Peace, love and happiness

Early this spring my son and I spotted the first of many peace, love, and happiness graffiti paintings we would see in the city this summer.  You have probably seen them too. They are on bridges and overpasses, on old train cars; all of the usual places you would find graffiti.   I loved them so much I used peace, love and happiness as my name here on the blog.

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I am usually fairly opposed to the idea of graffiti. I try to teach the ideal of respecting other people’s property and the practicality of using paint only on paper or other approved surfaces so my house and furniture is not covered in Crayola water paints. I don’t care how washable they are, they do not belong on the side of the couch!  In this particular case of graffiti though, I was far from offended; I was inspired. We had a great conversation about peace, love and happiness; about how our world is rich in these qualities but could always use a reminder to focus on them more.  Every time we spotted another peace, love, and happiness symbol we remembered to be kind to others and to appreciate the wonderful things we have in our lives. It turned into a great summer-long scavenger hunt.

I have always believed that people are basically good; that most of us strive for peace, love and happiness.  Surely, the paths we take toward those goals have a multitude of appearances.  Some paths have a more obvious outward appearance of goodness than others. Despite those outward differences, I’ve always believed that deep down inside we are all more similar than we are different and we are all striving for a better world for ourselves and for our fellow citizens.  I’ve tried to teach those qualities of basic goodness and tolerance to my son.

The recent election results have shaken my beliefs to their very core.  I am a pretty conflict avoidant person (peace, love, and happiness right?) so I was hesitant to address this here.  I don’t want to offend anyone, but I really feel like this needs to be said.  How nearly half of our nation’s voters could cast their ballot in favor of hate and intolerance is beyond my comprehension.  I have been forced to confront the very real possibility that my rose colored glasses are just that.  Perhaps the world is not as kind and generous a place as I thought it was. Perhaps a large part of our country is so angry and self-centered that they are not basically good deep down. Perhaps they are so filled with hate that they truly are striving to make the world a better place only for themselves and not for their fellow citizens. If this nation can enthusiastically elect a man who brags about bullying others, who laughs about violating women’s bodies, who threatens entire religious and ethnic groups with exclusion from our society and who has no qualms about lying to anyone about anything to get what he wants; what are we to tell our children?

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Those of us who have chosen to homeschool our children have taken on more than just the responsibility to teach them the academics they need to know to succeed in this world. We have also taken on more than the average parent’s share of the responsibility to teach them the values and morals they will need to succeed in this world.

I have always tried to teach my son to be kind to others and to be considerate of the needs of those around him.  I think those are important qualities for most of us to have in a civilized society.   Now I am doubting if those qualities are going to serve him well. In a world filled with bullies who have been emboldened by the mass cultural embrace of our president-elect, how far will kindness get him? Perhaps I should work harder at teaching him to make sure he gets the first spot in line even if he has to push others out of the way to get there. I’m fairly certain that is what the children in the homes of the adults who elected this man are teaching their children.

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I have always tried to teach my son that hard work and education are important keys to success in this world.  The blue collar work ethic of Pittsburgh was drilled into to me as a child and became a strong part of my core set of beliefs. If you are willing to work hard and learn, you will be successful.  Again, I am doubting now if those qualities are as important as I thought. If the candidate who has spent her life preparing for this position, who on paper was the most qualified candidate for president in decades, was defeated by someone who knows no more about foreign policy or about the way our government works than my five year old son does; perhaps being prepared and working hard is not as important as I thought. Our children are watching. I can see the wheels turning in son’s head as he thinks, “Perhaps bravado and making things up as you go along is the way to go. It is certainly an easier path. Why work hard if you can just lie your way to the top?”

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I have always tried to teach my son to include others and to embrace differences. I’m sure you have all been to pre-school playtime and seen the exclusion of one child or another.  As mothers, I think most of us try to limit that type of unkindness and encourage our kids to explore the idea of including those who have different ideas and interests in their game if they want to play.  This is the foundation of the social skills they will need to work with groups of people, personally and professionally, for the rest of their lives.  What are we to tell our children, when the leader of our country feels free to discriminate and threaten people based on their race, nationality and religion? Is it acceptable for exclusion to occur on that level, but not on a more personal level on the playground?  How do you explain that to a five year old?

