Get outside, Family!

Get outside, Family!

Monday, August 31, 2015

How to go back to school, stay outside

Does back to school have to mean back inside? 

Pre-bus-boarding moonset
One of the saddest things about the start of school is seeing my kids’ skin pale to a sickly gray because of all the time they spend indoors. They are lucky enough to attend schools with daily recess outside (hurray!). But school + riding on the school bus, after-school activities and homework = a lot less time outdoors.

Even in our relatively contained and unwild backyard, I can tell they let loose in ways essential to them. They move freely, talk openly. Younger Son has been concentrating on digging a small hole under the swing set. Older Son turned a worn out dehumidifier into a go-cart and then a Zamboni. They fight out there, too – usually when the poor neighbors are trying to enjoy their deck. But even arguments seem to resolve more easily outdoors (or maybe I just go inside where I cannot hear them… Well, I only do that sometimes.)

As we move into the stressful weeks of adjusting to new routines and expectations, I’m going to try hard to keep the good times going outside. Here’s my plan.

1.      Watch the sun come up. I’ll take my cup of coffee and spend a few minutes outside with Older Son before he heads to the bus stop. Dramatic impact on his day? Maybe not. But in 10 minutes today we saw a beautiful moon set and enormous flock of migrating birds soar overhead. Not a bad start to a Monday.  
Goodbye, birds!
2.       After school, go directly outside. For Younger Son, this will mean playing on the school grounds after pick up or a stop at the playground if we have to run errands. At home, we will grab the bikes or work on a backyard project.  
3.       Dine al fresco. We should have at least another month of weather warm enough to enjoy snacks and meals on the picnic table.
4.       Homework al fresco. My son likes his desk, so not sure this will be a winner. But I’ll try to interest him in a shaded-table work station or blanket in the grass.
5.       Take evening walks. Talk about stress relief. Also a good time to review for quizzes, discuss life problems, plot plans for the future. Haha – I have a pre-teen, it’s more likely to be begrudging silence. I can live with that.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Creek walk adventure

Sometimes the best days happen when I just follow my kids’ curiosity wherever it takes us. Younger Son had out our little portable microscope kit, and he wanted to make a slide with water from the sink. I told him creek water would be more interesting because that might have plants and critters in it. And he said, “Yeah! Let’s go get some!” as in, Right now! The shopping list started running through my head, then the list of errands.  But a walk to the creek sounded so much more fun. So we were off.

Our creek is what we in Western Pennsylvania call a “crick” – not big enough to have a formal name but well known to the kids in the neighborhood. It ribbons through our housing plan on its way to larger creeks and the rivers of Pittsburgh. After rain it can be knee high and even deeper, but is often just a trickle of water.

We collected water, mud, gravel and a few plants. An apple from a tree. Oh, and a rock that looks like it has coal in it. The rock was part of fill put down along the path that leads to the creek, and we think it might have been from mine waste.

The microscope is really kid friendly – small, plastic and portable.  The magnification is not high, but it gives a good close up look. We could see the hair-like strands of a water plant and what looked like scales on the surface of a stone. Pretty neat. 

The outing and microscope work on the back deck took up most of the morning. Never got to the errands. But YS and I had such a good time together. It was one of my favorite things we’ve done this summer.