Friday, May 8, 2009

History Day Is Done At Last

After all the time, stress, and hard work having a child participate in History Day has been, it is finally over (well, the kids are having a few celebratory parties, at which I think they should provide the dedicated parents red wine but I am digressing.) Overall, it was a good experience, although truth be told, we had no idea what we getting into. My daughter chose to do a group performance imagining that the work would be divided with each student taking their areas of strength, and allowing the other kids to focus on their parts. In reality, each decision was labored over painstakingly by three kids, each with their own style, distinct personality and different ideas on how to best tackle the project. There was conflict. There was compromise. There were moments when I wanted to shake them all and holler “Just make a blasted decision so you can move forward, or I drove all the way here and wasted 2 hours for nothing!!!!” But, I didn't, and they did make countless decisions, ending up with a really good piece on the actions and legacy of John James Audubon.

In the process, these kids learned much more than history. They researched, wrote the script, built the set, designed and created the costumes. Most importantly, they learned teamwork, which was probably the hardest part of all. As a fairly relaxed homeschooling family, the required annotated bibliography in MLA format seemed a little intense for an 11 year old (with a slacker mom), as did the competition at the state level in Sacramento. I saw 3 girls in tears, and one actually threw up in her performance. I am not sure if she was otherwise sick, or if it was stress, but at times, the tension was so thick I had to go outside just to breathe. (Disclaimer, I really dislike crowded places anyway.) In bigger counties in southern California, kids first competed at the their school with winners competing at district, then county levels before proceeding to state level. I can honestly say, this bunch of homeschooling kids from Shasta County, who had never been to History Day, let alone completing projects and competing with them, held their own and shined.

The most impressive thing was seeing kids from all over the state full of passion and excitement about their history projects. At one of the speeches during the closing ceremony, someone said “You often hear about all the things wrong with education. What you are seeing here in this room is what's right.” As I looked around at the hundreds of kids who had worked so hard, and accomplished so much I actually got teary eyed for a moment. After briefly pondering when I became a sappy person who gets teary eyed, I went on to feel so very proud of the kids. Of course I am somewhat bias to the Shasta County ones because I've watched many of these kids grow and come so far over the years, but they all truly did amazing work- it's the kind of thing that really makes a person optimistic about the future.