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I could continue, but frankly the whole topic is depressing me so I will stop here.  My coping strategy so far has been to tune out – the TV is off; I am not reading the news; I have been staying at home a lot and Facebook is sending me increasingly frantic messages about how many urgently important things have happened in my account since I last logged in.  I know burying my head in the sand is not a viable long term solution to this problem, but it is the best self-preservation method I have been able to come up with.  So what are we to tell our children for the next four years? How are we to negotiate this hostile new world in which we live? ~P.L.H.

Everyday Lessons

I am sure I’m not alone in loving the everyday lessons that arise as a homeschooling family.  Sure, I feel great when I pull off a well designed lesson plan, and the learning meets my expectations.  However, my heart positively soars when I see my children gaining solid knowledge in organic ways that simply pop up as we do life together.  Life skills are never far away, and if we walk through life slowly enough to have the luxury of doing tasks in careful, mindful ways, then these lessons are ready-made!

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Are you ever struck by the “are we doing enough?” question as a homeschooling family?   I wrestle with those concerns weekly.  I think about the specific tasks that “should” be done but sometimes fail to make the top of the daily to-do list.  I feel the stress creep in as the joy gets pushed out.  Then I force myself to make a mental list of the life skills we practiced that day.  My household has five children in it, so there are many opportunities to practice sharing, negotiation,  compromise,  selflessness, organization, categorizing, decision-making, leadership, and forgiveness.  We exercise our bodies, our minds, and our creativity.  Every single day.  Even on the down days when we lounge a bit and read a lot, we are practicing many skills that will be valuable long past these “school years.”

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When I think about my deepest reasons for homeschooling, I come back to appreciation.  For my children (and myself!), I desire an appreciation for the beautiful Earth that has been given to our care, an appreciation for music and art, an appreciation for my kids’ own abilities to create music and art and objects of all kinds, an appreciation for their unique personalities and capacities for learning and sense of humor, and an appreciation for meaningful friendships.  In our particular family, an appreciate for God as a loving Creator is of foremost importance.* I want my family to have the time to appreciate these things and more–all those wonderful intangibles such as honesty, integrity, humility, and grace.  Don’t forget the very concrete skills, too.  We experience our share of laundry, sewing, dusting, digging, and cooking (and on and on and on).  So much life to live!

Everything I have listed can be found in the unique and brilliant lives of families who choose public and private schools as well.  I do not doubt that!  However, I love the opportunity to thoughtfully craft a life for my family that makes room for these things purposefully and without hurry.  When I have doubts and worry about the many, many subjects to cover in the fleeting years we have, I give thanks for the everyday lessons we share together.  They add up to a magical sort of life.  ~Erica~

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*Neighborhood Homeschool has a diverse staff of bloggers from a variety of lifestyles and faith traditions.  This is an welcoming space where people can share their unique experiences and points-of-view.

Knowing, Acknowledging, and Playing in Nature

Having confessed in my first post for Neighborhood Homeschool to being sort of an “inside girl,” it may seem strange for me now to write a post about nature. I should say, I’m an inside girl except when I’m not; I grew up in a state known for its outdoor activities (West Virginia), I’m an avid hiker, and I camped frequently as a child. As I’ve grown up, I’ve become a vegan and an environmentalist, with a strong love for animals, plants, and other wild things.

