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by Beverley Paine

As a child I enjoyed a short foray into orienteering, but the development of undiagnosed asthma put paid to any long term involvement. As an adult I realised that this kind of activity is perfect for helping me build up my lungs as it is something I can do at my own pace, so from time to time we get out and about and do a little orienteering, either with an established orienteering group, by ourselves or with friends.

We once devised a short orienteering course, much like a paper chase around our four and a half acre property for a networking group activity. Devising the course was a fantastic cross curricula activity for our boys and lasted a few days. I think they had more fun making the course than they did following it! I can heartily recommend devising your own courses as an educational activity in its own right, but be warned - it is fairly complicated and will take you into some great mathematical areas.

Orienteering is a fun educational activity that focuses on fitness and skill. It also gets us outside enjoying all kinds of environments. Most people do orienteering in rugged bushland, but we have enjoyed city and suburban courses that take through streets full of houses and even shopping centres!

I found that orienteering, because of the need to follow directions on maps and recognise 'landmarks', builds a sense of direction, both in the children and myself. We vary the difficulty of navigation skills and track times when on our own, but on the occasions when we have joined in with other orienteering people, especially on the regular homeschooling outings, this is all laid out for us.

Orienteering doesn't need any special equipment other than a directional compass and a map. We bought a few, one inexpensive compass to share between two or three people and this worked well. I found it was best if the compass could be pinned to the children's clothing, or hung off the wrist or neck after one compass got lost. Once the children were older they bought their own, and took greater care, as usual! The only other requirements in orienteering is to wear comfortable clothing, good shoes suitable for walking and running, sun block, a hat and to carry water to drink.

Orienteering can be quite a competitive sport or simply a social and recreational past time. We prefer the latter and often use it as an excuse just to wander the countryside, knowing that the activity draws our attention to things we might not normally notice when bushwalking. I really enjoy the way it reinforces so many skills and abilities in the children they might otherwise be learning in a dull and boring way from books if they were at school. Like many of our natural learning activities orienteering offers fulfilment of so many educational objectives. Some of the curriculum related skills and abilities I've noticed our children covering include the following:

  • the ability to solve problems
  • an increase in self confidence
  • the ability to navigate
  • the ability to make decisions
  • a respect and appreciation for the environment, any environment
  • the ability to locate and identify different types of geological or cultural features from a map and then identify them on the land
  • ability to interpret contours
  • ability to locate diverse habitats and their boundaries such as forests, fields, swamps, ponds, and then relate them to a map
  • ability to compute the size of various habitats
  • ability to plot the location of different species of plants
  • ability to plot the homes and territories of different animal species
  • measure map and land distances
  • calculate sizes of different areas
  • estimate distances
  • understand the concepts of scale, proportion and ratio, angles, and degrees
  • work with, and comprehend, word problems, directions and instructions - orally and written
  • learn about past uses of the land from mapped features - old roads, stonewalls, ruins, cemeteries, etc.
  • interpret and discuss how the land has changed by humans and how this has affect present and past human use
  • the ability to prepare accurate directions for others to use, both oral and written.
  • the ability to combine a physical activity with thinking skills
  • the ability to draw maps (cartography) and related skills
  • opportunities for natural history sketching
  • and the opportunity to learn about the printing process, especially colour printing and map reproduction.

All in all, a pretty impressive educational activity and one that we can heartily recommend to any parent wanting to teach their children without using reams and reams of paper based activities or buying expensive text books!

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Beverley Paine with her children, and their home educated children, relaxing at home.

Together with the support of my family, my aim is to help parents educate their children in stress-free, nurturing environments. In addition to building and maintaing this website, I continue to create and manage local and national home educating networks, help to organise conferences and camps, as well as write for, edit and produce newsletters, resource directories and magazines. I am an active supporter of national, state, regional and local home education groups.

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We began educating our children in 1985, when our eldest was five. In truth, we had helped them learn what they need to learn since they were born. I am a passionate advocate of allowing children to learn unhindered by unnecessary stress and competition, meeting developmental needs in ways that suit their individual learning styles and preferences. Ours was a homeschooling, unschooling and natural learning family! There are hundreds of articles on this site to help you build confidence as a home educating family. We hope that your home educating adventure is as satisfying as ours was! Beverley Paine

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