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We fell into a commitment to lifelong learning when we started out as a homeschooling family back in 2003. My husband and I decided that our oldest wasn’t really ready to deal with full day kindergarden, which was the only option in our district. We had a hard time picturing our active and inquisitive boy being able to sit still for most of a school day, and given that he was already reading well above a second grade level, we figured he wouldn’t be missing much. I gave myself plenty of room to back out, and just dove in from there.
My son is now attending high school outside of home, at Tech Valley High School. It’s his freshman year, and he’s loving it so far. My daughter is still homeschooled, and seems to like having the computer and house to herself for a good portion of the day.
The thing that homeschooling did for me was spur the search for interesting and fun ways to learn about the world – for both the kids and myself. Homeschooling got me into a groove, but even half-homeschooling now, I have to say that it’s now a permanent way of approaching life – as an opportunity to continually challenge yourself to learn, and grow, even as an adult.
Enrichment As a Way of Life
Enrichment is not about piling on classes and pushing kids to do things that will get them into the “right” college eventually. I look at it as a lifelong pursuit that keeps you challenged, and creative. Each of my children are very different, what worked great for one was a miserable failure for the other. Our goal as parents is to help them grow into capable and confident adults, who can chart their own course without losing their curiosity and love of learning.
My son loves Lego, and computers, sci-fi and hardcore heavy metal. My daughter loves computer gaming, cooking and animals. As parents, we’ve supported them by incorporating their passions into daily family life, and including the kids in our hobbies as they find them interesting. Sometimes, we’ve been inspired by our them. When my son decided to skip summer camp one year, and asked for an electric bass, amp, and music lessons instead, my husband mused that he’d always wanted to take drum lessons as a kid, but his mother wouldn’t let him. She made him take piano instead, as she considered it a more serious and dignified instrument. He realized that as an adult, he could chart his own course, and took the plunge and took up the drums. He’s been at it over a year now, and is loving it. He even confessed that my son’s favorite band, Rammstein, has an excellent drummer, and that he wouldn’t mind seeing them in concert sometime, though he personally prefers to listen to and play jazz.
My personal enrichment has been in the pursuit of more writing opportunities, beginning with my own blog, and expanding here and on other blogs as a contributor. After being a stay-at-home mom, and a homeschooling one, I finally have some space to do something that I enjoy, that’s just for me. Of course, it doesn’t hurt to model this behavior for the kids either, but let’s be honest, I blog because it’s a blast. The life-lessons-for-the-kids part is just gravy!
Tech Valley High has expanded my son’s horizons already. In addition to his after school music lessons, he decided to join the Hip-Hop dance club at school, and has been working on his moves. My daughter works with me at animal rescue, our current project is socializing a feral kitten, and she took up horseback riding as an additional activity. Both kids are getting more into cooking, and my not-so-secret hope is to get them blogging someday soon too.
Formal Schooling Brings Schedule Changes
Now that one of my kids has a hard and fast schedule, our spontaneous travel opportunities are a thing of the past. Or at least, a thing of summers only now. As we go along, adjustments and accommodations are being made, and we look forward to continuing a lot of our adventures – like trips to MIT for the Splash and Spark programs. So, total spontaneity is out, but with some decent planning and forethought, there are enough breaks and holidays to still fill our travel calendar very nicely
Local Enrichment and Fun
We’re fortunate to live in a culturally and historically rich area of New York State. Our home is about a half hour south of Albany, in Greene County, between the northern Catskill Mountains and the Hudson River. We are a short trip to some of the most beautiful scenery in America, which was immortalized by the artists of the 19th century Hudson River School of painting, and is still a draw for modern artists today.
As transplants from New York City, it’s also nice to have access to the Amtrak station across the river in Hudson for quick day trips to the city that we love. As much as I used to miss living there, I do find that the Hudson Valley feels like home now, and am always happy to return.
Enrichment On a Budget
Money is a constant issue in our family when considering things like travel, even for day trips. We’ve never actually been on a long formal vacation as a family, as the logistics of kennels and pet care, hotels, transportation and food are generally beyond our resources for more than a few days at a time. But that doesn’t mean we have to eliminate travel, or interesting experiences, entirely. It does mean that planning goes a long way. Even if you don’t homeschool, the local homeschooling email lists offer a wealth of information about family-friendly activities, many of which are very reasonably priced, or even free. By keeping an eye on things like Amtrak deals, or Groupon and Living Social coupons for places that we’d like to visit, or by getting a museum membership that offers reciprocal privileges, we’ve found that there’s a lot to fill our plates.
Sometimes it seems like there’s more to do than we would actually have time or energy to get to, but that’s not exactly what I’d consider a bad thing! A life that is constantly evolving through enrichment is a life well worth living.