One of the most beautiful things about homeschooling in Idaho is the utter freedom we have to do whatever we want. This semester, we are taking a free-wheeling, figuring things out as we go along approach.
I call this semester a “gypsy term” because we’re kind of just going where the road takes us, picking things up and learning along the way. It’s a much looser approach than we’ve previously taken. It’s a little scary--but thrilling, too.
I told my older kids, who were extremely sad to leave the wonderful co-op we’ve been privileged to attend for the last three years, that they could think of think of this semester as a “study abroad” experience. My one and only goal is to be out in the world---in the community—and experience all it has to offer.
Here’s what we did this past week:
Monday was Martin Luther King Jr. Day and my husband and I had seen the movie Selma over the weekend. We were blown away by the story and the testament of the struggle of black Americans during the Civil Rights movement. The movie is intense. It is gritty and heartbreaking and hopeful and TRUE. We took our older two kids to see it on Monday in the hope that it would spark some talk about that era in American history and its parallels to the attitudes today about civil rights and race issues. We are typically very guarded in the movies and TV we let the kids watch—and the tension and violence in the film was a strain on our kids—they are still processing what they saw—but it is a beautiful thing to hear them ask questions, to want to delve deeper into Doctor King’s life and times, and to reflect on issues of race, equality, and social change.
We had learned over the weekend that President Obama would be in Boise to speak at BSU in the middle of the week. His speech would be open to the public, but tickets would be required to gain entry to the speaking venue. So, after the movie, we gathered the entire family and went to BSU to stand in line for tickets to the President’s speech. We had seen news reports that morning that BSU faculty and students had first rights to the free tickets and that the line to get tickets had been spotty—not surprising in a solid red state, I suppose, so we figured the same would hold true for the general ticket line. We were wrong. We stood in line for about an hour, and the line wrapped halfway around the BSU campus.
I was surprised that there were so many people in line for tickets, given the vitriolic responses online to the announcement that President Obama would be in town. Though standing in line was not the most exciting way to spend an afternoon, it was enlightening to see the different people who came. People of all political persuasions were in line—and despite whatever people’s personal opinions and beliefs were, everyone was amiable.
Tuesday, we were feeling kind of under the weather—the flu had been going around our family and while we were mostly recovered by Sunday, the afternoon out in the cold, waiting in line for tickets to the President’s speech put us under. We needed a recovery day and stayed home. We declared it “Documentary Day” and spent the day cruising Netflix for educational shows. (I am part of a Homeschooling with Netflix group on Facebook—which is totally awesome—what a great resource to supplement learning!) We watched everything from Leap Frog Math Adventures to the Moon to Inside the Lego Corporation to Pets with Jobs. There were some others we watched, but I think I dozed off.
Wednesday, Julio and the big kids got up early and headed out to stand in line for the President’s speech. We learned that the venue could seat 2500 but that over 5000 tickets had been distributed---it would be standing room only for at least half the ticket holders! The little kids and I went to our new informal homeschool co-op---a once weekly, laid-back affair. We learned about St. Francis of Assisi.
I had intended to meet up with Julio and the big kids and attend the President’s speech, but it didn’t work out—and it’s probably a good thing. Julio and the big kids stood in line from 10 AM until noon, and then once inside the venue, found standing room only, right next to where the local press cameras were set up. The speech wasn’t scheduled to start until 3:00. No matter how patriotic we are, I knew the little kids wouldn’t have been able to manage doing NOTHING for that long. Bags and purses weren’t allowed through security, so bringing entertainment and snacks for the little kids would have been impossible.
So, with that last minute change in plan, I took the kids shopping. Blythe just started Cub Scouts and I was recruited to be a Cub Scout leader and we both needed uniforms. (I have been hounded by the local Cub Master to get myself a uniform and after a long and valiant battle, finally succumbed and bought the ugly thing---but I refuse to wear it. Tra la la la!) and Gloria needed fabric for a pillow case she was going to make that afternoon with her Activity Days group.
While I was busy buying pink heart-strewn fabric and hideous scouting uniforms, Calvin was being interviewed by the local news about being present for President Obama’s speech.
The rest of the week shaped up pretty well—we plundered the library, as we do every week. We have long since given up on tote bags to pack the books home and now bring in the heavy artillery. Yes, that is rolling luggage you see there.
We also stumbled into a weekly science class held at the library, of which I had been previously unaware. The kids made dry ice cannons. Score! Calvin now wants to make a larger one out of a garbage can.
We finished out our week with LOTS of reading.
I also thought it would be fun to have each kid start an art journal—as a way to explore different art media. We spent a good chunk of an afternoon painting.
Finally, the kids started learning how to program computers this week. We saw a deal on a learning website for a single board computer kit and snatched one up. It arrived this week and Calvin and Gloria have spent some time with it—learning how to make computer animations and create games. Calvin is currently creating a math game to help the little kids with their math facts. I don’t know who is more excited about it—Calvin or Julio!
This is my first real foray into unstructured “unschooling” and I have to admit, I am terribly nervous about it. I decided to write this post to document what all we did this week not to toot my horn, but more than anything to see if we really were accomplishing anything. I’ve always had this idea that “unschooling” meant “not educating” but after going through the projects and pictures and experiences we’ve had this past week (and over the last month) I’d say we’re learning a LOT! Hmmm…I could get used to this Gypsy Term thing…