Saturday, July 25, 2009

Learn Nothing Day

Just great- yesterday was National Learn Nothing Day, and we didn't even know it until almost 4:00 pm. By then it was too late. Even though it was a pretty relaxed morning of lounging at home, I'm pretty sure we had already learned something. We'd looked up some garden pests and recipes on the internet (for two separate projects,) did a little reading, figured out how to alter the brightness of dark photographs on the computer, and then they still had karate class to go to. I told the kids that maybe they should consider skipping it- or at least trying not to learn anything new. It failed- they were trying new moves before half an hour was up. My daughter wanted to try a new drop-in soccer class for girls since she's never played before, and the first thing the coach says to her is “You're gonna learn a lot about soccer today.” What kind of a day off is this?
So, I guess we blew it this year. And I had really liked the idea behind this day of rest too. I guess my kids will just continue to get the sad looks when they say, no, they don't really take a break from homeschooling in the summer. Poor things are learning all the time.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Fundraising Fun

There have probably been fund raisers since kids first started being herded into schools and organized activities. Girls Scouts sell cookies, cheerleaders wash cars, the soccer team sells chocolate and the youth symphony has a bake sale. Fund raising pretty much comes with the territory of kids activities, which is OK because they're expensive, and I think it's a good idea to work for what you want. In some cases, the parents seem to do just as much of the work as kids, and while I do think it's good to be supportive and helpful, I also think kids should understand the theory of a work ethic by actually working themselves. Nevertheless, I've bought plenty of candy bars from the boxes my co-workers children have cleverly placed in the break room at work.

My own daughter has just started participating in her first fundraisers in the past year. Her scouting troop is taking an educational trip, and the girls are earning their way with garage and craft sales, selling used books on ebay and by selling snow cones on hot days at the park. She came up with the idea of selling sodas and cookies at kids baseball games, too.

Since this fundraising adventure has begun, our family has been talking about just what kind of fundraising efforts we would feel good about. To me, legitimate fundraising involves offering a product or a service in exchange for money that will be used toward a particular cause. I told my kids that if their grandma asks them what they want for Christmas, it is perfectly fine to say music lessons, but it is not OK to just ask someone out of the blue to pay for their activities or buy them things. They can ask people if they can water gardens, walk dogs or sell lemonade to earn the money, but they can't ask for handouts. The only exception would be if they are raising money for a charity- then they can ask for donations, but for their own personal use, no begging.

I am more than happy to support young business people and their ideas to earn money though. I think it's exciting to see the initiative and creativity people have when thinking of what they can do, rather than when they are looking for what they can get. So, I'm driving my daughter to Costco where I'll loan her the money to buy bottled water and fruit snacks she can sell at her brothers baseball game tonight. She'll pay me back at the end of the night. She priced the items, figured her sales price needed to make a profit, is keeping inventory, and doing plenty of math adding up products and making change. Not to mention merchandising her products and gaining people skills by talking to the public. I hope she does well with her little business venture. She is really excited and working hard at it. No matter how much she sells though, I can see she is learning a ton in the process. And that is worth buying a 50 cent bag of crackers, even if I'm not really hungry.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Food for thought...

I wonder how much of America realizes that much of what makes up their diet is no longer actually even real food? It's full of high tech, pasteurized, processed, chemical filled "food products," that have very little relationship to anything in the natural world. Sadly, as a nation, we continue to open our big mouths and stuff it in, wondering why we have such high rates of obesity, heart disease, diabetes and other health problems. Thinking about what we put into our bodies is probably one of the most important and obvious steps we can take towards health care. Here's a few easy tips... "froot" products are not actually fruit, and "cheez" is not the same as actual cheese. If you can't read it, you might not want to eat it, and petroleum by products are probably not good for you or your children to consume.

I am hopeful though, because there are people with the power of voice who are willing to speak up. The message is making it's way into the media. And, hopefully every day, more people will stop to think before they swallow the load of manure being sold and served up as dinner. I'm looking forward to the movie Food Inc. this summer which will undoubtedly sum it up better than I possibly could.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Self Directed Learning

For some reason, many in the field of education seem surprised by the idea that people have the capability to teach themselves, and don't need every detail broken down in easy to digest and well planned lessons followed up by a quiz. Learning for the sake of learning, just because you are interested, or it seems fun, rather than to get a grade, or piece of paper, or because some authority figure says you "should be learning that right now" is a foriegn concept to many. Really though, aren't we all more likely to retain something we were actually interested in than something we were forced to memorize? I know I passed many a test with flying colors because I knew I would get some prize, but if you asked me a month later, I probably forgot half of what was on the test because I only cared about the prize, not the knowledge.

Now that I am an adult, and a homeschooling mother, I am appreciating the opportunity to immerse myself and my children in studies that excite us. My own college classes may add up to a degree at some point, but the main idea is that I am interested and want to learn more about a subject, and that is why I am studying it. When I play with learning dance or music at 38 years old, I am fairly sure I will never be a professional performer, but I am having fun, and that is what life should be all about.

That's also what I want my children's education to be- self driven and joyful. Of course there are a few basics you need to thrive, or even survive in our society, but I don't see why they all have to be learned on a rigid timeline. There is plenty of room for flexibility, and I've seen my own kids absorb countless concepts when they were ready. Their siblings and friends may have learned the same thing at a younger or older age, but in the end, as long as they get it, who cares? It makes me very sad when I hear of other great kids who are labeled and critiqued for not being on the exact arbitrary timeline some expert chose for them. I wish these experts would look at all the neat things these kids can do, rather than focusing on what they can't and making them feel bad about it. Most kids are not stupid, and can excel in something. But no matter how many special programs you set up, you are never going to get everyone to be good at everything because were are all unique individuals. We all need to read and understand math to handle what the world throws at us, but I'm really glad my kids know they can learn the basics at their own pace, and follow their own passions. It is a freedom we all treasure dearly.

It's nice when other experts back up my thoughts and opinions, and along that theme, here's an article from Psychology Today with more on minimally invasive education.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Free Homeschool Days at Monterey Bay Aquarium

Fun and educational opportunities abound for northern California homeschoolers! The Monterey Bay Aquarium is once again offering a series of homeschool field trip days this fall with FREE admission for homeschooled children, and their parents! There are five available field trip days in October and November, and pre-registration is required. This always fills up, so if you are interested, check it our soon.

My family has taken advantage of this wonderful opportunity in the past, and we loved it. There is a high adult to child ratio, and pretty much everyone actually wants to be there I appreciate the leisurely pace, and the time for interaction with whatever interests us. It doesn't have the insane, loud, rushed feeling that can come with large groups of energetic kids who just want to be out of their desks, and very few adults who have to keep them all on a schedule. I also of course, appreciate that it is free.

If you're a homeschooling family who would like to go, you can find out more information at :