My parents were absolutely fantastic when it came to education, but they probably didn’t think of themselves that way. School breaks often meant camping or summer trips to Ohio or New Hampshire to see family. On the way, though, there were all sorts of stops to look around, to read Historical Road Markers and if you didn’t have time to read one, my Dad would take a picture of it in hopes of being able to read it after he got our film developed!
As a kid, totally unrelated to school, I saw forts, lighthouses, Navy Bases, historical boats, submarines (this was pre-9-11, by the way and my Dad is a Navy vet), historical recreations of early settlements, museums, the Smithsonian, the founding documents for our nation, indian reservations, mountains, rivers, lakes, ponds, streams, “Alpine” villages, Appalachia, festivals which showed “pioneering” skills like blacksmithing, leatherworking, tanning, soapmaking, open fire cooking, quilting, and many others. And, for every thing I remember from our trips, I am sure that I am forgetting several others.
In addition to the waypoints and destinations of our trips, we did light hiking (I was a club-footed kids with orthotics, so heavy duty hiking was out), in all kinds of terrains, went swimming, fishing, and just hung around outside. As a young teen, we would take a hammock and Mom and I would take turns laying in the hammock, reading books for fun and alternating time with Dad. Those were the best times! Sometimes we met other family members and after dinner, would play softball together, letting the littlest members win. My cousin and I swam and used a zip line to enter a lake. We learned to make fires. We lived with germs and survived (although I did go to Mercy Hospital in Pennsylvania at 12 years old after sand fleas bit my face in the night while camping. My face swelled up and I couldn’t open my eyes).
And I learned something on every single trip! One year, my uncle showed me how to find lady slippers, the only native orchid in North America, which are endangered. A lovely native American at a reservation in North America liked that my hair was braided like hers. Mom and Dad took a picture of us together and she took time to tell me about her family’s history and the crafts that they made. And who could forget the never ending line of Historical Place Markers! I laugh about it, especially the pictures of them. But, to this day, I stop and read as many as I personally can. My latest find was of a gorgeous old covered bridge in the backwoods of middle Georgia, constructed with pegs by a freed slave. So, many years later, I am still learning from their example.
Now, it’s my kids who are rolling their eyes at me for reading these signs, but I know that they are learning, just as I did. Today, oldest son and I met the farrier at the horse farm where DS 17 does therapeutic riding. We learned about horse anatomy, those hooves and how to care for them, and about the skills needed for the job. We learned that my son is actually too big in stature to comfortably work with horse hooves, but the farrier thinks that he would be a natural at Equine Massage. I wasn’t raised around horses, so I had never heard of this. Now, we have a new career path to explore that my son ( who is Autistic/Asperger’s syndrome) is excited about! He isn’t going to attend college, but he might be able to apprentice and work toward certification in a field that would keep him near his beloved horse friends.
Younger son likes to help (and is getting pretty proficient at it) Ornithologists (or bird nerds, as we affectionately call them) to do bird banding for migratory research studies. He wants to be a wildlife biologist and he loves the opportunity to learn about and appropriately handle wild animals. He got a taste for this type of work (and connections to eventually bird band) when both boys and hubby would take classes together on weekends at a wildlife management area that is about an hour away. They took classes like bird identification, butterfly identification, dragonfly identification, frog and reptile identification, and general entymology identification. These classes were aimed at kids and often involved a bit of slogging around in the shallows of a pond or marshy area. My boys have loved being outside and the learning can kind of sneak up on them while they are having fun.
Even watching a documentary on some topic of interest with Mom and Dad can spur conversation and help develop an interest! Homeschoolers often worry that they aren’t providing kids with enough opportunity to learn, but by creating an atmosphere where parents and kids are constantly learning new information and sharing with each other, these families are flinging open the doors to genuine and memorable learning.
I can’t remember worksheets that I completed in school, but I remember vividly putting my hands on the bullet holes in an old log fort in the North Georgia Mountains and learning about the battles that happened there and the lives that were lost. And, I was a public school kid. My parents just liked to learn things and took me along for the ride. I wish more parents would do the same. They supplemented my education while supplementing their own. I hope my own kids are benefitting in much the same way.
Homeschooling is a lifestyle of learning, but every parent can help their child to continue learning and to love the acquisition of new information, regardless of how their children receive their formal education. Unfortunately, in recent years, fewer families are doing these things with their children that aren’t homeschooling. I worked in both public and private high schools for years and saw first hand that too many parents often completely abdicate any responsibility toward educating their children in academics, character, or even common sense. Personally, as a homeschooling mama and a professional educator, I would challenge everyone to take one weekend a month to learn something different with your children. Try a new recipe and learn about the country where this dish is commonly served. Go on a field trip to a State Park or historic site and walk around. Go for a long walk and really look at the flowers, trees, leaves, etc. Before you know it, you will find yourself becoming an educator as well!
How do you encourage learning in your home?
Thanks for stopping by for this series, as this is the last article in the Why Homeschool? series, I hope you will check out any articles you may have missed. More articles on homeschooling, frugal living, quilting, and life in general will be coming out weekly!
Till next time,