Wouldn’t you like to go on an unschool adventure, maybe climb into a camper van and travel the world doing amazing things?
My girls want to go on an adventure, but we don’t have a camper van.
“Can we go to the beach on my birthday?” asks Sophie.
The beach? We hardly ever go to the beach. Would it be an adventure if we spent a day at the beach?
“But what if it rains on your birthday?” I ask. “We need a back-up plan, just in case.”
“If it rains, we’ll go to the science centre instead.”
Sophie’s birthday arrives. We look out the window. It’s overcast but dry. It’s not very warm but then again, it’s not very cold.
“The beach or the science centre?”
“The beach!” says Sophie. Her eyes are shining. She is grinning. She’s one happy birthday girl and she’s going on an adventure.
We pack a picnic: soft bread rolls, slices of ham, cheese, potato salad… and chocolate, lots of it.
Our puppy Nora is coming to the beach too. She’s also going on an adventure. She’s never seen the sea before. Will she like it?
We pile into the car. We are off! Soon my husband Andy is manoeuvring our vehicle down the narrow steep road towards the coast. He swings the car slowly around each hairpin bend. Sophie groans. She clutches her stomach. Will she survive the journey down to sea-level? She does! An hour and a half after leaving home, we see the sea.
“Look at all the people!” I say, as we drive past the fish and chip shop. We don’t stop. We don’t want fish and chips. We have our delicious picnic. We head to the car park just around the bay, the one that has access to the sand. Will the car park be full? Will we get parked?
We turn the corner and I can’t believe my eyes: the car park is empty. There’s not a single car in sight.
“Where shall we park?”
“Anywhere we like.”
We pile out of the car. I look up at the sky. The sun peeks out from behind a cloud just for a moment. That’s enough for me: “Sunscreen everyone, before we head to the beach!”
A few minutes later we are ready. We gather up armfuls of towels and other essential equipment. “Let’s go!”
Between the bushes, there’s a sandy path that leads to the sea. There’s a sign at the beginning of the path: No Dogs Allowed on Beach.
No dogs allowed on the beach? What are we going to do? We can’t leave Nora behind. She wants to see the sea.
“Let’s find out if there are any other dogs on the beach,” suggests Andy. “Perhaps everyone ignores that sign.” So we pull Nora along the path, through the deep sand. When we get to the end, our legs are tired. We look both ways: up the coast and down the coast. And we can’t see a single dog. We can’t see a single person either. We have the beach to ourselves. No one will even know Nora is here.
We soon discover a possible reason for the deserted beach: a bitter wind is blowing off the ocean. It whips our hair into our eyes. It holds us back as we fight our way over the sand. “I can’t walk any further!” We drop our bags and towels onto the sand.
The girls peel off their socks and shoes. No one suggests changing into swimmers. It’s not warm enough. But the cool temperature isn’t going to stop the girls splashing in the waves. How can they not go in the sea? It might be months before we make another trip to the coast. They roll up their pants. They grin as the waves lap over their feet. The dog isn’t grinning. She draws back as the waves approach.
“Come on Nora! The sea won’t hurt you!”
I sit on my towel and take photos. The wind gets even stronger and I shiver. Andy volunteers to walk back to the car to get me a coat. I drape the coat over my head like a blanket. All that can be seen is the end of my camera. I zoom in, and then from the safety of my shelter, I snap photo after photo of four girls and a dog dancing along the beach.
The girls go for a walk. They splash in the sea again. Then they drop to their knees and start shovelling sand. They are going to make a sand creature. “Let’s make Ursula the Sea Witch from The Little Mermaid.”
Is that rain? Yes, drops are beginning to fall upon us. I ignore them for a while. Then a few drops turns into a steady stream. I rush to gather up my things. “Dad and I are heading back to the car,” I yell to the girls. “Stay here if you want.” They do want to stay. Andy and I sit in the dry car sipping coffee and chatting, while four girls and a dog remain on a wet beach.
The rain gets heavier and heavier, and eventually the girls appear, dragging a soggy dog. They’re grinning. “Wow! We’re having a great day. Is it lunch time?”
It is. We all find a dry spot inside the car, or under the shelter of the tailgate, and we munch our picnic.
“Wow! This is a good picnic.”
The rain falls and falls. The car windows fog up. “Stop breathing!” I order. We are warm and dry in our own little car world.
“Hey look at the rainbow!” It’s actually a double rainbow. The rain has stopped. The girls are heading back to the beach. They want to finish their sand creature. Eight hands dig and smooth and rearrange the sand. Then four girls stand back and gaze down on a completed Ursula.
She looks magnificent. Imogen quickly snaps a few photos… just in time. The incoming tide licks at the sea witch’s tentacles. She won’t be on the beach for very long. Nor will we. It’s time to go home.
“Thank you for a wonderful birthday,” says Sophie. “That was the best day ever!”
“The best day ever? But it rained. The wind was strong and cold. You couldn’t swim. We had to have our picnic in the car.”
“Yes, but we had an adventure!”
“Anyone can go to the beach when it’s warm and sunny.”
“Not many people go on rainy days.”
“No one else is as adventurous as us!”
So you see, we didn’t have to set off in a camper van to find adventure. We found it on a beach in the rain.
When was the last time you had an unschooling adventure?