Still, one thing I mourn about modern life, and modern city life in particular, is the loss of an intimate experience with, and therefore knowledge of, nature: its seasons and its processes (though I totally agree with Tracy Born that one can take nature walks in the city!). Several years ago I took a walk with my father, who unassumingly identified different trees along our route, and I was amazed to discover this about him. It never came up when I was a child. But, of course, he lived on a farm until he was a young teenager and this knowledge is a part of him. (I think this also had to do with his generation; my family has recently been enjoying Jean Craighead George’s hilarious autobiographical book, The Tarantula in My Purse, in which she describes her kids growing up in the 1960s and having closer relationships with wild animals than I can imagine any family having these days.) I realized simultaneously that this was knowledge that my father never taught me, that was lost from his generation to mine. And now, living in the city, nature isn’t something I have to confront in my daily life; I can choose to completely ignore it for the most part. At the same time, it is here, just as present as the more demanding facets of city life. An uncultivated woods is just blocks from my home; an ecosystem is all around me.

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As I have been homeschooling my son (now nearly six years old), one of my priorities has been for us to rediscover knowledge of nature together, in part because I long for it and in part because it feels necessary and crucial in a world where nature’s voice is so often drowned out by other louder, human priorities. When I say voice, I mean that literally. Though we have used several resources so far in our quest to learn more about nature, including classes at a local nature center which focus on things like identifying animals and plants, some of the best resources that I have discovered are the Kamana for Kids series and other books by the skilled tracker and formidable nature educator, Jon Young. Last winter, after my grandfather bought a bird feeder for my son, I brought Young’s book, What the Robin Knows: How Birds Reveal the Secrets of the Natural World, home from our library. In this revelatory book, Young shares the truth, supported by research, that birds can communicate with each other, as well as with other animals, and that their communications are heavily influenced by their responses to the human world. Humans, Young points out, used to understand this language because it revealed information that contributed to hunting and gathering, and to avoiding predators; this is, again, knowledge that has been largely lost, but it can be rediscovered.

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Learning bird language is a topic that is deep, but also fairly accessible and rewarding even for a beginner. In just a few months, my son and I came to know some 6-7 species that visited our feeder and the “baseline” sounds they made, enough so that we could begin to recognize when they were communicating something different—and, equally importantly, so that we could not interfere with them in our unconscious movements through the world, so that we could walk by them gently and acknowledge them, so as not to cause them to fly away in what Young calls a “bird plow.” Acknowledgement of nature, it turns out, is a natural offshoot of having knowledge about it—and Young argues that it can have a positive effect on keeping the animals around us safe from predators. Hawks apparently frequent trails popular with runners, so that they can take advantage of the birds fleeing from the humans.

My son seems to be drawn to nature as much as I am, though his investment is as much in playing in nature as in learning anything specific about it. The Kamana for Kids book series put out by Young’s organization is brilliant in its understanding of kids’ need to play in nature. (I recently heard that Young developed some of his ideas about nature education through his experiences with homeschoolers when he was involved with his mentor’s nature program in New Jersey!) The books are composed of magical stories, which teach kids about “nature awareness skills”: deer ears for listening, owl eyes for seeing, raccoon touch for feeling, and dog nose for smelling. While Young recommends that children and adults can learn a lot by staying still and observing one “secret spot” on a regular basis, his Coyote’s Guide to Connecting with Nature emphasizes that for most kids, this skill is best learned through play—hiding under leaves, for instance, which emerges organically in many child-initiated games, is a great way to experience stillness and a chance to notice minute things about nature.

I was glad to remember this when my son and I recently visited the “secret spot” we chose in our urban woods. My son is the most active person I have ever met, and rarely sits still, so though I am drawn to the meditative aspects of Young’s ideas for nature learning, I wanted to be careful not to require this of him. I was happy when he developed his own game for using “deer ears,” a sort of blindfolded hide-and-seek where we took turns running away and seeing if the other could tell which direction we went with hearing alone. It was the most fun. (The other thing that my son wanted to do in the woods was take pictures—and I was intrigued to see what things he wanted to preserve and see again. He was especially interested in the interplay of light and shadow under the cover of the tall trees. All of the images in this post were taken by him!)

