I go to the park a lot. When you live in a two-bedroom apartment and homeschool your children, you have to go to the park a lot. Thankfully we live in an area with lots and lots of parks. Every time we come back to the States I am amazed at how many parks there are. It seems like every little extra square corner of space has a park tucked into it, and there's a shockingly large amount of extra green space around to put parks into. I suppose that living in water-poor cities that are only green in the places that people can afford to water makes you appreciate places where the grass and trees grow without anyone having do to a thing.
Our park time every day is after nap and quiet time. The morning is devoted to school and so in the afternoon we go to the park. Our apartment complex has a playground, but it's shaded in the afternoon so we only go on warm days, or when I'm feeling lazy. Half a mile away is another park that we go to when I'm looking for sunshine or feel like giving the children some more exercise. It's a lovely little thing, nestled along Four Mile Run and liberally littered with abandoned wheeled toys that the children love to fight over. A mile down the road is another park with an amazing 20-foot tall rope-spiderweb structure that everyone loves to climb.
So each afternoon we head to whatever park suits our fancy. I've been doing this for a few weeks now and I've noticed that before four o'clock we usually have to park all to ourselves. The local elementary schools get out around 3:30 and so everything is deserted. Sometimes I'll see moms with small children and sometimes I'll see nannies with their charges, but mostly it's just us.
This would have been a problem a few years ago when Kathleen and Sophia were too young to play without my help, but now they're old enough to have plenty of fun without any help from me. And Joseph and Edwin are happy to tag along, fearlessly tackling just about every thing their sisters tackle. Most of the time they play nicely and make up all sorts of games and 'clubs' and pretty much provide all the fun anyone is looking for. I don't think I've ever heard any of them ask for someone to play with who was their own age.
It's interesting to me to discover these times unused by the general population that has to march according to someone else's schedule. I've always enjoyed the time aspect of homeschooling; when I happen to run into the morning or afternoon school bus stop rush I always feel smug about not having to throw everyone into shoes and coats to make sure someone doesn't get left. If I feel like sleeping a little longer in the afternoon, I don't have to worry about my girls waiting for a mom that couldn't make it to the bus stop on time. I like having the whole afternoon to soak in the sunshine while the children form a train of wheeled vehicles, knowing that the only thing waiting for me at home is dinner. No soccer practice, no homework, no unfinished projects.
Maybe one day this will change when the children are older and life finally intrudes upon my little self-made universe. But for now, I'll find all of the empty parks and the warm spring sunshine and enjoy every bit of it. With nobody around to bother me.