Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Neighborhood Pests

We had a very exciting evening last night, and as with most things, it was a real learning opportunity for the kids. We were sitting at the table working on a long-neglected math workbook (more about that later), when I noticed a raccoon prowling around on our deck. I quietly got the kids attention and tried to move them slowly to the slider, worried that we'd scare the critter away. Well, this guy certainly wasn't scared. I had set a garbage bag right outside the door for Doug to bring down to the trash barrels when he got home, and the raccoon was happily digging through the bag and pulling out bits of food and wrappers.

Now, let me just interrupt the story here to say that I fully recognize a normal reaction would have been to try to scare the raccoon away to avoid a big mess. Well, first off, it wasn't me that was going to be cleaning it up. ;) And secondly, how often are my kids going to get the chance to see a raccoon less than a foot away, while still protected by a thick glass door?

It was a fascinating experience. We observed the raccoons' behavior (we quickly spotted another hanging near the stairs), how he rummaged for food and held it in his paws, how he got a Ben & Jerry's carton stuck on his head (lots of laughter at that), how whenever they heard a noise outside they would freeze, and sometimes climb up the railing and into the arbor vitae. We got to examine the markings on their faces, their stripped tails, and their long claws. We talked about where raccoons live (Colwyn worriedly told me, "But raccoons live in the forest!" right when we saw them) and the geography of our neighborhood, why their fur was so thick and why their bellies were so fat, what hibernation means and what other animals hibernate and why. We talked about weather and the seasons, and how animals (including humans) adapt to changing weather conditions. We talked about why we shouldn't open the door, and how if we ever see a raccoon while we're outside, how we should stay far away. We talked about wild versus domesticated animals, and why we couldn't let the dog out to say Hello. We talked about baby raccoons and fully grown raccoons and their relative sizes. Today we came up with a few different stories about the raccoons and why they didn't come back, where they might be, etc. We also pretended to be raccoons. If Colwyn is still interested tomorrow, I may pull up some info on raccoons online.

All in all, it was a very thorough lesson. Just look at the different subject areas we touched on. I was quite impressed. And to top it all off, Doug was perfectly willing to clean up the mess (it wasn't that big of a mess anyway) and thought it was very cool that we got such an up-close encounter with raccoons.

As I mentioned earlier, we returned to the Singapore Math workbook after nearly a full month of not touching it. I didn't think it had been that long, but I date the pages as we do them. Well, we did several pages and Colwyn thought it was great fun. I'm always sure to stop him before he gets tired of it, and we only sit down to do it if he's agreeable to it in the first place. I do have to suggest activities like that most of the time, as they're out of the way and he would never think to ask for it on his own, though he does really like doing the workbooks. So far all of the concepts and activities are things he already knows how to do--I haven't had to explain anything other than briefly give him directions. I'm pretty sure that'll be the case throughout most of the book (I've looked ahead), and it isn't until the next book (we're on 1A right now and will start 1B whenever he finishes the first one) that there are some things he's probably not familiar with at all.

We also wrote thank you notes yesterday for Colwyn's birthday party. I've been having him write out "Thank You" on the front and then draw a picture on the inside, and while his spacing is usually a little off, he does great with the letters. I even had to take Lachlann for a diaper change before he had started writing "You" on one of them and he did it all by himself. We've got a few more left to do, including our out-of-town relatives who sent gifts.

Tomorrow we have a playdate with Charlotte and I'm planning on trying to fit a library trip in either before the playdate or maybe after naptime. Either that or we'll go Thursday.. but I've got a book on hold and I'm anxious to get it. :) Plus, I can handle reading the same childrens' books over and over and over again for only so long.

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