My husband came home from work one evening a few months ago, and shared a conversation he had with a gentleman he’d encountered. The two had been discussing vacation ideas and destinations. When my husband spoke of his hopes of a coastal trip at the end of summer, the gentleman wholeheartedly agreed declaring “It’s the best time! You still have decent weather, it’s affordable off-season rates, and best of all it’s not crowded.” He paused a moment before adding, a bit gruffly, “Well, all except for those darn homeschoolers!”
Recently, we “darn homeschoolers” went to the beach! Since it was the week we traditionally begin schoolwork, I initially felt a little guilty heading off on vacation. My guilt was not eased learning US Secretary of Education John King was quoted saying he is “concerned” about homeschooled students. Specifically he is concerned that homeschooled students aren’t “getting the range of options that are good for all kids.” Although he also acknowledged some homeschooling families were “doing it incredibly well,” he said he was worried “students who are homeschooled are not getting the kind of rapid instructional experience they would get in school unless parents are very intentional about it.”
Although I could not find any further quotes of the “range of options” Secretary King is concerned about, I have spent some time considering the opportunities available to my children as homeschooled students. Given we were off to the beach, I reflected on our vacation activities as part of my gauge.
We live in the beautiful Pacific Northwest. Although not a seasoned traveler, I have always felt Oregon holds gorgeous coastal locations. Our primary vacation destination was beautiful Rockaway Beach.
Our family enjoyed several days at a vacation rental home that provided direct beach access. Although I would have enjoyed spending the entire time engaged in sandy ocean strolls or lounging from the deck of our amazing accommodations, the area offered many more opportunities.
Driving north to Seaside held our favorite stop at the Seaside Aquarium. Although quaint compared to some large aquariums we’ve visited, it held numerous underwater tanks featuring ocean life from the Pacific Northwest. A delightful attendant supervised the touch tank. She not only talked to the kids about the creatures in the tank, but discussed and educated them as they shared their beach side observations. The facility was passionate about educating visitors on local sea life.
A short drive south to the Tillamook Air Museum seemed a great opportunity to engage the boys’ interest in airplanes. It felt more like a step back in time rather than a carefully staged museum. The facility boasts as one of the worlds largest wooden air hanger structures. We were in awe of the massive building, and the rich history offered in displays and aircraft. A short video set the kids into a World War II mindset. They quickly recalled prior history lessons, and were amazed to learn how blimps, housed by the enormous hanger, were used during the war.
A self-guided tour through the Tillamook Cheese factory was an informative, and tasty, look into cheese making. The factory proudly shares the rich history and commitment of generations of local dairy farmers in providing high quality products. A generous cheese tasting at the end of the tour provided delicious confirmation.
The kids were excited to learn how the tide changes and what made for the best beach-combing time. We took long walks, waded in the chilly waves, flew kites, and built sand creations. Most of all, we had fun exploring as a family.
I have come to realize, several days at the beach offered my homeschooled children more hands-on lessons and experiences than extended time in a classroom could hold. They encountered and engaged numerous individuals within the communities we visited, as well as other visitors strolling the beach.
Reflecting on my family’s vacation time and activities, I find myself concerned. I am concerned conventionally schooled children may not be getting the range of options that are good for all kids. Time building family bonds. Opportunities to explore new communities and experience ever-changing social situations. The chance to get out of a classroom for hands-on learning. I am aware of some families choosing conventional schooling to be doing very well. Yet they must be very intentional about their children’s education.
Our environment is our classroom. Life is our lesson. Learning is a lifestyle, not a schoolroom. Allow children to grow and learn beyond text books, and they will not be satisfied to go with the flow of our culture. Establishing strong family bonds and engaging in the diverse range of options available within a community will enable them to become relational outside of peer boundaries. Let them ride the crest of a new cultural wave, and they will become leaders that can change this world. They are our future. From where I sit, we could use some strong new leaders.