty of God’s creation. And now we’re getting into summertime, and so people are finding different ways to spend time outside with their kids. How is summer break unique to homeschool families, and how can we make that fun for our kids?

Aby:                             I’ve given that a lot of thought. I think summer break is really unique to homeschool families, in that, with many families who send their kids to school all year, it takes them a while to acclimate to being home, and to being together. Those siblings haven’t been together a lot, and it takes mom a little bit of time to kind of get her footing when there’s kids under her feet all day, and that’s kind of new to them. Or kids come home in the summer, and they haven’t seen their toys in all year, they’ve been so busy, and so a lot of those kids are really content to sit inside and rediscover those things.

Homeschooling is unique in that we’ve been together all year, and we don’t need to re-acclimate when it’s break time. So summer break, I feel like, for everybody but especially for homeschoolers, is really an opportunity to get outside, do some of the things outside that we normally do together, because we’re still together, we’re still learning and growing all summer long. And I think summer’s also a great opportunity for those that historically don’t spend a lot of time outside, to get out. The weather’s a little nicer, it’s a little easier, honestly. So for homeschooling families, our kids don’t have the newness of being home in the summer, so it’s a great opportunity to really get out of the house and enjoy that time.

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Yvette:                         Yeah, it is. I’ve really had to work on that myself, with getting my kids outside, and being comfortable with it. When we were back in California several years ago, Brooklyn was pretty little, and we had bought a new house, and we had this beautiful backyard put in with a big playset, and grass and everything. But before that was put in, there was just dirt in the backyard. And she would go out there, and she would play for hours and hours in the dirt, and I really had a hard time with that, because I was not a kid who played in the dirt.

I wanted my hands always to be clean, I still am like that. I never gardened, or did anything, because I can’t stand the feeling of dirt on my hands. And so when she would do that, it would kind of freak me out, because I was like, “Her hands are dirty. I don’t know what to do with this!” And we had this backyard put in with the grass and everything. And I vividly remember, she was probably four years old when we had this done, and she went outside, and she looked at me, and she goes, “Mommy, where’s the dirt?”

And I was like, “We just spent all this money to make this beautiful, park-looking backyard, with a swing set, and grass.” And I thought it was the greatest thing ever, but she was disappointed, because she didn’t have dirt!

So she found a little area… I mean she did, of course, play in the grass and on the swing set, but she found this little area of our backyard where the grass didn’t grow very well, because it never really got sun, and that was her dirt area. And she would go out and she would find worms and enjoy the dirt. It took me quite a long time to actually get comfortable with her playing in the dirt.

Backstage Pass Members can watch the video of this Aby’s full interview, which includes 20 minutes of content not included in the podcast.

Aby:                             Honestly for kids, I believe wholeheartedly… I mean, I know, Biblically, that’s how they’re designed. That’s how we’re created. We were created in the Garden, we were created… I mean, before sin crept in, the ideal setting for a human was outdoors in the Garden. We really didn’t even need shelter, because there were no storms, and all that we needed shelter from. So kids are, it’s in them, and the only way we get it out of them is by training it out of them, by pulling them inside, or giving them the perfect grass lawn. And then we kind of train that deep, that what’s inside of them, out of them, because there’s not a kid early on that doesn’t love to be outside and play.

And you know, we as a culture, we’re such a clean culture, we’re so, “Sanitize your hands,” but honestly the physical benefits of kids being in dirt, it’s shown scientifically to boost their immune systems, honestly. And it’s so good for them, and it breeds just so much creativity, too, like she was out there coming up with new games, right? And inventing things that were fun for her to do. So it’s in every kid, and it’s just our job as a parent to not train that out of them. And if you have older kids, you can get that back, because it’s in all of us, it just, we have to do it.

Yvette:                         So, what are some ways, practical ways, that you can do that? If you’re maybe a family who is not a big outdoorsy family, your kids don’t go play in the dirt, how can you encourage that in them? What are some things that you can do? Because I imagine, now my girls, they have kind of I think a balance of indoor play and outdoor play, but I’m always surprised at the things they can come up with when they’re outside. What are some practical ways that people can instill that in their kids, and help them to become creative? Though I know they don’t always need help being creative, but…

Aby:                             Right, they don’t. But we need to get them back to that state. I think the first thing a parent can do is just find the passion themselves. Like, eliminate… Like you said, it took you a while to get used to that. But I think one of the ways that parents can just fuel that in their kids, is themselves knowing how good it is for the kid. You know, in the last two decades, it’s unbelievable the changes that we’ve seen in kids. It’s now, the average child now spends 30 minutes a day with unstructured play outside, and seven hours a day… this statistic blows my mind every time I read it… in front of a screen.

