Saturday, September 29, 2018

And then there were three!

Suddenly, our family has three children, and perhaps this blog can be revived...

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Notes from school Field trip - 31 May 2016

Field trips are the best! - I am interested as a parent, as a teacher, and as a desk worker welcoming a break from adult responsibilities.

I work half a day, and then drive homeward to board a yellow school bus headed to the Kortright Centre, an outdoor education 555-acreage space with 14 lettered paths. We drive clear off the Toronto map into Vaughan. Even though we aren't truly city families in North York, we are still urban-oriented, and car-culture oriented. We are probably more adept at recognizing business establishments and manufactured objects than we are with signs of nature. The intersections become more and more sparse as we approach through wooded rural roads. We take care of lunch quickly, and head into the least where we have no signs of cars, electricity, or infrastructure. There are trees and more trees, paths trod in, a lettered signpost where paths diverge - we could easily be lost on our own. 

We are warned of and shown poison ivy. 

Although it seems we are wandering, there are certain places to go for certain things. We are in search of insects to gently scoop up, observe for a time, and release. We spend long enough in the shaded leaf-driven area that even the adults overcome their squeamishness and distance, and crouch close enough to the ground to brush leaves aside with twigs, to follow the scurrying paths of small six-legged or eight-legged or multi-legged things. 

The kids are absorbed, flitting from place to place, brushing against one another, comparing specimens, showing, telling, sharing. My son and I alternately keep close to each other, and lose each other (though a few feet apart), and come together again. It's one of those pursuits in which each individual in the group has the same task, but it is essentially a solitary pursuit. 

The time stretches out - the more you look, the more there is to see. The sunlight streams in and out of the area, an insect bites someone, an insect escapes and is caught again, there's something to look at over there, and here, and there again. 

We seem to still have time, but we start heading back, and take a detour. On the way, a child manages to catch a blue butterfly, briefly. Then, it's a wild wild thing, and an adventure in itself when we go off the path and head straight up a grassy hill. As we reach the summit, we are in a field with tall grasses, brambles, and slow-diving dragonflies. There are supposedly grasshoppers here as well. The kids catch insects again, and I'm sure I see one I have never seen before, certainly never noticed before. 

Again, time seems slower out where there are no bells or announcements, but teachers still have timelines, and we head back for the long drive back to school. We have been out too late, and the parents are waiting. 

*So that was this afternoon! Was it an extension of the classroom, the way Forest Valley was, with outdoor centres, a facilitator-led classroom component, and a guided nature walk? No, but it was an experiential, immersive experience. It may do more for the kids in terms of deepening their appreciation for and interest in the natural world. It is a good trip leading into the lazy summer days, when you can make a project of something already in your environment. 

At Forest Valley, they may have learned more, but at Kortright, I think they may have experienced more. Forest Valleywas much more of a facilitated experience, while Kortright was more open-ended. A few kids voiced at times that they were scared, because they didn't know what to expect, and there was some discomfort in having to wait for a water break or a rest break that they pushed through. 

For my son and I, the Friday before, we had taken a walk in the neighbourhood and found 21 striped-shell snails, who we relocated to our back deck to watch them undulate along within a few clear containers. On the walk home from the field trip, he stops and crouches to observe some small living thing - a fuzzy centipede. Later, we release most of the snails back again to their damp leafy home under the hedges. We keep a few for our garden and give them water. We walk with our makeshift walking sticks on a familiar circuit of our choosing. In the past we enjoyed the backyard, a world unto itself, safely fenced in, but these days, we venture beyond the house gates, into the neighbourhood - we see kids from school, parents from school, a world opening up. 

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Mother's day!

The events of the wekeend were around my mother-in-law, mother, and grandmother, but the three kindergarten classes of Tyler's school hosted a nice morning event for the kids' moms.

I've been taking time for myself this week, seeing films on my own and with others (not the kids), walking through an art show, and taking walks over the lunch break at work. As the kids get older, I remember more who I was before them, and who I still am, and could be. You can see the shift in Facebook posts from those celebrating their first mother's days to the mothers of teenagers.

What I note this weekend are the independent steps being made. The kids newly into card-making, and making enough so nobody feels left out (daddy got a card just-because). Tyler spends hours creating an intricate obstacle course. Ashley is more willing to solve a problem on her own rather than use her skills of verbal persuasion to have something done for her. Tyler is seeking to read more out in the world to figure things out - reading is not just something done in the classroom or at home, but something he looks to use to decipher the world. Ashley, as she was as a child, is very decisive in what she wants, and will hold out for it, turning down alternatives.

