Summer Schooling...Sort Of

Little life lessons this summer, and most are covert, learned just through life...

Friendship and Priorities

"Can I watch 'Dinosaur Train' tomorrow?" Kiddo asked me this yesterday as we were walking to the store.  "Is it on tomorrow?" He loves this show and I'm willing to let him watch it when he wants, which isn't very often.

"It's on tomorrow" I answer. "However, we are meeting our friends at the park in the morning. So, when the show is on, we'll need to be getting ready to go."  

The lip comes out, the pout. "I don't want to go to the park, then." 


"No, I want to watch Dinosaur Train." 

"Hmmm.... Well, you know, we can watch it on Friday. But watching tv shouldn't be something that's more important than our friends. "

This does little to nothing to allay his desire for tv.  At breakfast today, however, the same complaint comes up and this time, I try doing what I usually avoid, due to kid bravado--I  re-frame it in that way that rarely works:

"Hmmm. Yeah, you told me that you wanted to watch that show. What I'm wondering is, how would you feel if you had a playdate with Johnny and then his mom called and said 'Oh, Johnny doesn't want to play with Kiddo today because he wants to watch tv.' ?"

"Not good." 

"Yep. And your friends are looking forward to seeing you. We'll have a nice time today and you can watch your show tomorrow, because friends are more important than tv." 

And somehow, I think he got it! 

Walkin' and Talkin'

Anyone who knows me knows that I believe that kids need to be made hardy. This means playing outside in all sorts of weather, doing things they don't necessarily want to do sometimes, and lots of walking. 

I think I almost danced a jig when we finally got rid of the umbrella stroller. Pushing an able-bodied five year old around like royalty on a litter just isn't my thing. Walking, however, is most definitely my thing. On Tuesday morning we met up with another family at Mt Tabor for a playdate.  To get there, we walked a pleasant ten blocks to the bus stop, then bussed up to the base of the park and from there, walked up into the park and spent our playtime 'hiking' around. Once we had said our goodbyes, we walked down the hill to the local grocery store and then home. All told, about two miles of walking for the day. 

Today was similar; walk to Laurelhurst Park, playtime with friends, then we walked further down to the 28th and Burnside area; bought a great lunch at City State (who says blueberry pancakes don't qualify as lunch for Kiddo?). We walked to the local store in that neighborhood, walked to Oregon Park on 29th and Glisan and then Kiddo wanted to walk part of the way home, so that we caught a bus the last 13 blocks. This was mostly my idea-- I hate crossing at the traffic circle. It's like running the gauntlet and I usually end up fearing for our lives and saying naughty words out loud. Overall, though, I'm estimating a 1.5 mile walk. 

I'm going to walk the heels off this kid this summer. Seriously. Not because I've got anything to prove, but when you have a kid who is not interested in sports or swimming, you've got to find some way to get them exercise and tire them out a bit. Besides, I am not looking forward to waking up at daybreak each summer day. So I have some fun plans for the summer which will include lots of little walking trips:

Making a book of fountains. Last week we had some confusion about which fountain he wanted to go to, and I think taking a camera along and photographing the fountains, then making a reference book for him will help our communication... and provide a good excuse to walk all over the place.

Zoo trips. These are easy and require a good amount of walking. These do not tire him out in the least.

The Esplanade/Waterfront Park loop. The Willamette River is an interesting place, and the loop has plenty to see on the way around.

The Washington Park Rose Test Gardens. Oooh, I love roses. Nevermind that we have dug out all of our old rosebushes in favor of less demanding plants (damn blackspot!)...the Rose Test Gardens offer room to run plus two play areas close by. And a trip up the the Japanese Gardens if we are so inclined. How can we go wrong? Plus, there's bus a both up and down the hill...what could be easier?

A Good Book

A trip to the Central Library in Downtown Portland never fails to disappoint. On our last trip, we picked up a handful of good books, one of which is Holling C. Holling's "Paddle-to-the-Sea". What a treat, both in great storytelling and visually, as a boy's carved Indian in a Canoe becomes his proxy for living a life of adventure. As we follow Paddle's journey from a hill in the Nipigon country of Canada out to the ocean, Holling provides some marvelous old-school illustrations which are evocative, informative and brave in their vivid color use and bold power. Like many of my favorite illustrators, Holling's style is more technical and painterly than many of today's modern children's books-- think of artwork along the lines of Robert McCloskey ("Make Way for Ducklings", "One Morning in Maine") or Elmer Hader (who illustrated "The Big Snow", written by wife Berta). Holling's pictures tell of both his familiarity with this subject and the simple fact that he cares about what he's wanting to show the reader. We are learning a lot about the landscape, geography and industry of the Great Lakes area.

As we've been following Paddle during our snack storytime and eating up chapters, we are also stopping to explore some concepts.  Yesterday, The locks at the Big Soo near Sault St. Marie invited some online exploration; we actually found a 7 minute music video of maintenance being done on the locks-- who knows what inspired the songwriter to compose verse after verse describing the process and the varying crews which worked at the Locks during this time?  We also watched a short 'how it works' sort of video about locks in general and watched a home video of a ship passing through the locks. Short of actually building a demo with modeling clay, Kiddo now knows what the purpose of locks are... and we had a good look at the amazing and modern Falkirk Wheel in Rampage, Scotland. It blew my mind that something with the appearance of a carnival ride would work so amazingly well.  

Books spark so much pleasure and learning, if only we are curious enough to seek out what we do not know. 

So, my friends-- that's the start to my summer. What are you and your family enjoying? Learning? What sorts of invitations for learning and play are you planning on offering this season? Leave a comment and share!


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