When we went outdoors this year in response to the Covid-19 pandemic, we were not sure how the Learners would respond to the heat, the cold, the rain, the bugs, and the physical activity. Because we are a Self-Directed Education community that elevates free play as a wonderful use of time and a fabulous end in and of itself, we figured that the Abrome Learners would better adapt than those who were only given a 30-minute recess in elementary school, and no recess in middle or high school, and often being stuck indoors even when at home because of homework or studying. While it has certainly been a challenge for some, others have really thrived.

Over the past pandacademic year, we have become much more comfortable with discomfort, we have found ways to find joy when sweaty and dirty, and many of us have rediscovered the endless miracles of nature. It seems likely that many of us will have the opportunity to go back indoors in September as cases will hopefully continue to fall as more people get vaccinated and people continue to avoid needlessly congregating indoors in large groups. However, we hope that what we gained this year in going outdoors is not lost when we have the opportunity to be shielded from the elements or when digital entertainment is easier to access.

Our society has been systematically deprived of the regenerative power of nature, and next to only those who have been incarcerated, children are the biggest victims of the institutional walls that seal us off from nature. It is educational malpractice for adults to tell children that they should forgo all of the benefits of nature in order to thoroughly school (in school and at home) in order to prepare themselves for the false promises of a supposedly successful life. Children’s lives include the present as well as that future, and more time in nature enriches both.

When this pandemic ends, whenever you consider it to be over, please do not let go of your time outdoors. And most importantly, do not force the kids back indoors.