Burn, baby, burn: Homework inferno

rockwood files colorBy Gwen Rockwood, newspaper columnist and mama of 3

My kids’ education just went up in smoke – again. Friday was their last day in school, so this weekend we held the annual End-of-School Bonfire. Other than Christmas and birthdays, it’s the one day of the year the kids look forward to most.

We stumbled upon this idea last spring. Tom was using a burn barrel to burn some twigs and leaves and suggested the kids toss in the piles of math worksheets and spelling tests they’d stacked on the kitchen table after the last day of the school year.

fireShocked, the kids looked at him for confirmation. “Really? We can burn our school papers?”

Tom shrugged his shoulders. “I don’t see why not. You already learned that stuff, right?”

The kids nodded furiously.

“Okay, then pitch it into the fire.”

They hooted and hollered as they retrieved their school papers and sprinted to the burn barrel with nine months of knowledge tucked under their arms. One by one, they crumpled up papers and shot them into the barrel, clapping wildly as book reports and algebra worksheets disappeared into a fine, educated smoke.

One of the neighborhood kids caught wind of the situation and asked if he, too, could pitch his papers into the fire. Why not, we said? So he ran home and came back with a backpack full of work to keep the fire going.

It didn’t take long before one of the kids wisely observed that the only thing that would make a homework-burning bonfire better would be the ability to roast marshmallows while your science project faces its fiery fate. The other kids agreed with gusto, and soon we were using wire clothes hangers to stab fluffy marshmallows and thrust them over the flames.

This year, at least two weeks before school ended, the kids were already asking about the next bonfire. Knowing it was coming helped get them through those last whiny weeks of school, when everyone had grown weary from early mornings and standardized tests.

smores photoDuring a recent trip to the grocery store, the youngest of the three kids asked if we could go ahead and buy the marshmallows, Hershey bars and graham crackers so we’d be ready for the end-of-school bonfire. Proof that our school system truly is teaching our kids a thing or two, she not only showed the ability to plan ahead, she also had the good sense to hide the chocolate bars from her older brothers so the s’mores ingredients wouldn’t disappear before the bonfire began. Smart kid.

When I picked them up from the last day of school, they climbed into the car, happily toting backpacks full of completed papers and graded tests. They showed me the stash of papers that would soon turn into a burn barrel inferno – bright orange flames licking the crumpled edges of vocabulary tests and American history study guides.

We kept the books, of course, and any folders that can be used again in the fall but the rest was tossed into our impromptu incinerator.

Huddled around it were our three kids and neighborhood friends, too – all of them gleeful for summer break, hopped up on s’mores and wide-eyed as they watched the flames do a celebratory dance for summer.

So if you detected the faint hint of smoke in the air last weekend, it wasn’t steaks on the grill. It was just the Rockwood children’s collective knowledge going up in smoke yet again. It was the smell of decimals and mixed numbers, longitude and latitude, conjunctions and proper nouns. The kids call it the smell of freedom.

Hello there, Summer. We’ve been expecting you.

gwen-headshot-2014Gwen Rockwood is a mom to three great kids, wife to one cool guy, a newspaper columnist and co-owner of nwaMotherlode.com. To read previously published installments of The Rockwood Files, click here. To check out Gwen’s book, “Reporting Live from the Laundry Pile: The Rockwood Files Collection,” click HERE.

The Friday 5: Fun things to do this weekend in NWA, May 27-29

Friday 5
1. Rug Rat Adventure Day, Saturday. Kids of all ages are invited to participate in a day full of activities and learning geared toward our primitive roots of exploration. This free event will work in stations around the Pat Rack pond, including:

rug rat day– Tyrolean Traverse
– Monkey Bridge
– Rock wall
– Boat paddle
– Nature crafts
– Face painting

Ozark Off-Road Cyclists will be here with their ice cream bike churning homemade ice cream. There will also be fruit, water, and lemonade available. Woody & Sunshine will be there with their smiles and jams.

The event will be Saturday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Pack Rat Outdoor Center in Fayetteville

Click here for more information!

2. The 2016 Giant / LIV Bike Demo Tour, Lewis & Clark, Springdale, Saturday. The Giant Tour rig and the LIV sprinter van will be set up in the Lewis & Clark parking lot from 10 a.m to 4 p.m. with lots of men’s/women’s mountain bikes and road bikes for you to try out. Come on up, say “hello,” check out a Giant or LIV bicycle, and then go for a spin around Lake Fayetteville.

TO DEMO A BIKE, here’s all you’ll need to have with you: (1) a valid driver’s license, (2) a bicycle helmet, and (3) your own pedals if you want to ride something other than platform pedals.

Click here for more info on the bike event.

3. The Downtown Bentonville Farmer’s Market, Saturday. The Bentonville Farmer’s Market is held on the square every Saturday (through Oct. 29th this year) from 7:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Click here for more info about the market!

