Sunday, November 04, 2007

Education, Interrupted?

Last week we had an experience at home that had me thinking about homechooling vs. conventional schooling again.

Our laundry room got flooded. It wasn't as bad as it sounds. A washing machine hose wiggled out of place and a rinse cycle went all over the floor instead of down the drain. It has happened before; we thought we had the problem resolved but... guess not!

So it was sometime between math and doing our discussion questions on the week's chapters of Little House on the Prairie when we discovered the flood. It was an extremely inconvenient time - we were on a tight schedule to finish our tablework, eat lunch, and get to a homeschool program at a local library. But the laundry room is also a storeroom, and it was packed, and it had to be emptied...

My kids really sprang into action. We carried stuff out to the back yard. Wet lawn chairs were set up to dry. Cardboard boxes of powdered detergent were taken into the kitchen and the dry contents dumped into bowls and labeled. The mop, and then the shop-vac, were put to use. Then the kids went into the dungeon (a 4-ft tall crawlspace that we use for storage) to check the damage in there. They got towels and helped clean that up too.

By the time we were done there was just time to jump in the car and eat lunch on the way to the library. During the weather program my mind wandered. What an interruption to my kids' "school" day! I pondered a bit. If they'd been at school, they wouldn't have had their day cut short. I'd have taken care of it by myself. They would have done all the things they were supposed to do. They wouldn't have had McDonald's for lunch on the road. They'd have had a normal day and wouldn't even have to know about the flood.

But wait a minute! I'd have had to do all that work alone. It would have taken forever! They wouldn't have had the experience of jumping into some hard work that needed to be done in a hurry. They would have missed out on some real life. I was proud of them for working so hard, for responding so well to the situation. They felt a sense of accomplishment for providing so much help. I don't know for sure, but maybe more than they'd have felt coming home with a gold-starred math worksheet.

Used to be that it was normal for kids to be home with their families, experiencing real life and doing real work. Now it seems like an interruption to the more important work of going to school.

I'm glad my kids were home that day. And I'm glad for that minor, non-life-threatening emergency that showed us all that when they need to, they can step up and get some work done.

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