Thursday, September 27, 2007
It's so very interesting to hear the dialogue that ensues when August pushes around his big wooden car filled with fire fighters. "Okay, it's time to go. Okay. Goodbye, I love you. Goodbye, I love you." Now, I don't honestly think that the fire fighters up at Station 20 exchange "I love yous" before heading out to each call, but wouldn't it be great if they did? And maybe one day they will, if August joins the fleet.
You know, until I started making it a point to really hang with my boys this year and witness with new eyes what they do with themselves when given their own time, I think I had lost touch with that childhood lens--the lens that is still innocent and pure and gifted in ways that our clouded adult lens's aren't. And isn't that part of the gift of childhood? The freedom to pretend and play act and try on all that we might want to be, only to completely change our minds the next minute with no consequence? Ahh, what a gift.
It does seem that, with so much focus on measured academic success, the legitimacy of genuine childhood play becomes fuzzy. What a shame. We really do have the rest of our lives to grow up. Really! I'm still trying on new hats, maybe not on a daily basis, but I certainly haven't picked the one I'm going to where every single day until I die. Granted, there are bigger consequences to my fly by night hat exchanges, but still, I go into hat stores now and then. If that is our reality then we must keep play a reality for our kids.
Tuesday, September 25, 2007
As we were playing we kept hearing bluegrass music faintly in the distance. When we noticed people clapping at the end of each song we decided to investigate further. Turns out, the Bruce Weeks Family was camping just down the road from us. They tour around playing at churches and other venues but we were able to enjoy their music around a campfire. I taught Aidan some square dancing moves, which he thoroughly loved, and we just enjoyed the pleasure of listening to good music live. It was quite an unexpected treat.
Once they settled down enough to sleep, the boys did really well. We still managed to wake up at our normal time (about 7 a.m.), thanks to some Canada Geese that honked their way down the river. We spent the morning breaking down camp and leisurely enjoying the river, the nearby trail and nature in general. We drove around Blueridge looking for somewhere to eat lunch and finally ended up at the Village Inn, which had been recommended by a local. Wow!!! Delicious southern food at its finest. We then drove around Lake Blueridge, hoping to find a place to wade or play in the water but to no avail. This was where the drought was painfully obvious. It wasn't just that the boat docks were grounded. The water didn't begin until 50 more feet past the end of the docks. It was unbelievable. Needless to say, we didn't recreate around Lake Blueridge. After a brief stop at a little playground, we pretty much called it a day and headed back to Atlanta. The boys were exhausted but they still managed to stay awake the whole ride home and didn't fall asleep until 9:00 once we got home!!! We are still suffering from their action packed weekend, but we'll recover.
I know these pictures came out really dark but I was hoping to catch the essence of what we experienced last Friday night. The kids loved making music around the campfire and accompanying the more practiced musicians nearby. At one point, as I sat on a bench in front of the fire surrounded by some of the greatest neighbors in the world while listening to awesome music being created at the very moment I listened to it, I couldn't help tearing up a bit. Although John and I are excited about the next chapter in our lives, the reality of leaving this neighborhood that we have come to know and love is bittersweet. It's taken about 6 years to get to this level of interaction with folks on a regular basis. Having kids helped forged a lot of new bonds but for whatever reason, it's just taken time to feel invested. But now that I do, it's hard to leave. Hopefully, my kids won't forget this night.
Ah, the inside homemade tent. What a glorious place of escape and intrigue! It always amazes me how easily blankets and chairs can transform a playspace, despite the fact that I, too, used to make a tent underneath the dining room table. I remember that I used to pretend to cook over a fire with my parents ancient copper fondue set.
It's very interesting to watch the order in which they set up camp. Aidan and August quickly established their sleeping spaces (complete with their own special pillows, blankets and stuffed animals) and storage areas (for all of the knight fighting equipment). Then, food stores. After that, maybe some books. That's about it. If only we all kept it that simple. The first picture was an attempt to catch Aidan in a familar pose these days. I'm trying very hard to hold my tongue every time I see him in such repose because I find myself always wanting to ask him if he is okay. I've realized now that Aidan is going to tell me if he is not okay so I need to leave him alone when he is simply musing. Because that is what he is doing. How novel to not think of a child deep in a thoughtful state as "weird" or "sad" or whatever else I've been guilty of thinking. And who knows what is going on deep down in that quiet busy mind of his. I need to be patient.
The second picture was me trying to be all artsy and capture the essence of pretend play. But don't you think it's pretty neat how Aidan's image is kind of there and kind of not? Is he a real knight or a figment of your imagination? Or of his?
