Saturday, October 19, 2013

When Defiance Turns into an Experiment

For the longest time I have been strict about sunscreen and sun hats.  I have always said they were necessary from nine to five between March and September and ten to four the rest of the year with adjusting to nine to three during standard time.  It is just a rule I have used to be prudent about the sun.  The kids, however, were getting sick of it and challenged me on it.  So we sat down and researched possible rules of thumb for sunscreen usage.  A common one that seemed to come up was to wear it when one's shadow is shorter than oneself.  But even with this, my times didn't seem to be too far off - until we tested it.

We began by watching a video online about the angle of the sun.  Then we decided to measure our shadows beginning within a week of the summer solstice and once a month, thereafter.  After the June one, we looked up the solar noon so we could extrapolate the end time rather than have to measure shadows in both the morning and afternoon.  Here is what we came up with for sunscreen/hat usage:

Month (3rd week) Start Stop
June 9:45 4:45
July 10:10 4:35
August 10:40 4:00
September 11:20 3:00
October never shorter never shorter

In Buffalo, there is a big variance in how much sun we get during the different times of year.  As you can see, I wasn't too far off for June.

We continued in July.

August, however, was more like the times I had been using for winter.  This is when the kids started to get excited.  By September, it was less than four hours.

And finally, here is October, when their shadows never even got close to shorter:

Do you see the satisfaction at Mom being wrong?  Hopefully, this is the beginning of questioning all kinds of rules and seeking out the truth in more areas.  Of course, we are (painfully at times) aware that it often means questioning us too.


  1. Hello! I'm a fellow Buffalo resident who's just happened to stumble across your blog! We have two boys, 3 and 4, we've been looking into alternative educational paths and we're now considering the unschooling approach. Our 4 year old is currently enrolled in a pre-school early childhood program which we hate (even at such a young age I feel like it's a very negative place, too structured and discipline focused, other children are violent and pick on him for his long hair and even his interests in animals and nature as opposed to characters, the teachers do not connect with us at all, it's just awful) and he seems to be interested in homeschool is worried about losing his friends. Do you belong to any groups or know of any in the area? Or do you rely or programs of your daughters choosings to meet friends? I would like to get him involved with other groups of children fairly quickly because I don't want him to think he's missing anything.
    I also wonder how you deal with any possible negative reactions from others. I know it's not something I should be worried about but we rent from my mother-in-law. Were self-employed and in our twenties, not making a ton, and living here is helpful for a lot of different reasons. But she sends her kids to a charter school with uniforms and "color days" then to a popular afterschool program until 7pm and thinks I should do the same. Honestly, she's a little scary. I'm just wondering if you've had to deal with anything like this and how you've gone about it.
    Sorry about the length of this, you're the first homeschooling mom I've found in this area with some similar views as ours about education. And I'd really appreciate your thoughts. Thanks!
    - Chelsea

    1. Sorry for the delay. We are big fans of homeschooling, obviously. I went to a great Catholic school as a kid, but it took up the whole day not to mention a huge amount of homework. It wasn't a childhood and I could have learned in a fraction of the time.

      It sounds like your biggest concern is friends. First off, the best thing to do is meet people in your neighborhood who homeschool and do regular playdates, but there are some groups too (link above - if they don't work let me know - I have been a bit lazy with the blog) with regular outings and field trips.

      As far as negative relatives, we never get a negative reaction from our own parents, but I am never sure if it is that they think homeschooling is good or if they just are afraid we will freak out if they are critical. I do have a neighbor who was really in my face about it for a while. I feel like the best defense is the good results, although that is sort of tricky sometimes because how does one demonstrate the results. Ultimately, you need to be comfortable about your choices for your kids, their success (to the extent it reflects on anyone except themselves) will reflect on you not your relatives. It may help to gather up stats on homeschooling in defense, but keep in mind that the conventional wisdom is really entrenched in out society so don't be upset if you fail to convince.

      I would love to correspond in more detail if you want