What do John Paul Jones, Sacagawea, and Julius Caesar all have in common?
I am their mother!
At least that is how it worked out last Saturday at our homeschool group’s annual Wax Museum. I’ve heard about similar school projects for a long time now, but this is the first time we’ve ever participated. And I will cut to the chase before bogging you down with all the adorable photos and slightly less helpful “how to’s.”
This event was extremely beneficial for my children, and I’m going to assume would be for all homeschooled children, for two reasons:
1) My children were required to research, prepare information, present that information, and answer questions from museum “patrons.”
The ability to research – to know how to find information – will be vital for them their entire lives. Whether we feel like we are “researching” or not, every time with gather any sort of information, that is research. Some of us are better at finding reputable sources than others, and some of us are better at analyzing that information for validity than others. But regardless of how, all people gather information and most of us like to pass it on as well. How we prepare and deliver that information depends on our audience. Formal presentations will obviously differ greatly from friendly chit chat, but not matter to whom we are presenting or what the material is, it is imperative that we are articulate, honest, clear, and well informed on the subject matter. We demonstrate how informed we are by how we continue the conversation, a.k.a answer follow up questions. How convinced are we of the expertise of the “expert” in the field, when s/he cannot answer follow up questions with clarity and conviction?
Furthermore, can we communicate with all types of people – as in ALL types of people – with confidence, respect, clarity, and even perhaps with the hope of learning something new ourselves?
That is what I call Language Arts.
The research we could have done all by ourselves at home, but preparing, presenting, and answering questions from real life “strangers” right in from of us is not something I can easily replicate inside the four wall of my house.
2) My children were able to open their minds to a wide array of possibilities, all of which they are capable of and would be supported in pursuing.
Being homeschooled, obviously my kids don’t get to see a variety of project ideas on a daily basis. They have made various projects throughout the years, but seeing as for the majority of our homeschool life there has only been 1 or 2 children in our “school,” everything tends to look suspiciously similar. It isn’t that the children aren’t unique, with their own individual creative and innovative strengths. It is just that they only see one general idea (usually mine) and everything they do tends to be a slight variation of that. As I understand it, public school children have multiple opportunities to see different ways of doing things. Depending on how many children are in their class, they could be seeing up to 35 different ways of doing things every day! As a homeschooler, I cannot duplicate that in my home.
However, where in public school there are certain grading criteria and therefore stricter pirameters and regulations on personal creativity for specific assigned projects, as a homeschool group, the sky was the limit. I believe the only requirement was that the children prepare something on a historical or modern day person to present to the group. Ready. Set. Go!
As an explanation to the above paragraph, obviously teachers don’t go into teaching so that they can stifle the creativity of children. And in fact, many – if not ALL teachers – encourage creative thinking and creative expression. However in order to run a huge institution built and organized to move children through like a factory, passing of checkmarks and requirements as they go, creative freedom seems to be one of the first things to go. I am not the first one to notice this, nor will I be the last.
And honestly, although as homeschoolers we can do whatever we darn well please, most of the children in the wax museum chose to make posters, although we did have lego structures, Kinex, clay formations, and a powerpoint! (Which was awesome!) So we aren’t ALL radically different from each other, but there was a good enough variety to get the kids thinking of possibilities for next year.
So that is what my children learned. What did I learn?
1. It’s ok to help my children and guide them when attempting a project they have never done before. (Duh.) But it is also ok to let them take control of their project – no matter how much “better” my idea is – and take it where they want to go. I had LOTS of ideas for their posters. I had lots of really, really great ideas. But my kids had some good ideas, too, and if I am really interested in my children experiencing the learning process on their own, they need to actually do it on their own. The smaller the child, the more guidance and help they received. But with the oldest, I had to bite my tongue, sit back, and help when he asked for it. (He still asks for quite a bit of help, but he’s not so interested in any of my ideas anymore. When his ideas came to a roadblock, I helped him brainstorm alternative routes. But anytime I suggested one specific “answer” to his problem, he stared me down with the evil eye.)
(That was a good sign to shut my mouth and let him learn.)
Hmmmmm….. I bet I could find applicable general parenting tips in this experience as well. 😉
Ok. Photos! With as little commentary as I can muster. (Must. Shut. My. Mouth!!)
John Paul Jones
There were about 30 kids presenting, ranging in ages from probably about 4 to 13. I wont be able to remember all the reports, but we had two Neil Armstrongs, Jacque Cousteau, Ulysses (Odysseus in Greek), Muddy Waters, the guy who invented Legos, J.K. Rowling, Russel M. Nelson, P.T. Barnum, Daniel Boone, Davy Crocket, Elon Musk, Albert Einstein, J.R.R. Tolkien, Annie Oakley, Johnny Appleseed, C.S. Lewis, Lewis and Clark, Georgia O’Keefe, Galileo, Benjamin Franklin, George Washington, Helen Keller, Maria (and Rupert) Von Trapp, Pocahontas, Dr. Suess, and my three – John Paul Jones, Sacagawea, and Julius Caesar. (Actually, I did pretty good remembering that many! I know there is one I am forgetting, though. Sorry!)