Crossing state lines

Positioned by the Red River in North Texas, my hometown is equally distant from the Dallas/Ft Worth Metroplex and Oklahoma City.  That’s important when searching for “big city” opportunities like, say, zoos.

While as a homeschooler, I’m free to give my kids spring break whenever I choose, I usually choose to take a break at the same time as the public schools because my husband works at a public university, so that’s when he gets a few days off.

Last year, we took the kids south to the Ft. Worth zoo.  Although both the weather and the company were fine, it was the worst zoo trip we’ve ever taken because apparently the entire state of Texas wanted to enjoy the zoo during spring break.  We pushed elbow to elbow through crowds all day, peering at animals from several rows back, and standing in line an hour just for lunch.

This year, we crossed the state line and headed north to the OKC zoo.  A wonderful choice!  Again, the weather and the company were ideal, but this time we had the run of the place.  We parked by the door and walked in without standing in line.  A few young moms pushing strollers and one small daycare group were the only other zoo patrons.  We strolled at a leisurely from exhibit to exhibit, never having to fight for a position at the rail or at a map.  When the baby elephant went through his paces in the training center,  we had front row view.  Even the sea lion show only required a short wait before we took our places…you guessed it…on the front row. 

Sometimes swimming upstream pays off!

I believe Oklahoma is on spring break next week.  Hey Okies, I can recommend a lovely zoo a few hours to your south, if you want to avoid the crowds.



A worthy milestone

This is what affirmation feels like.

My oldest son – now a college freshman – voluntarily brings me his essays for rhetoric and comp class to ask for my opinion.  After years of being the essay assigner, it’s lovely to be in the supportive role.  The good guy rather than the bad guy in the whole essay plotline.

I also enjoy reading his thoughts which are articulated for someone else (so I know they aren’t written just for my benefit!).  They feel more honest.

Around midnight (yes, he’s still a procrastinator – college hasn’t cured him of that), he brought me an essay which takes the position that music should be incorporated in all subjects of the school system.  Knowing him the way I do, I wasn’t surprised by his position.  I was pleasantly surprised, though, to see my own name used to surport his point that educators should be willing to try new approaches:

Having spent my childhood as a home educated student, I’ve seen up close what a teacher who is vested in her students can accomplish. My mother would constantly try new ways to interest me in my different subjects.

“My mother.”  That’s me. 🙂  I came up a few other times in the essay, although not by name.  He discussed various creative learning techniques that he’d used to help himself through difficult subjects, and as I read I thought, “I taught him that” or “I remember helping him do that.”

It’s a singular joy to hear my son appreciate his education and realize the value of what he’s been given.  There were days (perhaps years) when I wasn’t sure this would happen.

Like the worthy woman of Proverbs 31, my children rise up and call me blessed.

I wish this same moment for every educator who has toiled over a student.

Useless, indispensable plans

“In preparing for battle I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.”  –Dwight D. Eisenhower

About this time each year, I realize that our school year is turning out completely differently than the way I’d planned it so neatly last summer.  It’s also the time I start pondering and forming vague plans for next year.  Coincidence?   Or just masochism?

I’m thrilled to find this Eisenhower quote which assures me I’m not the only one.  I need to plan each school year.  I need to research and make a schedule and chart a path.  But inevitably, during the year, we’ll discover that some plans don’t work out, and we’ll stumble upon new opportunities that I didn’t know existed.

And we turn a corner.  And another.

I didn’t plan on rifle and handgun practice, but the 4-H shooting sports class was too good an opportunity to pass up.  Not just for target practice, but for self-control and careful discipline.

I didn’t plan for my teen daughter to be a model in a fashion show, but the fundraiser for CASA (a wonderful organization helping abused children) is a worthy cause.

I did plan for her to earn college credit this year through AP and CLEP tests, but she’s failed every test, and we’ve discovered that those tests just don’t play to her strengths.  On the other hand, little brother (now 13) earned his first college credit in American History.  Surprise!

I didn’t plan to have my kids research unintended consequences of political promises, but the John Stossell essay contest offered them highly motivational prizes, and seemed to me a good way to apply both the writing and the government studies they’ve done.

We end up in places that teach my kids great things, create wonderful memories, and shape their characters toward the adults I want them to be.  They just aren’t usually the places I planned to be.

Next year’s plan includes logic, physics, and essay writing for the younger teen, and psychology and drama for the older one.  And of course, I will plan to change my plans!

Field trips – concrete benefits in the real world

My youngest son participates in a co-op biology class.  During a recent module on the respiratory system, one of the moms arranged a field trip to a medical supply company that specializes in oxygen and respiratory care services.  While there, I saw a nebulizer on display that was amazingly improved over the one my husband and daughter use to treat asthma attacks.   I knew our nebulizer was 20 years old, but didn’t realize how much the technology had improved.  Okay, I will be honest: we just hadn’t thought about it at all since our machine “worked.”

We ordered a new one from Lincare, and it arrived yesterday.  Besides being smaller, lighter and quieter than the old one, and having a handy car power chord, it actually works more efficiently (imagine that!).  Both husband and daughter have already used it and have commented that the recovery time from the asthma attack was much faster.  I’m so grateful to see my family spared physical pain.

By the way, it’s called the Mini Elite nebulizer by Respironics.  I give it two thumbs up.

Anyway, just wanted to remind homeschoolers that field trips and seeing “school subjects” in the real world are worthwhile.  Keep taking advantage of our wonderful opportunities to have our children educated in the real world rather than being tied to lengthy hours inside a classroom.  Sometimes the benefit is simply an understanding of how the subject is applied.  Sometimes the benefit is an inspiration for a career.  Sometimes it’s something immediately concrete and useful to your family.

You don’t need a co-op class to take field trips.  Whatever you’re studying, look around and ask, where does this show up in the world around me?  If you can’t think of one, a google search will often turn up new homeschool field trip ideas.  Venture forth, brave learners!