intensely trivial

Took my kid out of school for the week

Our little family of four just spent the last week at the ranch, the most peaceful place I can imagine being. It’s out in the middle of nowhere, with scenery out of a classic western. I go there with high hopes of interacting more personally with God than usual and sometimes getting answers from him to big questions I have. I expect to smile more with my kids as the stress of everyday living is left behind in Manhattan.
This time, once again, our trip fulfilled all my dreams. Dan’s teaching and research schedule is such that, with some discipline when he is home, he is able to take the time off without huge repercussions. There was, however, one complication that I had to deal with this time: Ellie had to be taken out of school to go on this vacation with us. I was nervous about this, especially because she had just missed four days due to H1N1, and she was going to miss five more on vacation. I emailed her wonderful teacher, and to my great relief, her teacher responded, saying, “Don’t worry about her falling behind. I know she is academically solid. . . . Family time is the best and I don’t have any worries about her being gone for a family trip. I know you’ll read and talk with her and make it an educational time.”
And of course we did! Our household is made up of compulsive learners. πŸ™‚ Here’s a partial list of the learning Ellie participated in while we were away from civilization:
— Grandma paraphrased the story of Jonah from the King James Version of the Bible.
— Ellie spontaneously composed about 20 different recipes, with invented spelling, some of it accurate. For example, “Fish. Chloklit, chedr, caritstis” (chocolate, cheddar, carrot sticks). The cheddar is for the body, and the chocolate chips are for the fish’s eyes, and you are supposed to make a fingerprint for the tail, and the carrot sticks for spiny spikes.
— She and Jonathan collaborated to prepare and serve these dishes to the rest of the family.
— Seriously, the girl spent hours every day writing without being prompted.
— She examined the layers in a wash in the pine forest to determine whether there were fossils there. (No, they were tree roots.)
— She discovered a fragmented coyote skull in the grass, collected all the pieces and tried to put it together corrrectly, while Dan and I demonstrated our superior knowledge about coyote skeletal structure and function.
— She played Uno for the first time and loved it. And she played it as many more times as we could. She also learned how to lose gracefully and cheer gladly for whoever won.
— She extended this knowledge of Uno by designing her own game called Uno-At, in which all the cards had different words that ended in “at.” And she made me play it with her. It needed some tweaking, but it sort of worked.
— She learned how to spell “poop.” She practiced writing it a million times and laughed a lot. And then she wrote and read a whole bunch more words that ended in “oop.”
— She read a silly song I composed, made up a melody for it, and performed it a million times on top of a chair, complete with bows and dramatic “thank you, thank you”s.
— She read the book Go Away, Big Green Monster to herself.
— She duplicated Go Away, Big Green Monster, pictures and words, with markers and paper (among other things, she wants to be a writer and illustrator when she grows up). She planned to copy Sheila Rae the Brave and Pinkalicious, but I think the first duplication job ended up being enough.
— And of course, she listened to countless stories, some made up on the spot by yours truly and many more read out of books.
And I didn’t make her do any of this! They were almost all her ideas, and she did them independently. Now, which educational experience do you think was more effective: a week at the ranch with the family, or a week in kindergarten? I love her kindergarten teacher, and I love hearing what she’s learning about, but to me, the week we just had offers the best case for homeschooling (or maybe even unschooling) that I can think of.


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  1. * Shelley C. says:

    Amen. Why am I not surprised that Ellie is a writer, reader, and recipe inventor? Perhaps you and I, and other interested parties, should found an official “unschool” in Manhattan!

    Posted 8 years, 7 months ago
  2. * Terri says:

    If *anyone* could make the unschooling concept really work, it would be you guys! Sounds like you had a great week. πŸ™‚

    Posted 8 years, 7 months ago
  3. You make the perfect unschooling Momma! You know, homeschooling takes about the same time each day for one kiddo as you probably already take with her after she gets back from “school” anyways. But then you don’t have to do it only in the evening hours… you can do it whenever *you* want. πŸ˜€
    I am glad you had such a wonderful trip. I was praying for it!

    Posted 8 years, 7 months ago

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