Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Summer School and Toads

Today, me and Fynn went out to look for turtles, snakes, and skunks. 
Or anything else we might come across.


The only plan i had was to follow Fynn- let him lead and offer only suggestions, no orders. 
(Unless absolutely necessary, which none were)
Fynn's only agenda was to look for animals.
And you may be thinking, but my kids always do what they want. I understand, i think that too. But th' truth is they're not. Kids are always being told what to do, what not to do, do this, do that, it's too early for this, it's too late for that. Maybe later. Well, what if we decide to let maybe later be now.
I dare you to set a time frame and allow your kids to decide what goes on for that time limit.
I've been trying to do this more and more often with Fynn and Rowan. Set a time limit, and as long as it's safe, let them do whatever they want to do.
My life has only gotten richer because of it.
 And i hope, and think, that theirs has too.

So we loaded up some water and lunch, tied th' net to th' roof of th' car, and off we went. 
To start with, I picked somewhere that neither of us had ever been to before. 

Th' first thing Fynn did was climb a tree to see how far he could go before it wouldn't hold him.



He made it most of the way up that tree.
Th' first thing i did was notice was a large patch of licorice.  




We walked around a few ponds, then found some brachiosuarus tracks and followed them.
I tried to stray th' path a few times but to no avail.
Fynn said we'd found th' tracks of a brachiosaurus dragging it's tail.
To me they looked an awful lot like tire tracks, but as i had not actually seen th' truck make th' tracks, i figured fynn's guess was as good as mine.
So we followed them.
It was about a hundred degrees outside.

After traveling for some time, including crossing an area where there seemed to dwell nothing but heat and biting flies, we saw a great blue heron. I thought it was a pteradactyl. 
Fynn said he was archaeopteryx, and that we should follow him, and see where he leads.
My dream come true i told him. 
So that's what we did, and he led us to the land of toads.
 And left us a feather too. An awful nice, though shy bird he was. 


This is a place where you have to be careful how you walk, or you will step on a toad.
And no one wants to do that.




And indeed we caught more than a few.
We started catching them and putting them in our net, which we had propped up in a willow bush. Just a few at a time, no more than four or five. 
They kept climbing out of th' net so we just kept refilling it throughout th' day, as we played and checked on it. 
Toads are easy to catch, and there was a toad everywhere you looked.  



Then we came to this tiny little pond, where all along the edge there were snails racing in th' same direction. If you've never seen snails race you don't know what yer missin.



We also found a lava rock, and a very pretty striped rock.



And alas, our respite from th' heat, a nice pool of calm deep water off th' river.
Time to lose th' shoes and go swimming, or "to feel like a whale" as Fynn said.



Last spring we went to Sea World to see th' whales and dolphins. 
We were sitting there watching the orca show, when all of a sudden we were hit in th' face by a tidal wave. After the initial shock, Fynn was so impressed with how big a splash an orca can make that we've been talking about it ever since. So here in th' pool Fynn put on a sea world show for me, till i had been splashed enough, then he used his shoes as the audience, while he sent tidal wave after tidal wave upon them. 




Then we started drawing dinosaurs in th' sand and splashing them, learning about erosion.
Geology in action.




We stopped every now and then to put more toads in th' net, we had a nice rotation going.
Then he wanted to know about how toads swim, so we caught one and put it in th' pool and watched it swim to shore. It was really neat, they put their forearms back against their sides and kick/paddle with their huge hind legs, swimming quickly and efficiently.


Once th' toad got to shore we saw how he looked just like th' sand he lived in. So we talked about camouflage. In the picture below there is a toad hopping, if there were no shadow, how long would it take to find that toad? They are very well adapted to their environment. We also noticed that the toads  we caught on th' sand were lighter colored than th' toads we caught in the muddier, more forested area.



