This summer I’ve accepted a challenge: I’m spending a few weeks with unscheduled children. I’ve never had this extended “opportunity” before because I’ve always been occupied so the children have gone to summer camps. One of the boarders revolted this spring and decided he didn’t want to do his traditional summer camp, so here we are.
Years ago unscheduled summers were the norm. I’m reminded of the movie Stand by Me in which the narrator remembers an adventure from his youth. He and his friends go searching for a body in the woods over the Labor Day weekend. The movie implied that wandering in the wood on your own, even camping out without express permission, was a part of childhood. Of course the movie invented a nostalgia driven past that probably never existed. But unscheduled, half-supervised kids were pretty standard.
I do seem to remember complaining of boredom pretty often though. My mother’s suggestions weren’t usually very helpful: “go play in traffic.” Did she have any idea how unsafe that would be?
So now I’m stuck with one of my own boarders and a neighbor’s. Left entirely to their own devices they would play Minecraft online until their butts became glued to their seats. Then they’d keep playing because they couldn’t move. So I’ve had to dream up some activities; unfortunately, I’m not very good at the “fun” part of parenting.
I do have a lot of garden work that needs doing, so I proposed that they make a nice border for the new herb bed. We have a lot of bricks (anybody need some?) and the weeds have been trying to move in for a while now. The idea did not immediately appeal; it involves work and a fair amount of thought. So I offered them cash. This did the trick and now I have a nice border around the herb garden.
Another winner has proven to be the watering hole. Not the type that serves lovely cool beverages as that would probably be frowned upon, but a swimming type watering hole. Here they act like minecraft-naive children.
They floated down stream negotiating the “rapids” squealing and yelling the whole way. Their explorations took them far enough away that I became worried and had to go make sure they were still OK.
What most delighted me is the questions they came back with. What are the little bundles of sand on top of the boulders? What are these grasshoppers? The little bundles, when opened revealed a tiny larva -- probably a caddisfly. Caddisfly larvae are renowned for their ability to build little fortresses around themselves with debris from their surroundings.
More striking were the “grasshoppers” which were actually stonefly larva exoskeletons. The main similarity to grasshoppers is that there are no wings and they have six legs. As you can see in the image the stonefly has left this covering behind. Apparently they will molt more than a dozen times before becoming adults.
The kids went back to swimming and I went back to reading. Maybe this unscheduled summer thing will work out. Today we built a chicken shack. The boys designed it and both got to use the chop saw… under strict supervision of course.