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Though we haven’t visited the “secret spot” as often as Young recommends (he recommends going every day), I think learning about nature is going to be a big part of our learning together. In addition to feeding and watching the birds, we have a garden and my son loves picking things to plant. I am learning about natural medicine from Rosemary Gladstar’s Medicinal Herbs: A Beginner’s Guide. With all of my explorations, I am increasingly aware that nothing is truly wild and nothing civilized; we are deeply interconnected with the natural world and the interface between humans and nature is fraught with complications. In the end, I don’t know exactly what I’m planting by trying to learn about the natural world with my son; the past of humans’ relationship with nature has been, to a large degree, devastating and the future of our lives as humans in nature is uncertain. It is inevitable in the changing world in which we live that some of the old knowledge about nature will be lost; I’m hoping that some of it can be passed on and there is still room for a more respectful acknowledgment.–Anneimgp5381

Unexpected Lessons

One of my favorite things about homeschooling, especially in the city, is how many times we go out and happen upon learning experiences.  We are a pretty active family who likes to explore and always be on the go.  Even the most routine adventure can be turned into a lesson, which appeals to this worksheet hating mama.

My son’s bike needed minor repairs and had been out of commission all summer.  We were so busy city pool hopping though that it wasn’t really an issue.  Now that the weather has returned to sanity (goodbye 90° and up!) I figured it was time to take care of the bike.  Every parent with highly active children know the value– for the kids and any person around them– in making sure they are well exercised.

The bike was a gifted to my son, Xavier, from our friend Rocky, who volunteers in a beloved community bike shop.  The shop owner made a habit over the years of reconditioning bikes to give to less fortunate kids and families who may not be able to afford purchasing one themselves.  We happened to be one of those families at the time and I can’t express the amount of joy Xavier had receiving it.  Since I know nothing about servicing bikes, I messaged the man who built it.   Xave is really into fixing so I asked Rocky if he could be a part of servicing the bike, it was no problem.

We got to Kraynick’s Bike Shop in the Garfield community of Pittsburgh, unloaded the bikes (we brought the whole family’s) and went in to set up.

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I wasn’t aware of it before, but the shop is actually set up as a workspace for the community.  Locals can come in and tune their own bikes, or have Mr. Kraynick or a volunteer fix it for them. Either way, people are encouraged (though not made) to take part in the process.   This was perfect!

Rocky mounted the bikes on the rack, one after the other, and proceeded to show Xavier the basics of how to oil the chains, test and adjust the gears on the adult bikes, fill the tires, and fix a slipped chain.  Xavier mentioned that he would like a hand brake, so Rocky went above and beyond and showed him how to install one as they worked on it together.  He even threw in a headlight for the night riding Xave so desperately wants to do (‘fraid not yet, my young son).

This morning Xavier is schooling me on how the brake works, how to put it on, and where the rear hand brake will go when he has mastered the front one.  There is nothing more satisfying to me than seeing my children learn practical life lessons.  We love book learning, that certainly has a place in our homeschool days, but seeing them learn how to actually take care of things themselves is priceless.  The added bonus yesterday was Xavier seeing community in action.  These two things combined– practical learning and community involvement– made a wonderful day of unexpected lessons.  And it was amazing.   ~Audrey

Urban Nature Walks: No Meadow Required! By Tracy Born

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Nature walks and nature journaling have been an enjoyable part of our homeschool for years. My homeschooled sons are adults now, and have memories of neighborhood nature walks, and now, my ten year old daughter and I are carrying on the tradition.The key to keeping it enjoyable, and not stressful, for us, has been finding nature in our own backyard.
While we have enjoyed an occasional visit to a nature reserve, our nature walks are usually in the Brookline neighborhood of the City of Pittsburgh. No meadow, but a sidewalk. No field guide, but Google. Perhaps not quite as romantic, but practical, and fun! And, for us, more likely to happen than a weekly walk in a meadow.
The goal of our nature walks is pretty simple. To appreciate nature, to enhance our powers of observation, and to enjoy some fresh air together, out of doors. Not too lofty, but attainable, and definitely doable. Field guides can be wonderful, and we have owned a few, but with the leaf identification apps available today, and Google at my fingertips, honestly, the guides have taken a back seat. (As has my large telephone directory…Ha!)
On a recent walk around our neighborhood of Brookline, we found different types of Maple leaves, and upon returning home looked up maple leaf identification on Google. We did a few leaf rubbings in our nature notebooks (very basic sketchbooks we use only for nature journaling) and labeled them, and that was it. No fancy dry brushing techniques necessary, or Latin names for the trees…although I do enjoy adding the latter to mine! (Must be the science geek in me!)
We have learned to identify some native plants right here on our “not so country” street. There is an abundant amount of Pokeberry just two doors down, which, my daughter was interested to know, was used as fabric dye by Native Americans, and early settlers. We took time another day sketching lichen that adorned a tree near our home, and were pleased to learn that the more lichen a tree has, the better the air quality in that area. Our tree had a decent amount, not bad two blocks away from a busy city street!

