This post is dedicated to my friend Melissa, a partner in parenting and inspiration in all manner of creative and intentional living.
Melissa and I met on a playground when our daughters, were just learning to walk. I felt an immediate connection to her, another East coast gal making a go of it in the midwest. Like me, Melissa came to Columbus for Ohio State. Her husband is a graduate student in the Art & Technology program and another person I am thrilled to have Cora spending time with. Andrew takes apart toys so he can mess around with their electronic guts. He builds 3D printers in his basement studio and prints things that contribute to, and alter, the world the girls’ play in. Case in point, the urinal he made for Maya’s dollhouse. Melissa can make anything out of felt. She sells her stuff on Etsy and gives the most beautiful gifts.
Harboring not so warm-and-fuzzy memories of their own early educations, Melissa and Andrew plan to homeschool Maya, beginning with preschool. Since we do a childcare swap a few days a week, we’ve batted around the idea of doing this together. But I know that we have already begun. As I said, when Cora is at Maya’s house, she is learning all sorts of things from the handmade and repurposed stuff there. It’s like a museum with salon-style collections of images on the walls and shelves full of things collected and crafted over the years. The girls roam pretty freely, exploring how to get along and make their own fun and games.
Our house feels a bit sterile by comparison. I like to hide most everything behind cabinet doors when it’s not in use and Dan and I, for all our love for and friends who are artists, don’t have a ton of stuff on the walls. I guess you could say we have a somewhat minimalist decorating style. But I’d like to think that what my home lacks in inherent inspiration I make up for through my interaction with the girls. Mind you, I also take advantage of their increasing ability to entertain themselves. (This past week while Maya was with us I got through the junk mail pile and cleaned the microwave!) But, when the opportunity arises, I’m starting to explore more intentional ways to push their learning, as I do when Cora and I are on our own.
And so it was last week when the girls had me playing a hair styling game in which I adorned their heads with every barrette in Cora’s collection. They were disappointed once the supply exhausted, so I suggested we take them all out and do it again. As I took the barrettes out of Maya’s hair I was truly amazed by the size of the pile. I said, “This is a lot of barrettes! I wonder how many there are here. Let’s line them up and count them.” And we did. The girls got a little lost in the counting after 12 or 13, but we made it all the way to 19. Then we did the same for Cora’s pile. Next we sorted everything by color.
This activity wasn’t rocket science. But, it was grounded in a conscious desire to provide spontaneous frameworks for the girls to practice developmentally-appropriate skills. Next up, developing some real and mental lists of more things to work on so I can be prepared the next time a teachable moment arises. Recommendations welcome!