Taking the Teaching Outside

Yesterday, Robert did not go to school.  The reasons why he missed the school are complicated and would need a long post to be presented clearly. For the sake of this post, they can be ignored.

He woke up around 9:30 pretty happy, ate something, dressed up, watched his IPAD while I was putting new tiles on the basement’s floor.  Before 11 AM I told him that we should go to the store, for a walk, and maybe McDonald.  He chose which of two supermarkets we would go to.  (Stop and Shop).  In the car, I repeated a short list of groceries to buy that included apples, milk, and Italian bread.  I told him he would pay using his card.  Twice a month he pays for groceries.  I followed him in the store. He went to the dairy section and stopped.  On two sides of the refrigerator’s door were two men cleaning the bottom shelves.  Robert hesitated and turned away from them.  I got the milk. He proceeded to the produce section and stopped  in front of boxes with apples.  I asked him to choose and  he chose, as always, Fuji.  He found bread.  He made sure it was just plain Italian not Italian with sesame seeds or anything else, and we approached the register.  He used his card, but forgot his new pin number, and I forgot it too.  Luckily, his card still work as a credit card  so he could pay.   Before I started the car, I asked Robert, “Where have we been?” He looked a little bewildered, so I pointed to the store.  Robert answered, “Stop and Shop”.

I asked, “Where do you want to go now, Stony Brook for a walk or McDonald?”  To my surprise, Robert chose walk.  It was a beautiful day.  Robert was happy and started running.  I stopped him and  told him to run to the bench and wait for me.  Somehow, this did not seem right, so instead he walked close by.

Many years ago, when Robert was 3, 4, or 5 during our frequent walks he learned to recognize oak, maple, and pine leaves.  Now, I wanted him to learn to discriminate among broad-leaf and conifer trees.  Just the day before, we were learning about those two kinds and the third – palm trees. As we walked I kept pointing to Robert one kind or the other.  He repeated after me.  No pressure.  No overdoing.  I couldn’t help myself and pointed to Robert white bark of a small birch tree.  Just to help him recognize the familiar tree by its name.  It was a few years ago during our camping trip to Vermont when Amanda, Robert’s sister, showed him how to pick up old bark to start a campfire.

I am not sure if the name, I reminded him of , helped him remember our camping trip and the time we spent in a lean-to next to a small pond in a park close to the Canadian border.  The nature of names is to connect past and present, far away places and spaces near us.  I am not sure if the names, I am pushing Robert to learn, play the same role for him.  But recognizing names is important, as it makes one  acquainted to the nature that surrounds him or her.

On a way to McDonald, I asked, “Where did we go?” I provided the answer:  Stop and Shop and Stony Brook.  I asked again.  Robert answered, but Stony and Stop  got mixed up, so I did not ask again.  Instead as we drove, I decided to practice something else.  When we were approaching a turn, I kept saying, “We will turn. We will turn”  While turning I was repeating quickly, ‘We are turning, we are turning, we are turning.”   After the turn I emphasized   “We HAVE TURNED”.  After a few turns and similar exercises, Robert considered it a game and with a laugh finished the last sentence himself.  WE HAVE TURNED!.

And so we did.