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Another plant we like to look for is Purslane, an edible succulent that can be found pretty easily around our neighborhood. We did take it for a “taste drive” one day, (in a spot we knew for sure had no pesticides and was not likely to have been tainted with car exhaust) and decided it was pretty good, but would taste better stir fried! (Did you know it’s quite high in Omega-3 fatty acids and probably lives in the sidewalk crack near your home?) All of this lovely nature, just four miles from Downtown Pittsburgh!
Although there is plenty of nature to be appreciated right out our back door, it is fun to venture out a bit, now and then, to a park, trail or nature reserve. Our favorites near the City of Pittsburgh include: Armstrong Park in Baldwin Township, Gillfillan Trail in Upper St. Clair, Beechwood Farms Nature Reserve in Fox Chapel, and surprisingly, Washington Cemetery! As a child, my mother would take my sister and I there, to collect pinecones for crafts, so my daughter and I thought we would give it a go as well! We had such an enjoyable day, discovering natural beauty in such an unlikely place, and made a memory to boot! (And brought home two grocery store bags FULL of pinecones!)
Nature study can take place ANYWHERE you are outdoors! Meadow or city street! Wether you bring a sketchbook, or just take home a memory, make it a point to get outside for a bit of your homeschool week. Go out with no agenda, but to observe and appreciate what you find. If the mood strikes you, draw something you encounter in your notebook, but if not…look, listen, breathe deeply, and enjoy the outdoors with your children. On that note, I think we’ll go outside now! Tracy Born

*****For more on nature journaling, I recommend “A Charlotte Mason Companion: Personal Reflections on the Gentle Art of Learning”, by Karen Andreola. Also very enjoyable and inspiring, “A Pocket Full of Pinecones”, by the same author. Very cozy Fall read!

Treasure Hunt

The homepage for this blog states that “Neighborhood Homeschool was born from a desire among parents to see the day-to-day stories of families homeschooling in urban settings.  Homeschooling changes a family’s relationship to its community and environment.  After all, every nook of our surroundings becomes a classroom.”  An experience in our homeschool this week embodies that description better than anything else I have written for the blog so far and I would love to share it with you.

We did a unit on maps and map reading this week.  As a capstone activity, I set up a treasure hunt of sorts for him in our neighborhood. We are lucky to live a block away from one of the longer business districts in the city.  We have three blocks full of independently owned businesses working together to make our community a fantastic place to live.  My husband and I are huge proponents of the shop local movement and make every effort we can to shop on “the boulevard” for everything we can. As a result, most of the owners of those small businesses know us and our son and were willing to be my accomplices in the treasure hunt.  It pays to know people!

There were a number of challenges including the fact that I had to get away from my son to set it up and my son can’t read yet.  My husband helped out with the first problem by distraction the little guy for a while so I could go plant the clues.  The second challenge was a bit trickier.  I decided to make the map largely with online clipart images which he could recognize as representing a business he is familiar with or the name of a street he knows.  In the image below, the stack of money is the bank and the coffee mug is the coffee shop. I was feeling particularly clever about the images for Castlegate Avenue!

