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“A portrait of my child, once a week, every week, in 2016.”

A moment of calm in the midst of racing around the headland on his balance bike.

He didn’t know I was watching, and just stopped and sat down: playing with the grass and contemplating the world.

Minutes later he was off again, but there is something about the quiet contentment of this picture that I love.

 

Linking up with Jodi at Practising Simplicity for The 52 Project. 

An icy experiment

The unschooling diaries: week thirty-one

A new book arrived in the post last week, and it’s been inspiring Arthur since he first set eyes on it. He has been particularly keen to try the ‘icy orbs’ – balloons, ice, food colouring, what’s not to love?

He reminded me of this again over dinner the other day. I filled a balloon with water, put it in a bowl inside the freezer, and the next morning we had a ball of ice all ready to be unwrapped…

Even at this stage Arthur was fascinated. We talked about how there seemed to be steam coming off the ice, and how it was sticky when he touched it (and also very, very c-c-c-cold).

More for my sake than his, we went through the motions of the activity in the book. Arthur sprinkled on some salt, and then we added food colouring, watching it trickle down the pits in the ice and the cracks that reached down into its depths. He was fairly interested in this, especially when we got a torch out to shine against it, but he was more intrigued to see what would happen if he drove vehicles across the surface of the now textured and colourful orb…

Driving vehicles soon progressed to tapping with a spoon… And then banging… And at that point we moved proceedings outside. He had more space to examine it there too, insisting on taking with him his goggles and a magnifying glass.

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Then followed squeals of delight as he banged away, and fragments of ice flew off across the deck.

This all escalated quite quickly, and he was soon smashing away at the orb and insisting that I joined in, watching as the sphere split and we could examine the passage of the coloured streams within.

He then wanted to know what would happen if we put hot water on it… So we did… And as the pieces of ice got smaller he threw them up into the air and watched as they broke to pieces on impact with the ground, fragments skitting away.

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Finally, he could not resist but out a piece of ice into his mouth. I’d been reluctant when it had been covered in salt and food colouring (and then who knows what else in the garden!), but decided that the pieces left after the outside layers had been melted away were probably innocuous enough.

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All in all it was a very satisfying hour or so of experimentation. I couldn’t pinpoint exactly what we learnt, but that’s mainly because there are so many things to choose from.

Most important of all though was the joy Arthur found in making discoveries for himself. And if he continues to be this enthusiastic about seeking out inspiration I predict many more hours of spontaneous discovery to come!

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“A portrait of my child, once a week, every week, in 2016.”

Campfires, wild swimming, messing about with guitars: we never meant to have Arthur with us on our romantic anniversary escape to a safari tent on Dartmoor, but when the the universe conspired against us we decided to go with it.

As it turned out, it was a magical weekend nonetheless. So many special moments for our little family, made especially so by the fact that they were never really supposed to happen.

We will go back one day, as a couple, to this little corner of paradise. But we would not have spent this weekend any other way.

Linking up with Jodi at Practising Simplicity for The 52 Project. 

Arthur’s imaginary menagerie

The unschooling diaries: week thirty

We seem to have acquired, over the past week or so, two cats, two dogs, and a fish. Oh, and an Orca whale. They’re very small, and not entirely visible, but to Arthur they are very real indeed.

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The first of these creatures appeared one day as we were settling down for a morning snuggle. Arthur was about to climb into my bed when he proclaimed that he had forgotten his cat. When I asked him to tell me a bit more about it, he said the cat had been on the shelf in my study and he had reached up and taken him down. But he had accidentally left him in the bath.

Curious, and not recalling a cat on my bookshelves, I went downstairs and checked the bathroom. I saw nothing, but Arthur follow me, peered around my legs, and reached in to retrieve his pet.

She came everywhere with us, and there were regularly brief moments of panic when he was worried he had lost her. He introduced her to his friend when we went out for the day, and explained that his cat was brown with purple eyes.

The second cat appeared when we were sat in another friend’s garden. We were chatting about this first pet, and how she had miraculously come into our lives, when Arthur suddenly exclaimed “Oh, there’s another one!”. He had come down from the clouds, apparently, and was brown too – but with yellow eyes.

We were heading off from there straight to a festival, so put both of the cats into Arthur’s rucksack and went on our way.

Over the course of the weekend he acquired two dogs, and a fish has appeared at some point in the past couple of days.

(I think he got that one from Daddy, who invented his own invisible fish to keep Arthur company.)

Daddy has tried to explain too that the wonderful thing about these particular pets is that they are always there, inside your heart, even if you think that you can’t see them. And that’s been important, because since Arthur’s imagination created his animals it seems to have had trouble keeping hold of them. Especially at night, when he has woken crying, afraid that they are lost.

In the light of day they are easier to conjure – he will often point to the place in the room where they are, or tell me that they are licking my feet. At night, though, I wonder whether they point to an underlying anxiety.

He called me into his room as I was writing this, panicked that he couldn’t see his cats and dogs and fish and asking to have the light on. I pondered for a moment, and suggested that they had perhaps gone off exploring, as animals often do.

Arthur seemed happy to accept that they were in his garden, and as he snuggled down beneath his covers added that he had a whale now too. An Orca, apparently, who was sat beside him on the pillow.

Such a wonderful menagerie; such a wonderful imagination.

Never lose that, little one.

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The ping game

The unschooling diaries: week twenty-nine

It started with a stick.

Seeing as most sticks, lately, get made into guns and swords, I thought I would try to imbue this one with more gentle powers. Especially as it was so beautiful.

Arthur had found it on a walk at my parents’ house: it was gnarly and strong – hazel I think.

With the help of some treasures from my mum’s haberdashery collection I crafted it carefully into a wand. There was something enormously therapeutic, actually, about wrapping thread around its form, and teasing on beads to add to its magic.

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By the time Arthur woke up from his nap, his wand was born.

I’m not sure who started the game – the pointing with a ‘ping’ to use this magical stick as a tool for transformation. It might have been me, with pedestrian suggestions of a frog or a bird.

Since then, though, Arthur has taken the concept and run with it.

With an imagination that would put most drama students to shame, he pings me into all sorts of things. A cannonball, a barbecue, glitter, a corkscrew: you name it, I’ve had to use my best improvisational skills to create it – much to Arthur’s amusement.

He currently prefers to do the pinging rather than be pinged, but he is growing in confidence, and when he does dare to take the stage comes up with brilliant (and hilarious) manifestations of whatever idea is thrown at him.

The wand has actually become superfluous now in the execution of this game. It is just a way to pass the time, to dispel boredom or to liven things up. It can (and does) unfold whenever or wherever we happen to be, and I love it.

Imagination, creativity, drama, communication, laughter: and all because of a stick.

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“A portrait of my child, once a week, every week, in 2016.”

I wonder what it feels like to do festivals this way? Tucked up warm in your dragon costume, the music muted by ear defenders and a faint glow of fairy lights around you…

We kept expecting him to wake as we enjoyed ‘just one last band’, but he was just so deeply asleep.

I guess it must feel pretty awesome.

Linking up with Jodi at Practising Simplicity for The 52 Project.