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Monday, September 12, 2016

{the radical art of homeschooling} uncommon resources

When we leave the classroom and get into the world, learning opportunities abound. After a while, it is like you put on special glasses and begin to see everything as vibrant and rich for discussion. My graduate work was in American Studies and I feel like that interdisciplinary approach to history and culture prepared me for homeschooling. In my course work, we could read American culture through nearly any lens. Ice cream, snow, housekeeping magazines, tourism...any subject that we were interested in could be explored and placed into the context of the world in which it existed. I even lectured on Paint By Numbers in post WWII America. 

Taking that idea, that anything and everything is full of information and inspiration, the world becomes a book to be read or a treasure box to explore. I see my job as keeping my eyes and mind open to all around me AND filling our lives with resources that can be mined for meaning. We can go so far past a boxed lesson plan and plug into the curriculum of the world around us. 

Here are some of our favorite resources. These are the things that have sparked the most conversation and ideas: 

Audio books - Homeschoolers are on the road a lot, so audio books are a wonderful resource to embrace. We have listened to the Kane Chronicles and deepened our interest and knowledge in Egyptian History. The Star Wars radio drama taught us how radio shows work which led to discussions of early entertainment. We recently listened to The Story of the World which is offering a beautiful, conceptual time line of the history of civilization. And we all sat riveted and horrified as we listened to the War that Saved My Life. 

Strangers - I am a big believer in talking to strangers. To connect with people who are living their dream lives. We are always asking people - how do you like your job? what is the best part? what sort of schooling/training did you do? Hearing first person accounts from other people's lives are as (more) important as any book we could ever read. 

Daily work + living - We do not separate errands and work into kid and adult activities. Many doctor appointments are attended by everyone (even if kids end up in the waiting room, they always see or hear something interesting). When we ordered granite or had concrete poured or had a beehive removed from our eaves, the kids are there, watching and learning. I tend to ask people a lot of questions and usually end up with much new knowledge about a previously misunderstood field. We had a rental house that ended with a tragic eviction and they were part of it. When we bought a car, they were there watching us negotiate and fill out paperwork. We recently had to euthanize our dog and after a long discussion, we decided that they should be there for most of the procedure. My 9 year old just build a fence with my husband using a drill and screwing in all the planks. These things might just seem like day to day activities but I think because our kids can participate in them regularly, they become a linchpin in their education. They are able to link the skills they learn in their more formal school work to the real world. Learning about area in a mathwork book is dry. Measuring a room for new flooring and then figuring out how much it will cost is dynamic and exciting. 

Conventions - We have learned so much from the various conventions we have attended over the years. We started out attending conventions that specifically tied into a particular kid's interest, but are now more actively seeking a wider variety. We have been to doll shows, pigeon competitions, reptile conventions and Maker Faires. We are looking forward to a sailboat expo and Bluegrass festival in upcoming months. 

Open houses and alley trash - We love getting a peak into the lives of others. If there is a home tour, open house, or model home tour we are likely to take a look. Kids love checking out houses and always end up telling us (and journalling) how they will design their own homes. We live in an old neighborhood and frequently walk through the alleys where we see the cast offs of the residents. This is especially interesting when someone moves (or dies). Lots of treasures have been dumpster dived and used by my kids. Interesting finds have included a papasan chair that was used as a balance toy, golf clubs, and old minutes from a lawn bowling team.

Protests - We have been in a protest, which was a great experience,  but just as interesting is talking about protests we encounter in real life or even in the news. The Immokalee tomato workers have protested our local grocery store which led to discussions about immigration and farm worker rights. There are peace protests, abortion clinic protests, and political campaigners on our streets and we nearly always talk about them. We are interested in freedom of speech and the varied voices that are important in a democratic nation. 

Farmers market - Talking to farmers and makers is a wonderful way to learn more about where our food comes from, issues that growers might have, and potential careers. 

Yard sales and antique stores are such rich resources for exploring history and culture. 

Master Naturalist, Master Gardener, and 4H programs are offered fairly regularly and inexpensively in most states and offer educational opportunities, often with college professors. 

TedX and Pecha Kucha are two wonderful events that allow audiences to hear big and groundbreaking ideas as well as stories about passionate living. 

Make a list of outside-the-box resources available in your area. 

Make a plan to engage in one of the places you wrote on your list. My brain goes on autopilot a lot - so on these discovery outings, I have to work hard to keep my mind open, to really look and to listen to what my kids are noticing. It seems simple, but is actually a hard practice (at least for me!). 

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