Saturday, June 16, 2012

Why I Homeschool

Last night, my friend and I had a Girl's Night Out.  She's a music educator in a public school so we always have an entertaining time talking about the pros and cons of teaching music in a school versus teaching private lessons.  (We usually manage to confirm for each other that we've made the right choice for ourselves).  She also has an infant who just turned one so she's enjoying the daily "what's new" with my baby phase.  As educators, we both love this time -- watching the lightbulb go off for a kid is pretty darn cool.  When it's your own kid, it's over-the-moon.  I miss those days with The Peanut.  She certainly has the lightbulb go off regularly, but it's not quite a constant thing that it was when she was an infant-turning-into-a-toddler.

All this makes today extra exciting.  We attended Touch Tomorrow at WPI, a festival all about NASA, space, and robotics.  It took over a good bit of the campus with hands-on displays, scientists and engineers who worked on various robotics teams including the Mars Rover, astronauts, simulations, student displays, mini experiments, etc, etc, etc.  The Peanut loves this stuff.  We did a unit on robotics and several space-related units during our first year of homeschooling (when I was winging science).  This got her going and now this stuff is high on her list of favorite topics, so today was set up as a win before we even left the house this morning.

As we wandered around campus, I watched her turn on her "sponge mode", just taking it all in.  As we walked through the campus quad, we saw models of the Mars Rover, did a few hands-on experiments (some of which we've done together, but these were cooler because they were directed by college students, not mom), and looked at a bunch of simulations.  The lightbulbs started flashing, though, when we got to the campus center.  On the second floor were several robots that were built for competition. She was so excited to find the room they were in only to be disappointed because they didn't look like robots. Despite having studied the Mars Rover (and looking at models of it mere moments ago on the quad), it didn't occur to her that robots come in all different forms and sizes.  Her disappointment soon turned to fascination, though, as we went and talked to a woman on one of the teams who explained what their particular robot did.  First lightbulb.

Back downstairs, we then saw a Lego robotics team with several of their creations.  Second lightbulb.  (Did I mention that The Peanut LOVES Legos?)  This sparked a conversation about going home and building robots of our own and what we would need to do so.  Third lightbulb.  Wombat and I had planned all along to at least expose her to programming concepts at some point and we had discussed using Lego Mindstorms to do it.  We did not expect to do it this year.  This has changed.  Wombat now has two projects to work on with The Peanut this year -- teach her how to play chess (also by her request) and now, build Lego robots.  He wanted to find at least one way to become more regularly involved in her schooling.  Now he has two.  The day had several more lightbulbs, but none quite as vibrant as those first few over the robots.  This will also work well with our little homeschool group as there are a couple of other kids around her age who share similar interests.

I have many reasons why I homeschool.  If I had to pick only one reason to do it, though, I would pick those lightbulbs.  To be a part of her discoveries is magical and I wouldn't miss them for the world.

On a side note, as I sit and write this, I can hear the conversation between Wombat and the Peanut as he's getting her ready for the bed.  It's all about how the camera on one of the robots we saw today sees and recognizes things.  She's firing questions at him fast and furiously.