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He followed clues which led him up and down the business district until he ended up with his treasure of chocolate ice cream.  Each business owner along the way engaged him in a conversation about homeschool, about maps, about treasure hunts, or about puzzles before they gave him the envelope with his next clue and a puzzle piece.   Each clue had a short verse to indicate where we were going next and the image of the next location on the map on it.   He glued the puzzle pieces onto a piece of cardboard to reveal the final clue – an ice cream cone.

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We both had a great time and so did everyone we talked to along the way. I was absolutely thrilled at how involved all of our friends in the neighborhood got.  It’s a good day when a five year old boy on a treasure hunt stops by and you can be part of the adventure.

So many things I love about urban homeschooling happened in this treasure hunt.  Not only did we get to use a map in a hands-on activity which got us out of the house, but we got to collaborate with our friends and neighbors and support our community in the process.  As stated in our blog description, our community became our classroom. What a treasure that is!  ~P.L.H.

 

Market Street

This blog began because a friend of mine and fellow homeschool mom said, “Hey, where are the urban homeschool blogs?”  She was right.  The story of urban homeschooling can be hard to find on the big internet.  The same can be true in children’s books.  Many stories written for children depict the quaint county side, the lively farmyard, or an odyssey through the wilderness.   Of course, the world of busy streets and brick row houses isn’t completely absent from children’s lit, but it seems more difficult to find than horses, log cabins, and woodland creatures.  I get excited when I find a great depiction of city life.

This week we are reading Last Stop on Market Street by Matt de la Peña (illustrated by Christian Robinson.)  This Newberry Winner depicts a tender relationship between a boy and his grandmother, a woman who “always found beautiful where he never even thought to look.”  The book takes a gentle look at poverty and gains its real meat from the themes of gratitude and perspective.  Along the way, messages of appreciation, beauty, and selflessness come through.

The illustrations are charming and meaningful in their own right, and the writing borders on poetry, making Last Stop on Market Street a delightful read-aloud selection.

In our homeschool, we used the story as a place to jump into some city artwork. I love that my kids ignored the restrictions of paper size (notice the pages taped together) and of time limits; at 3pm I quit teaching, but the kids were at the table much longer.  I call that a successful activity!  ~*~Erica

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Aviary Fun!

As I mentioned in an earlier blog post, our family is waiting for a new baby!  It’s a good time to find some new, fun activities before we settle in for our postpartum “snuggle time.”

Last week, we investigated a local aviary.  We have a fairly wide age range across the children in our family, so I always wonder if the same activities are going to appeal to all of the kids.  From talking with other homeschooling families, I know that the subject of “schooling” children at vastly different stages of development together is often a point of concern.  In my experience, kids find what interests them and dig into those topics and activities at levels that are appropriate for their learning and their personalities.  That theory held true at the aviary.

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I truly enjoyed watching my gang discover the birds and relish their array of sizes and colors.  We moved quickly through the exhibits, my husband and I hurrying along behind the kids as they explored with enthusiasm.  I loved hearing their exclamations of “Look at that one” and “Did you see how blue he was?”  So much fun.  And so much energy!

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Admission costs add up quickly for a family our size, so purchasing a year-long pass made economical sense for us.  I’m excited to see what else we can investigate and enjoy as we make the aviary a regular part of our learning.  ~*~Erica

A Week of Other Learning

In my family, our church’s annual Vacation Bible School (VBS) is a much anticipated and outrageously enjoyed part of summer.  The kids don’t quite understand why my husband and I are dragging by Thursday and Friday;  for them, VBS is simply great summer fun.  But it is exhausting as the volunteers put everything they have into creating a great week for the children of the church and the surrounding community!  (I taught the preschool class, and my husband played “Dr. Drip” in the daily skit.)

