From silly to strange, from colorful to soothing, from crafty to creative; the Children’s Festival has a little something for everyone. The Children’s Festival is a four day long gathering of children’s theater groups from around the world accompanied by booths from pretty much every organization which works with children in the city. There are arts and crafts, balloon animals, street performers, food trucks, a dress up photo booth, hula hoops and jump ropes, Lego car races and so much more – all for FREE! The Children’s Festival is a great example of why homeschooling in the city is so much fun. We have attended the festival for several years now and always find tons of interesting things to do there.
The beginning of our Children’s Festival adventure is always the bus ride downtown. We do not take the bus often even though the bus stop is a block from our house because the only place the bus goes is downtown and there isn’t normally much there for kids to do. The week of the Children’s Festival is definitely an exception to that rule. The excitement of going to the festival builds through the wait for the bus, the process of boarding the bus and finding our seats, the ride through the busway tunnel and finally the trip through busy downtown. We emerge a block or so from the festival in the middle of the city bustling with people going about their daily business; it’s a lot to take in for a five year old! I love that the journey to the festival is as much a part of the tradition as the festival itself is.
This year we saw “Egg”, “The Sheep” and “Goodnight Moon and the Runaway Bunny.” The variety of theater and the vastly different approaches the theater groups take to children’s theater amaze me every year.
Egg was a dialogue-free performance which featured three birds as they grew from hatchlings to young birds ready to leave the nest and fly with the other birds. It was sentimental, repetitive, and addressed the challenges of being left behind.
The Sheep was also free of dialogue and was hilarious. Rather than taking the life lesson approach taken by Egg, they took the physical humor approach. The show included a “sheep” escaping the pasture and running into oncoming traffic on Penn Avenue, a “sheep” being “milked” and the milk being fed to a child in the audience and even the shepherd tackling a “sheep” and shearing it. The kids, and most of the adults, were cracking up the whole time.
The third show, Goodnight Moon and the Runaway Bunny nearly put me to sleep; I suppose that makes sense given the topic. The production was slow and soothing with beautiful imagery in the sets. As lovely as it was, the slow pace did not hold the attention of any of the children near me for long.
These different approaches to theater made me think about the myriad of ways we approach homeschooling based on our needs and the needs of our children. Each show appealed to different kids in different ways just as each approach to education appeals to different kids in different ways. As homeschoolers, we have the freedom to pick and choose the methods and curriculum we use, the topics we focus on, the mix of active and sedentary times we work into our days and the pace at which we proceed.
We can throw in a sentimental Egg-type activity when our kids is struggling with a new developmental milestone, a silly The Sheep kind of day when we all need a break from the serious business of learning or an afternoon of Goodnight Moon and the Runaway Bunny-inspired quiet time to reconnect when things get too hectic and overwhelming. This freedom and flexibility to craft our days around the needs of our family are two of the things I am most looking forward to when we start our kindergarten studies in the fall. – PLH