Nature Homeschool in the Suburbs: Our New Year’s Project

I don’t think it would come as a surprise to anyone that Squishy loves mud. I don’t really know if he loves it more or less than other kids, but I do know that he seeks it out like a Blood Hound. In the summer months when the ground is scorched from the sun, he would much rather I make him a mud patch in the pit, than go for a swim in the pool at his uncle’s house. He will roll around in it like a baby Rhino, and make the most tasty mud pies.

John Muir “Of all the paths you take in life, make sure a few of them are dirt.”  ― John Muir
So, it is with a somewhat sad heart that we decided it was finally time to fill the pit in. We are going to be working on turning it into a proper school garden over the course of the next year. My New Year’s project, as it were, since I don’t do New Year’s resolutions.We are even drawing out plans to put in a cement pond, which Squishy is extremely excited about. (And it will give Crustacean,his pet craw-dad, a much bigger home)

This time of being stuck at home has given me the opportunity to evaluate our homeschool lifestyle. On one hand it has solidified my belief that Squishy learns best when he is out in fresh air, exploring nature with his own hands. On the other hand, I need to provide more of that wildness to our home base to compliment his outside adventures. Along with my efforts to bring #Outdoors~Indoors, I am looking at the bigger picture of building our own outside nature School in the backyard.

The Pit provided Squishy with the open-ended sensory exploration he needed. So it is going to take a lot of planning to convert our yard into a wild school that still has the open-ended play opportunities the pit provided. (If you are asking yourself what The Pit is, check out this post: Why a Pinterest Perfect Yard is Overrated: The Pit. Don’t worry, we have no intention of being Pinterest perfect after the transformation is done)


We live in the middle of the fruit basket to the world, but it’s still suburbia. Which means we are not talking about acreage here. We don’t have beautiful woodlands within walking distance right behind our house. Driving distance, for sure, but since my right foot is broken I’m not allowed to drive for a while. Fenced in yards are the law of the land, and all my neighbors have perfectly manicured lawns. One day we will be able to move up into the hills. Our learning is happening now, though, not in the dream of “one day”.
Nature School in the Suburbs building our home base

Our fill dirt arrived on one of our last truly beautiful days in December. The first step in what is sure to be a never-ending project. The excitement of the dump truck was enough to appease Squishy’s discontent over losing his beloved play space. It really was like saying goodbye to a friend for us.

Remodeling the backyard to be the perfect Learning space
 I guess when you can’t go on field trips, the next best thing is to bring the field trip to you. It was probably one of the best days of Squishy’s young life. Right up there with LegoLand. He was going on and on about the Hydraulic Cylinders, and took backing the giant truck up into the backyard very seriously. Playing in the dirt was the best way to say goodbye, I think. As the dump truck dumped load after load, Squishy took on the job of spreading out the dirt. All of his little Tonka trucks were brought out and he grabbed a rake.

If you follow us on Instagram, I’m sure you have noticed the change. The only real difference at this point is that there isn’t a three-foot deep hole in the ground. It is still a giant dirt (or rather mud) expanse. We are still in the planning stages, mostly because it’s really hard to do any construction on one leg, but also because I think Winter is when you can “dream your garden”. (This is a phrase I stole from a Martin and Silvia Sparkle Story. I am not affiliated with them, we just love them.)

What does “dream your garden” look like here?  Sometimes Squishy and I will just go sit out in our space and talk about what it will look like. Yesterday he was telling me about all the food that he would like to grow in our Garden. {*Note to self:Learn everything I can about growing KIWI.} Other days, dreaming our garden is me just observing how Squishy uses the space, and  planning the kinds of natural divisions of space I can incorporate. I know for sure that it is going to be a one step at a time process, and Squishy will be an intricate player in the construction process. Research and planning are important life skills, ones that often aren’t taught in school. Or if they are taught they are turned into a tedious task that you dread and procrastinate on.  To me, research is just finding solutions to make your dreams reality. My hope is this path will stregthen Squishy’s thirst for answrers, and teach him how to get them.

You can follow us on Pinterest as we plan and dream, and I will be adding updates here on the blog as we go along.


Do you have any big Homeschool projects or goals for the year? I’d love to hear them.

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