Summers are always a time when families spend time together; getting to know one another or discovering the world together. Some families have memories of decades spent waiting for the summer to come so they can come back together at the same spot each year. My wife has a couple places like that; every family should have a place like that. Nothing illustrates the passing along of tradition then to be able to pass along the adventures one had to a child. That place, with it's boathouse, dock, fireplace, tin roof and stories from Grandpa about how the place became part of the adventures my wife had and now part of the life adventures my son will have.
I never had a "summer place." According to the American Camping Association, about 8 million children go to summer camp each year. Don't get me wrong, we had vacations. The stories I could tell about my pre-pubescent eyes ogling the topless women as they walked by on the Spanish beach. Or, the herculean size of the ants that walked about the beaches in France. But we never had a "place." I like that my wife had a place (2 actually but I'm telling you about Little Bitterroot Lake in Montana). I think it may have given her a grounding, I'm not sure. What I do know is I look forward to watching her share her memories with our son, Liam.
The drive is memorable enough. It is long but it winds through some beautiful landscape and gives my son the opportunity to spend time with his mom in a car. If you've never done a road trip with a loved one - do it. Nothing separates a relationship from a Relationship than a 10-hour drive from Portland, Oregon to the lake in Montana. When they were driving my wife saw a moose and was faced with the same dilemma I have been faced with time and again: stop, turn around and get a better look [at which time the moose will probably have bolted] or keep on going and deprive our son of seeing a MOOSE for goodness sakes! They kept going but he had caught a glimpse so it was worth it. That's the thing about this long drive through cities and countries, you never know what you'll see.
When they arrived at the lake, it is a requirement you go down to the shore and just marvel at the lake and shimmer as the sun bounces off the lake's surface. It really does just absorb the stress from your shoulders the moment you arrive. When I get there, the shoreline is usually the first place I will go to relax and the feeling of ease just washes over me and the senses become dulled instantly. Next is a walk around the forested area. It is almost impossible not to put Liam on my head because it just feels like the right thing to do. It's that or we walk together with fishing poles whistling the theme from the Andy Griffith show [ha! Liam actually has red hair like Opie! No freckles though].
But the good times really come when I can just sit with my boy and enjoy the dock, cool water and just listening to him wonder, discover and ask more question than I have ever heard. ever. He picks up rocks, and shells and other things that I have yet to identify but asking questions all the time. Every time something is gathered up in his little hands, they are thrust forward, "Is this a shell?" "Do you like this rock?" "What is this?" "Can I throw this rock?"
But eventually, we find the traditional swing and sit down to settle ourselves after a wonderful vacation in the same place that mommy explored with her siblings, finding rocks, fishing, sitting on the dock and thinking, questioning, believing. I hope we have this place for a long time because this kind of real life, authentic learning is what education is all about.
Classrooms for early childhood educators should be a place of wonder, discovery and asking questions. But with a core curriculum, academically-based all day Kindergartens and standardized education for grades k-3, the passion for discovery and the inspiration to ask questions, all kinds of questions, not just the kind that the teacher's guide suggests you will hear, are being sapped from our youngest learner's lives.
I appeal to the early childhood educators to provide opportunities for questioning and discovery - it is the way we learn.