Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Tuesday: Earth Walk, No Ballet

What on Earth is Tuesday All About?
The "official" name for what we're doing on Tuesdays is Earth Walk day... We drop Rhiannon off at preschool, then drive home and spend 2 hours walking the 2 or 3 km back to preschool to pick her up, all with journals, camera, writing/drawing materials, and identification books in tow. We then walk home with her, stopping along the way somewhere for lunch. At the end of the day, Taliesin and Rhiannon make a picture of something they learned on the walk, and we print out a sentence or two about it.

The reason this works so well is that the walk to preschool from our house is a nearly straight line, down through a cedar/fir/hemlock/swordfern forest, across a salmonberry/alder swamp, a fish-bearing stream and a meadow, past the salmon hatchery by another creek (and one of Tali's classrooms), then across one single road and up a slightly more open cedar/fir forest, past some waterfalls, and up an alder bank to the other side of the valley.

The goal of the Earth Walk is to visit the various places that lie on or near this route, throughout the seasons... to get acquainted with the life of the Earth and the seasons and natural cycles. We concentrate on researching whatever we feel like along the way, taking detours as our inspirations lead us, and generally getting to know the layout of the earth, and the ecosystems and individual plants and animals that make it so rich. This is, in my opinion, how all of us should have the pleasure of learning Math, Language, Sciences, Art, etc... as our fancy leads us. :--)

The Swamps
So today our fancy led us down away from the path, to where we galloped down the forested hill, and over some abandoned mountain-bike ramps. The last bike-ramp shoots out of the forest, across the "Dump Road" (the real name for the now pedestrian path that runs through Crippen Park, here - there hasn't been a dump in decades), and into the salmonberry-swamp on the other side.

The swamp is wet in summer, but not very muddy, and mostly explorable with reasonable footwear. So we found some frogs, some various types of woolly bear caterpillars, 5 types of ferns: licorice, sword, bracken, shield (which we plan to harvest the roots of soon for wild food day!) and deer ferns. We talked about the ferns' reproductive systems, and the sun-gathering mechanisms of some specialized (wider) leaves, on those ferns that specialize. This is the topic Taliesin chose to explore in his journal, later. We eventually came to the creek on the other side of the swamp, and picked our way along, Taliesin testing the mud-depth, in places that required it (photo).

No More Ballet for the King of Ballet
Taliesin has wanted to do ballet since he was barely two; he's been taking classes since before he turned three. He has danced in his seat at the Queen Elisabeth Theatre, to the dismay of the woman on the other side of him. He has out-paced many of his female friends in his enthusiasm for ballet over the years, but today it all came to a screeching halt. Taliesin has a hard time with unfamiliarity.

Today, after the Earth walk, and a good lunch and some drawing/writing in journals, we packed up for ballet, and on the way there Tali told me that his teacher isn't teaching him enough. "I do like her," he assured me, "but I want to do the big people's ballet."

Taliesin is registered in the boys' mixed-age ballet, which usually has mostly younger boys. The big people's ballet (kindergarten ballet) happens at the precise moment he's taking circus classes, in town. And he's been desperate to do circus for a long time, too. There is no possibility of switching to another class, at this point. So Tali said he'd try it.

But when we got there, there were 4 children he hadn't expected. Not totally foreign, he knew them all quite well, but they weren't the boys he'd expected. And he just couldn't participate. He hid in my coat as I sat beside his place on the floor. His chest tightened visibly at the suggestion of taking first position with the other boys, and he hid his face, trembling, spitting "no" at me, and grunting. It was all wrong. I got so frustrated, after sitting there for 25 minutes of a 30-minute class, that I got up and left, trailing a screaming boy behind me.

I was angry. I was so disproportionately angry that I had to put him to bed to keep myself from screaming at him (and I confess, I DID yell at him on the way home). Mama completely lost her cool. And it wasn't his fault. I was angry because I felt I'd failed: I couldn't make my son feel safe in a perfectly safe environment he's known for years. I was angry because I was embarrassed that my own son, the most experienced and gung-ho dancer of them all, was too scared to even stand up in the class he knows so well. I was mostly angry at myself, and I took it out on a little boy who didn't understand his fear anymore than I did.

After I had cooled off, I went to his room to make amends, and found him asleep. We spent at least an hour after that, cuddled up together. He explained that he didn't feel safe because the teacher had scary energy, that day. And I said, "what about Mama? My energy must have been awfully scary, too, when I yelled at you."

"Yes, but now it's just... it's just sorry."

Yep. That was me. Sorry. Very, very sorry. We talked about possibly finding a different ballet school that would have an older kids' class at a time that worked for us, but my research didn't turn up anything we thought we could handle, so, one week after buying Tali his third pair of ballet slippers, we decided to give ballet a break for this term. No ballet for the king of ballet -- and we'll see how we can sort it out in January.

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