Summer Solstice Ideas For Families

I love to use the seasons as a way to connect with nature and deepen our bond with the Earth.  The changing of the seasons (solstices and equinoxes) are a perfect opportunity to slow down and notice the changes that are happening around us. It also a time to be grateful for all Mother Nature provides.

Summer solstice marks the beginning of summer. It occurs when one of Earth’s poles reaches its maximum tilt toward the sun, and we have the longest amount of time between sunrise and sunset. It happens twice a year, once in each hemisphere. Here’s a nice explanation from a meteorologist:

And here’s an explanation for the kids:

Simple ideas for learning about and celebrating summer solstice with children:

  • Go outside and sit and observe. Just one minute of sitting in silence and using your senses to notice. Ask children what they see, smell, hear, feel, and taste. Make a list or web of ideas.
    • Ask children questions such as: What happens as we enter the summer season? (more daylight, it’s warmer, flowers are blooming, bugs are abundant… What is there more of? Less of? How do we know spring is over?
    • Doing this helps children to: observe, develop critical thinking skills, organize thoughts on paper, practice handwriting, build conversation skills…
  • Go for a walk to find and collect samples from nature. Talk about what you are finding and comment on textures, colors, smells, and sensations. Children are building their vocabulary by listening to the words you use! As you are exploring invite children to gather whatever they find interesting: Leaves, rocks, feathers, butterfly and insect wings, bones, mosses, seashells, bugs and beetles, seed pods and the list goes on and on.
  • Make a nature mandala with your collection. The word mandala is taken from the Sanskrit word for circle. We chose to represent the four seasons and four directions in our mandala, so we started with four fern leaves pointing north, south, east, and west.
  • Other topics for discussion or writing prompts: What are you thankful for this summer? Is there anything that is bothering you or you are upset about? What can we do this season to make that better?
    • Share your own thoughts on these questions as well. Children will surprise you with their incredible minds. The more you ask them questions like this the more comfortable they become with thinking creatively, an important skill for the future!
  • Add to your nature journals!
  • Read my new book If Sun Could Speak, and check out these activities for playing with the sun and printable resources:


How do you incorporate nature into your family or classroom activities? I’d love to hear from you!

Guidebooks and Nature Journals

book pile

Although guidebooks are not designed and marketed to children, they are a wonderful addition to children’s personal libraries! I wanted to share how we use them and their benefits, so I created a quick video to highlight our experiences and love for guidebooks. We also incorporate guidebooks with nature journaling.

Nature journaling is a simple and fun way to encourage young children to make observations and develop a connection with the natural world. It also promotes curiosity, wonder, and self-directed learning. Nature journaling helps develop and support reading and writing skills too. And it’s a great opportunity for connection within a family to have a shared activity.

Happy Journaling! You can also view the video from my Facebook page. I’d love to hear from you! Does your family take part in journaling?

Good Relationships

“Good relationships keep us happier and healthier.”  A 75 year Harvard study has revealed this as the most important factor in human happiness. I have read about this study, and the length of time and amount of effort put into this is impressive. Although the study started with just men (women and children are brought into the study eventually), the results are significant for all. It seems like it should be common wisdom that the quality of our relationships affect our well-being, but it’s not common knowledge so it’s important for work like this to occur. And of course my mind goes right to how this knowledge is important to children and childhood. Childhood is the foundation of life. It is a crictical period of human development when we are figuring out how the world works and our place in it. We also receive lenses or filters through which we will view the world, ourselves, and our place in the world. The words we hear, the things we see, our experiences with people, places, and things, are all a part of that foundation.

How are we laying down a foundation for children that includes building relationships that are supportive and healthy? There are two things that come to mind for me. The first is what opportunities and support do children have to create these quality relationships? The second is what is being modeled for children?

  • On a side note, I realize I ask a lot of questions. It’s the Socratic philosopher in me. I actually can’t help it. I get passionate on a topic and I immediately think of  a list of questions that I want to ask myself and others. Anyone else like that?These are two topics I am particularly passionate about, so prepare yourself for a lot of questions!

Children need opportunities to practice the skills that will serve them for a lifetime. That’s why we have a childhood. It’s a period of development for them to observe, practice, take risks, ask questions, build knowledge, and seek answers. Their play is a vital component of the childhood experience. Their play is their work. So when we look at the foundational experiences of childhood, how are we supporting opportunities for them to develop good relationships? Are they getting opportunities to interact with a wide variety of people? Do they get to talk with people of different ages and generations? Do children get to cooperate on projects, seeing how different people have different strengths and weaknesses, and when they come together they can achieve big goals? Are they learning that all people have something to offer and do they have opportunities to showcase their strengths? Are children able to follow their passions and meet people that are passionate about the same topics? Are children sometimes introduced to a topic that they might not have explored on their own, and can then develop relationships from there? I’m asking all these questions because I believe they are important to the development of good relationships.

The second topic is where the adults come into play. Are the adults in children’s lives modeling how to seek out and maintain healthy relationships? Do they model setting healthy boundaries, expressing gratitude, practice empathy and compassion? Are the words that adults use sending messages of positivity, kindness, and encouragement? Do the adults have a healthy relationship with themselves? This is probably the most important question because it all starts with taking care of ourselves, everything evolves from there.  All of these questions are contributing factors to healthy development of quality relationships.

So if we look at the common and unquestioned practice of putting children into a school setting, how are these practices in support of the development of healthy relationships? Children are grouped into rooms with only children of the same age. They are gathered into schools based on where they live and placed with children that live within a certain geographical radius around their homes. I’m finding it hard to see how this practice is in the best interests of children and their development of healthy relationships.

