Thursday, May 24, 2012

The Cure for a Boring Summer

Saturday afternoon ended with a snowball fight.  Yes, you heard that correctly--while mommy's back was literally turned pulling weeds and daddy was putting up a day's worth of gardening tools, three small children managed to have a snowball fight.

In south Louisiana.

In May.

In 80+ degree weather.

The catch?  Their snowballs were made of sand.

In minutes, all three of them turned from rosy-cheeked, sunscreen-coated children to abominable snowmen with sand sticking to every exposed piece of skin and forming a gritty mat on their scalps.

My oldest's explanation was a whiny, logical, "I just really wanted some snow! We never have snow!"

After closing my eyes and shaking my seemingly always-bobble-head in disbelief, I simply marched the winter warriors to the tub until all vestiges of their reindeer games swirled down the drain.

Chaos, yes.  Yet, this is sometimes what you get when you create a learning environment where creativity is encouraged, where imagination is preferred to pre-packaged scripts, where exploration and discovery are the rule rather than the exception.

Sometimes, chaos is just the price a mother must pay when she says "no" to entertainment and "yes" to learning.


With summer's heat prematurely shriveling still-tender springtime leaves on the small saplings, our household has already had to shift to mornings outdoors and afternoons indoors.

This has required foregoing our usual educational morning Tivo'd television until the afternoon when mommy exercises.  Honestly, I expected at least a few complaints.

And yet two weeks later, the change has yet to be met with howls, but instead with an "Ok, let's go!" acceptance.  Better yet?  The children's well-rested minds have been even more creative in their morning and afternoon explorations.

Monday found Wyatt finally painting and assembling the solar system model he's been wanting to build since early January.  Together, we looked at an artist's rendition of each planet's surface before he chose the best colors for a first and second coat.  Inexpensive Styrofoam balls stuck on toothpicks became Mars, Jupiter, and (yes) Pluto.  With small paint brush, he added stripes to some and red swirls to the sun.
The dress up box has taken up almost permanent residence on the playroom floor as each child has taken turns becoming and unbecoming.  Just today, I have been run over by a dragon, a princess, a butterfly, and a pumpkin; stung by a honey bee; and tickled by a monkey.   A couple dollars at a thrift store has turned into hours of imaginary story play.

The correct question to ask? "Are you a mean dragon or a friendly dragon?"

Even in my living room, there is currently a tent made with conscripted dining room chairs and a crocheted afghan.  While I was not invited to attend, I heard that Eeyore had a birthday party by his "table" before Wyatt shoo-ed the twins away so he could read in peace for the library's Summer Reading Program...the promise of "prizes" is almost always an incentive to read more than you normally would, even if it's something you already enjoy.
Outside, we've planted, watered, and weeded.  The children have also learned to cast fishing rods, although it'll be several years before I put an actual hook on anything in the hand of these spastic casters.

Somewhere along the way, Wyatt dug up and "planted" a 6 foot tall sapling on the back porch. We giggled through a couple afternoons creating a silly song so he could learn (at his request) the months of the year.  We have painted the counter tops full of water color pictures, colored just as many with our trusty 64 box of Crayola, and broke our faces grinning over the twins learning to write their names in as many colors as are in the rainbow.

Clinging to the late afternoon shadows, we collected leaves and pressed them in a phone book to create a tree leaf identification book (maybe next week).  And by flood light in the late evening, Wyatt is even getting the hang of the granny shot in basketball.

This to-do litany isn't my usual type of post here, but with a country of children home for the next 2+ months, it's up to us as parents to look at this time as precious, as a chance for more time with our children in a culture that consistently wants to give us less.

Have a snowball fight (although maybe not with sand).
Camp out under the stars (or stars made of paper).
Build whatever can be imagined
Read books together by the stack.
Explore. Create. Discover.

We must not do the easy thing and give our children over to electronics but to relationships, must see this as not merely time to entertain them, but a season given to us to help cultivate their interests, introduce them to new concepts outside their interests, and to create lifelong learners whose desire is to always discover more...

even when the schoolhouse doors are shut and locked.

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