Day 2: Co-op

Tuesdays are co-op days.

‘Co-op’ probably means different things to different people.  Ours is effectively a one-day-a-week school held in a Unitarian church, though the program itself is secular. Classes (two periods in the morning, and two after lunch) are offered for different age groups, from Pre-K through high school. Some teachers are moms of students, some come from outside. All are highly qualified. We pay for classes. It can get expensive. There are a lot of students, in every corner. Moms stay on site, mostly in the large wooden main space, working on their laptops, talking to other moms. There’s a nursery/playroom for littles. At lunch time kids, even big ones, spill out onto the narrow lawn that encircles the old stone church, running, playing crazy tag games, gathering in little groups, crawling behind the bushes, talking about whatever kids talk about.  A couple of moms sit outside or stand around to enforce the few rules and keep an eye out, but mostly they chat, too. Some of the little girls, in particular, prefer to spend lunchtime in the playroom.

There’s a Girl Scout troop that meets the last period of the day. In fact, Girl is newly a Daisy Scout. She knows the Girl Scout Promise. So does Boy. Girl told him he, too, would be a good Girl Scout. Lately, when Girl does something particularly considerate or helpful, she declares, “Because I live by the Girl Scout Law!!”

Today Girl also learned about elephants. She tells me on the ride home: elephants have pads on their feet so that they walk quietly, even though they are so big. She tells me: Africa elephants have large ears that flop around. Asia elephants have small ears, that cannot flop. She made a book of seasons. She drew a picture about the book Who Owns the Sun, a picture of things ‘too beautiful to own’. The sun, the stars; also me. You are too beautiful to own, Mumma, she tells me. I’m fairly certain she doesn’t much understand that book (it’s about slavery) but I am extremely gratified by the drawing nonetheless.

Boy tells us, driving home, that he learned about long-distance communication in ancient times. The ancient Chinese used kites, he tells us, the kites were big and could be seen from a long way away. Also, people could use flashing mirrors.  One flash could mean everything was okay. Two could mean danger. Three could mean an enemy was spotted. Or carrier pigeons. They used carrier pigeons in World War I, he says. They attached a message to the foot of the pigeon. Maybe they also used them in World War II, he thinks, probably they did.

In his Mini-Makers class Boy constructed an automatic drawer. Four markers attached to a red plastic cup, topped by a popsicle stick that can spin, a little off kilter. There are tape and wires and paper clips and tin foil. He knows more about electronics than I do, I realize. After dinner we crowd around our little kitchen table, while he demonstrates, fiddling with the wire and the tin foil and the paper clip. He connects something, and the stick spins, off kilter. The contraption shakes and wobbles on its skinny marker legs, moving, drawing. Each marker moves a little differently. One makes little lines. One makes little dots, in a path across the paper. Girl says they are footprints. All of the movement originates simply from the off-kilter spin. We are fascinated. The automatic drawer reaches the edge of the paper and Boy moves it back to the middle, gently, so as not to dislodge the wire, over and over. It’s beautiful.

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