Friday, January 20, 2012

School in "The Place for Boats"


It’s a beautiful, balmy 70 degree winter day here in East Texas. I’m sitting on the front porch, working on a few projects while awaiting the all important call. Yep, any minute now I’ll hear it – “Mom! There’s a leak! Turn the water off!” I’ll jump up, turn off the hose and wait for the go ahead to turn the water back on.

No, we aren’t working on the plumbing – it’s just another ‘Water in the Place for Boats’ kinda day. Oh, I know, you’ve probably read a dozen posts like this if you’ve read my blog for long. We are a mud loving, outside playing, dig in the dirt, kind of family. But today as I watch the little boys and work on the projects I need to get done, I’m thinking about school.
It's a breach in the dam! Call in the heavy equipment!

Sometimes I have a hard time differentiating between school and life, because we’ve chosen to live a life of learning. I’m not completely sure how we started on this way of life, but I’m so thankful we did. I’ve read a number of blog posts in recent months that have me thinking about the value of a lifestyle of learning.

One blog post by a homeschooling mom of two young boys (both under 6 years) mentioned that although they like to play outside, they rarely get time, due to homeschool. What a sad thought! In the state of Texas, children are not required to attend school until the school year after their 6th birthday. For MT, that will be September 2013. So, I do not do any school with MT. FRitW is of legal school age, so I do meet the state’s requirements for him. But, I feel that outside, unstructured, creative play has much more value than a worksheet!
A new idea: create an overflow pond in the area most likely to leak.

What value could mud play possibly have? Permit me a moment to share. Our ‘Place for Boats’ as the dirt hole is affectionately called, is a grassless space on a slight incline. This means water does not want to stay in the hole. So each time they decide to have a water day, they have to build some sort of dam to hold the water. This requires some serious planning, teamwork, and hard physical labor. They have learned to come up with new ideas to contain the water and reroute the water. Essentially, they are learning basic engineering skills and putting them into practice. They are seeing, touching, and thinking through problems, and finding a solution. And when it fails? Well they try again. The mud hole is something they want to succeed and they receive a direct benefit when their plans work. The incentive to keep trying, thinking, and creating is tangible and they never give up.
It works! It works!

In addition to these skills, they have encountered several toads hibernating in this hole. When they uncover a toad, the discussions flow. They have learned much about habitat, seasons, and respect for creatures and the environment from this mud hole. I keep a variety of insect and reptile guides available and those guides are in frequent use. They are learning that the ability to read is a valued and desirable goal.

 Finally, FRitW and MT are comfortable in the outdoors and they are strong and healthy.

I write this post, not because I think everyone should choose this life, but because sometimes I need a reminder that it’s best for our family. Out in public, I get asked if my children are on grade level, or what textbooks we use for homeschooling. I don’t have ‘acceptable’ answers to either of these. I can’t speak to the grade level, because that depends on the school I compare them with, and we don’t use textbooks. In fact we don’t have any curriculum with a grade number on it. Aaack! Then are my children behind in their learning???!!! Umm, well that depends. Since we are a homeschooling family, I feel they are right on track. They have mastered skills at different ages, and have different strengths than each other. None of them learned to read extremely early and one has simply atrocious handwriting. But, they are all intelligent, creative, hard working, loving, trustworthy people -  and that makes me smile.
I'm so glad they're washable!

Photobucket