Saturday, August 27, 2011

Sneaky Education

I believe that any parent knows just how difficult it is to get a stubborn child to voluntarily eat vegetables.  You might find it easier to grow wings and then fly away to the moon.  For many families, this analogy would hold true for education.  Not too many children are going to eagerly climb onto the sofa next to you and say, "Oh please Mommy, may we learn grammar, spelling and math now?  Please, PLLEASSSEEE!" So like hiding vegetables in purees of pasta sauce, I would like to be diabolical and trick my kids into learning when they least expect it.  Perhaps I need to glue on a pencil mustache and start wearing a black cape as I eerily chuckle "Wa Ha Ha."

As a homeschooling family, my husband and I are now solely responsible for taking knowledge and somehow cramming it into our childrens' heads in such a way that it won't leak out their ears and be lost forever.  Ideally (Please laugh at the word "ideally," we all know how best laid plans have a way of working out.) knowledge would be acquired as a symbiotic part of their lifestyle-- simply, easily, seamlessly, painlessly etc.  Activities that are a normal part of daily life would provide countless teaching moments that the children would eagerly absorb like little sponges.  Ahh, can't you just hear the angels singing?  (I also have a unique opportunity to sell you the Brooklyn Bridge, feel free to inquire through the Comment section.)

Since I am not normally completely delusional, I wouldn't expect things to be quite so simple or work so smoothly.  But after our Florida vacation, I guess the joke is on me.  Who knew that the spark of curiosity could so easily return to my children?  But it did...

Our beach vacations have always involved getting out and seeing what the area has to offer.  We love trying to find educational things to do rather than just pure "tourist trap schlock."  This year we made a special point to go to the Clearwater Marine Aquarium so the kids could meet Winter the tailless dolphin who is starring in her own movie this year, Dolphin Tale.

They had a blast, despite the sweltering heat.  Although a bit shy at first, they began to ask the volunteers more and more questions.  We expected a semi-quick visit to the Aquarium and instead stayed for over five hours.  It was amazing to watch as they would listen to an answer, think about it for a minute or two and then come up with another question that was an extension of the first.

Would they remember? Would it sink in?  Oh my, but yes!  My son became intrigued by the horseshoe crab.  After a few minutes, his sister, who was not quite so enthralled with the horseshoe crab went off with her father to learn about something else. Forty-five minutes later, they came back surprised to see that we were in the exact same spot, studying the exact same thing. How often do seven year old boys focus on something for that long?  He excitedly dragged his sister over and began to explain to her everything he had learned about the horseshoe crab.

For us as parents, this is what "Homeschooling" is all about-- learning as part of our lifestyle.  Following up on the interests of our children and taking the time to allow them to learn.  Perhaps we need to re-name "Homeschooling." Maybe we should start a campaign to call it, "Stopping to Smell (and Learn About) the Roses.  I am hoping that "learning" won't be quite as difficult as getting my kids to consume vegetables.  Maybe I won't need a diabolical plan after all...

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

First Day of Homeschooling

Monday, August 1st was our first day of homeschooling.  Nobody (neither the kids nor myself) had any idea what this was going to be like, but we had to start sometime.  Since we don't live in Utopia and I am not June Cleaver, I knew that we were going to have "issues."  Okay, okay, I know that we are going to have knock down, drag out, explosive, screaming hissy fit kind of days.  Days were I will want to pull out the checkbook to write a check to their old private school or walk down to our neighborhood public school (which is less than a mile from our house) and throw them in.  Luckily, our first day wasn't one of those.  Phew!!!

Since I have been doing a lot of research on homeschooling before jumping off the "brick and mortar" ship of schooling, I knew we were in for "adjustment issues."  Since I like to pretend that my mother did not raise a fool (on most days)-- although we probably shouldn't ask her what she thinks about that one-- I knew I needed a plan.  Hmm... kids will feel very weird when all of their friends return to school.  What can we do?  Bribery!  Yet in an educational kind of way...  I love it when a diabolical plan comes together.

We have begun homeschooling with a unit study on Roller Coasters.  I have timed it so that our field trip to Six Flags will be next Monday when most all of the public and private schools have their First Day of School.  Every now and then I have sparks of true genius!  What kid can feel sorry for him or herself when screaming their lungs out while racing along a white-knuckle grip roller coaster?

Are they actually learning "real" stuff?  Yes.  They now know, understand and can explain Newton's Laws of Motion.  In two days, they have done experiments which illustrate the principles involved in each of Newton's laws.  I even snuck a little math in on my daughter when she had to calculate how many people rode the Switchback Railway on Coney Island when the fare was a nickel and the creator LaMarcus Adna Thompson recouped his $1600 investment in just three weeks.   Shh, don't tell her.
I did get a spontaneous hug and a "I love homeschooling," from my daughter on Day 1.  I need to take a mental picture of that incident, because it may be a long time before I ever have another one.  Was it all smooth sailing?  No.  The same darling daughter had a meltdown when I asked her to write-up Thompson and his life.  But it was resolved without Mommy freaking out, she did it and even apologized.  Apparently prayer works!  

Why should my kids love homeschooling?  Because I have set them up!  First we study roller coasters and have hands on "experimentation" at an amusement park.  Second we will be completing a unit study on Chocolate.  Yes, you read that correctly.  Boy the sacrifices I make for my children!  The taste testing for this study will be traumatic, but somehow I will manage.  Third we will be taking a vacation to the beach while everyone else is in school.  Only then, when the kids kind of like the idea of Mom as the teacher, will we begin the nitty gritty of math, spelling etc.

Who knows, maybe, just maybe I won't wind up in a padded room of a psych ward until after Christmas.  A truly crazy thought, maybe this will be the best thing we have ever done...