Learning From Everything

We had an amazingly wonderful weekend – both Shabbos as well as Sunday.  Friday afternoon was rather wet.  It not only rained, but it poured.  However, since rain brings brachos, I definitely look back and see various brachos that we had the entire weekend.  It started out with two wonderful and amazing guests that we had, which made our entire Shabbos just wonderful, and it continued through Sunday and our afternoon in a park.

As some of you remember, we had the opportunity to attend the Jewish Homeschooling Conference in Baltimore at the beginning of May.  While there, our older boys became friends with 2 brothers.  When part of this particular family had to spend Shabbos in our town, on their way to camp, the 2 brothers asked to stay with us opposed to where the rest of the family was staying.  I had only briefly met the boys in May, but when they arrived on Friday afternoon, soaked from the walk from the car to the house, I looked at them and at their smiles and their eyes, I could tell they were really good boys.  I am not quite sure what any of the 6 boys did until Shabbos, but I do know they all were very excited and had a great time together.

You can usually tell a homeschool child from their peers, and these boys were no exception.  As my husband and I talked to them during the Shabbos meal, they felt very comfortable and very willingly engaged into the conversations.  The younger one (10 yrs) was the chattier one, but even with the older one (12 yrs) it was almost like talking to an adult.  Almost…There was still something very kid like about them, but it was all in a good way. 🙂

It was amazing the knowledge these boys had – about almost every subject that was brought up. My husband loves maps and can keep his nose looking at one for hours – the same one.  We have huge laminated maps of both the United States as well as the world on the wall around our table.  It is referenced very regularly.  However, this night, my husband finally met his match.  Apparently these boys also love maps and they were able to teach the rest of us, including my husband, a very interesting fact about our own country.  We found out that there is a tiny part of the state of Kentucky that is totally separated from the rest of the state – it is called an exclave and it is surrounded by the states of Tennessee and Missouri.  This piece of Kentucky is called Kentucky Bend.  Not to be outdone by a 10 year old, my husband was able to use this new vocabulary word to point out what he learned before going on his business trip to Spain.  Spain has exclaves as well in the northern tip of Morocco.  (It turns out, as I researched this now, there is yet another exclave of Spain just to the north, in France –Llívia.)

I enjoyed the visit, I know my boys did, and I think the guests did as well for as their mother picked them up after Shabbos, they were trying to convience their mother into making plans to come back home the same way so they could again stop off at our house.  In the meantime, I had to purchase plastic lacing for my boys have learned a new hobby!

On Sunday we took a drive to Oatka Creek Park, NY.  It was our first time there.  We were not sure about it at first, but it turned out to be just what we needed.  We found a little spot just off the path, but out of the way, right by the creek.  We brought our portable BBQ

and reheated some leftover chicken and potatoes.  After a nice hot lunch, the boys spent the next several hours in the creek, playing with seaweed, throwing stones, climbing trees.  In other words, just have a blast!  While the big boys waded in the creek (some barefoots, one with shoes!) the little one and I spent time observing an inch worm walk up the magnificent tree.

They say we can learn from everything and everyone.  As I look back at our guests, I’m in awe.  It was wonderful to hear different facts about Indians, geography, as well as meet others who know about the Crusades and other historical facts.  (Some of our boys have learned about the Crusades, so that is a bonus for us!)  Granted the mother has been homeschooling more than twice as long as I have, however, I think we can create that wealth of information in our children as well.  The tricky part is the how.  I have wanted to go next door to the library and bring home books for several years now, but I just do not have the time to go through the various books they have there and choose. I have also tried going in with a list of books (like about 20), but I usually only come out with 2 of them.  So, I think I will try to send the boys to the library and tell them to pick out books about a subject they are interested in.  They can choose a different subject each time, that way it widens their knowledge base.  This way, I hope to limit the books read to learning books, non-fiction and historical fiction books, and not all the other junk that is there.

I also would like to spend more time with nature, just observing.  I always liked hands-on stuff myself.  I remember in high school physics, one class my teacher would bring in magnets, and he would pass them around for all of us to feel and observe.  The next year, I had a different teacher, and this teacher was not in the habit of passing things around.  One time I did ask to take a look at whatever he was teaching about.  I think he was taken off guard.  He did give the items to me though to look at.

It was exciting for me (never mind my 3 year old) to watch that little inch worm.  It would occasionally stick out straight as a little twig on the tree branch when it felt it need to camouflage itself.  It was wonderful to listen to where a 3 year old thinks the tiny inch worm sleeps at night – under the huge hole in the ground by the base of the tree – a hole big enough for a 3 year old!  It was also fun just watching the older boys spend hours in the creek, exploring, observing, finding little shrimps and fish, throwing rocks, getting their pants wet, enjoying themselves to pieces and not realizing they are actually doing schoolwork!

So, as I am finalizing my schedule for the coming year, I am taking the inspiration from our guests and their mother and beautifulness of our Sunday afternoon and trying to put all of that into our year as well.