Quicksand in Connecticut: Deb R.'s Interview

Deb lives with her fascinating family in Connecticut and boy do they love water. I'm not just talking about this photo she sent to me of her family on a boat. I'm talking about "the water experiment," a project the family worked on for years.

Oh, and one more thing. Just a warning, after you read this interview, you will likely have a certain famous song from the sixties in your head for days...

1. How long have you been homeschooling (or if finished, how long did you homeschool)?

Since Joshua was born, and he's about to turn 11.

2. One of the main benefits of homeschooling is the freedom and flexibility it allows. Can you give us a few examples of how this freedom and flexibility benefited you (your family)?

Two related incidents from Oct 2008 spring to mind. At the beginning of October, Rick (hubby) was hospitalized for a couple days. Joshua was able to be there with him, spend down-time at home with various family members (grandma and aunt both spent time with him while I was at the hospital), and in general "process" the experience in his own time and at his own pace without having to haul himself off to school every morning.

Then at the end of October, my dad was hospitalized with a heart attack and subsequent bypass surgery - leaving my mom (who is a heart patient herself) home alone. We were able to just drop everything and go down to be with them for a week - no 'excused absences' to sort out, no homework to make up, just being there for them to handle whatever needed doing. Even my siblings who live nearby were somewhat limited because their kids had to keep up with school.

More mundane things, too, such as traveling during the 'off season' to avoid crowds; going to the movie theater at 8 pm on a Tuesday night - we often have the theater to ourselves even for popular new releases because families "have to" get the homework done, baths, pack backpacks, and get to bed 'on time'.

For Joshua, being able to focus literally hours of his time on something, regardless of what day it is or even what time of day it is, is another important facet of the flexibility of homeschooling. There’s no divide between “school time” and everything else; no need to stop reading a book or designing a new scenario in a game because the clock says that now it’s “time” for math or history. He can also eat, sleep, move according to his own internal clock instead of someone else’s – school schedules can really mess up the natural circadian rhythms by requiring kids to eat at set times (which can be anywhere from 11:30 to 1:00 for lunch times – and it changes each school year in many cases).

3. Another benefit of homeschooling is the fun factor. Can you give us a few examples of some especially fun times you had as a result of homeschooling?

This took some thinking because we don't usually divide things up into homeschooling and the rest of life. Fun stuff happens because it's part of life.

After thinking a bit, we found some things where school would have gotten in the way of what we did by the nature of its schedule requirements. Things like getting up in the wee hours to watch a lunar eclipse then going to breakfast at Denny's together (we were leaving Denny’s about the same time that the school buses were rolling by our house).

Staying up late to watch a meteor shower while bundled in sleeping bags in the back yard.

Hanging out at Starbucks to watch a dual fly-by of the ISS and shuttle at 8 pm in the middle of the week (we often get alerted to stuff like this through homeschooling friends and message groups which is cool).

Spending time at the beach sans crowds by going before Memorial Day and after Labor Day – that’s really fun because it’s warm enough to enjoy the beach (though the water can be “bracing” lol) and we have the space to explore and build sand castles and not stand in line for the bathrooms.

When we first moved into our house, Joshua was 3 ½. We moved some patio pavers and found layers of gravel and sand underneath (which is normal for making a patio). He and Rick created “the water experiment” that lasted for some 3 or 4 summers. They’d turn on the hose and run the water across the area, creating rivers and exploring ideas like erosion, sedimentation, dams, and so on. They even made a small patch of ‘quicksand’ by tucking the end of the hose under a patch of sand so it bubbled up. They put a small rock on top and watched as it slowly sank down into the sand. How cool is that!

Tying in to the idea of flexibility, Joshua fell in love with Arlo Guthrie’s song, “Alice’s Restaurant” a few years ago. Lo and behold, the Guthrie family was touring and had a stop planned in our area. As an 8 p.m. concert, it was not designed for kids really – we ended up getting home somewhere after 11 p.m. But Joshua got to hear “Alice’s Restaurant” performed LIVE by the one and only Arlo Guthrie! Out of the packed auditorium, we spotted maybe half a dozen grammar school aged kids – it was a school night and 11 p.m. is way too late to stay up with the school bus arriving at 7:30 the next morning.

4. We all have funny experiences while homeschooling. Can you share one of yours with us?

This is a tough one because things that might seem 'funny' to others probably seem pretty 'normal' to us (we are, admittedly, a bit “weird” to quote DS) and things that are funny to us often get blank looks from others. A 9 year old quoting Monty Python, for instance, gets odd looks from many folks.

Many moments we recall as 'funny' are related to the reactions of others. For instance, an acquaintance, upon finding out that we "homeschool", asked DS (then about 6) what his favorite subject was. From her perspective (as a school teacher) that was a reasonable question.

DS, trying his best to be polite, pondered a bit to answer her question. We don't divide life and learning up into subject sized pigeonholes. But, from various children's programs and such (school is a major focus of much of children's programming in one way or another), he had discerned that a "subject" is a category of something you do. After a bit of thought, he said "videogames!" and ran off to play, triumphant at figuring out this perplexing question. I loved his answer and watching the other person react and recover (startled, shocked, then a bit of "that’s so cute").

Deb in CT

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