VBS was a big part of my childhood as well, and now, as a homeschooling parent, I appreciate the opportunity for different kinds of learning, surrounded by other kids in the middle of the summer.  Although this isn’t a week of math or computer science, legitimate and sometimes amazing learning happens.  From a technical point of view, I absolutely count this as “real school” that makes it’s way into our portfolios (art, physical education, reading, and history are covered nicely), but from a heart-stance, I am thrilled with the exploration and genuine discovery that happens during this annual event.  I see spiritual growth and social development happening in abundance.  My children encounter kids they see weekly but also folks who usually would not cross their paths.

Finally, I appreciate the intergenerational aspect of VBS.  From the parents of their peers to the more senior members of our congregation, I love to see the organic opportunities for kids to create friendships across ages.  I’ve watched a particular bond growing between my oldest son and his male Sunday School teacher.  It’s a beautiful thing to see.

Vacation Bible School reminds me of the benefit of a radically (if temporary) different schedule from time to time.  Sure, we had really late bedtimes and quite a few missed baths during VBS week, but everyone flopped into bed happy, exhausted, and ready for more!  ~*~Erica

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Dollars and Cents

I’ve found another reason to Legos. Not that I didn’t have plenty of reasons to love Legos already – they are good for hours of entertainment, they teach spatial relations, they are great for small motor skill development, they demonstrate the importance of following directions (and following them in the correct order), but I have found another. They have taught my son about money. Well, yes, the interesting sets cost a fortune and that is a good way to learn about the value of money and how to save it, but that is a topic for another post.

My son recently decided to start his own Lego business. The business plan goes something like this: he gets out the Lego bricks he already owns and builds something, he then describes its various features to me and tells me what the price is, I agree or start negotiations based on the value I place on the benefits and features he has described to me, he then collects his coins and gives me the Lego creation or comes back with a lower price or a better description of the benefits to try to talk me into the higher price, then we start over again at the beginning. This has been going on for a week or so now and let’s just say that I now “own” a lot of Legos.

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I am loving this game for several reasons. The first reason is that he is playing with his Legos again! We got stuck in a phase of only building new kits purchased at the store and not creating our own structures. That is a quick way to empty your bank account! The Legos, which were previously an item which was played with daily, began to sit untouched for weeks at a time until there was a new kit to build. Instead of playing and creating, my son was wandering around the house, bored and unable to find something interesting to occupy him. The Lego business has rescued him from the doldrums and from the claws of consumerism.

The second reason is that he is learning about the value of the various coins and how they compare to the value of the various bills. This has worked against me in his pricing scheme (he used to accept my offer of 4 pennies instead of 4 quarters in negotiations), but has been a great way to teach him what a nickel is and that you need five of them to make a quarter. We haven’t done much formal math yet, but he is getting a great head start on the mental math of adding, subtracting and comparing values.

The third reason is based in his entrepreneurial spirit. He comes from a family of several generations of small business owners and looks to be suited to business ownership himself. This early venture is the first of what I am sure will be a string of businesses. The first main hurdle he is working to overcome is the idea that once you sell something to someone you no longer own it. Keeping the pieces he has already sold to me from becoming part of new creations to be sold again has been hard. They are still living in the play room and in plain sight when he is building new sets. Eventually, when the game has run its course and the Lego business closes up shop, I will give them all back to him and not make him pay me for them, but while I am still “buying” Legos from him, I am trying to impress upon him that I will not buy the same Lego twice. It’s a confusing leap for a five year old!

The last reason is that he is learning excellent negotiation skills. This kid was born a good negotiator – if you tell him to do (or not do) something you better have a reason (and a very good one at that) at the ready. His ability to question authority and to seek consensus at the age of five amazes me. Some days, I would love to pull out a “because I said so” and be done with it, but most days I appreciate how useful this skill is going to be when he is adult and he is arguing with someone who isn’t me. Determining the value of his work and recognizing that different people will value something more (or less) than others has been an interesting side effect of the Lego business. If you want to get rich, as he most certainly does, you need to produce something which not only you think is awesome, but that other people are willing to give you money for.   Another confusing leap for a five year old.

So there you have it, my unpaid glowing endorsement of Legos and the myriad benefits associated with starting your own Lego business. ~P.L.H.