One of my favorite childhood memories is of exploring the woods in the rain. It changes the entire landscape simply by coating it with water. Everything seems brighter, shinier; and there’s a Heaven-like scent in the air. It’s the smell of wet cedars, oaks, pines, maples. It’s therapy of the best kind to be surrounded by the lofty patriarchs who were given to us for our pleasure and use by the hand of God.
When I was a kid, a rainy Sabbath day was something to be relished. It was a day I didn’t have to go to school and could spend the afternoon in the woods exploring. I’d put on my navy blue rubber boots, old jeans, and zip-up hoodie, and top it off with a bright yellow plastic Mickey Mouse rain poncho — compliments of a previous family vacation. While I’m not endorsing Mickey Mouse, the sentimental value of the yellow poncho has stuck with me through the years. Just the thought of putting on that yellow poncho brings joy and floods my soul with memories.
To me, going out in nature is not optional. It’s literally vital to our mental and physical well-being. Although I don’t have my yellow poncho anymore, I have purposed to spend at least a little time outdoors every day, rain, shine, snow, or ice. If the weather is safe for even a bit, we are going outside each and everyday. Really, I believe we homeschooling parents need the outdoor time maybe even more than others, to keep our wits about us. Such a calming effect nature has. I am certain I couldn’t survive without it.
Last winter I made it a goal to spend time outside with the kids in the woods each day, no matter what. With some planning, willpower, and purpose, we accomplished our goal to get outside on a daily basis.
One of the essentials to making outdoor time not only bearable but enjoyable is to have on proper clothing for the weather. Our winters are generally cold and wet or icy here in Tennessee. For us, we make sure everyone has on at least three layers (base layer, top layer, outer layer). I personally wear two pairs of socks (one of which is wool), and a merino wool base layer covered with snow pants and topped with a rain skirt for the lower body. For the upper body — a base layer, a sweater, and a coat. We invested in good snow suits, waterproof winter hiking boots, and balaclavas for everyone last year as well. On rainy days, I still go for a poncho. The kids have proper rain coats they wear over top of their warmer under layers. We usually wear our snowsuits to protect from the wetness, though a nice set of rain pants or skirt would be helpful on the warmer rainy days. The main thing is to have even layers over the whole body, with extra layers added to the extremities, especially the feet and legs as they are the furthest from the body, so need the most protection.
When it’s cold we can’t just laze around in the hammock or on the porch with quiet activities, so we hike around and explore as much as possible, spending plenty of time down in the creek bed, which usually has a bit of water throughout the winter. When we do have snow, it makes it much easier to keep moving. In fact, sledding is one of my favorite activities in the world, and the kids get such a kick out of seeing their parents sliding down the hills, hooting and hollering as we go! It’s a great way to not only enjoy the beauty of nature, but to build camaraderie and bind our hearts to each other. Even though it’s easy to let life bog us down with cares, simply taking time to “be a kid again” is worth the effort and always brings a blessing.
When the weather is too extreme and we can’t stay outside for long periods, we break it up by taking time to thaw out inside. Sometimes the kids are so busy they don’t seem to notice that they are getting too cold, so we try to keep an eye on our littles and note when they get still and quiet, and of course when our own hands or feet are starting to feel too cold, so we can remind them to come inside to thaw out for a bit. Our indoor breaks are also good to remind us to drink our water. Even though it’s cold, we can still sweat a lot if we are layered up and really active, so plenty of water to drink is as important in winter as in summer.
For a fun change of scenery, we also enjoy walking around the Opryland Hotel, which is within an hour of where we live. Since it’s like a giant green house, it’s a fabulous way to be surrounded by nature with perfect weather even in the dead of winter. It always reminds me of what Heaven will be like — no pests, no weeds, the perfect temperature, lovely greenery, and waterfalls. I can’t wait!
Sadly, there are days where we simply can’t get out or stay out long due to dangerous conditions. However, we try to have a nature flavor about us within our home with natural decor such as live plants (our air filters), nature treasures on the buffet, log slice trivets, tree bark candle holders, tree branch curtain rods, etc., so even when we can’t be out in nature, it is with us. Isn’t that just like God? With us. I love how even through His nature, we are reminded that He can always be with us in our world, even though we can’t be there with Him in His world…yet!
“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go,” Joshua 1:9 NKJV.