Monday, July 16, 2007

Those homeschool rabbit trails

You're not serious? This was the question posed to my son by many of his friends when they found out he was taking me to see The Transformers for an early birthday present...and he did.

After he finished work today, he took me to the Pizza Hut buffet and then to the movies. My birthday isn't for a couple of weeks but he wanted to see the movie while it was still in town.

Even my husband was a little bewildered at his choice. However, it all falls under that "homeschoolers" label as I truly believe one has to march to the beat of a different drummer to even attempt homeschooling (much less all the way through high school).

It all makes sense, really. When my husband was still able to hold an engineering job, he had to travel a great deal. So, this mom had to get into a little boy's world and for many years that included watching shows such as Transformers with him. For him, he couldn't think of anyone he would rather see the movie with than the person he'd watched all those TV shows with years ago (and I was quite touched). I actually enjoyed the movie even though it was loud (huh, what's that you say, my ears are ringing...).

In our family, we have a joke that always begins, "You know you are a homeschooler if...". It came up Sunday afternoon after church as we were relaxing at home. Christopher was on his computer in his room, my husband was at his desk in our office, and I was settled in on the living room sofa reading...or trying to read... Animal, Vegetable, Miracle; A Year of Food Life (which I'll write more about later this week). The living room in our ranch style home is in the middle of the house so we could carry on a conversation without being too loud.

Christopher was reading to us from an article online about the ten riches men in America (from the American Revolution to today). I finally had to set the book aside as we began to further research these men, most of whom we knew but some who were mysteries. Like the guy who became wealthy from lumber whose name I had never heard before. However, my husband knew all about him, having a Master's Degree in Wood Science (my husband, not the billionaire). It doesn't happen as often these days as it once did but it was fun setting everything aside to spend some time in last minute research. It's amazing how much knowledge can be gained in one of these rabbit trails.

When I think of homeschoolers learning a little differently at times, I am often reminded of a family Holiday dinner the December before last. Each year, we meet my husband's brother and sister at a restaurant near the Interstate as they are passing near us to another destination. During this particular dinner, somehow the subject of building with bricks came up and Christopher went into great detail about how they were formed and how they were used in the past and present. My brother-in-law looked at him in startled amazement and asked how he knew all that. "Oh", said my son, "I watched the History of Bricks".

The look on my brother-in-law's face was priceless. Christopher went on to tell him about The History of Concrete and many other shows he has watched on one of our favorite networks (those which make Direct TV worth it). A new show on The Discovery Channel or The History Channel would get this family all excited. If that wasn't funny enough, my son went on to have a very lengthy conversation with our waiter (who was a college student) about the computer he was building at the time...remembering he was still a high school sophomore.

It's not that homeschoolers are smarter or dumber or any such thing than young people educated outside the home. My daughter and I would talk about literature, history, politics, religion, etc. at length and she was public school educated K thru College. No, it is rather that rabbit trail style of learning that happens at the last moment which is particular to homeschooling.

In the public or private schools, one would never be cooking in a kitchen and decide at the last minute to watch a TV show or DVD about hurricanes...or George Washington...or, um...concrete...and have snacks put together quickly with warm drinks and a throw to put over us as we sit down to enjoy an unexpected (and educational) break in our routine.

Homeschooling gave us the option to take our classes to the "park with the trails" at the last moment. We'd often just put together cheese, and bread, and perhaps a few cookies (or go through the drive-thru for Happy Meals if we must). Then we would stash the picnic basket in the trunk while we headed to our favorite spot on the trails to look for "really cool rocks" (and finding an arrowhead when we were told there weren't any left!).

As with all learning, there was a plan and books...lots of books. However, it was the freedom to learn more about subjects we were interested in (like two years spent learning about WW II) together...all of us at times...on the same hymnal page so to speak...that made it so unique.

It wasn't easy. It wasn't cheap. The hours were very long. Tempers could flare when there had been too much "together time". But along the way we had a lot of fun...and the results have been far more than my expectations.

Picture: artist John Elsley,


Misc. Muse said...

How wonderful- I love it when my kids want me to go somewhere. My oldest ds is a bookworm, we go to book store together. Conversations in the car are interesting- I don't always understand his talking about this or that experiement but it's time together. i think homeschool brings you closer to your kids. (yes there are times it is a little too close) I have been through a lot of experiements at my house. My dh and 2 sons love experiementing. dd was different- we talk girl things and bravery and such (this girl goes sky driving- once so far, again if she can manage it.)

Joni said...

Yes! Lots of books! I never would have imagined some of the rabbit trails we've been on this year with my (yes!) only five year old -- the London Underground system, Shakespeare, and King Arthur have been some. Of course, these mostly came about because we're living in London for this year. All of these were his pursuits, by the way. I just followed along and encouraged as he led. I love homeschooling for this very reason --chasing the rabbit trails and all the learning in the process, for the children and for me. Great post!

Lallee said...

I love rabbit trails. I would like to have gone to 'your' school ;-)

The cake sounds yummy. Wish I was going to your church dinner, too ;-)

Going to movies with sons--that's the funnest entertainment!

smilnsigh said...

I can think of no higher compliment, or better gift, than what Christopher did. Hugs to him...


HeathersBooks said...

What a wonderful post! It made me smile. I'm a homeschool graduate myself, so it hit a soft spot in my heart. :)

She'sSewPretty said...

I've just been catching up with your blog. I saw Transformers with my son and husband. You're right it was loud! LOL I love this post though I didn't home school my children. We do watch Discovery Channel together though. My older children love to read and we share books. I've yet to get my youngest son interested. Though he is always amazing me with his knowledge of things I had no clue bricks.

Misti Aldrich said...

I really enjoyed reading your story about the Rabbit Trails. I was homeschooled K-12th with the exception of 2nd grade due to transitions. I remember alot of our "rabbit trails" that detoured us from our textbooks. They were wonderful for us since we were learning about a topic, but also learning to voice our opinions, listen, and prove what and why we believed something.
One of my favorite things was having my 2 brothers and mom in the discussion about randow topics that would come up due to something someone said, an article in the paper, a newsperson on the Radio, and yes, even something from our text book :).
I really enjoyed your writing.