Friday, March 5, 2010

The joys of car schooling

Homeschooling high school is, and this is a glaring understatement, a lot of work. More work than the earlier years because it really matters and it is the last chance for cementing skills and imparting wisdom before your kids fly the coop. I find older teens to be interesting young adults, but they still don't necessarily LOVE every subject, don't greet each school day with heart-felt enthusiasm. They still don't give me all the praise I am due for creating such brilliant courses of study for them.

The 4 day car trip I had with my son last weekend turned out to be a wonderful break from the worries and pressures of high school. It reminded me of the old days when learning was a simple, natural and unrushed endeavor, and it was a relief to see that meaningful learning, without assignments and expectations, can still happen with a teen.

I could have insisted we listen during the drive to a work from his world history and literature syllabus, but instead we listened to a book he had been impatient for me to read, Robert Heinlein's The Moon is a Harsh Mistress. He talked about what he liked about the book, I talked about what I didn't like, we talked about Libertarians, and utopia and current politics. We compared the book to Dune, he compared it to Starship Troopers and told me not to read that one based on the things I disliked about this one. It was relaxing yet engaging and the hours passed quickly.

We also went on a couple of organized tours. Neither was really planned to connect to this year's science or history, they were just interesting and available. One was a behind the scenes tour of the Monterey Bay Aquarium, which was quite interesting -- we could have spent another hour with that docent. The other was at the beach where the Elephant Seals hang out in the winter. That was quite amazing, and my son surprised me with some random knowledge of the physiology of the animals.

Part of me wishes we could school like this for the rest of high school. I'm a former unschooler who only planned for math during the early elementary grades, otherwise everything was learned simply through exploring the world via books, videos or being out in the world. My kids thrived with this set up, yet they adapted and thrived as things became more formal and structured. I guess it was a good reminder for me that it is still worthwhile to spend some unstructured time outside of our routine, that simply sharing books can be more edifying than dissecting great works. And with the high school years passing by so quickly, we definitely need to make time for a few more of these excursions.

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