Living Stones Academy

Educating by atmosphere, discipline, and life

The school of outdoors

on September 22, 2011

Today was the first day in a long time that we’ve had no rain. Or at least, none at the beginning. We have a tropical storm hitting in the next couple of days too. So there was really no question what I was going to do with the kids. I’d told myself that when we have unending days of bad weather we WILL take advantage of a good one. So what do to—keep inside and do the workboxes I’d lined up and hope the rain holds off until we’re done? Or go straight outside? You got it—we went straight outside. After I had 2 pancakes, a Shakeology, some scrambled eggs, some coffee, and poured a glass of orange juice to take with me (no I’m not a pig, I’m in my first trimester of pregnancy, and if I stop eating for more than 20 minutes I get sick . . . .it’s been fun).

But did we do school today? You bet!

The kids got much needed exercise. Riding bikes, learning badminton, tossing balls, and generally running in circles. The badminton and ball toss was fine and gross motor skill as well as hand-eye coordination practice for my delayed one (the oldest).

Got some read aloud in when my 2nd oldest fell on his bike and this was paramount to the world crumbling (yes, ON it, not OFF of it; hence the enormity of the drama). He specifically said, tearfully (don’t get misty eyed, he overblows everything, so rather than be touched I’m highly amused, but usually don’t laugh in front of him), “Mommy, can I just sit here and you read me stories?” Fortunately I’ve loaded up my Kindle for just such an outdoor occasion, so I started The Adventures of Pinnochio. Tangent: I’ve never read it—like most I grew up with the Disney film. Which I still love. I also enjoy the Veggie Tales adaptation, “Pistachio”. But this book is delightful. I had to stop several times to laugh out loud. And I’m only on chapter 2. Pick it up, if you never have. Or get it free for your Kindle.

There was artistic creation. My daughter made a whirlwind of colors on the ground with chalk, and proclaimed it fireworks.

There was imaginative play and exploration. Once he’d recovered, my 2nd oldest son pretended to be fishing in the water-filled holes in our yard. He also went collecting flowers (he loves to do that and bring them to me). His baby brother, who had been blowing “bubbo” (bubbles) in the garage, joined him and found lots of flowers to destroy.

There was, of course, nature study. I found a ladybug in the grass and directed the children to it. My oldest is particularly taken with bugs and creatures. I asked him to describe it’s colors and shape. We captured it, gave it dirt and leaves, and he sat—I kid you not—for 20 minutes on our porch step watching it. Which is really funny considering it didn’t do much except huddle near the top of it’s enclosure. But we talked about how many legs (6, which makes it an insect), what is on it’s head (antennas), wondered how it managed to climb walls and hang from ceilings, etc. My 2nd oldest decided it must have honey on it’s feet, which is why it’s sticky.

Nature study continued later when I decided we should walk to a nearby park. Actually, I had no idea how nearby it was. I had accidentally discovered it months ago—it may even have been last year, I don’t remember. I saw it down a dead end road off a side road. It didn’t appear to have any outlet near us; the one place I thought it might seemed to be blocked off. So I made a picnic lunch and brought other snacks (mostly for me), and got ready for a long walk. It turned out there WAS an opening. I don’t know if it was recently made or I just hadn’t noticed it before. But there it was. So it wasn’t as far as I thought. At any rate, on the way there we stopped to examine dragonflies, unusually colored berries on trees, wondered why a branch from a conifer lying on the ground would be brown and orange and not green (because it’s no longer on it’s tree so it doesn’t have food or water), looked at fuzzy balls that looked like moss but turned out to be seed pods from trees, and used all the puddles in potholes on the gravel road to talk about lakes, ponds, rivers, and oceans.

The park was delightful. Except for the fact that it has no drainage so it was practically a marsh or swamp because of all the rain. We were not wearing boots. Mostly it was just sticky squishy mud, but there were parts where one step put you ankle deep in muddy water. My toddler fell almost immediately in the mess (they all had baths later). My daughter got more coordination exercise pumping her legs on the swing. My sons ran up the mound. There is a huge mound with  different ways of getting to the top, where a long slide brings you down. You can go up one side by scrambling halfway then using carefully placed car tires as steps. You can climb up actual wooden platform steps on the other side. Next to that, you can walk a mini log bridge then scramble up a rope ladder, then pull yourself up the pilings. Or you can just run from bottom to top. At the very top is a little lookout post, then you go down a couple of steps to the slide. Here in Japan, there are lots of slides that aren’t a sheet of metal or plastic, but entirely made of small rollers. So you get rolled down the slide (I don’t think I’ve ever seen that in a stateside park). That’s what this one was. I went down once with my toddler, then stupidly tried to let him do it himself. Once he’d gone a few inches I suddenly had a panic attack that he might try to stand up (it’s quite a drop from the top). His older brother ran to the rescue, scrambled up the steps and got himself down the slide to the baby and helped him the rest of the way. The last time down I walked the baby up and put him in his brother’s lap. Then my daughter got behind him, then my oldest, and they all went rolling laughing down. No I did not bring the camera, I’m not that bright. We had our picnic on one of the many benches placed around the park.

Afterwards, we got culture practice. I counted my yen and decided to try out a new bakery I’d seen up the street. We also had safety lessons as we walked on narrow roads with big cars rumbling past—in Japan there are many roads that we Americans would consider one way but that the Japanese squeeze their cars through going both directions. Fortunately we only had one direction at a time to deal with, it’s not a busy side street. At the bakery they said hello in Japanese, excuse me to a lady going out, and my 2nd oldest chatted it up with an American couple while I went through the shop and picked out breads. In bread shops and bakeries, there is a table or counter with trays—remember lunch trays from school (if you went to public school)?—and a container with metal tongs. The appropriate way of shopping is to choose a tray and a pair of tongs, then go through the shop, taking any bread you want with the tongs and placing it on your tray. When you’re done you bring the tray and tongs up to the counter where they bag your goods and ring you up. It’s rather fun, I think. Smile I enjoy bakery shopping. Besides which they have many unusual things. The children said, “Domo”, and we headed home, where baths did indeed occur. Then they sampled the goodies I’d bought.

So we had a full day of learning without once opening a workbox or looking at a textbook. And when the kids are 6 1/2, 5, 3 1/2, and 20 mos, that’s exactly as it should be.

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