Sunday, September 16, 2007
Well, much to the state of Georgia's relief we finally received some much needed rain this past week. According to our amateur rain gauge (a test tube type contraption with a frog figure attached) we received about 3 3/4 inches of precipitation in two days. One storm provided 1 3/4 alone. Unlike earlier in the summer when it rained for the first time in months (truly) and August started going crazy because he didn't seem to recognize this thing called rain, the boys were very excited to watch the drops fall like mad this time. On this particular day, we had already had a lot of time outside. We woke up to cloudy skies and very muggy air but I suggested that we go to our neighborhood park anyway. My thoughts were that the creek that runs through Emma Millican Park might actually have some water in it because of the heavy rain the day before. I knew the boys would love mucking around in it so we packed up their boots and for the first time they rode their bikes there. I could kick myself for not sticking the camera in my pocket because they did some serious creek exploring that was really neat to watch. Plus, we found an amazing spider web complete with a yellow garden spider deep in the throws of paralyzing some prey. The next storm hit after we had returned home and eaten some lunch and the boys begged me to go out and play in the rain. I relented. Who knows when it might rain again? Shortly after they set out to play, however, the rain stopped and the sun came out. But that was okay with them because our street gutter provided another marvel to behold. We live at the bottom of a long street that has a gradual decline until shortly before our driveway, where it then drops off more dramatically. As a result, a rushing torrent flows right in front of our house whenever there are heavy downpours. This, as you may well remember yourself, is a child's dream.
What was so interesting to observe was the different way in which both boys studied the rushing water. Aidan, with boots on, stood safely on the ledge of the gutter and carefully dropped objects of various weight and length into the stream. August, however, immediately stripped off the boots and jumped right in. He just had to feel the water, even if it meant risking life and limb. Before long, the seat of his shorts were wet and I calmly reassured myself that I was already doing laundry so it didn't matter that this would mean a third set of clothes. At the end of the day we were all simply thankful for the gift of water and the gift of play.
Tuesday, September 11, 2007
…But Drake did not see him head for the forest. He saw him starting for the direction of his small castle. He went past the castle, jumped over the lake, went into a forest and was gone. Suddenly, the cannon guard came running. The King has decided that Sanc (the evil knight) can go out of the castle whenever he wants to. “Do you mean he is gone now?” asked Drake. “Yes,” said the cannon guard. “I’m going to go get Rant,” said Drake. He got Rant and the door opened, the drawbridge went down, and Drake and Rant were after the evil knight. Good thing they got out the door and over the drawbridge before they shut. Wham!! He bumped into some trees. He just got to Rant when a “thump, thump” sound came. It got louder and louder. He saw the evil knight’s horse mask come out of the trees. The horse and the evil knight were right there with them. Fanc (the evil knight’s horse), and Sanc were trying to look for the dragon.
The Magic Dragon
Drake hurried through the forest. They passed the dragon and the dragon driver. Slowly they passed the dragon castle and their friend’s house and then they came to a halt. Right in the middle of the road was a dragon. Drake climbed onto the dragon. Something happened. Drake rose up off the dragon and landed in front of it. “This is a magic dragon,” he said to Rant. Then the dragon got to live in their castle.
The End.What I want everyone to understand is this: the above is pure dictation directly from Aidan's mouth to my keyboard. I had nothing to do with any of the above words except to type them for him. There was no editing on my part, not even for grammar. What is fascinating to me is how much of what we read aloud on a regular basis is greatly reflected in his style. And it also reassures me that by continuing to read aloud to Aidan, even after he can read on his own, we will be planting seeds for his own writing ability. I know that many great writers began by simply imitating writers they admired and maybe that is what is happening here. Our plan is for me to continue to type up these stories for Aidan and make a collection. Let me know if you're interested in a copy.
So, this will be new ground for all of us. It will probably mean that we explore subjects not typically assigned to 5 year olds or that we exhaust a particular subject of interest to the -nth degree. Regardless, I still see it as a great adventure. Hopefully, the boys will too. In all of my research regarding homeschooling, I've come across many different approaches, philosophies, and attitudes. And many have resonated with me. I love the teachings of Charlotte Mason (quoted above) that emphasize learning through the reading of "living" books and is heavy on nature study. Classical approaches also grab my attention, especially since John was a Classics/Philosophy major in college. And then there is the "unschooling" approach, which essentially balks at all of the structured forms of learning with which we are familiar and aims to stand all tradition on its head. The fact that this latter approach even appeals to me in the slightest is really curious since in most areas of my life I am a classic rule follower and like to do what I'm told. But something about embracing learning at home has caused a slightly subtler part of my personality to emerge. It is the side that doesn't want to buy any particular curriculum or do exactly what any one other person is doing with their kids. And that is exactly what gets me so pumped about this whole endeavor. I have that freedom. I don't have a state standard that I have to meet in a particular way. I don't have a certain district's historical educational format to follow. It's incredibly liberating. And it's incredibly frightening. That's why this year is particularly precious to me regarding homeschooling. We are not legally bound to anyone to show anything for our efforts (age requirements for officially registering for homeschooling don't go into effect until 6) and Aidan is still "young enough" to not get too much pressure from others to "do something" with all of our time. So we are just working this out as we go along. Thus, the above picture. Aidan came to me and said, "I want to experiment and see what things float and what things don't." We've done this exercise a couple of times before. In fact, I'm pretty sure the first time it was attempted was with my mom, while John and I were out of town. But each time, he tweaks his floating craft a bit, literally testing out the waters. I have done nothing formal as a follow up to his inquiries. I simply ask a few questions about what he is doing. Essentially, this is the heart of "unschooling" but I still have my doubts about what we are accomplishing and/or what he is learning. This is not how I "did" school all my life, that's for sure. It's weird to stand back and not offer up my knowledge. But it certainly is fun to watch him try to figure things out. I'm sure this is the first of many "letting go" moments.