It’s totally shifted in the last two decades, so we as parents need to un-train that in ourselves, and retrain what’s best for our kids, and just educate ourselves knowing that physically, outdoor play is so beneficial for our kids. It’s good for their health, it’s good for their mental health, there’s less depression and anxiety in kids that play outside. ADHD symptoms immediately drop when they’re outdoors, and that’s why after working in the public school a lot, kids are often on ADHD medications in the school to get them to be still. But parents take them off in the summer, and that’s because when they’re playing outside, it’s not just that they’re allowed to be free, but also it lowers those symptoms. Because it’s just a release for them to be out there, and they use their creativity, and they get fresh air, and vitamin D, and it’s just physically good for kids.

The academic benefits, also, when they study schools that have, like, environmental programs, or more recess, those kids are scoring higher on tests. They’re doing better in all across the board academically. So we as homeschool parents, we just have the freedom to do it anytime we want. We can, our kids can be outside any time they want, because it’s physically, emotionally and mentally good for our kids.

I think when parents get on board with that, then it’s going to be easier to facilitate ways of getting our kids out there. So I think that’s probably the first step, is knowing how good it is for our kids, and then how to actually do it, it really depends on where you live. I know not everybody lives like we do, not everybody’s going to go spend nine days in the back country with their kids. But it doesn’t have to be that, honestly, it can be a community garden, just having your hands in the dirt in a community garden.

Or if you have a child that loves to read, just send them outside to read. Find a stream, find a park, find somewhere outside and take them and do what they already love to do outside. So those are really good ways of just practically doing it. Go for walks, ride your bike, it really does come naturally once you start doing it, because you naturally feel better, and you see the benefits in your kids. So those are some practical ways, whether you’re living rurally, obviously if you live rurally it’s a lot easier, but there’s so many ways anywhere you live to be outside.

Yvette:                         Yeah, I think being intentional about it is a big thing for people. For moms especially, like myself, who it doesn’t come naturally to me. You know, my kids don’t… I mean they have very little screen time, but they also don’t go outside nearly as much as I think that they should be outside, and so it’s really, for myself, I have to be intentional about them going outside, and playing, and doing the things that they should be doing, and just being creative.

But one of the things that I find for myself, and this might sound really weird, to somebody like you. But one of the things I find for myself is that I become fearful of them getting ticks, or getting sunburned, or… There are all these fears, you know, that there’s going to be a snake outside, or something. And so I really have to check myself and just think, “Okay, God made the outdoors, it’s okay, and if something happens, well then we deal with it at the time.” But not living in fear all the time of something terrible happening to them. And I know that’s a strange fear.

Aby:                             For me, when I go to a place where it’s very congested with people, I feel that same fear that you fear. Like that, “Oh my goodness, people’s germs, and the disease,” and so I really believe that that kind of fear just comes from what you’re used to, what you’re familiar with. If you’re not familiar with the outdoors, but what an awesome opportunity then to go to the library and get books on what kind of organisms live where we live. What’s growing in our yard? What kind of animals? Let’s do a snake study, so that we can identify a rattlesnake versus a boa. Which animals live out there, and also, to really teach your kids that we do need to be aware. We live in an area where there are a lot of rattlesnakes, so my kids have identified rattlesnakes.

But to release that fear, and know, but also to speak to kind of probably more moms that are more like you, than me, it doesn’t have to be that you’re going out into the middle of nowhere. It can honestly just be that when your kid wants to do watercolor paints, you lay a blanket out in the yard, and let them watercolor out there, because they’re still getting the fresh air, they’re getting the sun. It doesn’t have to be extreme. We are probably more extreme than most, but it doesn’t have to be that way. The benefits of your kids being out, it doesn’t have to be extreme.

