Unschooling in the Old Forest Trails
I am a city girl. I come from a city family. Our vacations always consisted of visiting other cities. I grew up knowing very little of the outdoors. Somehow, I married a forest man. He is a former forest ranger, Peace Corps agroforestry volunteer, and currently an archaeologist. He thrives in the outdoors. He wakes up at least five out of seven days wondering how he ended up living in Memphis, Tennessee.
Luckily, we live down the street from Overton Park which houses the zoo, an art school, an art museum, a soccer field, a playground, picnic areas, a pond, and the Old Forest. I had always experienced Overton Park as “doggie park.” My college roommate and I spent many lazy Saturdays on a blanket smoking cigarettes, replaying Friday night’s adventures, and throwing a kong to our dog, Daisy. It was my husband who dragged me off the beaten path and into the Old Forest trails. Not being an especially curious person, I had never even ventured past the doggie-gathering area of the park. If it weren’t for the many winding mysteries of the Old Forest, my husband would have left Memphis a long time ago.
For the first few years of our marriage, we made a habit of taking our many dogs to the park on Saturday and Sunday mornings. We often ran into neighbors there and even made some new friends there. Our dogs understand the word “park” and know when it is the weekend. When the days are nice and long, my husband takes the dogs in the evenings before dinner.
Last year before giving birth to our son, I worried that our days at the park would be limited. I just couldn’t imagine having the time or the energy to haul two dogs and a baby there on a regular basis. Much to my surprise, we do just that. Rain, snow, or shine. Satchel loves the park almost as much as the dogs, and thanks to modern technology (i.e. Baby Bjorns and baby backpacks), the Old Forest Trails are easily accessible to infants and toddlers.
Overton Park is Satchel’s introduction to the outdoors. He has seen it change through three seasons so far and we are all eagerly awaiting Spring. Satchel and I both learn about the outdoors as my husband points out hidden tracks, swings from secret vines, and unearths artifacts. Satchel has delighted in all of the new discoveries and simply enjoys the ride on his daddy’s back. In writing this piece (originally for the Park Friends newsletter), I discovered that thanks to my husband, Satchel is already on the path to unschooling. And I feel like I am being unschooled too. It’s pretty cool.
(This essay was also published in “The Edgy-catin Mama.”)