Saturday, October 29, 2011

More Than One Way

I was recently found myself charge of hauling a rented minivan full of 6th - 8th grade kids five hours each way for a weekend camping and caving adventure. I tend to get myself into situations like this, which I think sound like fun, but most people seem to think they sound more like torture. We're probably both right.

I returned home with what appear to be new permanent laugh lines in my face, as well as some possible hearing damage. These kids cracked me up with their youthful goofiness, but somehow the volume of their voices got stuck around a million, which made the minivan beyond loud.At least they were funny

Of the eleven kids on the trip, mine were the only ones who don't happen to go to school. Some go to regular public schools, some go to an arts charter, and a couple go to a university preparatory school. It was enlightening on all sides to say the least, and we had the most amusing conversations about education and what exactly it means to homeschool.

Like many people, the kids seemed to have trouble wrapping their minds around the idea of not going to school. It's funny because even though the 11 kids came from 7 different schools, and yet they  hang out play music and games together with my kids a couple of days every week, it took them a few minutes to connect to the fact that we all have all sorts of connections that have nothing to do with school. Hopefully they see that you can have both friends and social lives without school- you just have to seek them.

Once they realized that we don't stay home and study alone all day, but we go to parks, museums, classes, beaches, trails and events in the community- basically all the things they would do on summer vacation- some of them became intrigued. When I told them that we learn about things that we want to and are interested in, and that we do it in real life ways like going on trips, one of them said (half jokingly, at least I hope) "But school is NOT supposed to be fun!"

I told them that I thought school, like life, should be fun as often as possible. Of course it can't always be, but it should be most of the time. I also mentioned that whether or not school was fun, learning can and should be.

It's a hard balance because on the one hand, I don't want to make it sound like it's all a big party full of games, although I do try to make it so as fun as I can. I also don't want to give the impression that our deal is so much better than theirs, even though I do think we have a pretty nice option. But, not everybody has the desire, motivation or means for a free thinking and learning lifestyle. It's definitely work on the parental end, and we make sacrifices, but it's also a really great way to live.

But these days, my kids are at the age where they're definitely more tuned in to being "different." In this scenario, we were definitely a different family from the others. I hope in the short term they can see that all the families are different really, and that there are pros and cons to every choice. In the log run, I hope they will retain their autonomy, and make choices based on what's best overall, not what everyone else does. When they are grown, I hope they'll realize that just because so many other adults spend most of their lives in mind numbing work they don't like, doesn't mean they have to do that also.

There's definitely more than one way to go through life, but as far as we know, we only get this one chance at it. We might as well enjoy the ride as much as we can.