Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Journal: Homeschooling Real Life. Sort of.

It's good to shake things up and get out of the house when you are schooling your children at home. A few days ago Mason had an idea for a field trip. "Let's go to the mall and pretend that you are giving us money for a new bedroom. We can write down everything and the prices and keep track of how much money we spend! It'll be a great math lesson!"

Not a bad idea. In fact, it was one we did several years ago when we we lived near an IKEA. He has always remembered it. We don't live near an IKEA now, though, and I had one small issue with the mall problem: I'm not too excited about anything that feeds the materialism monster that lives in my kids and most every other kid I've met too. We live in a small house, purposely, and don't really like accumulating lots of stuff. Malls exist for the purpose of showing you all the stuff you didn't know that you didn't have. Do I really want my children to start dreaming of Crate & Barrel bedroom sets? No, not really. Yes, it's nice stuff, but I just checked and the average price for a bed on their website is $600, without the mattress.

After a bit of pondering, I came up with a different take on the idea. Our church participates in a refugee resettlement program. About twice a year, we are assigned a refugee family. Our team gathers everything needed to set up an apartment- furniture, linens, pots and pans, etc. My kids know about this since we collect donated items for the program.

I wrote up an assignment for each of them. I asked them to imagine that a generous donor has given them $600 to spend on setting up a bedroom for a child in a refugee family. I gave them each a profile of "their" child, with a little bit about them. Lately our refugee families have arrived from countries torn apart by ISIS, so I went with a Middle Eastern theme. Mason would take Ahmed, who is 12 and likes soccer and science and wants to be an astronomer. Annabelle would take Sara, who is 7 and likes to climb things, have tea parties with her friends, and help her mom cook. She wants to be a doctor when she grows up.

Then I brewed a cup of coffee to go and we headed down to our local big box store with our clipboards, ready to brainstorm what Ahmed and Sara might need. In case you are wondering if Callum was with us: no. I picked a day while he was in preschool. Wandering around big box stores with a four year old while trying to help older siblings with a school assignment is not my idea of an enjoyable homeschool morning.

They both did a pretty good job with the assignment. Annabelle was a bit frustrated at times with keeping a running tally of her expenses, but she pushed through and was very practical about figuring out what Sara would need. I am not quite sure how he did it, but Mason somehow managed to stretch his $600 budget to include a TV, Google chrome cast, an android smart phone, and a tropical plant for Ahmed. The essentials, obviously. Who cares about a desk?

I'd say the day was a success. Lots of math, writing, and spelling, as well as thinking about real life needs and budgeting. And I didn't notice the Stuff Monster rear its ugly head even once.

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