Thursday, June 27, 2013

An Intentional, Experiential Day Processed through Play

2/3's of the Way through the Day:  Feeding Seals
As I begin to write this, it is 9 o’clock at night and my seven- and six-year-olds are not asleep yet.  I am okay with that.  They are reading to Daddy after spending more than an hour processing their day their way.

You see, our day was busy – in a good way.  A way filled with living intentionally and experientially.

Slow Morning
In the morning, the kids slept in a bit later than usual while I moved through morning tasks to the rhythm of a refreshing rain.   (Intentional Choice – respecting both the children’s need for sleep and my need for discipline in developing better personal morning chore habits)

Then, Luke and Nina helped me to cook up a batch of homemade GFCF pancakes to drizzle in maple syrup and raspberries.  The pancakes were chock-full of carrots from our local CSA farm, which meant that we benefited from fruit-and-vegetable produce power this morning after the children apportioned our breakfast out fairly among themselves, saving an additional portion for Daddy’s next-day breakfast which included one extra pancake “because Daddy’s bigger than us”.  (Intentional Choices – eating healthy, teaching the children life skills, spending meal time together, considering others)

After breakfast, we had a slow morning of free play for the kids, more tasks for me and, then, a tidy time, before we stopped in at a local school to finish off homeschool reporting paperwork for next year.  The kids brought along some coloring and books to keep them busy while I filled out the form and were incredibly well-behaved and intent while we were at the school.  (Intentional Choices – balancing work and play, being responsible)

Creature-Filled Mid-Day
Notice the only child with a hand up:  Luke!
Then, after an easy lunch at home, we packed food for the rest of the day and headed out to a nearby town’s library for a great program of live digging critters that included a legless lizard, a snake, a tarantula, a tortoise, a fox, a hedgehog, a skunk, a large toad (Jack’s favorite) and a banana-eating groundhog (Nina and Luke’s favorite.)  On the way to the library, we made predictions about what creatures we might see, what colors they might be, what features they might have and why (based on the fact that the creatures were supposed to all be digging creatures.)   The children made some on-spot predictions about the creatures being brown, black, red or orange (mostly to blend in with different types of dirt and environments) and having claw-like hands or feet for digging.  (Intentional Choices – relaxed, yet pointed pre-engagement for learning experience)

I so appreciate presenters who are willing to answer questions after a program!
At the program, Luke, Nina and Jack remained engaged by they Creature Teacher critters and explanations.  Then, of course,  Luke asked to stay afterward to ask the presenter questions.  (Intentional Choices –  hands-on – or eyes-on/ears-open, in this case – learning, plus encouraging inquisitiveness)

Onto "Seal" the Day with More Learning and Fun
One of the Two Seal Pups We Saw
From there, it was off to the National Marine Life Center for “Townsend Day.”  On the way there, I offered the children a snack to eat in the car and verbally transitioned them between the parts of our day by recalling the day thus far and discussing what we were headed off to do for the late afternoon and evening.  While doing so, I inquired what the kids’ favorite animals from the Creature Teacher program were before guiding them to compare their pre-program predictions to what they actually had actually seen and heard at the library.  We also shared surprising and interesting facts.  (Intentional Choices –  gentle learning, respect for one child’s needs regarding transitions)

During our driving and chatting time, Jack piped up with a request to listen to his favorite Farmyard Tales CD.  I complied, and, in minutes,  Jack drifted off to his afternoon naptime.   As soon as I realized he was asleep, I turned the CD player off so Nina, Luke and I could have our usual afternoon quiet time, even if we weren’t at home.  That quiet time, though, was soon filled with Luke and Nina offering further commentary about the critter program before transitioning into their own imaginary tales about the creatures they had seen up close and personal at the library earlier and the ones they expected to see at the NMLC.  (Intentional Choices –respecting children’s requests, encouraging quiet and imagination) 

Jack Inspecting the Crab Tank
Shortly after arriving at the NMLC, we joined a small, but fantastic Behind-the-Scenes tour which began with an update about the four seal patients currently at the NMLC and explanation about the prior seal and turtle patients, progressed with an up-close look at some beautiful turtles, and, then, took us through the hospital portion of the facility, where we got to see the seals – including two new patient seal pups and Townsend, the seal the day was being celebrated for.  Along the way, the kids were able to ask questions, see equipment up close, come nearly face to face with some of the marine life, etc.  So cool!  (Intentional Choice –  experiential learning)

