A few weeks ago, Keith Simon led a parenting seminar, “How Good Parents Ruin their Kids,” where he discussed the idea that parents are perhaps doing too much for their kids. Parents often strive for the ultimate goal of keeping their kids happy at all costs. While this might seem like a good thing in some ways, kids are struggling to cope with the challenges life throws at them because they have often been to coddled, sheltered, and protected from any difficulty.
Keith reminded us of our ultimate goal as Christian parents: to help guide our children to love and serve Jesus. This means allowing God to bring hardship into our kids’ lives to mature them in their faith. When we allow our children to experience hardship, challenges, and difficulties, we have an opportunity to use those experiences to point them to Jesus.
With these ideas in mind, I have long been intrigued by the concept of the outdoor classroom. Outdoor education is most popular in Europe, but is gaining some popularity in certain parts of the United States. The idea is simple – teachers facilitate meaningful learning in a outdoor environment exposing children to the hardship and beauty of the elements. Kids are allowed to experience the discomfort of being cold and hot and wet as they learn. They are encouraged to explore without the “safety” of the playground – they climb trees, cross streams, and get dirty. Teachers encourage kids to learn using real tools – matches to light fires, hammers, nails, & saws to construct, and pots and pans to cook over an open stove.
Watch this six minute video of an outdoor kindergarten in Norway to get a taste of the outdoor classroom.
While none of these schools are actively teaching Christianity (that I know of), I think this model would be ideal for pointing kids to God through enjoying the world He made – and the challenges and beauty in it. Since we don’t have any outdoor schools in Columbia, perhaps the next best thing would be to take our kids for hikes on the Katy trail or a camping trip in the Ozarks. Playing in the snow, climbing trees, pitching a tent in the backyard, collecting leaves, and planting a garden are all ways to help our kids experience the challenge and joy of God’s world.
What do you think about the idea of the outdoor classroom?