Exposure Explore Experience Evaluate
Over this school year, I have started really diving in to the concept, of what I call, “The 4 Es-Exposure Explore Experience Evaluate.” It came about from the response I provided to a question on Instagram, but then I really sat with it. I realized that I had been keenly aware of these very concepts for a while, and had been putting most of them into practice. I’m just now finally getting the opportunity to write out what I’ve been thinking about in the shower the last few weeks. I mean, I can’t be the only one who uses the quiet time to be productive.
When you look at those words, the first 3 probably look pretty similar. And you’d be right. So let me break it down.
Exposure. But let me be more specific- exposure to reasonable danger. It’s fascinating that in recent weeks I’ve read a number of articles and listened to a few podcasts on this very concept. This is especially important for younger humans. Let me give you an example. My child loves to climb things. Rarely does she so sweetly climb down. No. She likes to JUMP. Usually, she jumps ON what ever she’s just climbed, and then likes to jump down or off. If you just got a little sweaty and felt your heart rate go up a bit, welcome to my every day with an adrenaline junkie. Our first instinct may be to say, “STOP JUMPING!” or “You’re going to hurt yourself, that’s not safe!” And obviously, this is a reasonable response. BUT what if, instead of jumping every time your child does something “unsafe,” you let them make that choice. It’s not easy. And you have to use your adult noodle for this one. But over time your child will not only gain confidence in their decision making, but be able to genuinely asses when something is dangerous or they are unsafe. I started putting this concept into practice for my own sanity. We went to a park that had a cool caterpillar monkey-bars kind of thing. She LOVED climbing up, but once she had climbed to the peak of the caterpillar, she realized she was out of her league, and she called me for help. I knew when she got to the peak it would be too much, but she had to experience that for herself and make the call- AND SHE DID. You can listen to, or read the transcript, of 1000 Hours Outside’s Podcast Season 3, Episode 1, with Teacher Tom, where they dig into this a bit more.
Explore– It’s almost like we are spending a LOT of time outside right now. I’ll even add in, when weather and location permit- do it barefoot! Children and even teens, and yes, even adults (myself included) are exploring and discovering SO MUCH for the first time. I’ll even say this; we were literally made for outside. Genesis 2:15 “The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.” In some countries, forest therapy is a genuine prescription. Exploration can be as close as your back yard or as far away as another continent. I love the Julia Rothman books, as well as The Lost Art of Reading Nature’s Signs. They have enriched our outdoor exploring SO MUCH. From identifying mushrooms and moss, to birds. To learning about wind patterns from the way tree limbs grow, or sun from what grows in an area. But it doesn’t even have to be that complicated. Flip over a rock to see what crawlies are hiding underneath. Hand them a magnifying glass. One of Athena’s favorite things is when I glue/tape 2 toilet paper rolls together for her to use as “binoculars.” She will spend an easy hour wandering the backyard looking through. Get out of the walls of your home and explore. Even if you live in a city, you would be blown away by what you can find if you take the time to intentionally look!
Experience– This one may actually be self explanatory, but here it is anyway. Give your child as many experiences as possible. Make homemade apple sauce. Take them taping for Maple Syrup. Include them when you work in the garden. Go on field trips to historical sites. I don’t care who you are, or where you live; it is historical; you just have to find it. Allow your children to get messy. We very often play with everything from ooblek, to water beads, to mud, to ice & snow, lemon juice and baking soda….all of these things are fun and filling sensory input, but are also building foundations of chemical reactions, viscosity, states of matter, Newtonian fluid, and more. We even love watching live-streams of various animals. You can youtube live streams of everything from Eagles, to Bears, to Sharks, and so many more. Monterey Bay Aquarium has a live-stream of their Sea Otters. A few times a day the keepers come in for feeding and enrichment. We have learned SO MUCH about sea otters from just putting on the live stream as our “background noise” during the day, and pausing to watch and listen when they come in! Every experience is worthwhile.
Evaluate– This is a general thing that you can be doing all of the time while doing the first 3 Es. Whether you are homeschooling, or just a really cool parent, evaluation is important. You may evaluate that your child seems to really enjoy when you go to historical sites that include hands on learning activities. You may observe that your 2nd grader has an affinity for remembering and identifying plants. Your high schooler may, in their own silent way, let you know that they enjoy handicrafts like embroidery or sewing. As you take a hike, ask your child questions about the colors, the textures, the smells, and sounds. Their responses may not only surprise you, but help you evaluate how in-tune they are. In the same way, it’s usually pretty obvious when you’re student is just not in to something. That doesn’t mean you have to avoid it entirely, but it can help you gauge what is worthwhile, what you may actually need to spend extra time on, and what you want to dive in to head first.
As most of us are gearing up for warmer weather, I felt like this was a really good time to put this out into the world. Many of us are wrapping up our homeschool year in the next few months, and gearing up to begin again in July. Before you panic about your child jumping from a tree stump, take a moment to assess if they can “reasonably” make that call for themselves. While making your spring and summer plans, make sure they’re more than just amusement parks, but include some real exploring too. While you could skip the mud pit and rain puddles, you COULD let your children take chances, make mistakes, and get messy!