Nina the Seal Doctor
After the tour, Luke, Nina and Jack immersed themselves in learning and play in the visitor’s center for over an hour.  Puzzles, sensory play, crafts, exploring x-rays, feeling seal skin, touching bones and teeth, listening to me read about a seal’s rehabilitation, and, their favorite, dramatic play – all while making a new friend for the day, who they were excited to learn was also planning to go to Townsend the Seal’s release at a local beach in the evening.  (Intentional Choice – allowing plenty of time for hands-on play and learning)

Team Doctoring

 Seal Release
Farewell, Townsend!
When the kids came to a natural lull in their play, I suggested that we head over to the beach for dinner and the seal release.  They thought this was a good idea, so off we went for a car picnic and storytime with books I had pre-packed.  (Car picnic because it was sprinkling out, so a beach picnic just did not make sense.) Then, off we went to the beach to be among the first in the crowd that came to bid Townsend farewell as he journeyed back into the wild.  (Intentional Choices – prior planning to facilitate flexible picnicking and reading time, leaving plenty of margin time so as to avoid rushing)

Admittedly, once on the beach, the kids got a bit antsy waiting for Townsend actually to arrive and, then, whined a little when I would not let them cross the temporary barricades that were set up for Townsend’s actual release, which most of the crowd disregarded.  However, they were excited by the actual release – especially when Townsend seemed to be waving at us and, to their credit, also obeyed me by staying behind the yellow caution tape that stood as the temporary crowd control even when the rest of the crowd surged forward.  Likewise, they skipped and ran with delight once I let them move forward after Townsend was in the water.  (Intentional Choices – insisting on patience and obedience and recognizing when it was demonstrated)

Processing through Play

"Traps like this can be very dangerous for a creature."
On the way home from the big seal release, Jack fell asleep, but not Nina and Luke.  They politely asked (really, they actually did not whine!) if they could stay up a bit to play after sharing all the details of the day with Daddy who awaited us at home.  Permission granted, they bounced into the house and told Daddy all about our day.  (How special it was to see Luke on top of Daddy’s lap narrating snap shots of the day.)  Then, they commenced in 100% self-directed creative play to process their day.  (Intentional Choices – encouraging narration for learning, sharing with one another, making time and space for “processing play”.)

Completely of their own accord, Nina and Luke fetched stuffed toys and various instruments to set up an animal rehabilitation hospital.  They even used an old play crown of Nina’s as a demonstration trap to show center visitors how some animals get injured.  (Intentional Choices –  allowing/encouraging unconventional use of “loose items” for play)

Nina's X-Ray Station
Then, Nina took stools, a desk light, a chalk board and chalk to make an innovative imaginary x-ray machine I would have never thought to create.  Whereupon, Luke and Nina took (drew) x-rays of the different creatures, determining what each was ailing from before working the creatures through therapy, giving each medicine or performing surgery on them (which, I noticed, included a pulling-something-from-an-ear-maneuver that hearkened back to a magician our family recently saw). (Intentional Choice – observing, without directing play)

A Bunny ready for Release
When Luke and Nina’s creature patients were well, my little creature healers put each in a carrying case (an old cooler) and released them into the wild (other rooms of the house).  As they did all this, I remained constantly wowed by how the kids used their intellect and imagination to weave together things they had seen and heard throughout the day with things they already knew with things they could only guess about.  Truly, their cooperative play and mutual storytelling and innovation impressed me.  (Unfortunately, I stopped being intentional at this point in the day and failed to capture any of their conversation snippets on paper.   Alas, even as I appreciated all of Luke and Nina’s “processing play”, I failed to fully observe and record it as I moved through a few chores and email checking to wind down my own day.)

Daddy and I allowed the kids extra time to play before reminding them that it was bedtime, since it was so obvious that the children “needed” this play as much as they wanted it.  Sure, it was an exercise in fun and pushing bedtime limits, but, more than that, it was an opportunity for them to process their day and to solidify their learning in a way that works for them.  So, it was that it was 9ish when they finally tidied the living room (asking if they could leave some of their machinery and patients out for tomorrow) and headed off to read with Daddy before listening to CD’s. (Intentional Choices – maintain routine within flexibility, honor children's needs and learning styles)

A full day.  A fabulous day.  A day replete with experience and intention become reality.

Waiting for Townsend Atop a Lifeguard Chair
Oh, for every day to be so full of gentle, yet active learning and regular rhythms wrapped around flexibility that accommodates special events.

