Friday, May 7, 2010

Guest Post: Nathan Musack on Spontaneous Learning

Nathan Musack is maintenance technician, writer, musician and follower of Blogging 'Bout Boys. He's also the father of four children: Twin boys (11), a daughter (8), and another little boy (2). When he mentioned the hole-turned-archeological-dig in his backyard, I just had to hear more.

In mid March, my twin sons and some of their friends started digging a hole in our garden. Personally, I would have forbidden this activity. However, my wife allowed it because it kept them out of the house during their spring break. Our home is That House: the house where all the kids gather. It is not unusual for us to have 7 to 10 kids in our yard. You can understand mom's need to keep them outside.

This hole started out as a fox hole for a war game the kids were playing. My wife and I are continually amazed at the creative, imaginative play our children engage in. This kind of activity is not unusual in our household. We encourage and support (and often clean up after), their creativity.

Our garden is in a corner of the yard that must have been a trash heap or burning area at one time. As the kids were digging and the hole got deeper and bigger, they started to find pieces of glass, porcelain, crockery, etc. The fox hole had now become an archaeological dig and a wonderful spontaneous learning experience for all of us. We explained to the children that at the time the house was built, 1903, trash was often burned. There were no recycle bins for glass or anything else.

The kids discovered three intact items during their dig. One was a small, clear glass bottle. We explained that it once likely held an extract or something of that nature. The second item was a clear glass jar. It is difficult to say exactly what this was for, but it is likely that it was a canning jar. The jewel of their discoveries is a brown glass bottle about the size of a 20 oz water bottle. This bottle had the word, “Kepler”, around the neck and Wellcome on the bottom. The neat thing about this bottle is we were able to research it online. It turns out this bottle once contained a formula of cod liver oil and malt extract.

Of course I got the pleasure of filling the hole in and reclaiming our garden. Planting time is coming.

Have your boys been involved in any spontaneous learning adventures lately? Tell me about them!


  1. What fun for your children! My son was very much into finding things and making something out of whatever he found. He would go around the neighborhood looking for wood, boards, nails, whatever he could find. And then he'd drag it home and create something. Once, it was a tree house.

    He was also a child who liked to draw. He'd make those little cartoon flip books a lot. You know, the ones where you draw a picture on a bunch of pages, the same image or character, and change it just a little bit on each page. Then, when you flip all the pages, one by one, the cartoon character or image moves. He liked the idea of the action. He'd show me his new flip books, and he was so proud of himself. He's 26 now, and his new creations are two babies. He's proud of them as well. Great post. Reminded me of a sweet memory to share at brunch on Mother's Day tomorrow.

  2. Very cool Bike Lady.

    You know exactly what I see every day. It is amazing what they can create out of cardboard and duct tape. Or whatever else they find.

    Happy mother's day to all the mothers out there.

  3. Cardboard and duct tape should come standard issue with boys. ;)