Tag Archives: exploring

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

This boy is so fascinated by cameras.

I suppose it is only to be expected, given that his life has been so carefully documented. He is particularly drawn, though, to the older cameras in my collection – the ones which don’t get used as much as they should since I have discovered the wonders of the iPhone.

I’m not sure he’s quite old enough yet to manage my digital SLR, but I’m tempted to let him have a decent go…

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

We spent last week in Lanzarote.

It was a bit of an unexpected trip. We never normally go away in the autumn, and apart from places where people we love live we never normally go back to the same place twice. But after an amazing visit in the Spring we could not resist a return when the chance arose – and the way this year is panning out I was supremely glad to have the opportunity for a bit of an escape.

I’m still digesting the photos and the memories, but these two moments stood out for me: admiring the expansively beautiful view at Mirador del Rio and studying the otherworldly forms at the Jardin de Cactus.

Arthur was simply in awe of so much that he saw. It really is a very special place.

The joy of travelling with a three year old

The unschooling diaries: week forty

Travelling with kids gets a pretty bad press. It is, patently, harder than travelling used to be pre-parenthood: there is another person’s needs to factor in after all, a person who can’t actually contribute anything to the logistics of the whole process.

But what they might lack in organisational skills those little people make up for in a whole host of other ways.

We spent a few days in Barcelona last week. It is one of my all-time favourite cities, helped along by the fact that one of my bestest friends has lived there with her family for the past seven years. Visiting them feels a lot like going home (in an unashamed global citizen – thank you very much Theresa May – kind of way), and I love that my son is starting to get to love the city too.

The anticipation started before we even got on the plane.

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We had woken early, leaving home in the dark soon after six to drive to the airport. Arthur slept all the way, and was still a little disorientated when we got to check-in. He perked up as we headed towards security though, full of questions about what the machines were looking for, and why we had to put liquids in a little plastic bag.

We answered as frankly as we could, and smiled as he bravely stepped up to walk through the scanners and waited for our bags to make their way along the conveyor belt.

On the other side: breakfast, and then the excited scramble to the gate.

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Once we were on the plane, Arthur expertly secured his own seat belt, and listened intently as the safety message was relayed. He passed away the journey with a movie on the iPad, interspersed with chat about what we were going to do once we arrived and a little bit of Spanish practise.

He is so used to travelling now that he no longer needs much of our attention, at least not on a short flight. Leigh slept, and I wrote a blog post. And as we came into land we all peered out of the window with anticipation.

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Our little holiday itself was fairly uneventful. We hung out with our friends, we enjoyed the cultural acceptance of children that meant we could enjoy a drink and some tapas whilst they played in the street, we noticed things in their barrio that we might previously have taken for granted because Arthur’s observations and questions threw new light on the everyday.

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We had one day when we ventured further afield: we were keen to go for a swim, so planned to take the cable car from Montjuic to Barceloneta. We set off up the hill, but when we reached the station we discovered it was closed. Arthur was gutted, so there was no denying him when he spotted the cable car up to the castle even though we’d only intended to get the funicular down to Paral.lel.

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It was an unexpectedly awesome trip. Whilst Leigh and I gawped at the views Arthur gave us a running commentary on the mechanics of our transportation. He was fascinated by how it all worked – and whilst I generally prefer not to think too much about that when I’m suspended high above solid ground it was strangely liberating to answer his questions.

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We eventually made it to the beach, and though the pool we were aiming for was not hugely accommodating to kids the sea was fresh and clear and alluring. Our friends have pretty much finished their sea swimming for the year, but the water was warm by our standards, and Arthur delighted in playing in the surf. It was just on the edge of safe, but with Leigh and I taking it in turns to shadow him he was able to test his limits and work on his confidence in the water – one of the most crucial strands of our makeshift curriculum.

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Back with our friends over dinner, it was lovely to watch Arthur bonding with their daughters. Seven and nine years old, I have known them both since infancy: they were really my first initiation into motherhood, and will always hold a special place in my heart. When we were in Barcelona last summer Arthur was still only two, and whilst they did their best to be kind to him he was not yet playmate material. This year all that had changed.

They played, and chatted, and laughed. Over dinner Arthur began exploring some Spanish words again: I love that he’s interested in the concept of another language, and I’m keen to take advantage of that as much as I can.

Our country might be tightening its borders and distancing our neighbours in Europe with every new utterance, but that is not the future that I want for my son. With this special link we have with Barcelona, and with this wonderful aptitude for travelling that Arthur is revealing, I have a feeling our horizons will only get broader from here on in.

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London calling

The unschooling diaries: week thirty-seven

I love our life in Devon, the sea swimming and beach exploring and cliff walking, but sometimes it is pretty awesome to switch our scenery around and hang out in the city.

The big smoke seems to be calling us a lot at the moment, and last week I had to make the trip up on my own with Arthur. It was a whistlestop visit, and I admit I was dreading it a little bit. But turning what could have been a chore into a bit of an adventure definitely helped.

He’s getting to be quite a seasoned little traveller, and insisted on picking up a magazine for the journey before we boarded the train. Not to read, you understand – but those little plastic toys are just so alluring…

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It was actually a really chilled out journey once we’d got comfy. We had a breakfast picnic, and Arthur was very happy to snuggle up with a movie whilst I caught up on some writing.

