On days like today, thinking of the expression, "It's a day at the beach," meaning that a task is relaxing or easy, requiring nothing of us but passive enjoyment, makes me laugh.
I had initially thought I would not post today, that a beach day would seem so vacationy, so clearly about only fun and play, that I would have hardly enough to work with for a post on our blog about learning. Also, the forecast called for morning clouds and afternoon rain--a good weather pattern for fair-skinned boys--so I was planning on a quick, two-hour trip.
Go figure; the weather was gorgeous and the day was full of interesting things.
I sometimes forget that about unschooling, that most of it is getting your attitude to the right place, then scraping together a set of actions that support those attitudes, and then there it is--the fun, the learning, the happy intereactions--right there to be recognized and experienced wherever you happen to be. Not always, of course, but dang often.
This is a Mole Crab. We found him whilst excavating for our first castle (seen in the background). Mole Crabs are adorable and very cool little critters who live in the harsh wash zone, where the tide comes in and out. They bury head-up, facing the ocean, with their bristle-covered feelers sticking out of the water. When the tide comes in, they collect plankton--their food--on their feelers.Then, they pull the plankton off their feelers with their front claws and eat. When the tide goes out, their little feelers lay flat against the sand, waiting for the next round.
These jem-toned little guys are Donax clams, or Coquina clams. Woody and I played a guessing game with them that I'll tell about in a moment. Plentiful does not begin to describe how many of these clams there are. But here's an example: coquina was the chief building material of the Spanish during their colonial period in Florida, and coquina is made from mostly Coquina clams.
When a wave comes in, it sends them tumbling and then, in a few inches of water or in the still-wet sand you see their little rear ends turn up as they bury themselves down again. Turns out they use the waves as a mode of transportation to get to a new place to eat! They wait just below the surface with their feeder tubes extended and catch passing meals. So, in our tide pool, Woody and I dug up handfuls of them and then chose colors for which clams we thought would disappear into the sand first. Maybe this is beach kids' version of a worm race...
We got one to come partially out in my hand. The clam itself is mystifyingly translucent, so you can barely see it below (though if you click on the pictures, you can see more details). The second picture is one I picked up off Google and shows you the anchoring in the sand and the extension of the feeding tubes much better.
Cisco is the Blue and Gold Macaw whose owners run the food cart stationed at the park. He was chatty and sweet and mostly intimidated Fox.
We stayed until sunset, which is to say that my children got sunburns, and we made our last castle, a triple-walled fortress with protected inner fields and a stream running directly through the foundation of the edifice (the better to withstand a siege). As the tide was going out, no waves came to carry this one off on our watch, but an army of invaders from the north (Fox's castle) made flat work of us in short time.
There was more. We played for two hours with a family of four at the playground up near the showers. Woody safely wrestled for twenty minutes with a seven-year-old boy he just met and they both had a terrific time. Woody asked me what makes the waves in the ocean. It's the wind, the moon, and earthquakes. We also talked about tides. When I explained to him about Florida's shape and all the beaches around us, he said, "So, a peninsula is like an island except it's attached on one side." We talked about pirates, real ones, the ones who trolled the waters we were staring at. We talked about sunken ships and what marine archaeologists find on them.
We drove home in the just-dark, both boys asleep before we turned off of Atlantic Avenue, and so ended our day at the beach.
I couldn't wait to come back and make this post. The day was so big and beautiful that the words I wanted to share tumbled around in my head for the whole hour home. I'm so grateful for this blog. It helped me to let our day at the beach be so much more than it might have been, and to let my ideas about how far unschooling could go to expand. Who knew? Unschooling can be a day at the beach...