There is something about the outdoors that breaks you down to your core. It makes us fearful, in a way, to be in the wild, yet strangely comfortable, like we are fulfilling some primitive part of ourselves.
Adventures outdoors show us what we are truly made of, instead of how others see us. Kids feel this too. They are receiving messages non-stop about their world. What is their culture, their interests, their abilities?
As parents and teachers, we seek to define our kids in order to understand their motivations and desires, to be better providers, or maybe give praise. We label them innocently, like when we say, “She is the artist in the family”, or sometimes maliciously like when we call children “mean”. Labeling hurts kids in a deep way, and we can communicate just as well without using them.
Think about what our kiddos could be missing out on by being labeled. When we call our kids things like, shy, independent, bossy, aggressive, a big boy, a girly girl others accept those labels and treat our kids like those things. The kids themsleves begin to internalize those labels and use them to define their growing and ever changing sense of self.
In the book, Siblings without Rivalry, Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish recount a story where one woman, Ruth, loved to play the piano as a child, but had a hard time progressing. While her sister, who wasn’t taking lessons, could play every note perfectly. Ruth told her mother she wanted to quit because she was so disappointed in her own ability. Her mother let her quit, and Ruth had always regretted it.
For some reason, we have the idea that our “selves” are stagnant. We have a specific personality, with fixed attributes and aptitudes. We also think this about our intelligence: “I’m not a math person.” In reality, Psychology is learning that development is never stagnant or set. Not when we are born, and not when we are 90. Human brains have the capacity to grow and change until death.
What would happen if we could see aptitude, intellegence, and all our other traits as fluid: what if we let them decide, what doors could we open for our children then?
When asked how Ruth would have felt if her mother had told her that she should keep playing the piano because it made her happy, and it didn’t matter how fast or slow you learned, it was the meaning you bring to the music that mattered, she answered, “It would have meant everything to me.”
This post is about thinking of language differently and encouraging confidence in our children by letting them tell us who they are, in their own way and time. We all want to encourage and understand our children. We want to know them in order to guide them, but if we are not mindful of the framework which we use to do so, we can also shut our kiddos down and lock them out of hidden potential.
If they could, our children would tell us they need us to believe they can be everything, because then they will believe that they can be anything, whatever it is that they need to be. Kids need us to see their capacity for both fear and boldness, both leadership and support. They need to know how to fulfill both their own needs and the needs of others.
Learning in Forest Schools presents many opportunities, times for doubt and selfishness, teamwork and triumph. At Worldmind, it is important that children experience it all, and that we don’t let labels limit them.
Caroline Griesel holds a Bachelors in Zoology with Entomology focus from the University of Hawaii at Manoa. She has combined 7 years experience in education, including teaching children's English classes in Japan, and being a Para-professional in public schools. She also spent some time in Ecotourism, researching ecological relationships between ants and sea birds, and guiding kayak tours to the research site. She is currently working on a Level 3 Practitioner Certification from the Forest School Association in the UK. A childhood fishing and combing the beaches of Galveston, Texas inspired her to ensure a lifelong connection to nature and self-discovery through nature are possible for everyone. She is an amateur naturalist and adventurer, who loves curating her collection of rocks and minerals, stargazing, and bushcraft.
What Our Clients Are Saying
“While our boys attended Worldmind Nature Immersion School (WNIS), they have shown significant improvement with their emotional intelligence, mental and physical health, and social competence- among other developmental skills emerged through WNIS ECE program. We believe these elements are breakthrough impacts- foundational prerequisites for success in school, the workplace, and developing future environmental stewards in our nature-deficient society. WNIS ECE program shifts core concepts in early childhood development that forces us as parents into rethinking current health and education policies.”
"Our family across ages has been deeply impacted by WNIS, but the most interesting has been our youngest. She was only 4 months old when we began, and spent much of her first winter bundled up on my back at school, but once she could be down there was no stopping her. She exhibits a level of independence that her two older sisters took much longer to come to. She walked sooner, talked sooner, and is easily content with nothing but the elements to play with. As a whole. my children have moved away from the need for any toys in general, and prefer their imaginations. I believe we are as a family much healthier as well. In one of the worst winter seasons currently, and my kids barely have a sniffle. Including my baby."
“WNIS is the kind of place you can leave your child knowing that they will be empathized with, understood, and empowered - rare but highly valued qualities.”