A Picnic of Learning: Shay Seaborne's Interview

Today we get to meet and learn more about Shay Seaborne. Shay has been very active in the homeschooling community in her state of Virginia and has also been active nationally, through her writing and various other activities. You can learn more about her at her website.

I should warn you that Shay apparently has a natural affinity for things like slimy, oozy, fish guts. But with a last name like Seaborne, I guess that just makes sense. Read on for more...

1. How long have you been homeschooling?

I filed my first notice of intent to homeschool fifteen years ago, and will file my last one this fall, but my children, now ages 20 and 17, have been home educated their whole lives.

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 your family?

Homeschooling my children provided them with a custom education, borne of my intimate knowledge of them and tailored to each of their individual needs. I spread out a picnic of learning and they were free to choose according to their own tastes.

Performing arts have been a core element to our homeschooling, and led to many explorations I would not have expected. For instance, one of my daughters loves the works of Charles Dickens and Jane Austen. She discovered her appreciation for these writers after her theatre group perfomed "A Tale of Two Cities," which led her to read Dickens, which led her to Austen. Both of my daughters appreciate and understand a wide variety of theatre, opera, music, cinema and classical literature.

My favorite benefit of homeschooling has been the ability to go with the flow, to take advantage of whatever real life opportunity presented itself on a particular day or in a certain moment.

When "The Splendors of Ancient Egypt" exhibit came to a museum in Richmond, a group of homeschooling families took advantage and arranged a private tour instead of sticking to any pre-determined curriculum.

A trip to a national park turned into a lesson in doing good by rescuing abandoned kittens, taking them to a high quality animal shelter and making a donation to help cover their care and adoption.

When the weather was perfect for a trip to the beach, my children were not stuck behind a desk. I'd put out a call for other homeschoolers to join us for an impromptu day of hunting for fossil shark's teeth and having a picnic or cook out.

A breezy Wednesday morning could find us renting a boat for a marvelous sail while most everyone else was at school or work.

We also took best advantage of Virginia's short-lived snowfall. Often, by the time school busses were bringing children home early due school closure for snow, we had already played hard in the snow, built our sculpture, and were inside drinking home made cocoa, and looking outside to see the snow melt.

Homeschooling's flexibility was also very important when I was divorcing. My children's education was not disrupted by moving to a new school district; they continued to learn in the same way they had always learned, and were able to maintain contact with the same "school" friends. This core stability greatly assisted their transition into our new life together.

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?

It's hard to separate homeschooling from just living; there is no line in our house. My daughters remembrances of especially fun times include: hanging out together as a family, talking and laughing; spending time with their friends and "eating juice pops on top of the playhouse"; playing imaginary games and building a fairy resort in the garden; and dressing up as suffragists, making signs and staging a protest with their friends when we were focused on learning about woman suffrage.

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

Several years ago some fellow homeschoolers and I had a "not back to school" picnic at a waterside park on the opening day of public school. Our kids, ranging in age from about three to 15, waded barefoot in the sand, picking up miscellaneous tide-tossed items like shells, interesting pieces of wood and colored bits of frosted glass.

A young boy, hoping to "gross out" an adult, showed me a decomposing fish. Without blinking, I told him, "If you find one that still has eyes, bring it to me and I'll show you something neat."

That sent the boy scouring the shore, and soon enough, he brought the dead fish with eyes. I called the kids around and whipped out my pocket knife.

Laying the fishy corpse on a log, I sliced open its belly to reveal the entrails. Showing the "guts" to the children, I pointed out the liver, intestines, heart. Curious faces leaned closer.

"Hey, where are the lungs?" I asked.

Puzzled expressions until one child said, "Fish don't have lungs, they have gills!"

I agreed, and pulled open the gill cover to show them the pale fringe inside, telling them these are normally pink in a live fish. The knot of students and I discussed the fish for a few more minutes before I sensed their interest wane, then I tossed the carcass back into the water, saying, "Let the crabs eat!"

Turning around and looking about for the first time since the fish with eyes was given me, I saw my own two daughters, far, far down the beach. In talking with them later, they confirmed my suspicion; they had sensed what was coming and hightailed it, distancing themselves from their mothers embarrassing act of impromptu dissection.

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