Thursday, April 26, 2007

What I did on my Spring Break

This year we had a goal, a mission if you will, for our Spring Break: Push the limits of experiential learning and keep everyone busy. I wanted to get an idea of what homeschooling might be like and how active and engaged I could keep Little Frog for full days on end.

I recruited Diva Frog, as I needed to make sure she was busy too. "What would you like to do over spring break?" I asked. "Learn French" she said. I have no idea where that came from, but - why not. We picked up an "I can read and speak French" book and some art supplies. We made a few phone calls to recruit some co-conspirators and off we went. On the agenda - Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle with NT friends; Climbing the Big Rocks at the Hook off of the harbor and beach combing; The Art Walk in the woods; Art at home with clay, glue and paints; Shopping for supplies and Planting a Salad Pot; Making Music with the piano, drums, harmonica, and Mom's violin; Water Play with colored water, stainless steel bowls and rocks to make them sing; Listening to and Learning some French; knitting; reading; and dancing.

Diva Frog and I started in on the French lessons right away. Because we are so close to the boarder, we can also get a few Canadian radio station that broadcast primarily in French - we soon discovered that they do not talk a lot about le singe, le cerf-volant or le chien (monkeys, kites or dogs) on the radio. It gave us a new appreciation for how frustrating language training must be for Little Frog.

On Monday we got into our art supplies. Diva and I had color blocked some canvases over the weekend. Here are the masterpieces:

"I am 4"

by Little Frog

painting in mixed media - Tempera on Acrylic (with some yogurt thrown in for good measure)

Circa 2007

Diva Frog's Creation:

"Blue Flower No. 1"

By Diva Frog

Painting in Acrylic

Circa 2007

Our Trip to the Zoo was wonderful even with extended car ride due to road work, missed ferry boats, and limited parking. The highlight was an up-close and personal experience Little Frog had with a peacock. Little Frog was in a stroller, eating (and dropping) goldfish crackers. The bird spotted the crackers and after realizing that Little Frog was not a threat - in fact didn't seem to be paying much attention at all, walked right up to the stroller to get a snack. Little Frog watched, but did not flinch or react in any way. The bird, being comfortable with this arraignment, stayed and ate crackers with Little Frog while everyone (except me of course) snapped pictures. When the crackers were gone, the bird turned on his heals to move on wafting his enormous tail feathers across Little Frog's face. Little Frog was a bit stunned but mostly he just enjoyed the sensation - no melt down. As the bird was leaving, a young NT boy was throwing crackers at it, trying to get it to come to him. The bird sensing too much attention picked-up speed in the other direction. The boy, not to be deterred, chased after the bird, trying to step on its tail feathers to make it stop. His mom chased after him saying "no, no, no" - it was a nice bit of role reversal for us! Diva Frog found a display on Thailand near the elephants and was thrilled to learn about spirit houses (having seen some at her favorite Thai restaurant and being unimpressed with mom's explanation). Little Frog loved the River Otter exhibit where you could look through the window and see both above the water and below the water at the same time. Over all it was a wonderful day.

Our trip to the beach was eye-opening. With Little Frog's water obsession, we are always wary about taking him near large bodies of water. On our last trip to the beach, he waded into the waves on a sunny but chilly March afternoon, fully clothed (in brand new shoes mind you) and stopped only when he was knocked down by a wave. Now wet from shoulders to toes, he stood back-up and hesitated a moment while he processed my pleas to come back to the beach. We were only planning on walking along the waterfront on the trail that day and being so close to home I did not have a change of clothes for him let alone myself should I have to go in after him. He took pity on me and came back on his own. For our spring break beach trip we choose a beach equally close to home, but on the far side of the protective hook that forms our harbor. We were right there with the bigger, wilder waves of the Straights of Juan DeFuca. I think he remembered how cold the water was last time and these waves made a lot more noise. This time he stayed at water's edge and ran up and down the beach, watching sea gulls and coast guard helicopters. He could make as much noise as he liked without being told to use his quiet voice. He found a variety of rocks and gravel of different grades and had a ball sorting and sifting. The entire beach is on the far side of giant rocks placed there to protect the hook from erosion. It was quite and adventure getting all three of us over the big rocks. But, once on the other side, there were no worries about Little Frog running away or into traffic. He enjoyed the freedom, I enjoyed the freedom, and Diva enjoyed having more of mom's attention as she and I searched for colorful rocks to put in Grandpa's rock polisher.

The Art Walk was another surprise. We have a small but well respected fine arts center in town. The exhibits change regularly, but it seemed a little soon to take Little Frog who would be much more impressed with the tonal quality and sound dynamics of the building when he was screaming in it, than the art on display. Frog's Dad happened to have the center's director on his radio talk show last month and I learned about the outdoor exhibit. The residence that became the art center sits on about 5 acres. A local savings and loan association funded a five acre art installation with an ever shifting and changing display along the trails through the woods. On our first visit, Little Frog was intrigued and wanted to touch, taste, and feel many of the pieces. About 15 minutes into our walk he had reached overload and we had to leave. That night Diva Frog asked if we could go back and see more. I asked if she wanted to go for several short visits with Little Frog, or go by herself with just mom or dad. She said she would rather go with Little Frog. We went back the next day and Little Frog stayed with us for the whole hour we spent wandering around the exhibits. He especially liked the bouncing rocks (large cobbles mounted on rebar that were cemented into the ground), the Temple Bells, and a musical bench he could sit on while he made sounds and feel the vibrations. Diva Frog enjoyed the thrill of discovering something new everywhere she looked.

Little Frog went shopping with us at a local nursery for our salad pot supplies. It was near the end of the day and he did really well. He didn't start with the loud screams until we were on our way to the car. He did pick out several varieties of lettuce for me. When we got home, he was too tired to plant. So Diva and I finished that project on our own. Little Frog has become our official waterer - carrying cup after cup of water from our fountain to our plants.

We all enjoyed the music and the dancing. The following week, Diva and I were back in Seattle with two of her friends to see an American Girl play. There was a drumming jam session going on out on the lawn beside the big fountain. The girls were really enjoying the music and the rhythm along with the big water show. The fountain is designed for playing in, but we didn't bring any extra clothes. I think that may be our next destination with Little Frog. At the end of the week he was worn out. But he also seems more eager to engage with us and frequently takes me to the car - I take that as "I want to go mom!"

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