How to Learn Outside No Matter the Weather

November 2, 2020
Written by:
Celeste Orr

You don’t have to be a full-on crunchy nature-lover to recognize the value of getting kids outdoors. Researchers worldwide have touted the benefits of outdoor play and learning in nature as antidotes to childhood obesity, attention deficit, and hyperactivity for decades, and new research is even starting to reveal that kids who play outside perform better in school and into adulthood.

But all of that research doesn’t seem to help when outdoor temperatures dip into the uncomfortable zone, especially for us homeschooling parents who have never been big fans of winter (even the crunchy nature-loving types).

And even more especially for those of us who grew up in warmer climates and now find ourselves raising our children in colder ones. We all love to get our kids outdoors in the spring, summer, and fall, but when winter hits, we seem to struggle.

Since my family has spent the last seven winters enjoying warmer weather in states such as Florida, Texas, Arizona, and California, and we now find ourselves settling down permanently and facing the upcoming winter in one of the coldest states in the US (Maine), I knew I needed help. I had been hearing a lot of hype about how the happiest people in the world – the Scandinavians – enjoy winter and something called “hygge“, letting their babies sleep outside, and trekking around in the snow and such.

So, I figured they might have a few things to teach me, and I read the book There’s No Such Thing as Bad Weather to attempt to find some ideas for combining the great outdoors in all kinds of weather with our plans for college-prep education with my teenagers (and also to motivate me to get them outside and learning in nature immediately during our first winter in New England).

I was pleasantly surprised to find more ideas in the book than I had expected, along with enough stories and anecdotes to make my nature-loving heart soar. And in the end, I came up with three ways I plan on getting my teenagers to learn outdoors this winter.

If you struggle to get your kids learning outdoors consistently in the winter months, I hope these three planning tips will come in handy:

Take advantage of each day’s sunshine hours.

As much as we loved closing our books early and running outside to play when the boys were little, we now love carting our books and computers outside to the porch to do school in the fresh air and going on nature walks during brain breaks. But those activities are vastly easier during warm weather months when temperatures are comfortable outside for most of the day.

To make outdoor learning happen more easily in the winter months, we plan on taking full advantage of being homeschoolers and getting outside when the sun is shining on winter days and saving our books and computers for getting cozy by the fire during the cloudiest, darkest, dreariest parts of each day.

As Linda McGurk writes, “Outside, there is a better connection,” so we intend to get out there every day, and I can’t think of any better time to do it than during those sun-shining hours.

Use “when” instead of “if”.

Another trick I noticed from the book is that families who talk about when they’re going outside every day get out far more often than those who talk about if they’re going outside. I was inspired to learn that most parents in Scandinavia express a need to be in nature every day. This is something I totally relate to, but I’ve let my need for nature sit dormant during cold winter months in the past, and I can’t do that this year. So, we’ll talk about when to get outside every day to make it happen.

Invest in seasonal clothes and gear.

The major tip of the book (and the reason for its title) is the insight that having the right clothes for winter is absolutely essential in getting our kids outdoors. Not only do kids need the right clothes (waterproof, warm, wicking layers and such for cold and snow play, along with rain gear for rainy, misty, foggy days) in order to feel comfortable enough to desire to stay outside, but parents need the right clothes, too, so we aren’t tempted to run inside at every cold wind gust. So, we will start building our winter wardrobes this fall and continue to build it for years to come.

Overall, There’s No Such Thing as Bad Weather inspired me to get my teenagers learning outside this winter on a daily basis because of the stories the author shared about her own children and their experiences in the States versus her homeland – stories changed me, as all good stories do. If you have a desire to learn outdoors with your kids this winter, I hope you’ll find a copy for yourself and experience the same.

Books to Inspire Time Outdoors

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Celeste Orr is the author of Togetherness Redefined: Finding a Different Kind of Family Togetherness, a guide for parents who long to build deep, lasting connections with their families but may not always know where to start.

Celeste Orr ContributorShe once described herself as a full-time traveler chasing family togetherness away from suburbia, a nomad, a gypsy Mama raising her kids on the road without roots, but after living overseas and traveling to 49 out of 50 states in the US, she’s realized that togetherness is possible anywhere as long as it’s welcomed.

Celeste currently lives on the coast of Maine with her husband Matthew, their two sons Elijah and Malachi, and a rescue kitty named Bacon. When she’s not hiking the mountains of Acadia National Park, you’ll probably find her reading a good book with a steamy cup of tea, staring at the ocean, or working on something new for family-loving moms at