As I look toward the coming summer and fall, I expect many more days will be like this.  Life is rich when lived slowly with intent.

Do your children also process life and learning through creative play?

Friday, June 21, 2013

Thank You: The Post in Which I Share My Gratitude to Readers and The Journey of this Blog

It’s June 21st!

That means it’s summertime and the living is easy, right?

The kids experimenting with literal summer balance while Mommy rediscovers a more figurative time.

Well, maybe not that easy.  But, here, it is certainly easier than it was even a week ago.  Paid work contracts have slowed back down to a manageable pace.  Must-go-to commitments for the children and I have tapered off.  Health has returned to our family.  And, we are a two-vehicle household again.  (Yes – praises be – nearly two weeks ago, my husband’s old car died with perfect timing – after many seasonal work and homeschool commitments had wound down and just when the kids and I got sick with a summer bug that begged us to stay in virtual quarantine at home anyway.  If the old jalopy had to pick a time to finally break down beyond repair, a week ago Monday was the ideal time.  It’s the small things in life that make me grateful.)

Indeed, it seems that a life-balance of intention, not urgency, is in sight for me once more and, with it, comes a strong desire to begin blogging again.

Over the past week, the will to blog has been ever-present in my head and heart.  I have been trying to quiet it, but is simply won’t shush.

It prattles on:  I miss reflecting and writing.  I miss sharing.  I miss taking a more active part in the blogging community than “paused blogger” and “hit-and-run reader”.  In short, I miss it all – the learning, the sharing, the growth, the diversion, the discoveries.

So, I am back – at least for now – with great thanks to any of you who have stuck with me during my blogging break and are actually pausing your busy day to read these words. 


Truly, thank you to every reader who unknowingly lent me encouragement during the marathon of off-kilter life-balance that was my late winter and spring. 

It warmed me to note when you browsed old posts while the promise of current ones was on pause.  It made me smile when some of you actually took the time to comment on my prior sharings.  And, -wow – it truly lifted me when a few of you took the time to email, message me through Facebook or a blog comment just to see how I was doing and to encourage me both in my pause and in my one-day possible return.

A Quick Look Back at the Journey

When I began writing Training Happy Hearts in 2009, I wondered if anyone would even want to read it. 

In 2010, when book author Hartley became the first of several different folks who asked me to Guest Post on their blogs, I was excited, yet humbled.  It energized my will to blog and opened me up to getting to know so many more great people through virtual communities!

In 2011, I was delighted to build community with fellow “sensory kid” parents as well as Christian-Catholic ones through paying it forward with printables, sensory diet ideas and the Training Happy Hearts in Young Children Series, while also gleaning so much support and developing e-friendships with fellow bloggers and readers.  I also began to dabble more in affiliate links and item reviews in order to “justify" the time I spent on blogging and to help our family out a tiny, tiny – and I do mean minutely tiny – bit.

In 2012, it amazed me to note that the Alerting Activity ABC cards that I had created in 2011 remained such a huge hit with folks, while also seeing that faith-based ideas, like BLESSing cards, and education ones, like my Weather Tree How-To and Round Upbecame popular.  Unfortunately, though, I could not consistently continue to create and share printables and stories about SPD, faith and education.  Part way through 2012, a computer hard drive failure mandated that I take my first longish blogging break.  Granted, my desire to blog could not be quelled for long.  I was back at it within about a month.

By 2013, sharing here at Training Happy hearts was firmly established in my head and my heart as a joy for any “free time” I might find.  However, it also became increasingly apparent to me that I had been allocating too much not-really-free time to being online.  Blogging (and being on the computer in general) had moved from being a delight in balance with the rest of life to being a detriment to it.

Once I confessed that blogging had taken too large a role in my life, I made a conscious effort to wean my blogging pursuits back to whatever time that more important life needs would actually allow for them.  This meant that in the first half 2013, blogging ended up slowing, more or less, to just keeping my commitment to the THH Sunday Series before, eventually, pausing all together.

Now, after praying... and thinking... and praying and thinking some more – as well as noting that life is getting at least a little more balanced – I am back!  Back with great thanks to those who have spent a moment or more sharing both in my family’s journey and in my personal blogging journey.

I thank you, readers and fellow bloggers, for being just like in-real-life friends – not always actively present, but always there to pick up where we left off...

Truly, thank you! 


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