Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Will I Measure Up?

I have read bits and pieces of many homeschooling books and they all talk about creating an environment for questions and seizing the learning moments as they happen.  I read stories of trips to Italy that the teenagers plan for the whole family, homes with entire rooms filled with classic literature so that the kids can grab a piece of history anytime and homeschooling groups that tour a museum a month.  At first, I was inspired.  Next, I felt intimidated.  Will I be able to measure up?  Will I be able to give my children all of these amazing experiences?  Little did I know my son already has it taken care of.

We have been learning about the power of the sun and we've done all kinds of experiments to bring that concept to life.  We made sun tea and tried to figure out if the sun was strong enough to make tea.  To my son's astonishment, it was.  I found a little greenhouse at Wal-Mart and so we planted flowers and we are slowly watching them pop out of their seeds.  But I wanted him to really see what the sun can do without humans getting in the way so I planned a trip to Myakka River State Park.

The Myakka River flows through 57 miles of wetlands, prairies and woodlands.  It is, in a word, breath taking.  My parents used to take us on vacation to the park when they couldn't afford beach front hotels and I have memories of camping and hiking the park.  I thought I would give my boys those same memories and hopefully give them a chance to learn a few things as well.  The learning started before we even made it through the gate.

"Who lives in that house?" my son asked as we pulled up to the ranger station.  
"No one lives there but the park rangers work in there," I explained.
"Oh.  What's a park ranger do?" he asked.
"Why don't you ask him yourself?" I said.
And so he did.  He rolled down his window as I paid and asked him what a park ranger does.
"Oh we take care of the park," the friendly ranger answered.
"Yes, but, what exactly does a park ranger do?" my son prodded.
"Well, why don't you come on in and find out?" the ranger answered.

We circled around the lot and went in to a room filled with park history, maps and t-shirts.  The ranger squatted down to my son's level and answered all of his questions and more.  I mentioned that we homeschooled him and he lit up with excitement.  Apparently, he's planning on taking his two boys out of school next year to homeschool them with his wife.  He offered to take our homeschool group on a tour anytime and to call him with questions if more cropped up later.  We thanked "Ranger Chris" and headed out on our adventure.

As my sons' teacher, I forget that my job is not always to stand up and explain what I want them to learn.  My job is to expose them to the world and teach them how to find the answers they are seeking.  My sons really want to learn.  If I bring them into new environments, they will tell me exactly what they want to learn.  If I do that, I will be able to give my children life changing experiences.  And, if I take some of the pressure off of myself, I see how much learning is already happening.

How do you keep yourself from comparing yourself to other parents?  

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