We also noticed that us and th' toads were not the only ones who come to this pool, there were tracks all over th' place. So we looked at the tracks and thought about who made them. We saw raccoon, deer, barefooted human, shoe footed human, and some very large unidentified tracks, that we thought maybe were from someone's large dog, or a wolf. We noticed their patterns, and thought about how the animals moved through the area, and whether or not the animals in question were nocturnal or diurnal, nocturnal animals being one of Fynn's new interests. "Wow," he said, "Papa, we were sleeping and there were nocturnal animals down here at th' pool, and now they are sleeping and we're down here." "That's right!" i said. That's a pretty cool thought. And a good way to share a small habitat.





Then Fynn wanted to throw his shoes in th' water. Crocs are cool because they float, something Fynn had never realized before. "Why do think your shoes float" i asked him. "I don't know" he replied, "i thought they would sink". "What if you had a shoe that was th' same size and shape as yours, but made out of a rock instead of foam, would it float or sink?" "It would sink." He said. 
Density. So we talked about mass and density, and whether things were more or less dense than each other, or than water. Then we threw things into the water to check our answers.


Then we started talking about water currents. Fynn was excited about this because yesterday we picked and ate wild currants. He liked it that it was th' same word with two different meanings. 
Again, we used th' shoes to demonstrate the idea of water currents. The shoes in th' pool floated slowly in a circle, eventually getting stuck in th' same place every time. As th' shoes floated around near th' fast moving water, we thought it would pick them up and carry them away, but it never did, they just went round and round and round. So we tossed them into th' fast moving part, and one of us would wait for them downstream and catch them. We did this for a while and then we stated using them and our hands to block th' water, and watched how th' current flowed around them.


Finally, it was time to go. I knew Fynn would stay there for th' rest of his life if i let him, so i started talking about lunch. He said "Oh papa, i love this place so much!" Eventually i suggested that we fill up our toad net one more time and go back to th' car and get our lunch. "Ok, he said "can we take some toads home with us and let some live in our back yard and keep some of them?" "Sure" i said, "as long as you take care of them."
Animal husbandry.
 He had already been taking pretty good care of his snakes, so i figured he could do it.

At last we made th' long trek back through th' heat to our car. When we were almost there he told me that he likes feeling like a whale better than this hot and dry. I agreed.
So we sat in th' shade and ate left over burritos and drank a can of warm flat sparkling water. We found shapes in th' clouds and talked about how much we liked this place, and that we need to bring mama and Old Ro (Fynn's nickname for Rowan) out here soon. I agreed.

Fynn had said before we went on this journey that he wanted to be out for four hours. We had no clocks and weren't thinking about time, but we stayed out for a little over three and half hours. Pretty close.

Back home we made a toad habitat in our pool, and Old Ro was really happy to see some toads. 
We decided that which ever ones didn't hop out of th' pool by the end of the day we would keep for a while and take care of. We did some research on toad care, and Fynn looked up images of toad habitats for us. At the end of th' day we had one toad, but we might go get him a friend.


All in all it was in incredible day. I had a lot more fun than i would have if i was trying to get Fynn to follow some plan of action that he was only partially interested in, and we covered so many topics- which as his homeschooling parents we're always thinking about. But Fynn wasn't at school, he was just playing and having th' time of his life- Th' concepts will stick with him better because he wasn't forced to learn anything, and we literally played around with all the ideas, so we got to see their real, practical value and application.  And, not being out in public, unhindered by social norms, he didn't have to try to fit in or not disturb anyone, not be autistic in other words. Often for a person with autism, it's really hard work to be around people with expectations of how you should be acting, and th' kids have little energy left to focus on learning. But when they are not pressured, when they are playing and having fun, they're one hundred percent available for learning.

I have been trying to be more active in our kids homeschool life, so it's not just Beth's job, and i think i've found a way that works and is fun for all of us. Follow th' Child... Stat doing this enough and you begin to wonder, who is really th' teacher here? Didn't Jesus say something about a child leading people? I look at th' world around us, see th' state it's in and think, ok, so we don't have it all figured out, time to toss th' curriculum and try something new, something old, something else.
Time to learn.

~Rico

3 comments:

kargelc said...

beautiful.

Debbie Wichman said...

Amen!

Danny Hesser said...

This is wonderful! You guys are living the unschooled life, and providing examples of student-led, experiential learning for those who are just now wading into this with their little ones. This is really inspiring!