Friday, March 6, 2009

The 7th Thing I Love About Home School—School is Where You Take it and Make It!

“Do you mind if I get dressed real quick and just go check on the kids to make sure they are not killing each other?” I said to the mammography technician as she released my right breast and told me to get the left one ready. “You see, we’re homeschooled, so I brought them with me and left them by themselves in the lobby. I just want to check on them.”

“Excuse me? She remarked. I guessed this probably wasn’t a common question in her world. But boob smashing wasn’t common in my world either so I considered things “even Steven.” I suppose the pleading look in my eyes (which might have been the result of severe pain after having my breast smashed to ¼” pancake between two cold plates), told her not to deny my request. She reluctantly conceded. I grabbed my clothes and bolted.

20 minutes earlier, I left my children in the lobby with a backpack full of school work and strict instructions to complete 3 math pages, 2 grammar pages, 1 vocabulary lesson, 1 American History lesson, 3 chapters in science, free reading and foreign language by time I returned. I figured if I piled on enough in the expectations department, they were less likely to get into trouble. This elicited some interesting looks from patrons in the lobby. “Oh, and try not to kill each other, either.” With that, I turned on my heels and proceeded to my exam room. I smiled at the condescending old lady sitting who was disapprovingly watching this scene unfold and remarked, “Don’t worry, they probably won’t hurt each other too badly,” as I passed her.

For those of you who are concerned about child abandonment, I assure you that before I began “setting expectations” for the school day, I introduced them to all the ladies behind the desk and made sure the environment was safe. And, what I found when I reentered the lobby to check on them warmed my heart. They were helping each other with math and eating apples. No, they hadn’t completed even 1/3 of the work on my list, but I was satisfied that all was good. I kissed them proudly and proceeded back to the “torture chamber”. Disapproving old lady was more at ease at this point.

With one annual procedure crossed off the “to do list”, we headed down to the corner of Ocean and Broadway near the Santa Monica Pier and enjoyed a lovely lunch that I will remember for years to come. We had the best corner window table with an ocean view all to ourselves! We had missed the business lunch crowd and were pretty much alone. I quizzed them on what they had learned that morning, we talked about the animals we learned about on our field trip to San Diego Sea World the day before, and it struck me, this is my 7th favorite thing about home schooling!

I reflected on the past week and realized our bean bags were cold and lonely. We hadn’t been in them for 5 school days. Our “extenuating circumstances” had included a field trip to Sea World, taping of a podcast at my daughter’s ballet studio, a school performance, extra coaching in preparation for a dance competition, and a boring doctor’s appointment that was turned into a really memorable experience for all of us. Our books and our bodies had been in the car all week and the amazing thing is that we hadn’t skipped a beat. We were a little light on the core subjects, but we had made up for it with all the enrichment activities and time spent together enjoying each other’s company.

It really opened my mind to the fact that school doesn’t have to be contained within four walls. In fact, I am beginning to believe that within 3-5 years, a significant percentage of education will be delivered this way. It just makes sense with the high cost associated with providing an education for children and budget cuts that most states continue to face. Most top universities including Harvard, Stanford and MIT offer online programs and some even have programs for gifted children at the elementary and high school levels.

It’s a brilliant move on the part of the universities to “hook” their future patrons at an early age, and I think it demonstrates how powerful the option of learning beyond the class room really is—school truly is where you take it and make it!

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