How Can We Not Have Fun?: Sussette Webster's Interview

I think this photo pretty much sums up the heading of this post, don't you?

Sussette lives with her husband Patrick, and their children in Florida and she blogs about their lives at The Webster Family.

One thing I learned about her family is that they they love to pack up and head on down the highway when opportunities arise.

I'm glad because, even when homeschooling, native Floridians can't really understand the concept of snow until they actually get up north and experience a good fight with a snowball or two.

Neither Sussette nor I recommend the same advice when learning about sharks though.

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

I always smile when trying to answer accurately the date we began homeschooling. Frequently when asked I will just say “we have always homeschooled.”

Homeschooling to me is education directly overseen by the child’s parent. Educate, as defined by Merriam-Webster means “to train by formal instruction and supervised practice especially in a skill, trade, or profession.”

With that definition all parents are educators. We naturally teach our children to walk, to talk, to brush their teeth, to dress themselves, how to sing the ABCs, count their fingers, pick out shapes and colors, and especially how to love and be loved.

A child’s 5th birthday or first day of kindergarten does not suddenly turn on the ability to learn. Children were designed to begin learning from within the womb. From there they learn things like how to suck their thumb or to recognize sounds found in their mother’s everyday life.

Education naturally begins with the parents as the primary educators. Some, like our family, choose to continue educating their children as the children move from letters and numbers to reading and arithmetic, either instructed by the parents or directly overseen by them.

In answer to your question, our oldest child will be 13 years old this December, so we have been homeschooling for 13 years.

I would like to add that, although I have not been without burnout days, I have been able to joyfully persevere in homeschooling my children through the grace of God. The Catholic Church tells us that “The father and mother receive, in the Sacrament of Matrimony, the grace and the responsibility of providing Christian education for their children, to whom they bear witness and transmit, at one and the same time, human and religious values.”(John Paul II. Rome, Italy, December 26, 1982). The Church goes on to state “The role of parents in education is of such importance that it is almost impossible to provide an adequate substitute. The right and the duty of parents to educate their children are primordial and inalienable.” (CCC 2221)

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)?

The most obvious freedom we enjoy is time. We have the time to really investigate life. We can spend extra time working out a math problem, or studying the way a praying mantis captures and devours its prey.

We can spontaneously go experience science, art, music, history, or any other subject as the opportunity arises without concern for what day of the week it is.

Last year a good friend of ours, an entomologist, was invited by the Fort Lauderdale Museum of Discovery and Science to conduct a short lecture on an assortment of insects. With family in that area willing to open their home to us for a few nights, we just loaded the car with books, CDs, manipulatives, paper, pens, etc and off we went. It was awesome!!!

Could we have done that if we were confined to a specific building and schedule? No, it was only possible because we had the freedom to travel and homeschool as we went.

Last February a good friend of ours made her first profession as a cloistered nun in Summit, New Jersey. Witnessing such an event was an incredible opportunity in and of itself, but 7-year-old boys would not exactly refer to it as fun; however, seeing and playing in snow for the first time was by all accounts very fun.

We were able to really enjoy a winter experience foreign to us Florida kids. We made snowballs, snow angels, and snowmen; we had snowball fights and went sledding. We watched through the window of the van as the plant life changed as we drove north. We were able to glimpse places they had only read about, like Washington DC and New York. We were able to laugh, play, learn, and enjoy all these new and wonderful experiences without the dread of hurrying back to “do school.”

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?

Homeschooling lends itself naturally to fun. History is a particularly fun subject. While studying Egypt we played the part of an embalmer and an archaeologist. We made a mummy. Yes, a real mummy, no, not human :-P.

We purchased a freshly and humanely killed rat from the local reptile store (snake food) and proceeded to dissect it (science) and fill the cavity with salt (science). We also salted the organs to be placed in child-made clay pots (art) with the lids in the shape of Egyptian gods. Once drying was complete we needed to remove the salt, properly wrap and add the scented oils. We then went to bury our mummy for future excavation.

Also, while studying Egypt we excavated a small area of our yard. The children each unearthed a clay pot that they had previously embellished with their names in hieroglyphics. I had gently smashed them with a hammer and buried the pieces.

Science is another great excuse for fun. Living away from a large city has really helped give us many opportunities to immerse ourselves in science beyond dissections.

As an example, two years ago we were able to witness a spectacular light show, a meteor shower. We had been at a church party when we noticed the huge number of “shooting stars.” When we got home they were still “falling” so we decided to get sleeping bags and lay out under the stars to watch them “fall.” It was so much fun racing to see who would see the next one first.

There were so many and we were having such a great time we did not want the magic to end so my daughter ran in, got pillows, and another sleeping bag and we slept out under the stars all night. Wow, what a wonderful way to fall asleep not to mention how cool it was to wake up with dawn gently tickling our senses.

Lessons that would seem mundane can surprise us with entertainment. For instance learning measurements lead to much laughter and fun. When my daughter was learning about comparing the size of different objects, she went around the house and yard measuring everything that would stand still long enough, grass, trees, people, cats, dogs, goats, chickens, eggs, etc. She used a camera and her brother to document the experience. The pictures were very cute and it was obvious that the siblings were enjoying every minute.

Each day presents new opportunities to laugh, enjoy each other, and give thanks for the gift of creation. Often we marvel at the intricacy in the pattern of a butterfly’s wing, or at the innumerable variety of insects found in our yard, as we tube along the Ichetucknee River, or even in the parking lot of the local grocery store. We are humbled at the thought that our Lord must have had us in mind when He was designing them.

It is great fun trying and experimenting with the many flavors and textures of the foods we have been given to sustain our lives (yeast is such a great science critter). With so many examples of God’s love in our environment and kitchen, with the beauty He has surrounded us with, how can we not have fun and enjoy it?

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

Funny in a word is spelled S P E L L I N G!!! We have had many funny moments reading some inventive spelling. The topics and descriptive words my children have chosen when writing or dictating has often left my sides hurting from stifling a hearty laugh.

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