Have you ever rubbed two sticks together and created a spark, and then used that spark to light a fire? I don’t know about you, but even as a small child I’ve been fascinated with the idea of creating fire without matches or a lighter – so much so that I spent hours banging rocks together in the hopes of creating a spark (and instead of sparks I accumulated lots of bandaids on my thumbs).
So great was my love affair with creating primitive fire that a journal entry in my adult years mentioned two huge events that happened that day: number one – I created fire with a bow drill all by myself for the first time, and number two – I found out I was pregnant with my third child.
After years of watching my husband Steve teach children and adults how to create fire with a bow drill, I know for certain that many people share this fascination with making fire from only the most primitive materials. It’s pure magic to create a coal by rubbing sticks together, and then to carefully place this coal into a prepared tinder bundle and gently blow it into a flame.
We found that children can’t get enough of watching this amazing feat and trying it themselves. It takes some strength, patience and persistence, but when it happens, their faces light up as if they just ran a marathon, or discovered a lake filled with ice cream.
Steve has taught these kinds of wilderness skills to many kids, and I’ve had the privilege to assist him and share in children’s joy and wonder when they learn how to build primitive shelters out of sticks and leaves, track animals in the woods, make camouflage with mud and ferns, twist plant fibers into rope, and make a traditional wooden bow and safely shoot it.
So many kids spend many hours indoors and in front of screens, and most of us are familiar with the term “nature deficit disorder” or the book “Last Child in the Woods”, explaining a wide range of behavioral disorders that happen when children don’t spend time outside.
It breaks my heart that kids are disconnected from nature, because it’s not only bad for their mental, physical and spiritual health, but it’s also bad for the Earth. For why take care of it if you don’t care for it?
Steve and I raise our three children on our homestead next to the wilderness, where they experience the natural world every single day. Not only are our kids intimately connected with growing our own organic food, but they also help with the livestock, forage for wild foods, hike in the mountains, swim in wild rivers, and spend most of their homeschooled days outside. They have been learning wilderness and homesteading skills with us since they could crawl.
This upbringing has given them enormous confidence, strong bodies, and an ease with the natural world and concern for the wellbeing of the earth that touches my heart. I know that my children deeply care for this planet, not because they think they should, but because they see it as a natural extension of themselves, like an extra limb without which they could not survive.
Not everyone can live like us – choosing a simple life surrounded by the wild… (And I tell you right now that sometimes I wish I could just walk to a nice bakery for a cup of espresso, or have access to a library closer by, or not have to drive half an hour to visit friends). Still… if you want to nurture a sense of connection to nature in your children, you can do it in many different ways, for example by getting them outside for hikes, visiting a farm, or perhaps planting their own garden.
But we encourage you to take it even a step further.
There’s a big difference between observing nature and becoming a participant in it. For a lot of people a walk in the woods looks just like trees and brush, but things change when the trees and brush come to life as they become medicine, food, arrow shafts, cordage fiber or bow drill spindles. We have a deeper experience when we participate in seeing how the earth can directly meet our needs.
People who read my blog and see our charming life have been begging us to teach their children wilderness and homesteading skills and to let their own children experience how we live. Many parents are yearning for their children to be connected to nature, to get a taste of country and wilderness living. So we obliged and created summer weekend overnight camps for kids on our homestead. Over the years, Steve has taught many children (and adults) wilderness skills, and I have been teaching homesteading skills, so we are combining our talents and are offering these weekend camps this year.
The kids will build primitive shelters in the woods, track animals, build their own traditional bows and shoot arrows with them, make fires with friction, twist cordage into ropes, and tell stories around the camp fire. They will milk goats, help harvest food from the garden and prepare it, and learn how to bake the best and easiest bread ever. They will eat home-cooked, organic, tasty meals and treats and love them. They will get muddy and dirty and happier than they’ve been in a while, without any i-pads or i-phones or computers, but plenty of new friends to share these new adventures with.
If you are interested or know someone who might be, head on over the website to read about it. It will be a life-changing experience for the kids who attend, I can tell you that for sure. And I guarantee that you will have to do a load of laundry when they return home.
And maybe, just maybe, your child will ignite your own deeper connection with nature.
Corina and Steve Sahlin