Go take them to a garden center, and pick out plants, and pots, and bring them home and let them plant. And even just that, there’s your biology. You’ve got so much you can learn in the outdoors as well, giving kids a hands-on approach rather than reading about it. So those are some ways that parents can work that into their kids’ lives.

Yvette:                         Yeah, even going out in the rain. You know, when I was a kid we didn’t go out in the rain. It’s so funny. My mom always thought, “Well if you go out in the rain, you’re going to catch a cold.” And we’ve since learned that that is not true. Not true. And so I remember years ago, we used to have an exchange student from China, she lived with us, this was about four years go. And she lived with us for the whole school year, and one day, she was at home with us one day, and it started raining, but it was summertime, and it was pretty unusual for it to rain in the middle of summer where we lived in California.

But this one day it started raining, and it was really warm outside, or it was maybe late spring, but it was really warm outside, and so it wasn’t freezing cold or anything. And the girls said, “Can we go outside and just play in the rain?” And I was like, my first instinct was, “Of course not, why would you do that? You stay inside when it rains.” And then I thought, “Why not? It’s not going to hurt them.” And so they went outside, and I mean they… It was pouring. It was a torrential downpour, and they got drenched, and they had, they still talk about that until this day.

And I remember our Chinese exchange student, she came outside, and she looked at them, she was like, “What are they doing?” I said, “They’re playing in the rain,” she said, “Oh, we would never do that in China. Our parents would never, ever, ever let us do something like that.” And so it’s a cultural thing, for people too, but it was just so fun. And they still, like you said, they still talk about that day where they go to go outside and just play in the rain, and get completely soaking wet. And it was just, it was a fun thing for them to do. And so often I have to ask myself, why not? Like, what’s wrong with them wanting to do this? Why can’t they do it?

Aby:                             Yep. Why do I feel the way that I feel about them going outside? Why do I fear the things I fear? Why can’t they go in the rain? And I think one of the most, one thing that I love about homeschooling so much is that because we’re not bound by anyone else’s schedule, we tend to school around the weather. Like if it’s a day that they want to go outside, then that’s when our spring break is. Then that’s when they go outside. And if it’s a day when… you know, it’s been raining here for 10 days, which is not super normal for us, but for the first few days they were outside playing in the rain, and they loved it, and they played… I mean, the creativity that comes out of a kid when you get rid of the craft closet, and you get rid of the iPads, and you get rid of all the things that we feel it’s our job to make sure our kids aren’t bored – It’s our job to make sure that our kids have structured play.

When you really look at that, and you say, “That was really never God’s design for a parent. It is not our job to make sure our kids don’t get bored.” Actually, boredom is the number one thing that breeds creativity. When you get rid of all that, and you send them outside in the rain, or the mud, and they have to find a stick, or a log, and they end up coming together and working as a team, and the worlds that my children create when they’re outside are absolutely incredible to me. And the stories that they live out when they’re out there, because you’ve taken everything away, and they have to use their creativity.

It’s so good for them. It’s so good for their minds, and their bodies, and honestly it really goes back, I mean everything we do, and everything we believe, we go back to the Bible and we say, “Well what does God say about this?” And over, and over, and over in scripture, it talks about our relationship with God’s creation. And even in Psalm 23, when it talks about, “I’ll lie down in green pastures, and he leads me beside still waters,” he uses the image of nature for peace. For peace, you know? And in so many places in scripture, and if we can link to these, but Job 12, and Romans one, and Genesis one, it just constantly talks about how we can see God’s character in nature.

How it tells that the birds rely on him, and the animals need nothing, because they’ve been provided with everything. And when you get your kids out there, and really see God’s creation, it shows you the character of their creator, and it shows you so much about who God is. And so, we have to shake what we’ve been trained, and realize this is who they were designed to be, this is how they were created to even relate to God through his creation. They were designed to relate to him through his creation. So we have to shake this new, our cultural idea that we need to provide all these activities for our kids, and provide all these things for our kids, and every moment of their day has to be filled. Because that’s really not what’s best for them.

Yvette:                         I think oftentimes, when we think about homeschooling, we think about the academic part of homeschooling, and them sitting. Like, I know in my mind, I think well, “Okay, when we do school, we’re going to sit down and do a math lesson, or read together, or spelling, or whatever.” But being outdoors is such an important part of their academic being and development as well. And so we need to, yeah, I mean there’s a reason why schools have recess, because kids need to get out, they need to play. And so I think as homeschool moms, giving ourselves permission that that is just as important as them sitting down and reading, or sitting down and doing math. They’ve got to be out moving.