Amazeum logo4. Zing Adventures (exclusively for Amazeum members), Saturday. This event will be from 9-10 am for kids ages 3-5 years old and a caregiver.

May’s Zing Adventures is inspired by Homestead Cabin. Game play and dress up just as homesteading families did long ago. Discovery stations will provide new experiences with old-fashioned playthings. This workshop will provide inspiration for summer fun activities to recreate at home.

Fee per child/adult pair: Amazeum members $10

Advanced registration and payment required.

Click here for information about becoming an Amazeum member!

5. May Festival of the Arts, Eureka Springs. The arts festival will continue through this weekend in Eureka.

Click here for a full list of events!


Kids in Northwest Arkansas: Local Snapshots

Local Snapshots category bannerrachel popsicleWant to share this green popsicle, Mom?

Happy Spring, mamas! We love the Springtime snapshots you’ve shared with us. We’re showing them off in this fun post, but if you haven’t had a chance to send in pictures yet, don’t worry! You have a few more days to submit photos, but be sure to get them emailed to us by 5 p.m. on Tuesday, May 31, 2016.

HOW TO ENTER: You may submit up to 5 photos for the Snapshot Contest (and photos don’t have to be taken during the current year.) Email the photos to gwen@nwaMotherlode.com.

The winner of the Snapshot Contest gets a 16×20 beautiful gallery-wrapped canvas print of her favorite photo, produced by Scott Frame & Art. It’ll be ready to hang on your wall!

collage1hardy5 680collage2brother sister collagecollage3Smile Shoppe logo 2015 width 500The Photo Category, which is always full of smiles, is sponsored by The Smile Shoppe, a pediatric dental practice with offices in Rogers and Springdale. The Smile Shoppe specializes in the treatment of infants, children, adolescents as well as children with special needs. Dr. Jeffrey Rhodes and Dr. Emily Fourmy are both board certified by the American Board of Pediatric Dentistry. Click HERE for more info on the Smile Shoppe. (And let your kids check out their fun website which also includes free coloring sheets and online games.)

Summer Camp Spotlight: Kaleidoscope Dance Academy

Kaleidoscope Dance Academy Camp is one of the camps we’re featuring in this year’s Summer Camp Guide. My own daughter (who is now 9 years old) attended a Kaleidoscope camp two years ago and fell in love with dance and the studio itself.

She had taken dance classes at a different studio in the past, but I’d decided to look for different options. I wanted a studio that is committed to letting little girls look, dress and dance like young girls – not sexy women trying out to be a Lakers girl. And I also wanted a studio that cared enough to choose dance music with lyrics that wouldn’t make me cringe if my daughter started singing it in the car with her grandmother.

Laine Harper

Laine Harper, Kaleidoscope Dance Academy Director

After I met and talked with Laine Harper, Director of Kaleidoscope Dance Academy, I knew I’d found our new dance studio home. She’s not only a dancer and an instructor, she’s also a mom who truly cares about the values and the type of atmosphere created at the studio.

When I attended my daughter’s first Kaleidoscope dance recital last spring, I was so impressed, not only with the quality of the dancers, but also because none of the choreography made people in the audience feel as if it was inappropriate for the age of the dancers. And the costumes were SO cute but never too revealing or in bad taste.

If you’re on the hunt for a great place for your son or daughter to learn dance, I’d definitely recommend trying one of the Kaleidoscope dance camps this summer. (By the way, Kaleidoscope has a large group of boys who take classes here, and they are amazing! So fun to watch them on stage.) Here’s more info on the camps:

Kaleidoscope Dance Academy offers themed dance camps in the summer that are perfect for kids who are new to dance as well as more experienced dancers who want to sharpen their skills during the Kaleidoscope ad graphicsummer. Each camp runs from 9 a.m. to noon, and each dancer will receive a camp t-shirt. Some camps include field trips, snow cone treats, visits from real princesses and more!

Summer sessions and themes:

  • June 20-23: Tropical Paradise (Ages 3 to 9; grouped by age)
  • June 27-30: Art of Dance (Ages 5 and up)
  • July 11-14: Frozen in July (Ages 3 and up)
  • July 18-21: Dance is Amazing (Ages 5 and up)
  • August 1-4: Princess Camp (Ages 3 and up)

Click HERE to visit Kaleidoscope’s website for info on summer camps.

Event: Summer reading program to kick off at the Fayetteville Public Library!


The Fayetteville Public Library’s Summer Reading Club kick-off party will be Saturday, June 4!

This gonna be FUN! Drop in anytime between 10 am and 1 pm and help FPL kick off the annual summer reading program. Enjoy bounce houses, a photo booth, face painting, balloons, temporary airbrush tattoos, snow cones and more!

FPL ad, Summer Camp GuideOf course, while you’re there, be sure to sign up for the Summer Reading Club. The SRC is for:

If you read more books, there are more chances to win small — and big — prizes! Of course, reading is its own reward, but it never hurts to have a little incentive, right?