The other day someone contacted me to complain about a homeschool family who was counting activities such as Boy Scouts, field trips, church events, etc. as “school time.” I tried to explain to this person that many families (including my own) consider hands-on learning much more effective than sitting at a desk with a textbook for hours on end. Of course this statement kind of fell on deaf ears since he was adamant there are “rules about how much ‘education’ a homeschooled child should receive each day” and parents need to do a minimum of four hours of book work.
I’ve been thinking about his statements a lot this week. I spoke with the family in question and I’m supportive of their relaxed homeschooling methods – though I did recommend that they reconsider how they answer inquisitive people in regards to the methods and materials they use. I also looked at my own family and evaulated how my children are doing with a more relaxed, eclectic method of homeschooling. We actually received their standardized tests this week and everyone did quite well – despite the fact that we don’t use textbooks at all and we only do workbook work about five days per month. (The children read living books, attend seminars, go on field trips, participate in scouts, study the Bible, watch educational movies, and read some more…) Still, I have continued to think about the man’s statements that many of these things aren’t “school.” Honestly, “school” is an institution. I want my children to be intelligent, but more than that I want them to be WISE. Even the best schools don’t teach wisdom. They teach subjects. This can be accomplished in many ways and there is no “perfect” method.
Anyway, this morning I was sitting here working on something and my 8-year-old came running into the room. He was carrying some slimy little creature that looked like a miniature oval-shaped fish with a long, skinny tail. It was very disgusting. He said, “LOOK what I found!!! It’s a whip-tail maggot!” I said, “What in the world is that?!?” He explained that he had been looking through our “geiser” (where our dishwasher and washer water drain in our yard since our house is nearly 100 years old). He was trying to find snapping turtles (he found one) and then he noticed that we had some of these little creatures. He was telling me all about these maggots and I said, “Where in the world did you learn all that?” He said, “Oh, we had a special class about little water creatures at Boy Scout camp this week and they told us about them there.”
Sure enough, while he was standing there, we looked them up online and they are officially called rat-tailed maggots, but he was correct with his information. (BTW, one of the sites we use is whatsthatbug.com. It’s a great website for identifying unknown tiny critters.)
None of us will ever forget what a rat-tailed maggot is. The children not only learned something, they reinforced it in such a way that it will not be forgotten. The next time someone calls to complain about how homeschool families sometimes say that “outside activities” are “school-time,” I’m going to share with them the story of the rat-tailed maggot!