And even the exercise that comes with it. I mean, you think about young kids, and they naturally run. They just do, everywhere they go, I don’t know why, but they just run. And they go outside, and the first thing they do is run. And Lacey will tell me all the time, she’s like, “Mom, I have to get outside. I’ve got to get my wiggles out.” She’ll tell me that, it’s so funny. And she just needs to move.

Aby:                             And they jump, and they climb, and it’s all a part of, and we’re constantly saying, you know, “Don’t jump on the furniture. Don’t climb on the table. Don’t, don’t, don’t, don’t, don’t.” And really, we have to stop and say, “This is how you’re designed.” And even developmentally, children, they need to be able to do that to develop their body, and their muscles, and their sense of equilibrium and their balance. All of that, even just walking, they’ve done studies on, kids need to walk on uneven ground for their own mental equilibrium. It helps their brains develop, and when they’re indoors all day, being told to be still, stop jumping, don’t run, don’t climb, it’s mentally not good for children. It stunts their development, honestly.

Yvette:                         Right, right. I recently started reading a book, we were in Franklin, Tennessee, back in March, staying with some sweet friends of ours, the White family. And they live on this farm, and this farm is amazing. They’ve got all kinds of animals, and they’ve got a fun tree house, and they kind of have this, a little bit of a wooded area, it’s so cute, the kids call it the deep, dark woods. And my kids have so much fun playing with their kids. And they’ll be out there for hours, and hours, and hours, building forts, climbing the trees, playing with the animals, gardening. I mean they do so many things, and it’s so good for them.

She recommended this book to me, I think it’s called Balanced and Barefoot, or Barefoot and Balanced, one or the other. I’ll link to it, actually, in the show notes, because I started reading it, and I haven’t finished it yet, but it’s such a good book. And it talks about exactly what you were talking about, how it’s just so very important for kids to be outside, and to have that outdoor play. And for their balance, and for their… I mean there are so many parts of a child’s development that plays into them being outdoors, and just expressing themselves physically, through active play, and not sitting, and being in front of a tablet, or in front of a screen.

So, let me ask you this question then, because obviously there are so many kids who they sit in front of the screen all day, they sit… Even kids who sit in front of a book all day, because I know there are a lot of homeschool kids who do that. They love to read, and praise God, that’s a great thing for them, there’s so much good literature out there that they can read. But they will literally just close themselves into this little bubble of their fantasy land book, and they won’t get out, and exercise, and play, and experience the outdoors.

So what do you do with that child who maybe mom says, and maybe it has not been a good practice for this family, but now mom’s listening to this, and she’s like, “Oh, okay, maybe my kids need to get outside more,” but her kids are so used to being indoors, and glued to a book, or glued to their tablets, or something. Talk to that mom who maybe is going to have that struggle, and that battle, with their kid, who their kid is going to say, “I don’t want to go outside. It’s hot,” or, “It’s humid,” or, “It’s cold,” or whatever. How can she fight that battle with them?

Want more great content from Yvette and Aby? Listen to Aby Rinella, Karen DeBeus, and Yvette Hampton discuss the “Who, Why, and How of Homeschooling” in an hour-long roundtable video.

Aby:                             I would first say to her, get rid of the mom guilt. Most moms, their kids are indoors, in front of a screen, in front of something. So I would immediately say it’s not too late. It’s not too late, it doesn’t mean… You know, it’s easier when you start kids little, I mean to the new moms listening, it’s easier when you start them brand new outside, where that’s just their world. That will make your life easier. But it’s not too late. Teenagers need to be outside as much as little kids. Since we have been a generation that have brought teens in, and plugged them in, our depression rates have gone higher. Our bullying, violence, all these things, the rates of those things have gone up, as our outdoor time has gone down.

