Root Children: Back to Basics, a column for everyone

poppiesDo you ever read Root Children and just roll your eyes? I know this little column has a whimsical name; in it we have written about going star-gazing and nature-collecting, doing fun little nature crafts, finding animal footprints and studying the phases of the moon. For some, this is a way of life and a language that they know well. Perhaps it was the way they were raised, even! But for others, it may be a seemingly unattainable, semi- “lofty” column. Well let’s get this straight. I don’t know ANY busy mother who does a perfect job with Nature Study. I don’t know any mother who knows the names of ALL the plants, trees or little rodents around her home, let alone which constellations are where in the night sky throughout the year. I think most of us are stumbling along our way just trying to get matching socks on the childrens’ feet and to Mass on time.

       But one thing we all have in common is that we all have an inner ear: a deep sense of yearning for quiet, for peace, for stillness in a busy, plugged-in world. It is important to be able to listen and hear Jesus’ voice amid our busy lives. In this fast-paced world of instant connectivity,  I think we all continually need to put solid roots down… to unplug and get rooted.

We need to find God, and he cannot be found in noise and restlessness. God is the friend of silence. See how nature – trees, flowers, grass- grows in silence; see the stars, the moon and the sun, how they move in silence… We need silence to be able to touch souls.                               -Blessed Mother Teresa

       So how can we get rooted in the natural world? You don’t have to live on 50 acres, or even 1, to go on a nature walk. You don’t have to live on a farm to see the stars. All you need is a sense of observation and reverence… and a pair of shoes! Even people with no yards can grow a seedling or make mini terrariums, or keep a pet turtle. Place a resting chair out on your city back porch, out in your little garden or on the balcony of your apartment. Step outside… to sit! (fancy that!)… at any given time of day to breathe, hear the birds, smell the rain falling on the sidewalk or lawn. Watch the squirrel run along your fence lines and telephone wires.  Turn that daily walk with the children into a slower-paced, reflective time of picking up leaves and sticks and stones, bringing along a collection basket for the natural treasures you all find. Take them home and place them on a windowsill, a kids dresser or on a designated table. Place the flowers or winter weeds in a vase. Have the kids draw them! Let them take their broken crayons, stubby pencils or your notebook pen so they can draw their findings. Let them touch and admire their treasures throughout the week.


When all is said and done, is there any more wonderful sight, any moment when man’s reason is nearer to some sort of contact with the nature of the world than the sowing of seeds, the planting of cuttings, the transplanting of shrubs or the grafting of slips.                   -St. Augustine of Hippo

       This column is not intended to turn us all into little Waldorf homeschooling families who only have all-natural toys and objects around the home. It isn’t intended to shoot for the moon with projects and ideas. Rather, its intent is to encourage us all to, in our own walks of life, get our children rooted a little tiny bit, for their sake and for ours. The purpose of studying the natural world with our children is not necessarily to get them to be organic gardeners or mushroom hunters when they grow up, but to give them a firm grounding: to develop an understanding of the very basics and fundamentals of Life: the way a tree grows, the beautiful way a flower opens up in the morning, turning it’s face to the light. The way a seedling pops it’s head through the soil and, with water and sunlight, grows and thrives. There are parallels here between our own souls and bodies and the plant we are watching. We, too, need sunlight and air and water to live. We too turn our faces to the light… we turn to God! Our little boys and girls are like young trees, their limbs growing and stretching and becoming stronger each day, eventually becoming perhaps an Oak, a Maple or a Pine… and we can only hope that their souls are firmly rooted in healthy soil before they go out into the world to face the dangers and temptations.  THIS is what the column is for, in the past and in the future… not to depress you with unacheivable projects but to motivate you with ways all of us—regardless of our lifestyles or circumstances— can foster in our children a sense of wonder and awe at Creation. And so, with nurturing love and careful tending, we water the soil of our little child’s mind and heart, the way we do for a fragile plant or for our garden.



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