Before there was this thing called Google (and yes, for those 25 and younger there was a pre-Google world), the 10 year old me use to spend hours leafing through encyclopedias. There would be one word or concept I’d hear about on the news or see referenced in a movie or book, and I’d go rushing to the big stack of red books in alphabetical order. There should have been 26 books but there were more like 30 something. Some letters had so many words and concepts that they took two volumes. I would start off researching “gravity”, and after flipping towards the end of the G section it would say “see Isaac Newton”. After sifting through the “I” section (then realizing I needed to be in the “N” section) I’d get to the end of the section on Newton and go back to the part where it discussed Newton’s writing on the Bible, and I’d have to look up “textual criticism” and or “pantheists”. Before you know it I had traveled around the world and back again, all while sitting criss-cross apple-sauce in the extra-bedroom in our house that doubled as the library.
I wonder what my face looked like? There weren’t camera phones, and my parents weren’t creeping around the corner waiting to catch me in a cute moment with their Polaroid. I’m sure my big eyes were lighting up, or my brow was wrinkled as I flipped intensely through volumes of information. I’m sure my jaw dropped one or two hundred times, as I learned the connections between historical figures and events I never knew existed. You can’t fake intellectual curiosity. It’s something all children are born with. It’s what causes human progress in the first place. It does not have to be taught, just drawn out. I want my sons to have the same thrill I had, even more.
This is a big year for my sons. The first grade. The first baby teeth gone. The year they started martial arts. The year they got serious about an instrument (their dad has been slippin’ on that one). This is the year they got into their first fights (other than with each other), the first times they’ve been bullied. They get less of the “awwww, they’re so cute” these days. Not because they aren’t cute, but because they aren’t “pint-sized”. There is something that changes when little boys (little black boys) are big enough to speak their mind. The world is so very wide open to them now. They can read. There is no accomplishment they can’t conquer with the right amount of time. It is exciting being around them. This is when they’ve done their first science fair projects, and it was an eye opening experience.
For his first science fair projects Olu did an experiment to see if water, oil, and vinegar would mix together. He’s so observant, and I make sure I tell him that all the time. I make sure that he knows that makes him a scientist, and that he will always be a scientist, even when he’s a Mighty Morphin Power Ranger or an Air Bender (his two professions of choice right now). Dela chose an experiment where we created “lady bugs” that would slide down a string using wind power. We created a hypothesis about how many breaths it would take to get the lady bug down the track we created, and also turned it into a contest between him and his brother.
The experience was one of the most fulfilling ever. Especially their excitement when their project where displayed in the school. Running through the aisles of finished projects, Olu and Dela were elated. They knew which projects their friends had finished, and wanted to make sure that we saw them. They got a nice green “participant” ribbon. It wasn’t Blue or Red or White like the 1st, 2nd and 3rd place ones. Their mother made them take a close look at the winning projects and observe what was good about them. They made some great observations, even asked if they could do a project that required growing a plant next time. That would take more than the weekend that we spent on these projects, but why not? What greater multi-discipline learning experience is there, other than conducting then presenting an experiment?
These are the reasons I’m so excited to start homeschooling when this school year ends. All of our days are going to be spent doing educational experiences. Not preparing for tests, and not getting lost amongst a sea of 30, 7 year olds. There is no fear of them being in public school, just an understanding that no one is going to pay the kind of attention that my community, family and I will. I’m excited to be my son’s teacher. I’m already their teacher. We spend long car rides discussing words and their roots, and doing the math on all of our excursions together. Nothing was better then giving my sons, who are just learning their math, a budget to shop with at the store for toys. I must admit I’m a little intimidated, and I’m going to use this forum to express concerns, and share triumphs. I need your help, and your suggestions, and your prayers if you’re into that (I never turn down a prayer on my behalf). Between me, and the computer, and the library, and this beautiful city of Washington DC with all it’s museums and learning experiences, this is going to be the most exciting project I’ve ever done. I just need to find some modern encyclopedias, because I want them to have the same tactile thrill of leafing through them. It would also be great to be one of those encyclopedias for them as well. We will see…