Sometimes you just have one of those days: the kids are bouncing off the walls, and the cacophony rattles around inside your skull until you can’t concentrate on a single thing. Why don’t we all go to the park? you decide triumphantly; yes, that will do the trick. Of course it takes forever to pack for a five-minute trip to the park that is just down the street.
The first thing your children want to do when they arrive is burst into five different directions at once. “No, come sit right here next to me,” you shout at them. You must squeeze something academic into this mess of a day. So everyone crowds around while you attempt to control the shoving.
“Now, let’s look at our science lesson for today,” you say as you open the book you brought. “It’s about the flow of blood in our bodies. Our bodies are filled with blood vessels that carry blood to all the parts of our body, like little…” –you look around, and receive a spark of inspiration– “…like little branches on a tree!” Right above you is a young maple, leaves just turning orange. “See that tree? First the tree has a big round trunk, then it has thick branches, which turn into little branches, which end up in tiny twigs. That’s like the blood vessels in our body: the bigger blood vessels split up into smaller and smaller parts, like branches on a tree.” Everyone looks up at the tree; even the two-year-old seems to understand.
You all examine wrists and eyeballs to try and see some real live blood vessels there. You explain how the bigger vessels are located closer to the center of your body, while the smaller vessels branch out just under the surface of the skin, where the cells have to flow through single-file.
Next, you tell them that the heart pumps blood throughout all the blood vessels all day long, but that it pumps extra fast when we exercise. “Okay, kids, I want you to run once around the whole park, and when you come back, feel where your heart is and see how fast it’s beating. Go!” They sprint around the field, laughing, shouting, hair flying. When they get back to you, they excitedly feel their chests and necks. They can’t believe how fast their hearts are. “Now, go play!” you say as you wave them off to the playground, to which they happily assent.
Does that count as “school”? The older children will of course complete their workbooks when they get back home, if they haven’t already finished their allotted pages earlier that morning. The younger children, aged two through six, might have to wait until tomorrow to do their various work pages. But did they learn something? Did it stick? Did they have fun? Did they get sunlight, fresh air, and exercise? Will they think about blood flowing through vessels the next time they look up at branches waving on a tree?
Sometimes you just have one of those days. Maybe that’s not such a bad thing.