Posted in home education

#30dayswild: Digging

30 days wild is an awesome initiative by The Wildlife Trust charity to get us outdoors and appreciating nature for the whole month of June! They provide you with loads of ideas for activities you can do outdoors (from building a minibeast habitat to taking photos of different colours in nature) and a big wall chart to document what you’re up to. Pretty cool!

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Quite a few of the ideas are a bit beyond toddler level, but Aeryn and I have embraced the spirit of the month in our own way.

Aeryn LOVES the garden. Loves. It. If the back door isn’t open, she’s knocking on it until it is!

I’m a child led kind of mama. I don’t make Aeryn do things just because I think they would be fun. Her brain and body are in perfect sync and know exactly what she needs to do to keep on developing.

Making her sit and colour in or look at books with me is no good if she needs to run around (also, gross motor skills like running and flailing and jumping are vital for fine motor .skills like drawing or threading later)! Equally, sometimes she just wants to sit on the grass and read a story even though I’m itching to get things done or play with her. And I realise, you know, that’s fine! I take her lead whenever I practically and safely can. She’s taught me a lot about slowing down.

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While we are child led, we do provide lots of choices of activities Aeryn might want to try. Some are very organic, everything you need is already in the environment and it just sort of happens when Aeryn shows interest (e.g. if she spots a butterfly – whoosh, there we go learning again!). Other times, we bring things outside to enhance the environment and expand an activity or a spark of imagination we spotted at an earlier point.

imageBoth ways usually lead to good fun and feed the inevitable, constant learning journey that is life for us. I like the Reggio Emilia Inspired view – the Environment is the third teacher (Reggio Emilia preschools have two human facilitators per class, hence “third”). An enriching, enabling environment is probably the best learning tool we can offer our kiddo, and she is very good at making the most of it!

We’ve spent most of our outdoor time this month digging. A little wood and metal fork, trowel and rake set from a supermarket cost us around £4. It’s not the best quality in the world, but it’s great for just having a scratch around in the dirt.

But what’s the point of just digging?! Digging for what? Well, the beauty of it really is you don’t have to dig for anything.

We aren’t planting seeds (but we could), or finding bugs (but we could), or sifting out rocks to sort (but we could). We’re involving all our senses, enjoying the texture and smell of the Earth, feeling it in our fingers and beneath our tools, seeing the varying colours and shapes of clay and sand and rocks and snail shells and twigs and roots, listening to the gravelly scrape of our fork on a pebble.

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And perhaps we’ll decide to do one of those other things, like plant seeds. And perhaps we won’t. Perhaps we’ll dig a huge hole and then leave it for 3 days and come back to it and dig some more. Or perhaps we won’t. There is no agenda, no fixed end point, no goal, no “success criteria”. It’s just digging, present tense, in the now, just because. How wonderfully freeing is that?!

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Aeryn has had an ongoing digging project for ages, but I’ve made a point to make time for her to explore it every single day during our wild month.

I cleared a small patch of one of our flower beds of plants. It’s only around 3 ft square. It took me no time, really.

But every moment she can, she spends time on that square. She pokes the roots that are left with her rake and pulls them up, digs and finds worms, just strokes the soil and then enjoys it when I brush the dirt off her hands, over and over.

Watching her work so diligently, concentrate for so long on one singular task, has really inspired me to think about the way I approach work and learning. She wanders off, plays with the ball or reads a book or asks to go to the park for a while and picks daisies, but she keeps revisiting that square. To dig a little more.

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I’m going to spend more of my life doing just that. Finding out a little more. Exploring a little more. Creating a little more. Enjoying a little more.

Digging a little more. Because there is always a little more to dig.

Jen xXx

Posted in home education, Uncategorized

The Luminarium @ Nottingham Lakeside Arts

What A Beautiful Experience!

To try to explain the concept of an inflatable structure without conjuring the image of a bouncy castle at a kid’s party is pretty much impossible, really. But WOW.

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A Luminarium is an inflated structure made with a combination of translucent and opaque materials. It creates a magical space inside where light filters in in coloured patterns to different domes and bubbles and alcoves. It is all connected seemlessly as a great whole and yet each space and coloured area feels separate and new.

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This particular Luminarium by the Architects of Air, named Katena, is the latest in a group of more than 20 similar structures. This one has been built around the geometric shapes found in Islamic Architecture.

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Aeryn, Ben and I queued patiently for 45 minutes for our turn inside. If we had had enough foresight, we would have pre-booked tickets, but Aeryn was happy to smile at babies in the queue and take us in turn for walks around the structure. We were called, tucked our shoes into a little cubby hole and were ushered into an ante-chamber, before entering the luminarium properly.

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The soft, ethereal music combined with the gentle, beautiful lights made it feel very womb-like; relaxing and safe. Several children were running wild with glee through the curved corridors and spaces, but it didn’t distract from the beauty of the whole. Much like the busyness of a beehive doesn’t diminish the beauty of the honeycomb.

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Aeryn was astonished and awestruck and excited and certainly in explorer mode. She moved from space to space and back again, revisiting the same areas and finding new ones. She loves touching the translucent walls that seem to glow, seeing her hands in sillhouette. Later, she was calm, and just wandered, taking it in. We stopped for milk in a little glowing green alcove and it is probably one of the most serene places I have nursed her.

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The ceilings were magical. It was clear to see how similar patterns could be used in Islamic architecture to help Muslims feel closer to Allah. Your eyes are drawn up to the central dome;  to a higher place, I suppose, if you are spiritual.

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I’m not crazy. I know Aeryn wasn’t wandering around thinking about Islamic architects or the finesse of the worksmanship. But she appreciated art. She saw colour and light and curve and expanse and enclosure and appreciated the space. She enjoyed it. She felt something.

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Making something beautiful so accessible for even the tiniest of visitors is quite a feat. We all loved it and we would definitely recommend it as a wonderful activity for a family of any age, or just adults alone. I wish we could have stayed the whole day!

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Maverick xXx