We officially started our school year on Monday, a warm sunny day with a hint of the cool bite of fall in the early morning air. What would the first day of school be without a few rounds of Poohsticks? We played Poohsticks at our favorite Poohsticks bridge on the first day of school. (Never played Poohsticks before? Directions in this post, "In Which We Discover Poohsticks".)
One of us thought she might be too old to play Poohsticks. We've all got high hopes that someday she'll outgrow being too grownup for, well, just about everything. For now it's enough to enjoy the peaceful day together.
We also played in the canal. The boys thought they might want to scoop for minnows or walk over to the pond, but they just threw rocks and splashed one another.
A first-day-of-school nature outing sets the tone for our school. (Read about last year's first-day nature day here.) It helps us to celebrate the freedoms we enjoy in our homeschool. Sitting in the sunshine, splashing in the canal after minnows, picking blackberries, painting and drawing. Perfect.
Painting and drawing: A nature sketch. I told lovely lady and the fine young gents, "The only goal we've got is to come home with some sort of nature sketch or painting."
A little later: "Ready to start drawing?"
A short while later, another prompt and more groaning, at which I had a mini-tantrum. (You know this one right? The kind where you want to scream but don't. Instead you just express yourself very firmly with a slight edge of hysteria to your voice.) "This is the one thing I expect from this nature day. A nature sketch. I'm getting out the materials and I expect each of you to draw something you can see here at the park." Rotten kids. Forget everything I've ever said about child-led learning. I am a control freak at heart, and I was getting some nature art out of those kids or else.
My gentle encouragement and enthusiasm (heh, heh) worked like a charm. Once I'd actually doled out the art materials-- colored pencils to the younger gents and their sister, and paints to the eldest of the gents-- there was nothing but peace for twenty minutes. They were all truly contentedly absorbed in their art. Even Poppy settled down for a nap next to the red wagon. We brought home a lovely drawing of the weeping willow, which was also the subject of my own small sketch, a sketch of a water skipper and a drawing of a dark purple blackberry, some bright scribbles, and a watercolor of the other side of the canal.
As lovely lady and the fine young gents painted and sketched a man rode over the bridge on a bike, did a double take, circled back and stopped to watch for a moment. "Looks like a great day to homeschool!" he shouted to me with a grin. "Perfect!" I yelled back. He gave us a thumbs up and rode off.
Musing: I started to say something to the kids along the "freedoms we enjoy because of homeschool" line, only it came out like this: "Aren't you glad we're not stuck at a desk today like all the kids in school?" Ick. Not what I meant to say, but I moved on. I'm sure the lady and gents didn't notice, but I kept pondering on why pointing out to my children that their friends are "stuck" in school while we enjoy the sunshine left a bad taste in my mouth.
First of all, on a practical level, the lovely lady remaining at home would like to return to school, and pointing out that she's not there simply adds fuel to her fire. Second, we've got a kid "stuck" in school as we wander the park. And third, on a more philosophical level, it seems to me that saying, in essence, "Neener-neener, we're so much more lucky than those poor schmucks in school" creates an artificial and unnecessary sense of separation. We don't homeschool to set ourselves apart, we don't define ourselves by our schooling choices. Our family has chosen homeschooling because it suits us. It's something we do, not who we are, and it's not that homeschooling is inherently and always better, simply that it's better for us. We can enjoy and notice the benefits without feeling superior. Later I commented as I looked at the morning's artwork, "What a lovely day. It was wonderful getting to play at the park and learn at the same time. I'm so glad our nature studies are a part of our school." Aaaaaaah, much better. That's how I really feel. It was a lovely day. It was wonderful. I am glad. We are so blessed to have this opportunity to create learning experiences that are meaningful for our family.
(May I add the usual "your mileage may vary" disclaimer? Please? This is about me and my own musings on my own attitude. I promise I'll never make pointed comments masquerading as personal musings that are really about the attitudes and beliefs of other people. I felt like I was being a snot, and I'm taking myself to task. That's all.)
Although, in the interests of complete honesty, I must admit I feel a little smug and self-congratulatory when I look at this picture and think, "Well, you have to admit, this is way better than sitting at a desk."
One of the silver linings of our elder lovely lady's return to school-- we're all up early so that we can spend breakfast with her before she leaves for her day. Which in turn gets us a nice early start on our day. We walked, splashed, drew, played, and threw sticks off the bridge all before lunch.
Part Two, the afternoon, coming soon!