Monday, September 10, 2007
Look what came climbing down our tree the day after the tree guy came and trimmed our dead limbs! We think his roosting spot must have been disturbed by all of the chainsaw activity. It may be hard to get some perspective on how big this caterpillar is but you have to trust me on this--it's HUGE! The other pictures that I took where he was climbing on fingers and hands and such just didn't come out very well and the perfectionist in me couldn't post them. Just believe me when I say that he was longer than my middle finger and thicker than my thumb. When you held him you could feel how strong and muscular he was. It was incredible. We are still trying to figure out what he will become. Since I've never seen anything this big before I can't help but think some small bird will emerge from his cocoon. Maybe something more along the lines of a luna moth is more reasonable. This is a prime example of why we need to start acquiring more field guides for quick reference. The internet is a great resource but sometimes the sheer volume of information is overwhelming and I still haven't mastered the "advanced search" technique. In the meantime, we will just continue to muse on what this big guy will become.
Friday, September 7, 2007
A fun part of our experience at the zoo was the chance for Aidan to show off all that he learned from attending Zoo Camp this past summer. I was amazed at how well he knew the layout of the zoo and he led us straight to the panda exhibit, as well as to the reptile house. Every once in awhile he would share some tidbit of information about a particular animal we were observing and that proved to be very charming. Those of you that know Aidan can appreciate the fact that although it is true that he knows quite a lot of things, he also has a tendency to speak of things as fact when, in actuality, he has just made up what he is explaining. I suppose that "made up" isn't quite fair, because often, you can see the relationships between his fact and fiction speeches. Regardless, it is an endearing trait, for now at least.
One of the main reasons that I was excited to go to the zoo was for the goats and sheep in the children's section. I was in desperate need of a "goat fix" and the boys had to beg me to leave the exhibit so that they could see the other animals in the zoo. I was excited about the fact that I was able to correctly identify the three breeds of goats that were there. I guess I have learned something from my Goats and Goatkeeping book! That is a Boer goat in the picture above, in case you were wondering. I really do love goats and being around them made me so happy and they were worth the trip for me.
Tuesday, September 4, 2007
I'm still working out the kinks of how to keep photos that I've uploaded formatted correctly, so bear with me. In the meantime, you might find that I will make several posts in the same day just in order to make the pictures do what I want them to do as they relate to the text. How's that for complete inefficiency? I'm sure you don't care, but it is very frustrating to me.
Aidan took this picture this morning as we watched the butterflies and moths descend upon our lantana. Our yard has not really become the beautiful sanctuary that John and I had always envisioned, for various reasons. I think that is one of the hunger pangs we experience when we imagine having more open and wild space with which to work. But, we have managed to plant something that simply won't be killed--even by Noah the Great Dane, who was determined to dig up this hearty lantana, but obviously didn't completely succeed. And let me tell you, the butterflies love this stuff! So I have eeked out some joy from the yard this summer, even with the drought. I have not watered these plants since I first planted them and they have never complained. Obviously, they are in a good spot in terms of sun and soil drainage, but I also choose to think that they are a little gift from God to me. A little, "I know that you want to grow and nurture things, Holly, and although you have so very much to learn about what all that entails, I will give you hope." And it works. Plus, the kids love to watch the butterflies. Me, too.
Sunday, September 2, 2007
Saturday, September 1, 2007
This was on one of our trips to Sweet Water Creek State Park. It's a very short drive to a great place for short day hikes. The boys love it and we've gone enough times now that they are beginning to notice changes in the landscape from one visit to the next Most recently, because of our drought of historic proportions, there was absolutely no sign of any water, other than the "creek" itself. The notorious frog bog was glaringly absent and the creek shore had more exposed rocks. It has been on some of these hikes that my desire to be closer to nature on a more regular basis has become more evident and tangible.
In the photo on the right, Aidan and August are watching a fly fisherman (off camera) do his thing. They were quite mesmerized and, as the picture captures, practicing their "patience of a fisherman" poses. They have quite the fishing shoes to fill, what with their grandpa, uncles and cousins being regular anglers. We'll see how that goes....