By Deborah Wood, Ph.D.
Democratic decision making often occurs during a loosely planned day of homeschooling with my second grade and fifth grade grandchildren. I regularly give the students choices. They often have proposals of their own as well. We come to consensus before moving forward with an activity.
This particular day started very early since I had proposed that we try to wake up before sunrise to catch the meteor shower. The students obligingly settled into their beds for an overnight at my house and I fulfilled my obligation to hit the sack earlier than usual.
Back in September, when we were practically delirious with the joy of being together again, we took a field trip to an apple orchard. One purpose of the outing was to engage in activities that we had done together before the pandemic. Fall apple picking was established as a family tradition five years ago with a younger cousin, who has since gained a little sister, and his parents, to coincide with Jewish New Year. Among many, many other extended family get togethers, this holiday custom was sorely missed between March 2020 and the present. With vaccines unavailable yet for any of the children, a visit to the apple orchard was worked in this year as a homeschool activity for the two students and myself. We brought along masks and kept distant from the other pickers.
The trip was well-enjoyed except for one minor disappointment. It was too early in the season for the hay bale maze. This was something we had talked about on our way to the farm among our memories of prior visits. We were told by one of the farmers that it would go up in October. So I promised the children we’d be back.
A Change of Plans
All of a sudden it’s November, and I’m out of apples, so along with the early morning meteor hunt (the fifth grader and I each spotted one in the dawning sky), I proposed a return trip to the apple orchard. Balmy temperatures were predicted by afternoon, so we trudged through some fractions for the fifth grader and some spelling for the second grader before lunch.
With tummies fueled and snacks packed, this enthusiastic trio buckled in for the ride. I programmed the navigator.
Uh oh. The navigator’s robot voice announced that our destination, “may be closed”. I pulled up the website on my phone, called the phone number, and this sad truth was confirmed by a recorded message: “Closed for the season.” We were welcomed to return for strawberries in May.
Not wanting to waste the gorgeous fall afternoon with an indoor activity, I asked for suggestions of where to go instead. The quick response was, “Kinder Farm Park.” So off we went.
A Beautiful Day for a Hike
I figured the children were still processing the disappointment of not going to the hay maze so we talked about that for a while. (Learning to manage emotions counts as Health for us!) “On a scale of 0 to 5, how disappointed are you?” The answers were “5” and “6”. Yeh, we’ll definitely have to schedule this better for next year. Hopefully with the cousins.
Because I had originally planned for a much longer drive to the apple orchard we had plenty of time to spend at the park before the children were due home. As they enjoyed the swings on the playground I noticed a few hikers on the trail in the distance. Maybe this would be the perfect day to take a hike?
“How about a hike?” I asked. “No, thanks,” answered the swingers.
“Push me,” requested the second grader. Ah, I thought, now I can negotiate.
“How about I push you a few times then we go on a hike?” The simple reply surprised me. “Okay.”
Now to negotiate with the fifth grader. “What if you lead us on the hike? You can tell us which way to go and where to stop to look at things.” I could feel the decision moving in my direction. I threw in, “Look, here’s the AllTrails app in my phone. You can use it to choose where we pick up the trail.”
That cinched the deal. (We try to be thoughtful in our use of technology, but the children are so easily captivated by it!) I pointed out the location of the animal barns on the map. The fifth grader identified the main trail around the park and noted the many shortcuts. We chose to visit the animals on our way back to the car at the end of the hike.
Fall Colors and More
I collected a palette of leaves (pictured.) The fifth grader kept us on track with the app, including short cuts to take us to the barns. The second grader complained about a loose tooth in between asking to pet every single dog we encountered on the trail, correctly naming a Golden Retriever and a Welsh Corgi. I recalled this student also knew Dalmatian and a few other breeds on previous walks in my neighborhood. Hmm, another interest to pursue.
The choice to homeschool these children has brought so many beautiful moments.
Read more of Dr. Wood’s Good Parenting columns by clicking here.