My wife is planning a career change, and as part of this, she is studying to get her next degree online. She has set up a small room as a study, and often works from there.
One of the things that I like about this, is that it very clearly demonstrates to the boys that learning is a lifelong pursuit. Even adults have to take some space to learn new things. This is not always the thing that adults would most like to do with their day, and sometimes the whole process is a terrible struggle. I think it is good for the boys to see that they are not the only ones who have to deal with the frustrations which education can bring.
One of the things which is not so good with this arrangement is that sometimes the house needs to be quiet, and with two wildly enthusiastic young boys, this is not always easy.
The day was not progressing very well, and the boys were becoming increasingly out of control. To give us all a break, and to burn off some excess energy, we went down to one of the local estuaries for a walk along the path which follows the creek line. Determined to get something out of the day, I called it a science field trip. This really meant that we stopped to look at some of the details as we went along, and took the time to notice how they pieced together as a whole.
A brackish creek winding through tea tree swamp, it had a sandy bottom which rapidly turned to clay and mudstone at the waters edge. The path ran along the ground where it was dry enough, and used small, slowly decaying boardwalks over the wetter parts.
The boys ran in bare feet. Footwear is not strongly emphasised in our house. I think that the extra sensory stimulation walking in bare feet provides is healthy for them. Plus, of course, I don’t much bother with shoes myself, so I can hardly expect someone else to.
Taking a good look at the small mud flats on the waters edge, they both decided to stay away from that bit. The crabs and oysters were a strong disincentive. They have both stepped on oyster shells before. This provides a rapid and memorable lesson in watching where you put your feet.
The mud was full of crab holes. I am pretty sure they belonged to Orange Clawed Fiddler Crabs. These little crabs are extremely common here wherever there are mangroves growing. We also saw clouds of Soldier Crabs marching around feeding on the sandbanks. There were quite a few herons fishing in the shallow water as well.
As we walked along, we took note of how the vegetation changed. There were plenty of mangroves and tea tree when we started off. About a kilometre upstream, the ground had risen ever so slightly, and the trees were just starting to change to banksias, acacias and eucalypts.
The boys did not want to go any further, however, as they had found a dead tea tree which had fallen into the creek. A natural kid magnet, this provided them with an opportunity to look into the water while avoiding the mud and its attendant dangers.
Although not a great example, being quite bare, fallen trees like this are important to creek ecosystems. The currents often wash out a small pool underneath them. This, along the shelter they provide, make them good places for fish to hang out. Even under this one, we still found a small school of mullet having a rest.
The boys played on this tree for quite a while. Perched up there, they managed to spot the highlight of the trip. A stingray, about half a metre across, was gently cruising up the creek. It turned around at the fallen tree and quietly flew off downstream again.
Eventually, it was time to go. The boys ran all the way back along the track. Although we taken the opportunity to study the local ecology, the primary reason for this expedition was to calm everybody down. In a sense, it worked very well. It had certainly been a relaxing and enjoyable couple of hours.
Fighting and chaos resumed in the car on the way home.