Eldest has now spent three weeks over the summer at the Guelph Outdoor School, and each week got even better than the last. He told me yesterday that last week may have been the best week of his whole life. He lit fires and tended them endlessly. He shot arrow after arrow, and even hit a bull's-eye. He played games and watched and listened. He identified plants and helped forage for food. One night a week or so ago, I came into his room to tuck him in and he said, "I have my eyes closed and I'm just listening to my surroundings. I can hear a cricket outside my window." I don't know that I've ever known him to just listen before.
It feels to me like it's been a transformational experience for him. He seems to have grown up and found some kind of new confidence. And I've become hooked on the smell of woodsmoke in his hair.
With last weekend being so cold and damp, we cuddled up indoors and started looking through the books I've been collecting from thrift stores. With his new passion for archery, Robin Hood was one of the first to come to mind, and we had a version of that from the vintage Dandelion Library series. He was rapt. We went to read Peter Pan, but I was disappointed to discover that the Dandelion version was abridged. I wanted to read him the original. So that will have to wait. With his interest in castles and medieval history, The Sword in the Stone by T.H. White is also on the list, although I don't have a copy yet.
I feel like his newfound skills also give rise to a whole genre of stories of boys surviving in the woods. (He's already a big fan of the Swallows and Amazons series, and although we've only read two of them so far, I recommend them highly.) Yesterday, I happened upon this post about reading aloud, which also lists all kinds of titles. I made notes last night, including a number of titles I'd never heard of before, like My Side of the Mountain. I'd figure I'd look for them at thrift stores or the library over time. Today I went to a thrift store and in a lovely spot of synchronicity, there it was. When we read the description, he was keen so we started reading it that night. It is such a lovely book! Very well written, great for reading aloud, and so perfect for Eldest at this moment in time as he integrates all the new skills and knowledge he gained at the outdoor school. We're only about a third of the way through it, but we're all enjoying it so much, I know it's worth recommending.