Sunday, April 3, 2011

The Learning Curve: Spring Break, Attempt 1

One of the great things about home schooling, as opposed to our local school system, is that we can finally sync up our kids' schedules with my husband's schedule at the nearby university.  Despite being a university town, the local schools obstinately refuse to use the same spring, fall, or holiday break schedule as the university, even though the university schedule is published long before the school board determines their schedule.  Hence, in previous years, my husband would have his spring break, and we could not go anywhere because the kids were still in school.  Then, the kids would have spring break and we could not go anywhere, because my husband had to teach.  Wheeee.  Now, I am the superintendent, so I get to set the break schedules, and I decree that my husband's schedule has a lot to do with the kids' school schedule when it comes to short-term breaks and travel (including conferences to cool locations when the budget allows).

Indeed, we were all terribly excited for our first round of Whole Family Spring Break this year!  We could go visit Grandma!  We could go visit Wellsboro, the Grand Canyon of Pennsylvania!  We could go visit Gettysburg!  We could have fun!  Yeeeeha!  Spring break this year was the last week in March.  My Mom and I watched the weather as the initial weekend approached.  Plans changed at the last minute, as Mom has 12" of snow dumped on her, as did much of northeastern and north central PA, which also made Wellsboro seem kind of unappealing.  We aren't exactly wimps, but this is the end of winter, not the beginning, and we're ready for warmer weather.  Even walking around Gettysburg seemed like something we could postpone for better weather.  Hmmm.  Time for plan B.  It sure would have been nice if I'd made one!

Monday morning arrives, and we are still in town.  The boys have been dying to surprise Dad with the secret of the whispering bench at Longwood Gardens.  It is cold, borderline rainy (read wet-feeling and threatening) and kind of miserable in the morning, but off we go.  We do have a fun day, tricking a willing Dad with the acoustics of the whispering bench, and then exploring the indoor areas in the conservatories.  Son#1 notes that for "break" this activity feels suspiciously educational.  We smile, and after a few hours, we do take them to a local indoor play center for a few more hours of a good time.

Tuesday arrives, and we're still in town.  During lunch at Bertucci's, we break out the Children's Homer and read two more chapters; as a treat, for once Dad gets to read-- he's usually at work when we do this stuff, and misses out on the kids' activities.  Then we head into Philly and on into the Leonardo DaVinci exhibit, which is very cool, but once again, son#1 sees a trend developing, and mentions that for "break" this activity seems rather educational.  After the exhibit, we go explore some parts of the rest of the Franklin Institute, including the new version of the walk-through heart.  Kids agree they definitely want to come back and see more!  But, son#1 points out, preferably on a school day.  We finish up with a planetarium show about black holes, which, son#1 points out, is exactly what we're studying in science right now.  He doesn't miss a trick, that one.  Except we weren't trying to trick him; I just love planetariums.  On the way out, both boys begged to hit the gift shop-- not for toys; they each wanted to buy a book.  HAH!  Who's being educational now?

On Wednesday, Dad snuck into work for a few hours of grading and lesson planning and even (gasp) research, while the boys and I stayed home and attempted to relax.  We played some games, watched TV, and yes . . . read books.  Sounds delightful . . . except by 1pm, both boys were surreptitiously poking at their school books, looking for something more structured to do.  Thanks to the rainy weather, it was too cold and wet to go outdoors, and I was feeling really sub-par and not up to heading out to the athletic center to play.  The boys were actually starting to miss school.

Thursday was more of the same, except we went to the athletic center for gym class at the Hockessin Athletic Club, at their request (I gave them the option, since it was technically their school break week).  They love the gym class so much that they both wanted to go!  Unfortunately, right afterward, son#2 collapsed and became very, very ill, sending us right to the doc with a probably strep infection, and home with an antibiotic.  As of this writing, he's still a sick little boy and not eating, but at least he's awake now.

On Friday, son#1 and I head to the Delaware Museum of Natural History  for a science homeschool class-- at this point, why not-- followed by lunch out together, and then time at the library reading and getting some great new books.  He also started and read most of his book for book club next Wednesday night.  By this point, he's so relieved to have something interesting to do, that he has stopped mentioning that these activities feel rather educational for a break week.  I have not mentioned that a few of these days are actually going to be scored as school attendance days rather than break days at this point, based on the number of hours spent on educational activity.  Why spoil it?  He's had a lot of fun bragging to his friends that he's on spring break :).  We'll take other days off in the future and do other cool stuff instead.

Saturday!!  Son#2 is waking up more, and alert enough to play outdoors in the sun-- yes the sun-- for a short time, and we go play catch outside!  Even indoors he's awake enough for Hungry Hungry Hippos and other games, so we stay busy. My husband installs a new clothesline for me, so I can hang clothes outdoors (yes, I am a modern female with not one, but two college degrees and my name on peer-reviewed journal articles in more than one academic field.  And I am terribly excited by the fact that I now have an outdoor clothesline instead of just an electric dryer :D  Thank you darling! ).

Sunday:  the final day of spring break.  Son#2 is still a sick little boy, but showing some signs of improvement.  The sun is out again and it is even warmer, so we get him outside again.  My husband takes on the job of planting blueberry bushes, and the boys both help, examining the quality of the soil ("Wow, there's a lot of clay here!") and the depth of the hole and the distance between bushes.  They named the bushes (Zeus, Hera, Aphrodite, and Hades; they are saving Demeter for a planned raspberry bush).  Again with the educational stuff, but again son#1 let it slide.

So, that's our first attempt at Spring Break.  I'd say, looking at the weekday week, we need a little practice at this "vacation" thing . . . since at least three of those days could qualify as school days, at least for son#1, who thinks maybe Hershey Park or something similar would be a nice try next time.  Gee . . . and I'd been thinking Williamsburg . . . But it wssn't all just me.  I caught son#1 reading a copy of "If I Were a Kid in Ancient Rome," along with his book club book, and son#2 reading a book about Pompeii.

So . . . what did we learn from this?

1.  Breaks during warm weather will be easier than breaks during cold/rainy weather.  We can always do stuff outdoors when it's nice out.  Parks, swimming, outside to play, whatever.  Therefore, cold weather breaks need a PLAN so that we don't go crazy or just sitting around and waiting for school to start again.  (And, we're homeschoolers, so if we want school to start again, we CAN, or we can go somewhere educational rather than having a normal school day-- field trip!).

2.  I need to seriously consider boxing up toys and games, and only getting them out when we're "on break" at home, so that they'll be "new" and fun again.  It'll also open up more space in the play room.  Win/win.

3.  I'm more convinced than ever that year-round schooling is the way to go, rather than the 9 on/3 off plan of the usual public schools.  I cannot imagine what the point of "skipping" school for 3 1/2 months straight would be.  Even though we're planning a real garden, taking care of it can be part of the curriculum.  (that's a future blog post).

4.  We're doing a lot right, but we still have a lot of stuff not figured out at all.  Like how to take a freaking break properly!!  After all the careful planning on how to do school, who would ever have figured that we'd have to think about how to take a break????  Whoops!  Chalk that one up under "Lesson Learned."
--Thanks for reading!

1 comment:

  1. LOL, I kept wondering what you were gonna do during the summer, but I think you sort of answered that. More fun breaks during the "school year", and less boring breaks during the summer. Although, I have a feeling, your boys would still be learning all summer long, no matter what you do. ;-)