Today at 2 o’clock, I found myself lying down and having my toe nails painted. My eight year old daughter, donning a shower cap for the full spa-lady treatment, polished my toenails, teal on the left, hot pink on the right. As I lay there, I wondered what a fly on the wall might think about this snapshot of our day.
Some might wonder how painting toenails is in any way “educational.” It doesn’t look like school, so in what way does it benefit my daughter? Was it just a sneaky way for me to have a lie down and a spa treatment after lunch? I admit it was very nice (that is, until the five year old started jumping on my stomach), but it was so much more than a pedicure.
We have a wonderful picture book on our shelves that tells a story backwards, using the word previously to lead the reader through preceding events right back to the start of the story. If you want to know how painting toenails benefits my daughter, you’d have to look at the whole picture, tracing our day back to the beginning.
Before painting my toenails, my daughter arranged her bedroom to resemble a beauty therapist’s office. She changed the lighting, donned a costume (the shower cap, remember?), set up chairs and blankets, bowls of warm water and wash cloths, bottles of unguents and colorful polishes. Pretending games and role play are still a huge part of her life at this age.
Previous to this, she asked if she could make a homemade face mask in the kitchen. She used the stove independently, set up a double boiler, measured ingredients with weighing scales, read the recipe, then cleaned up after herself when she was finished. All the while, she narrated what she was doing, as though making a YouTube video. When she’s ready to write a description of what she did, she will have all the necessary elements in place: beginning, middle and end, all the important details and the step-by-step instructions.
Previous to this, she spent a good hour reading through the homemade natural beauty products book she’d just checked out from the library. My reluctant reader (“reading’s boooooring”) actually read. She decided what to make, she made a convincing case for what ingredients she would substitute, I agreed and she got to work.
Earlier in the day we took our scooters to the library for some fresh air and exercise, where she used the library computers to find books about interests. She used the library catalogue to find her book on the shelf, and checked out the book without help.
If you want to tick boxes, as far as I’m concerned, they’re all ticked. But one of the many things I love about home/school/life magazine is the life part. Education isn’t just about worksheets. It’s about life. It’s about having the tools to figure out what you want to do, how to do it and to be equipped with the confidence, independence and wherewithal to actually do it.
Maybe the principle way my daughter benefitted from painting my toenails was all the work that went into getting there. But don’t forget about the home part to home/school/life. I love having my children at home because we have so many opportunities to connect as mother and child. As I approached her room today, my daughter welcomed me like a real beautician. She made small talk about the weather and upcoming vacations. She rubbed my feet and we laughed together. Her little brother came in the room and climbed over the top of me as she tried to paint my nails. Afterwards she said, “Will you recommend me to the rest of the family?” Of course I would. We hugged.
Connecting with my daughter, building a strong relationship with her and showing her that I trust her—all of these things matter so much to me. To me they are just as important to her education as all the stuff that happened previously.