Teachers do the best they can to bring the outside world into their classrooms, but is that enough? I have been there. As an elementary teacher I was always looking for opportunities to bring experts from various backgrounds and generations into the classroom. And these experiences are wonderful, but they are still just a substitute for the real life experiences that children need. Teachers do the best they can within their imposed limits. This is the reality of standardized, compulsory schooling. I’m sharing this point of view because we all have a responsibility to raising the next generation. Enrolling your child in the local school district does not necessarily mean a well rounded education. Children need more interaction in the real world in developmentally appropriate ways, in order to prepare them for life in the world.


To set children up for success we must first model what healthy relationships look like, with ourselves and others. And we must also give them opportunities to build a foundation that leads to development of good relationships. So no matter who you are: parent, teacher, grandparent, politician, stranger in the grocery store, please set a good example. The children are watching and learning from what they see, hear, and experience.

You Don’t Go to School?

My daughter and I were waiting for the bus at the airport after a fabulous mother-daughter trip to visit my grandmother. We just had four days of bonding and connecting. We were able to visit “Butterfly World” a butterfly and bird aviary, where we sat among luxurious greenery and tropical flowers while butterflies and birds fluttered around us. We watched butterflies emerging from their chrysalis and fed lorikeets that landed on our arms. We enjoyed our time getting lost in the beauty and experiencing awe and wonder. We observed, connected, asked questions, and found answers. There was no rushing, no bells ringing or people telling us it was time to move to the next experience. The only time we were told to look at something was when someone else saw something amazing and pointed it out. We were driven by curiosity and a love of nature. We were free to explore, experience, and connect. We had a guidebook to identify the things we saw, if we wanted to. We also had journals to write and draw what we observed, discovered, and learned…if we wanted to record it. There was no agenda, no checklist of things to see and do, no benchmarks, and no tests.

These beautiful memories were occupying my head space when a woman, who was waiting for the same bus as my daughter and I, started engaging us in conversation. We did the typical small talk that strangers do when waiting for a bus, “Where are you coming from? Where are heading?” sort of questions. Then the kind woman asked my daughter “Are you excited to go back to school tomorrow?” To which my daughter responded nonchalantly  “I don’t go to school.” The woman looked at me confused, I smiled, and she asked my daughter “What do you mean you don’t go to school?” My daughter repeated her original statement and the woman didn’t respond. Well not with words anyways, just a look of shock and confusion. At this point I realized how differently we do things, and also how little people understand about life without school. As I was about to respond with probably a really long explanation, my brilliant daughter chimed in with “We homeschool.” The woman relaxed and the conversation kept flowing.

It is really hard to explain what we do. Not because I don’t know what we do, I feel I can eloquently explain what we do. But because the majority of people only know how to think of children in terms of school, they can’t relate to a childhood without school.  We use the term homeschool but I don’t feel like that represent what we do. My daughter recognized the woman’s discomfort and used the term homeschool to ease the tension and to put in a way that would make it more understandable. (My 8 year old daughter is amazingly brilliant, especially her people skills!)

Our trip to “Butterfly World” is one example of what we do without school. So to help people develop their understanding of a life without school, I made a list of what we do (and don’t do). Insert Forest Gump, “Mamma always had a way of explaining things so I could understand them.”

We don’t stay home, but when we need to… we stay home. We are purposeful with our choices so that we have time to be home. To enjoy our home and surroundings. To rest if we need to.

We all pitch in for housekeeping and life living: house maintenance and repairs, cleaning, food shopping, and pet care.

We play. We play everyday.

We create art when we are inspired to do so. We paint, draw, build, sculpt, and sew.

We don’t do school at home. Which means we don’t replicate a school schedule at home. There is no set schedule for learning to take place. We don’t make sure we are doing the same things at the same time as the local school district.


We live life together as a family. We take turns, laugh, help, support and encourage each other.

We engage in science experiments, together as a family or in organized groups.

We ask questions, explore, and discover. We read. We read a lot. We read for pleasure and to acquire knowledge. We make connections to things we read. We connect to ourselves, others, other books, and experiences. Teachers have terms for these connections: text-to-self, text-to-text, and text-to-real world.

We write letters. We write about what we know, what we are curious about, or how we are feeling. We write stories, real and imaginary. We have journals for writing and handwriting workbooks for practice.

We are not limited by one room or one building. We don’t wait to be told what to learn about and how to learn it.

We are curious. We ask questions and seek out answers. We connect with experts on the topics we are curious about.

We utilize many resources: people, places, and things. Libraries, museums, parks, playgrounds, science centers, community events, beaches, hiking trails, businesses, professionals, teachers, books, magazines,  and internet resources.



We regularly spend time with friends of different ages. Some friends go to school and some don’t. Some friends school at home and some don’t. Some attend church regularly and some don’t. Some friends live in our community and some don’t.

We take trips, excursions, scavenger hunts, attend co-op, take classes, sign up for activities, attend camps, and visit with friends and family.

We don’t think we have all the answers or that we are better in any way. Raising and educating children is hard- no matter which path you choose. We are all trying to do what’s best. Please remember that.

We have opportunities to practice skills, take risks, make mistakes, and have “redo’s.”

We set goals for ourselves based on individual strengths, weaknesses, and interests.

We make decisions that are in alignment with our goals. We say no to the people, places, and things that don’t support our mission.

We follow our passions and curiosities. We are not restricted to only learning certain topics at certain times or in a certain order.


Learning without school… what would you add?


Next post will be about our role as parents in our children’s education.