I love summer and I love excuses to play outside. I think this is part of why I have loved playing ultimate frisbee for almost 2 decades. Those summer nights practicing and weekends away at tournaments will forever be some of my fondest life moments. Not too surprisingly I spend a lot of time outside with Ashar. The summer he turned 1, we had just moved to our new home in Leslieville, Toronto. The community was much different than what we had been used to living a little bit more North-West along the Danforth. Here, in our new home, we were surrounded by many parks. A 5 minute walk west of us (Matty Eckler) has a wadding pool, playground, baseball diamond, and community garden. Five minutes east of us (Greenwood park) we have a splash pad, swimming pool, play ground, community garden, 2 baseball diamonds, a soccer field, hockey rink, skating rink, skate park, and a dog park. A couple of blocks southwest exists Hideaway park, which lives in the centre of 4 laneways, and contains a wadding pool, dog park, play ground, and half basketball court. At the South end of our street (Leslie Grove Park), is another park with a wadding pool, playground, and old unkept baseball diamond. Go a little further (like a 5 minute bike ride) and we have the great big Withrow park, Riverdale Park (east), and many schools with playgrounds. All very good with lots of green space and trees to run through and explore.
Because all of these parks are so accessible and because we have a very active child, we end up spending a lot of time outside climbing, sliding, swimming, and exploring. Ashar started walking when he was 8 and half months old, so by the time he was 1, he was eager to move and explore the world outside. At the peak of his walking energy, we “walked” him 4 times a day. It was more work than our border collie!
But one mid-summer day, a thought occurred to me: “Are we spending too much time outside?”. The train continued in my mind bringing up thoughts like: We aren’t doing enough classes, we don’t have enough structured play, we’re sitting down and learning to be still enough, we aren’t learning our ABCs or 123s, or colouring…
Now, I don’t know if you’re thinking what I hope you’re thinking but WTF?!? Of course we aren’t spending TOO much time outside. Is that even possible?
My ridiculous training of thinking was so absolutely absurd that I’m actually quite embarrassed that it even occurred to me. But in my defence, this shit happens because our failing school system has mislead us to believe that education should exist primarily while sitting down and being taught. Very little effort is on allowing little humans (or big humans for that matter) to explore for themselves. We also focus too much on math and reading and sitting still in our seats — which are fine things to have skills in — but they are by no means going to create the innovative, creative, well-rounded, independent-thinking, emotionally intelligent humans we ought to be growing.
I’m actually glad I had the thought. It was humbling and a good reminder to keep focussed on what my goal is as a parent. I want to offer my child the opportunity to explore this world and learn to develop his talents — which for Ashar already seems to involve a very physical component — and to learn to use those strengths to give back to the world and the community around him. I want him to learn through his exploration of the real world, through failures, through hands-on experience, all of which may get supplemented by the structured education system around him, but by no means would those be replaced with sitting in a desk trying to be still and he memorizes math and verbs. Those classroom experiences should IMO complement his life experiences and my job is to help integrate and make sense of all of his learning.
Regardless… he’s only 2… and should be outside as much as possible so his brain can soak up the sounds, sights, and other all the other available sensations and let his brain make the valuable connections he will natural make when given the opportunity.
So... enough with those crazy thoughts. I’m excited for another summer outside!