One day (phew!)

Sometimes I forget how awesome it is to have mini adventures, just the three of us.

Today we went to a nautical/pagan storytelling, had a picnic by the water, and rode the boat taxi across the water and back again.

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They bought baby hedgehog toys with their pocket money, and used them in a circus they performed around giant land bound anchors. (Anchors taller than me. And I’m tall.)

We wandered onto the platform of an abandoned railroad line. Some of us hopped along the track itself, feet jumping over bright wildflowers and sun warmed track.

We went up to Aardman Animations (the Wallace and Gromit people!) to have a nosy in their windows. They always have cool miniature figures and things in the windows, and huge statues and bits of movie set in the main reception. Today we spotted all the mini Gromits (and you probably don’t know what this means. I must write a post on this!) and it was awesome.

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We’ve looked in those windows a lot, but never noticed there was a boatyard right across from them. So of course we ran over to watch men working on two huge wooden ships.

Eventually we got in the car to head home, but decided to stop in a fab place (that probably also needs its own post!) we drive by every day. We had our second picnic of the day deep in the trees, then found a ‘stage’ along the river. I was the audience for various shows and songs, and then the nursemaid when stinging nettles struck (dock leaves grow right next to them and those ‘helper medicine leaves’ are well known and worshipped by both children!).

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Now we are home. It’s not even three pm. I wonder what the next few hours will bring….

Sinking mud: Britain’s answer to the Grand Canyon, Niagra Falls, and other natural wonders of the world.

A childhood in the UK is uniquely placed to offer children the chance to explore being on the edge of sinking mud. Halfway between joy at the ultimate mud experience and terror that you will legitimately need to call out the rescue services.

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We are powerful, out here in the garden.

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Naked children running free out in the sunshine,
and I wonder how anyone could think that shady classrooms,
lining up, sitting in seats, staying still,
is more powerful than light, air, water fights, daisy chains.

We are four.

We are watching that magpie nest in the garden, we are drawing
our own hopscotch. We are watering our seeds,
squealing naked bums against slides,
pouring water onto the grass to make muddy puddles
so we can
SPLASH.

We leave all the doors open so we can wander in and out.

If our friends come over, they wander, too. We are watching clouds,
digging up ants, riding scooters, laughing and running
and chasing each other
and we have the space to be, be, be.

This is exactly where we are supposed to be, at four, outside and
breathing deep.  This is where we draw our power,
where we discover heat and rain and
ourselves.

Making a life…one empty yogurt pot at a time.

One of the phrases we are hearing all the time from S goes a little something like this:

You know how we have cool ideas and then make them? Can we do that?

Today she said ‘crafty things’ and I initially thought she said ‘trashy things,’ which made me laugh because it is so apt. So much of what we make is made from ‘trash.’ Empty salsa jars, bottle tops, cardboard boxes.

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Owl fabric pencil topper, chequers board for bottle top pieces, a cool tree, R2D2.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not the mom who suggests we make huge, awesome stuff every day. No. Most of what we do is led by an interest one or both of the kids have, a specific request, or S’s recent daily requests to make stuff. And I’m pretty good at it. With some mutual creative thinking and hunting round the house for materials, we can usually make whatever we can think of.

Suzy takes it to the next level. She’s helped the kids make Angry Birds Star Wars spaceships from tinfoil, a huge dinosaur island habitat from paper mâché, and a puppet theatre and puppets from cardboard and popsicle sticks.

I suspect that S will be the sort of parent (if she wants kids, anyway!) who makes elaborate and beautiful things often. She’s got the great combo of being an ideas woman and having follow through. M is similar, though he builds things most often in minecraft or Lego! We are constantly making toys that are made to suit (blue life size light sabres, anyone?). They tend to get played with as much, if not more, as the non-homemade stuff.

Recently S made a cardboard airplane hanger and a junk art plane for her RAF bear. M has made a few combine harvesters to chase after Lightning McQueen. These toys are fun because they turn out to be exactly made for purpose, but also because we get to make them.

So much of our life is making – toys, crafts. Making recipes, making sandcastles, making friends.

Making memories.

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Some of our endless collection of homemade Angry Birds, a magnetic fishing game, a toilet roll marble run, a minecraft diving board.

Sometimes it’s as simple as just showing up.

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Early yesterday morning, my daughter said, ‘Hey, I feel like flying our kite. We should do that!’

I will be the first person to admit that sometimes it isn’t so easy to follow your child’s inclinations. I was unshowered, we didn’t really have time to go to a park, it looked cold outside, I had no idea where the kite was.