So, teens need to be outside. Adults need to be outside, just as much. I’d say to the mom whose kid is bucking it, it’s not really that different than when your kid bucks you to eat healthy, or when your kid bucks you for anything. You have to remember that you know what’s best for your kid, and you want to do what’s best for your kid. But some practical things are, I think what you’ll notice first is when they go outside, they’re going to grumble and complain, and grumble and complain. And this is boring, and this is hot, and it’s too cold, and there’s nothing to do.

And even my kids, who are, they live, eat and breathe outdoors, sometimes they’re like, “We’re bored.” And I always realize that if I said, “Okay, then come in, let’s do something else,” they have to work through the boredom, and then all of a sudden the creativity breaks loose. So let them be bored. Don’t get sucked into their grumbling and complaining. Let them be bored out there.

And you can give them things to do, too. For example, if you have a very techy kid, a kid that has been in front of a screen their whole lives, and now all of a sudden you want them outside, that is going to be a shock to their system. So I would say, for example, let’s take your phone outside, and let’s make videos outside. Or let’s take pictures, and then I want you to make a really cool slideshow, or video, or I don’t know, if your kid is on social media, do a whole Instagram story sequence of all the cool things that you found in nature, and make it appealing to them with what they already love to do.

So, you can take technology into the outdoors. I mean, we see it all the time now, where if you have a child that, like you said, “Just don’t get me out of a book, I mean, I want to read all day, don’t try to do this outdoors thing with me now, I’m 15 and I just want to be lost in my books,” then that’s okay. So take your book and go sit by a creek. It is just as beneficial to put your feet in a creek, sit on the dirt bank with the sun shining on you and reading your book. So you can take who your kids already are, and what they already have going on, and take that into the outdoors. It doesn’t, we’re not trying to recreate people into being this outdoors family, we’re trying to make the outdoors work for everybody. And it does, it will naturally.

I think one way to spark interest in younger kids, or even older kids, is through books. There are so many really neat books about nature. Even Swiss Family Robinson, when you read that to a kid, and then you send them outside, it is unbelievable how they reenact books in the outdoors. So if you want to work more of the outdoors into your kids’ indoor life, read books about adventure, and outdoor play. And there’s so many great picture books that get kids excited about being outside, and I have a list of ones that my kids love that we could link to. But that sparks kids’ interests in the outdoors, and then when they go outside, you’ll see them naturally reenact or explore what they’ve read about.

So those are really great ways to introduce the outdoors to kids that have not previously been out there.

Yvette:                         Oh, that is such great advice, and yes, we’ll link to the book list that you have, that would be great. Because it’s really hard to just go to the library and look for books on nature. Here’s your five million, here are your five million options!

Great Books about the Outdoors

Books for Parents

Balanced and Barefoot: How Unrestricted Outdoor Play Makes for Strong, Confident, and Capable Children  ~ Angela J. Hanscom

Hands Free Mama: A Guide to Putting Down the Phone, Burning the To-Do List, and Letting Go of Perfection to Grasp What Really Matters!  ~ Rachel Macy Stafford

Picture Books

Miss Rumphius ~ Barbara Cooney

The Curious Garden ~ Peter Brown

The Gardener ~ Sarah Stewart

RoxaBoxen ~ Alice McLerran

Blueberries for Sal ~ Robert McCloskey

Make Way for Ducklings ~ Robert McCloskey

Chapter Books

The Swiss Family Robinson ~ Johann David Wyss

My Side of the Mountain ~ Jean Craighead George

Call of the Wild ~ Jack London

The Bears on Hemlock Mountain ~ Alice Dalgliesh

The Sign of the Beaver ~ Elizabeth George Speare

Hatchet ~ Gary Paulson

Encouraging Scripture for enjoying the outdoors

“The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters.”  ~ Psalm 23:1-2 (ESV)

“But ask the beasts, and they will teach you; the birds of the heavens, and they will tell you; or the bushes of the earth, and they will teach you; and the fish of the sea will declare to you. Who among all these does not know that the hand of the LORD has done this? In his hand is the life of every living thing and the breath of all mankind.”  ~ Job 12:7-10 (ESV)

“For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.”   ~ Romans 1:19-20 (ESV)

“God called the dry land Earth, and the waters that were gathered together he called Seas. And God saw that it was good.”  ~ Genesis 1:10 (ESV)

“The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork. Day to day pours out speech, and night to night reveals knowledge.” ~ Psalm 19:1-2 (ESV)

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