“You’re like a cicada nymph molting into an adult.”
I hold out a months old pair of outgrown shoes in front of me. My eldest shrugs and says, “at least you get to put my other brothers feet into whatever I’m molting. Cicada mothers have it worse. One molt per kid.”
Everyone is growing taller around here except the parents. Shoes and pants grow tight and short. Conversations have shifted. Bedtimes are changing. Responsibilities are increasing. A couple of children are suddenly within reach of a great pivot point in some unseen life cycle poster. We are on the brink of molts and pupas.
Last week we jumped back into study with an in depth look at the Byzantine Empire. The history of Constantinople, the Bosporous Strait, the Golden Horn, the Hagia Sofia and a whole host of stories about art, war, language, politics, religious freedom, geography, trade, architecture and education. Days ago we were seated at the dining room table, painting maps and conversing about the importance of Byzantium/Constantinople/Instanbul. One of the boys chimed in with: “let’s just get to the old compare and contrast so we can know what’s what. We can even write it up and cut it out and put it into categories like we used to for the animal habitats. You know if our hands are moving and building it out we’ll remember it more.” This made me laugh at first, then I stopped to think about our morning so far.
The early morning nature walk to beat the 106 degree heat index told quite the story. We used our favorite nature curriculum, Exploring Nature with Children. It’s certainly grown our understanding of nature, but the little habits we formed in those early days with The Homegrown Preschooler were clearly there, a solid foundation we’ve placed so many bricks on its nearly obscured from sight. We were studying blossoms and the boys reached into their bags and pulled out their old eye loupes (recommended by Kathy and Lesli back in the day!). Then came their 5 common topics discussion about various blooms in the backyard which eventually brought us back to the house where we sat at the table and began drawing and recording what we had found. Half way through one boy said, “I’ll be back in ten mintutes.” When he returned he reported that he revisited his flower and sat still in the shade to see what sorts of pollinators would come along while he waited. He scrawled out a small list while his brothers carefully dissected a few blossoms in search of pistils and stamens. When they finished, my boys pulled those petals apart and started making little mosaics on the table while I read our poetry selection for the day. That early start in finding beauty, embracing wonder and researching through play has stayed with them and grown them into ravenous explorers with an appetite for truth, beauty and goodness.
Morning time ushered in an hour of food and laughter and companionship built on years of “saying yes” to things like play and fun and character training. All those hundreds of days working on “say please” and “say thank you” and “pick up your dishes and sweep under your chair” float around us like dandelion wishes while we talk and argue and laugh and tell stories. I ask the eldest to wipe down the table and he readily agrees. Not because he’s perfect, not because he never complains, but because for years he has lived with the knowledge that after he lends a hand we will be spending time together. Yes, it is habit, but it is also love. He does it for the sake of the relationship. More often than not he says “Yes!” to requests for help with the dishes or sweeping because I spent years saying “yes!” to chocolate chip cookies with tea and chalk comics on the sidewalk and dinosaurs in the bathtub for ten more minutes. By now we both know that we are on the same team. All the bonding and relationship built through play in those early years have built something quite beautiful.
I think back to that first weekend when I heard Lesli Richards speak at FPEA and cried in her arms an hour later. Her words of encouragement washed over me and she pulled out A Year of Playing Skillfully and leafed through it with me. Instead of launching curriculum talking points at my head, she built me up with her words and told me I was a good mother and that if I was focusing on the relationship, I was on the right track already. What a gift that was! I am deeply thankful for Lesli and Kathy and their hearts for young families.
My older boys were never “officially” homegrown preschoolers–they were already in 2nd grade by the time we purchased AYOPS. But they were drawn to it! I remember how eagerly they would finish their work so they could rush over and join in our activities. AYOPS didn’t stay in its schedule block. It followed us like glitter- all over the house. It never felt like a curriculum, it felt like time with my children.
People always ask if I received this curriculum in exchange for my review, the answer is no. We saved up for ours and officially used it for four years, and it has ingrained itself so deeply in our family culture that we will always “use it.” It was and still is, a gift to us all. We learned to play skillfully together and became homegrown preschoolers for life.
Once a homegrown preschooler, always a homegrown preschooler.
This weekend HGP is running a 4th of July sale on their curriculum: $20 off A YEAR OF PLAYING SKILLFULLY or $30 off the PLAN AND PLAY Bundle.
I am also giving away a copy of A Year of Playing Skillfully to one winner! Check the facebook post for entry details!
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