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When we got to town, we had a whole afternoon at our disposal before my appointment the next morning. I had in mind a very specific quest: to visit Kings Cross Pond before it closed forever. We missioned it across the city and set off into the forest of cranes and tower blocks – a highly unlikely setting for a natural swimming experience!

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But nestled between the building sites there was a little oasis of calm, and I relished the opportunity to have a dip – even if Arthur did decide it was a bit too cold.

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After our swim we set off to meet a friend – no particular mission this time, just a couple of hours to meander and soak up what the city had to offer. Arthur was drawn to the fountains in Granary Square, made particularly alluring by the sound installation that accompanied them. He stood completely mesmerised before creeping closer until his head was almost up against one of the speakers.

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Unexpected public art was definitely a theme of this trip, and Arthur especially liked the swing we came across in the middle of the street. I’m sure the grown-ups love it too, but there was something pleasingly incongruous about watching Arthur going about the very serious business of swinging whilst everyone continued on their way around him.

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I’m pretty sure Arthur decided that the whole city was a playground to be honest – from random swings to balancing along water features whilst he raced leaf boats over the little waterfalls.

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And then, as if that wasn’t enough excitement for one day, I realised that we were just around the corner from The Railway Children at the Kings Cross theatre and couldn’t resist some last-minute discount tickets.

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It was already past Arthur’s bedtime, and as soon as we sat down he curled up on my knee for a power nap. Fifteen minutes later though he was woken by the sounds of steam trains and singing and sat completely rapt as the story played out in front of him. It was his first proper theatre experience and he was quite blown away by it all – especially when a real-life steam train pulled onto the stage!

The next day was a bit less exciting as I had a meeting to attend, leaving Arthur playing patiently with his hot wheels cars and chatting away to his toy dog, Merlin who he had insisted on bringing with him in a special doggy sling.

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We did manage to fit in a visit to one of his favourite actual playgrounds – we very rarely visit them in Devon, so it always feels like a bit of a treat. He’s been to this one on trips up to London before, but not since he was much smaller. As soon as we arrived he set his sights on the biggest of the three slides on offer, and circumnavigated it several times, trying unsuccessfully to clamber up the ropes to get to it. Then, though, he watched as a boy not much older than him approached it from a whole other angle – and of course he had to follow.

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After all of this adventuring Arthur was well and truly knackered by the time we began our long journey home – we both were!

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It was well worth the effort though. I am already looking forward to the corners of the city we will discover on our next trip…

Marbles! And more…

The unschooling diaries: week thirty-five

It’s awesome how things can begin to escalate when you go with the flow.

This particular run of exploration began during our ‘goodbye summer’ barbecue at the pool, when the lifeguards decided to entertain Arthur by fixing him up a tube to drive his cars down.

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He LOVED it, and it wasn’t long before we’d rigged something similar up at home: Leigh took him to a hardware store to search for inspiration, and both the process and the prize were well worth the trip.

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For a few days Arthur would wake me with the request to get his ‘super slide’ up and running in the garden, and it kept him entertained of hours.

And then…

One morning, when I was trying to tempt Arthur away from the iPad, I thought I’d get out the marbles. I bought them a while ago with a view to doing some painting, but suddenly in this exciting new world of ramps and trajectories they seemed just the thing.

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He was instantly rapt, and it wasn’t long before he’d found a tube to introduce into the equation…

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From there it was a tiny leap across to our very first marble run.

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Arthur was intrigued, but soon wanted his marbles to go further and faster… Enter the super slide.

We spent pretty much a whole afternoon experimenting with various blocks and tunnels and ramps. So cool.

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The exploration is as you might expect ongoing, and in the meantime the marble run has found a vital new role as home to Arthur’s lego star wars robots – they were loving it in there today!

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It’s a fascinating process, this opening up and letting go.

So often still I think I know the best activity to do to spark Arthur’s imagination, but it turns out that the very best ideas come from the kid himself. I’m so glad I get to come along for the ride.

A natural playground

The unschooling diaries: week thirty-four

Arthur loves purpose-built play areas as much as the next kid, but it’s watching his growing confidence as he interacts with the natural world that really makes me smile.

He is especially keen at the moment to clamber around on rocks. The seawater pool that I help run is perched (when the tide is right) on the most incredible coastal moonscape, and whenever we venture down there Arthur is desperate to climb.

I had a meeting there yesterday, and unusually was organised enough to leave early so that Arthur could have a serious play before he had to sit and listen to me discuss pool business. Even though the tide wasn’t super low, there was still plenty of the rocky terrain exposed for him to have a good explore. In fact the encroaching sea forced us to explore round the corner a little bit further than we usually venture, which I couldn’t help but find fascinating too.

Arthur’s main objective was to practise being Spiderman – running across the uneven ground and leaping over gaps between the stones. I had to bite my tongue even as my heart was skipping beats at times – and in doing so found myself marvelling at his ever-increasing agility and balance.

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He loves his gymnastic class, but there is something about the irregularity of this natural playground that really pushes him to the limit I think.

And he did, at one point, fall. He grazed his knee and hurt his finger – not badly, but enough to force him to pause for a cuddle. And then he ventured down to the rocks again – not leaping so confidently this time, but slowing down to notice the rock pools and the seaweed.

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It was one of those moments when I could not help but revel in the beauty of the place that we call home, and swore that we would do this every day – just get out and breathe in that sea air, communing with the landscape that we are lucky enough to have on our doorstep.

It’s not always easy as the storms roll in and the days become darker, but there really is no better place for us to learn.

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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.