Recently my 5 year old son said to me, when we were discussing the potential for him to not play with his friends outside, "But how do you expect me to learn anything if I can't play outside?"
Perhaps this comment reflects that our unschooling culture has taken root and that my son's "soil" is naturally fertile for it. My son is an action man; he is at his best when he is moving and interacting, although he certainly is capable of quiet concentration, too. We now have nice weather in our corner of the world: sunny, warm, but not unbearably hot or humid. So outdoors he is, almost all afternoon long. We live in what has got to be one of the best neighborhoods in the United States for him. Our neighbors have a large yard that attaches to ours via a backyard gate, and they welcome him and our daughter to come and play when they want. Their children range into the older ages, but their youngest is a year older than our son and their second youngest loves to Mommie our 2 year old. The their older boys mean older friends who like to show off their athletic abilities. This is without mentioning the other two families behind us, and others down the street, all with kids who come and go in a grand social scene. And nearly all of these children and young adults have grown up in a Catholic homeschooling home culture.
So his playing involves older kids who still know and cherish "playing", positive role models, and kids just his age who share most of his passions. Hours of imaginary play, exercise, friendly competitions, and freedom mixed with responsibility for others.
But what I was originally going to get at is this idea of playing outside. I think children are built for being outside, in some degree of nature. I have always been more bookish than physically active, but I too loved to play outside as a kid. My games were solitary, and involved doing imaginary archaeological digs and primitive cake making, no wait, the technical term comes back to me -- mud pies. Nothing better than exploring dirt, except perhaps sliding in snow when in season.
As a bookish person, I remember being drawn to certain books as a kid, and even now as an adult reading to my daughter, that depict creatures playing and living in nature scenes, far from anything that looks like a city, yet socially, and with all their needs met for food and comfort. My daughter has a board book called Little Chick that is one such story. It is one she will ask me to read again and again. I have to admit, I feel my spirit open up when I read it.
I think the attraction, whether to books like Little Chick or to nature itself, has something to do with the desire for the Good, for God, for heaven. Creation sings of its Creator, if we have ears to hear. And children's ears are likely more fitted to this hearing.
Another reason not to coop children up in a school for the meatiest part of the day.