One evening last week we were all sitting together in the lounge of our holiday cottage. The older girls were drawing, the younger ones were reading, and I was fiddling about with my camera. Although I’ve had the camera for a few months now I haven’t yet read the manual properly. I keep dipping into it and trying things out. I should have read the instruction booklet carefully from start to finish before actually using the camera but somehow I can’t seem to do things the correct way. I am a learn-as-I-go, trial-and-error type of person.
I tapped the camera touch screen a few times and all of a sudden I realised how to adjust the light levels for a particular function. “Hey girls! I’ve just learnt something new. I am sooo clever!” I grinned.
“Mum! It’s the holidays. You’re not supposed to be learning anything,” protested Sophie. We all smiled. It’s a big joke. We all know holidays are excellent occasions for learning all sorts of interesting stuff.
“I’m sure you’ve learnt lots too, Sophie,” I said. We sat thinking for a moment and then…
“Well, we can now all paddle a kayak and we know what to do when one capsizes.” We all remembered that moment when the kayak rolled over, depositing its occupants into the deep, cold lake water.
“Yes, we revised our lifesaving skills. And we talked about concussion and how to treat it, after Dad clonked Charlotte on the head as he turned the kayak back the right way up.”
“We saw the bluebottle jellyfish on the surf beach and we discussed the correct treatment for stings.”
“Don’t forget the hooded plovers. There’s only one breeding pair at Cudmirrah. They’re endangered birds. And the sand bar… With all this rain recently the lake has ‘opened’. I didn’t know what ‘opened’ meant until I read that board at the beach. That was interesting.”
“We’ve written our diaries every day and drawn a lot of pictures and doodles… and taken a million photos. And I’ve got lots of ideas on how to make a holiday scrappity book. Perhaps we can use the collage templates on Picnik when we get home.”
“Gemma-Rose and I cooked cakes and discovered what to do when you add twice as much milk as needed by mistake.”
“We’ve ridden the bikes. Dad taught us all about the brakes while he was adjusting them. And chains and gears. Those bikes really did need a lot of maintenance.”
We talked about the black swans and other birds we’d stalked with our cameras, the shells and rocks we’d collected, the plants in the cottage garden, the different seaweeds on the beach… Yes, the girls had learnt a lot of interesting stuff and it was only half-way through our week away.
Children are always ready to learn. They soak up everything like sponges. They love new experiences and are eager to try things out. And on holiday there are plenty of new things to catch their attention. How could they fail to learn when they are surrounded by such a rich and different environment?
Many years ago, I’d take the kids out somewhere every Wednesday. We’d pack a picnic and go exploring. We went to the fish markets and bought squid, prawns and baby octopus and then came home and cooked them for dinner. We walked through the rainforest in the botanic gardens and then visited the glasshouses. We wandered around the art gallery or the museum under the stern gaze of the curator who watched the little ones suspiciously. (I must admit that when Felicity was a toddler, she ducked under the rope barrier and touched a Monet painting. I could have died from embarrassment.)
All our Wednesdays were mini-holidays and the kids soaked up a great deal of knowledge while they were having fun.
Somewhere along the track we slipped out of the habit of going on adventures. (Too much work with babies and toddlers perhaps.) A few months ago I realised this and we’ve set out, with cameras in hand and hot chocolate in our backpacks, to have some adventures at our local lake and bushland. But I am sure there are so many other exciting experiences out there waiting for us, if only we’d think to pack up a picnic and get out of the house.
And so the holidays are over but I am wondering… perhaps the fun (and the learning) can continue….