Lessons learned by bowling (yes, bowling)

Welcome to the September Carnival of Natural Parenting: We're all home schoolers

This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama. This month our participants have shared how their children learn at home as a natural part of their day. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.

 Bowling fool.

I'll be honest.  I don't know the first thing about home-schooling or unschooling.  I have a vague idea of what those concepts are, but that's about it.  

What I do know is that whether I try or not, Hawk learns something.  Is that home- or unschooling?  Beats me, but I am hyper aware of it, nonetheless.  

When kids open their eyes each morning they see something, it gets processed, logged away, and utilized.  How could I possibly not be sensitive to this?

So, here's the way I approach our days together: something happens, I model some behavior, I watch how Hawk takes it, I tweak my approach if necessary, we move on.

For example, for Labor Day there was a $2 bowling special at Dart Bowl (great, right?).  We snagged a lane, laced up, got our balls and bumpers ready and started in.  I showed Hawk how to hold his special neon orange ball, where to stand, where not to stand, etc., and then stood back and let him do his thing.  

I was surprised at how fast he caught on.  We'd been standing around for about 20 minutes prior to getting our lane, so maybe he'd gotten it that way, I'm not sure, but still.  To be almost three and waiting his turn, following the rules, and being a cheerleader for everyone else was pretty impressive.

I talked to him about the pins, taught him about all the different parts of the lane (gutter, etc.), and we watched a diverse crowd of people laugh, scream, and shout all around us; little old ladies shivered under wraps, kids darted between arcades, and names were called over loud speakers.

The lesson here was many fold:
  • 1) What happens when it's your turn and what happens when it's not?
    • When it's your turn you get to grab a giant ball and fling it.  When it's not, you get to sit and root for the other players... or run amok.
  • 2) What are the rules of the game itself?  How does that affect an almost 3 yo?
    • You can't go past this magical line, nor can you move too far to the left or right of your own lane, lest you get knocked over by a bowling "athlete."
  • 3) What's bowling etiquette?
    • Apparently, you have to wait for someone next to you to either go or let you go.  
  • 4) How much of what I'm saying is actually being absorbed by a tiny person with limited capabilities?
    • There is *this much* space for listening, *this much* space for executing, and *this much* space for anything else.  After that its:
  • 5) Ok, we've hit our max, let's go.

Our max was actually pretty amazing.  Picture this: it was our 8th frame, I think
Hawk was beating both me and Rooster who had joined us for the outting.  He grabs his glowing orange ball, trots up to the lane line and tosses his ball.  He eagerly awaits its return from the tunnel, grabs it, confidently heads back to the lane and at the very last second, moves 4 feet to his left and throws a gutter ball in the neighbor's lane.

 Too bad we don't have pics of that glorious moment of lane-stealing.

Luckily the dudes (who were very serious about their game) were also really, really nice about it.  I ran and got their frame restarted while Hawk started throwing fits.  It was total system overload.

So, we left.  Happy with the 8 frames, happy with all that he accomplished that day; lo, downright proud of all that he'd done.

I think the lessons were many fold that afternoon.  Not sure he'd ever learn them in a classroom, per se, but he learned them anyway.  I'm glad I could be there for him. 

Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!

Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:

(This list will be updated September 14 with all the carnival links.)


  1. I'm pretty sure that a few unschoolers just decided they loved you after reading this post :) Because, of course, you could expand this to be about learning math concepts, gross motor skills, physics (where the ball will roll, force, etc.), etc. etc. . Love it!

  2. Oh yeah, we're big fans of bowling in our house. My son is 8 now, so we're just starting to try it without the bumpers. Isn't it amazing how they're like little sponges, soaking up everything? You're right--they can't help but learn. You couldn't stop it if you tried. :)

    Great pics, by the way!

  3. That is one seriously cute bowler. We took Mikko candlepin bowling when we were in Massachusetts. The balls are smaller, so we thought it would be easier for him. He was eager enough to try, but he could not get any momentum at all, to where we had to get help twice to get all the balls littering our lane out of the way — since we'd run out of balls to use. But, hey, he was learning and having fun, as you say. And our max was just shy of one game as well! :)

  4. How fun! I would have never thought of taking my littles bowling!

  5. Hollis is the cutest little bowler EVER.

    As for me, I am horrible at bowling. So horrible that merely the thought of entering a bowling alley. So I'll have to hope that my kids can learn whatever they need to learn by playing mini golf.

  6. What a cutie!! Family fun activities are a wonderful way for kids to learn so many things, aren't they? I admire the way you were able to watch Hollis' behavior and ascertain when he was 'done.' That taught him tons, too! I think I might be inspired to go bowling now with my kids!!
    p.s. I like the look of your tomato soup recipe, too!! I'll be trying that one this week!!!

  7. Love this. I will have to take the kids bowling.

  8. That's actually pretty impressive! Go Hollis, go! And oops on the last ball - that's where you remember he's 3 years old, the smart cookie ;-)

  9. What a lovely post! The pics are so cute :)

    I love the idea of everyday life being a lesson.

  10. That is so lovely and love the pictures! I really like the idea of taking stock of what is learned, even privately. I think it gives so much purpose to being 'just' a mom