Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Old Fashioned Travel for an Old Fashioned Education

If you have been reading my companion blog, you know that on July 6, 2012 we took an unusual trip with the help of the grandparents.  Driving from Buffalo to Chicopee, MA is nothing new for our family, especially me.  I have been making the trip regularly since 1997 when I moved to Buffalo.  We've always taken the NYS Thruway with the most choice being where to stop, like the supply of fast food was a big variety, and whether to stay on the thruway or stay on Interstate 90 when with goes around Albany.  With the kids the trip takes around 7 hours, pretty efficient like most modern travel.  Modern travel with its well placed conveniences and efficiency is centered very much around getting where you are going, and not about the trip.  Interstate highways have taken motorists off of the traditional US highways where people actually work and live.  Worse is the way people fly around place to place without even having to think about the people they pass by or the real distance they are going.

For a long time, I thought about how interesting it would be to travel on the old US highways across the country, like US 20, or up a coast, like US 1.   It reminds me of old movies from the 1930s and 1940s before the interstate system.  It was a time where, if you drove somewhere, you couldn't help but go slower and experience the places you passed through.   I can't see a situation where we will be able to do the whole thing at once, but I thought we may get to do it in increments.  We started on July 6, 2012 by attempting to pick up US 20 as soon as we could outside of Buffalo and take it to Springfield, MA.  Because we ran out of time we picked up the NYS Thruway just outside of Albany.  While we decided to go at the last minute and I didn't have time to review Carschooling, the kids brought maps and followed some of the town names.

The trip was a great time even though it wasn't exactly the way I expected.  First of all, I thought the kids would be into seeing all the farms as we passed, but after the first few, the fascination wore off a bit.  Despite being city kids, I suppose seeing cows from the car is only so interesting.  We did, however, get to stop at lakes, farms, and dairy stands that we hadn't seen before despite frequently driving within a few miles of them.  Here are the highlights:

This kind of travel is like homeschool, where being able to take your time and ignore the conventional ways gives your a more full experience.  I don't remember how many times I have driven from Buffalo to Chicopee, but we won't forget this trip with all the sights and fun stops on the way.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Homeschooling: The Occasional Problem with Self-Paced Learning

This week I couldn't help but think about how nice it is to stop and smell the flowers.  C loves to stop and look at flowers and butterflies and rocks and ants and, well, everything.  It's great to have the freedom to explore what is around us, an amazing amount of nature for our city environment.  I don't remember doing this as much when I was a child.  I probably did when I was four and half, and just don't remember.  However, by the time I was in school full days at six and a half, there just wasn't the time.  We had homework, places to be, and strict bedtimes.  We played in the neighborhood after school with the other kids, but by that time of day, our brains were fried and the energy for natural learning was lower.  It seems we destroyed ant hills more than we watched them.

I am getting better at letting their interests dictate our activities, but I am far from perfect.  When it comes to letting them learn at their own pace with the curriculum we use, however, I always felt like we were on the right track.  First of all, we only spend about an hour a day on it or less.  Second, they can repeat any sections or activities that they have trouble with.  Third, they can work ahead whenever they want.  Finally, my kids happen to be ahead of their peers at this point.  This could always change of course, but it does give me some added comfort right now.

Unfortunately, C is too far ahead in math.  She finished kindergarten, but isn't ready for first grade math at all.  There is a big jump between two levels, at least in math.  You would think that this wouldn't be too much of a problem because we could either take a break or she could repeat some of the kindergarten activities.  However, since I have always let them go ahead when they finish something, she wants to proceed.  We have done the first lesson multiple times, and I added some customized activities with Mom in between.  Over time, the pace will moderate with adding these hands-on activities and slowing down by repeating, but will she get frustrated in the meantime?  Will I get frustrated at designing extra activities that we might not have needed if she tried it older?  Only time will tell. 

Has this happened to you?  How did you handle it?  How did it turn out?