But I’ve already written about how I think embodying ‘YES’ to a child is one of the most important things I can do. (And I recommend you check that post out , because it felt so important to me when I created it….) And that ‘yes’ is what I strive to hit.

Besides, the whole kite thing sounded kind of fun.

Aaaaannd…..surely there was no harm just doing it in our street? We live in a very quiet cul de sac. I half heartedly looked for the kite for about an hour, taking frequent little breaks to tell the kind people on twitter that no, I still hadn’t found the missing kite. I even tweeted a picture of the dreaded cupboard under the stairs.

But as soon as I really committed to finding the kite, it appeared. And in a place I was sure I’d already looked twice.

We went out, leaving the front door open as M just wanted to stay inside. S was almost dancing in anticipation, and she was off. Cheeks rosy in the wind, gleeful instructions telling me she could just run along the pavement, experimenting with string length and gusts of wind.

One elderly neighbour watched us from her window, clapping and laughing. Another neighbour bumped into us and said a rather amazed, ‘WHAT are you doing?’ before grinning and wishing us luck. Still another stopped her fitness fast walking to watch us and cheer us on. It felt like a whole community adventure.

I felt free and wild and empowered. People were waving at each other and shaking their heads (in a good natured way!) when I whooped with joy louder than my little daughter (who is so big and powerful) when the wind caught the kite and raised it up. Even better when she declared she could power the kite by running, excited and joyful, exclaiming, ‘It went even further that time!’

She powered us all. She made us all feel happier on a very grey morning. She had an odd idea and ran with it, and I was lucky enough to have decided to go along with her.

She is going to go further and further. She can make ideas soar, bring people together, and most importantly, remind me that the most important thing I can do is show up when I can. Support her ideas, help her realise them, enjoy it right alongside her.

And as she carried the kite back to the house, she looked up at me and said, ‘This was so fun.’ Those four words erased an hour of kite hunting, of wind strung cheeks, of my sore body from chasing the kite when it went astray.

I showed up, I was present, and boy….did I have fun.

So, you educate them…yourself?!

‘So, you educate them yourself?’ she asks brightly.

How do I say, no, no, not me.

They are educated when the wind bends the trees and blows their hair. They are driven by their interests – archeology, game design, writing words, telling stories. They ask an awful lot of questions, we have discussions hundreds of times a day.

They are educated by their friends, especially the ones who have something extra to help us all learn – like our friends who help us learn about difference and emotions and navigating friendships in an intensive crash course in human relations. They learn from the adults in the community and in our friendship group – we’ve learned about mud rescues, water pipes, roman times.

We learn from strangers we bump into in the woods – what it means to be lonely, how it feels to be friendly, about the way it makes everyone feel warmer when you smile.

She studied the poster counting up to twenty for ages and taught herself. The day she spied the poster up to 100 that I stuck to a door, she counted to a hundred no problem! She can do verbal maths problems in no time flat. I didn’t teach her that.

He creates fantastic characters and storylines for games he’d like to design. He knows all their specifics, how he’d build them, what their purpose would be in the game. I didn’t teach him that.

She draws beautifully. She copies letters from other pieces on paper onto her own paper. She’s making letters out of puffs and potato waffles bitten to size, arranging them, asking what they spell. I didn’t teach her that.

He’s suddenly ready to trace, and when he asks to make a card for his grandparents, he writes ‘nice’ across the front as if it is no big deal, as if it isn’t the first time he’s traced letters so perfectly. I didn’t teach him that.

I answer a lot of questions, but they decide what to ask. I might help them look up youtube videos on how fog is created, how to modify computer programmes…but they are the ones soaking it in, clicking related videos, and days later astounding me by some of the leaps they’ve made.

They are educated when they are ready, when they are interested. They are learning all the time.

Sometimes they need me, sometimes they don’t. I may think of ideas or materials and have them ready and available, but everything we do is fueled by their questions, their imaginings, their ideas of what is possible. They haven’t learned that learning itself is a duty, a bore, a struggle. They are just living, just playing, just doing what interests them and….well, they become more immersed in their ideas, more robust in their critical thinking, more excited about the wonders of life every day.

I don’t say any of this to the stranger at soft play who is so curious about a family that doesn’t have their children in school. I smile warmly and say, ‘Well, yes, a bit. But they also learn from other people we know, from places we go, from things we do.’ She smiles back. I think to myself, they learn from themselves and from each other, too.

As we turn to tend to our individual children, I marvel at the things my children know and all they have yet to experience. But mostly I am inspired by how not knowing something doesn’t make them feel discouraged or confused – it makes them enthusiastic to learn. And their education has one prime, basic truth about it: they may not know everything, but they are learning how to find out.

 

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