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...

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