This is a column that I wrote for the Barrow Journal. It was printed on January 11, 2012, and you can view the online version by clicking here. I think that getting an education through our kids is something that can happen for all parents, not just homeschoolers! (Although if you’re a homeschooler, you will definitely be learning with your kids!)
One of the great things about having kids is that I’m learning all kinds of facts that I didn’t learn or retain in school. I have read somewhere that most of the information we learn before seventh grade will be forgotten, and I think that was especially true for me.
I know I learned about the planets and solar system in school, but I couldn’t remember much about it when I started teaching it to my son. Do you remember the order of the planets?
The closest to the sun is Mercury, and then there’s Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus (which is pronounced YOOR-ah-nuss), Neptune, and when I was a kid, Pluto came next, but it’s not considered a planet anymore. It’s a “dwarf planet.”
Having children is a great opportunity to watch a lot of nature shows, and it’s been great fun to learn more about animals and the earth. For example, I’ve learned that Australia has so many poisonous critters that I might think twice about traveling there.
I didn’t know that dolphins and porpoises are a kind of whale, or that snakes smell with their tongues. There are also a gazillion animals that I didn’t know existed before I had children. To name a very few: narwhal, tapir, sloth, puffer fish and the desert horned lizard that can squirt blood out of its eyes for defense.
Since my five-year-old is interested in the human body, I’ve learned what the tibia and fibula are as well as the radius and ulna. I have also learned that an adult bladder can stretch to the size of a grapefruit when it’s full, and I doubt that information will ever serve me well in this life, but you never know.
I’ve also tried things I probably wouldn’t have tried on my own like planting pumpkins, sprouting pinto beans in a jar, and collecting seeds from flowers to grow the next spring. We’ve been to the zoo, aquarium and the nature center so many times that we’ve been able to observe the animals at different times when they are awake and not sleeping!
Perhaps I would be learning more about our world even if I didn’t have kids. Now that I’m older, wiser and don’t have to go to school, I like learning, but surely I would not have my imagination stretched like it is when my five-year-old lectures me about his latest made-up animal with a preposterous name and bad eating habits.
I would have never guessed that a long strand of wild onion could turn into an eel that eats ants. I don’t think I would have realized that toy dinosaurs need to go outside to eat, and even after we come back inside they need to sit out by the grass and keep eating because they’re so hungry.
And what about the exercise I’m getting? How much more fun is running when you get to pretend you’re a horse or an eagle?
I have always said that learning is a lifelong endeavor, and I hope to pass that sentiment on to my children. I’ll also be able to tell them stories about how they broadened my horizons and put a silver lining around my diploma.