I wish I could present snapshots of our days to the Dept. of Ed instead of quarterly reports (the next one is due April 15th). Because sometimes pictures really are worth a thousand words, and the task of dividing the experiences of our days into subjects is tedious and dry.
For instance: This morning at Maya’s request we went out, got on the train and headed down to Chelsea to go to the Goodwill Store there. She and Ben wanted to buy some stuffed animals to use in their videos, and wound up with three Webkinz each. We stopped in at the City Quilter, which is on the same block as Goodwill, and bought some stuffing for them to use when they make pillows and/or ‘Stuffies’ (which are sort of like Ugly Dolls). Then we went to Staples and stocked up on photo paper – we’ve been using a lot of it lately, what with documenting our daily projects. Then it was lunch at a local diner, back on the train and home. Ben gave his new Webkinz a bath and then went down to the laundry room in our building and ran them through the dryer. We watched some “Friends” (the one in London with Ross’ wedding where he calls his bride ‘Rachel’ by mistake), then Maya emailed with a friend, I did a new workout and Ben played with Nanobugs and Bionicles. Joshua came home and we had dinner together. Ben has been drawing for about the last hour, and Maya is writing.
As all of this was going on, there was conversation on all manner of topics, from the learning styles of some of our friends, to discussions of what makes a healthy relationship and on to what types of videos are in the works utilizing the new Webkinz purchases. We talked about Maya’s Spanish class and the best way to become comfortable in a second language. (We all agreed it is by spending time in a country where everyone speaks the language you are learning.) And of course, as is the case anytime we go anywhere, there was a lot of walking, and going up and down stairs to the subway. (Take that, PSA people of “Let’s Move”!)
A snapshot could show all of this, minus the conversation topics, at a glance. Writing it down here is easy enough, but distilling it all into some academic formula is difficult. Some people would look at what we did today and announce that there was nothing educational about it. And that’s true, if by education you mean school-related. But if education is about successfully living in the world, then I would say today was very educational. Maya knows where to go for inexpensive video props, and how to get there. Ben took it upon himself to make sure his purchases were clean (they were used, after all) and knows how to use the card to run the dryers in the basement. I didn’t accompany him – he was on his own. When we do things like watching “Friends” it is by consensus, so sometimes this involves a discussion before a decision is made. And then when I exercise the kids go about entertaining themselves, and they respect the time I take to myself. Conversations revolving around how to learn second-languages, or how to treat another person are nothing if not educational.
Did we learn any Math today? Maybe not. How about something I could classify as Science? I suppose I could talk about the experience of drying wet Webkinz, and learning that water evaporates when it is heated. Ben knows this, of course, but I’ve never said “Hey Ben, do you know why those wet animals get dry when you toss them in the dryer?” Geography? “What’s happening today in Japan? Or Libya?”
Living in a family and in the world is an all around education. All subjects are covered all the time, but in the random way of life. We do not wake up every morning and announce that now we will look at the Times and do our Geography by studying what is going on in the Middle East. Does that mean we learn it any less effectively? On the contrary.
A snapshot collage might be able to show how integrated our lives and our learning are. Impossible to categorize and separate into neat subject headings, but effective, lasting and real.