More on more, we can introduce the kids more to what we are interested in. I can pick out some songs on the piano with a kid next to me 'playing along,' and another drumming away. I can return with an art show catalogue and flip through it with the kids, sparking them to create something on their own. My husband can get them interested in Funko Pop toys, Voltron, and Godzilla.

The kids literally jump into new versions of themselves. Tyler cannonballs into a condo pool a couple dozen times, when before he had never jumped in. Ashley cruises around the perimeter of the pool.

The more time I spend with them, the more I see how they are like and yet unlike their parents. They are variations on the family theme, yet have the potential for their individual lights to shine.

Happy mother's day to me, thanks to these growing, growing kids.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016


Tyler: likes to have his facts straight about things that have happened; prefers to watch documentaries about dinosaurs rather than dinosaur cartoons, was very pleased when I said he was a 'master opener' of packaging; is starting to read with some confidence; and counsels his little sister that in school you need to raise your hand and answer questions. He gets more and more casually competent every day so you might not notice - yesterday's yells for help and attention have given way to him completing requested tasks without fuss, and him then resuming what he had been doing. Independence is the default stance.

Ashley: she is an adept chameleon. She can occupy herself with her own pursuits, setting up tableaux around the house of safari animals co-mingling, dolls conspiring, or various impromptu picnic spreads with a diverse gathering of guests. The stuffies sit nested one into the next, all loved by one bigger. She has the loudest voice and the biggest laugh in the house. She alternates between self-absorbed imaginary play to word-for-word repetition & improvisation with her older brother. She sits close, and when that's not enough, she sits or climbs on. She is visually detail-oriented and hands-on, examining objects closely. She carries a toy handled mirror around, a dentist's tool. It doubles as a tiny magnifying glass. She makes verbal jokes and negotiates verbally. Her favourite expression these days is the cheerful & concessionary "okay then!"


Tyler is the kind of kid who sets up glow in the dark dinosaurs on the chair arms and around the ottoman where I'll be sitting, so when I keep him company as he falls asleep, I have some light. He sets it up, charges them with a flashlight so they glow, and then leads me in.

He'll be the kind of guy to win over some lucky gal's heart some day.

Is it too soon to perceive character in a 5 year old? There must be a way to preserve this charm and open-hearted love of newly big kid childhood.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

It takes a village...

As my five year old engages in various activities, his network of contacts, and our community circle, expands. In this brave new world, he becomes known to family and friends through his parents' social media activity, so I'm conscious of reflecting him at this best: cheerful, compassionate, and clever. We let other adults guide him, through learning, sports, and activities, but provide oversight. 

In his beaver scouts colony meeting, he works on decorating his gingerbread cookie, attaching his mini chocolate chips and Smarties with icing sugar. When his drops to the floor in the kids' rush to leave, he cries, but the attentive leader supplies him with two fresh cookies and supplies to start over. He's one of the two youngest kids in a group of 12, but usually holds his own. He's consoled, and has a cookie for his younger sister to have as well. He is doubly compensated for the loss. I hear about this all in retrospect, and am grateful for the leader's foresight, and compassion, to have extras. 

At home he decorates them again. I tell him at bath-time how lucky he is to be the only one to receive two cookies. He sleeps at the usual time, having navigated successfully through another day.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Never say never...

But I would (probably) never homeschool. And yet, I am taking on the responsibility, more so this year than last, to oversee his 'homework' and to be an active collaborator in what he brings home. I intuit what he is reluctant to do, what he professes not to be good at, and seek strategies to show him that he CAN learn, to celebrate successes, and to mark progress.

Most of all, I seek to pass responsibility to him, so he becomes more and more a self-starter, a problem-solver, an independent thinker, and someone who knows how he is best able to learn.

At home we have the luxury of time: to try different approaches towards a topic or text, to supplement learning, and to branch off into a different area. I am continually impressed that his teachers are able to impart knowledge and skills, but it also falls short - there is more that can be done at home/outside of school, and should be.

From what I've seen so far, school will provide the basics, but education, the kind that matters, truly is a self-directed lifelong pursuit.