~ Hello Leah, I am delighted to have you here on Raising Little Shoots! Please could you tell us a little about yourself.
I’m Leah, married to Dave and we have four children aged from 14 down to 6. We’re Lead Pastors of Mosaic Church in Coventry and we home educate our children. Life before children varied from a degree in sociology through to family work within our education system with lots of travel in between but the constant factor has been pastoral and leadership work within the local church. I’ve been home educating for 9 years and have been both challenged and changed by the amazing impact on my children and on wider family life.
When I’m not with my children I’m running the family & children’s ministry within our church, speaking, writing and working on my used book collection!
Late last year we also launched ‘Modern Miss Mason’ which hosts a growing series of video based courses helping home educators find their freedom within the Charlotte Mason philosophy.
Being outside is a guaranteed re-energiser for me; I also love reading and drinking coffee!
~ When did you first begin nature study and what got you started?
I wasn’t home educated but my mum is a nature lover and beauty seeker; growing up in a beautiful village in Yorkshire there was plenty of opportunities to walk, explore and discover the world around us. She didn’t always know the names of flowers, bird and trees and but she was faithful to point them out.
I remember as a teenager meeting a man who was training to work in a forestry team, he could identify every tree, bush and plant we passed on a walk one day and I felt inspired and eager to make that one of my goals in life; I wanted to know the names of things living around me!
Early on in our home school journey I began researching the Charlotte Mason philosophy; her advice to ‘never be within doors when you can rightly be without’ was music to my ears. When we started home educating our children in 2008 nature study was high on the agenda to incorporate into our days and has grown over the years.
~ Please tell us about how you make opportunities for your family to enjoy spending time in nature.
I’ve always tried to make it as natural as possible; we have a small yard with brimming flower beds, albeit slightly wild but hosting fruit trees, bushes and greenery. I think it’s important that our children first know their own garden, so they’re out there a lot, playing, exploring and touching the plants and trees. At the time of writing this we’re slowly packing up after 12 years to move to a bigger house which sits right on the edge of a park. We’ll soon be surrounded by mature trees, fields, a river and weeping willows. It’s a dream come true to be moving so close to nature; be sure to follow our days on Instagram!
We also have a couple of favourite nature hang-outs that we try and make an intentional visit to once a week. The local woods, a country park and a Wildlife Trust nature reserve. I always make the most of dry weather, and especially if the sun comes out – brooks over books is my general philosophy (although with the UK weather we do a lot of both).
~ Would you share some of your favourite pages from your family’s nature journals with us, and let us know what you like about them?
The Goldfinches were unexpected exciting visitors to our dusty miller plant in our front yard last year. Micah is our champion bird spotter and shouted at me to grab my camera, they were so beautiful and close up – we all journaled their visit.
Our whole family love the fly agaric and have pictures and ornaments representing then all around the school cabin. This picture marks the first day we saw one in the woods for real! A very exciting discovery and certainly lived up to its reputation.
One from my journal, I’m quite electric in my style! I love March, everything starts to stir just as you thought you’d forgotten what flowers looked like they appear in purple and yellow withstanding the later winter weather, March is always a favourite in my journals.
This is a special page as it displays a few of my favourite finds from our trip to Florida last year. I claimed an introvert day alone by the pool and in between my quiet dips in the warm water and sipping on iced tea I painted.
I love this page, it’s one of Sienna’s (my youngest child) first attempts at painting what she’d seen that day – I obviously annotated and displayed her work but you can clearly see what they are.
~ What would you say have been the greatest benefits to spending time out of doors with your family?
Being outside has so many wonderful benefits; walking brings connection and conversation, even if you don’t know the names of what is around you or care to know – just being together outside is good for the soul. We’ve probably dreamed our greatest dreams, solved the biggest problems and most definitely put the world to rights whilst walking in the woods with the dog!
We’ve learnt to be observant and respectful of the world around us. We’ve learnt to connect, explore and dig deeper – there’s always more to see no matter how many times you’ve walked that path before.
We’ve learnt to look up and down and enjoy the changing seasons from the clouds to the forest floor.
I love how Albert Einstein puts it: “Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better.”
~ What advice would you give to other families who would like to spend more time in nature?
Make going outside a part of your daily or weekly rhythm, make it a normal part of family life and you’ll create a habit that will last forever.
Find a spot that you all love and visit there regularly, it’s amazing to see the same nature spot through the changing seasons.
Kit everyone out with the right clothes for all weathers, eliminate all excuses and enjoy the great outdoors in the sun and the rain!
Get a dog (wink), it forces you outside!
This is one of my new journaling habits which is to print photos and have the stuck or hung where my children can see them – these were printed this week from our February/March observations .
~ Where can we find you on the internet?