Tuesday 30 April 2013

It's all about a Science of Relations

The question this week is: Kid Extra Activities ... How Much ? And When is it too Much ? There are so many differing ideas and opinions about this within the home school community that I'm going to take you off the beaten track. I have discovered that the toss up often happens between sporting / scouting / youth events and field trips.  Nine out of ten times families would rather commit to running themselves rugged week in and week out with these extra curricular events and occasionally when they can fit it in go on a field trip.

Why do you do this ?
When I speak to home school mom's I often hear them bemoan that there is no time in their week for field trips because they have all these extra mural activities that their children have to partake in.

When I ask why, very few can answer me.  After a little bit of discussion we discover that the main motivation for the over commitment to sporting / scouting / youth events etc is so that as home school families they can not be accused of not enough socialization, or they feel that their children are some how missing out because they are not in school. Therefore the family must make up for it via weekly extra curricular activities.

For mom's in this situation I encourage them to evaluate the value to themselves and their children in constantly going from one activity to the next. What and why are you doing it ?

Our Journey away from activity
About ten years ago I arrived home one day burst into tears and had no idea why I was crying.  I cried for hours until I realized it was sheer exhaustion from running from pillar to post. Enough! declared Paul and we took a whole term off and did nothing.  It was so good to stay home and recover. 

Not long after my melt down Paul and I came across an article in the paper about a professional cricket player. It was a full page photo of him with arrows to every part of him describing his sport induced injuries and the medications he was on as a result of the strain put on his body while growing up, striving towards his profession. This man was younger than us (we were in our early 30's) and was on daily inject-able pain relief.

After much discussion we decided that sport for fun and health was important but beyond that the cost was too high for our children and we did not want them to pay in later years with their health.

We decided that swimming for us is a life skill that can mean life or death and we committed to this until our children could swim well. Beyond this sport is a pleasurable past time in our home. Youth groups that's another matter best left for another forum to discuss (I'm on the fence with this one . . . )

As for Sir N he attends two regular sport events: Tennis lessons and Kelly Sports.

A new direction
With the extra time we now had because we were not going from sport activity to sport activity I came across an article quoting Charlotte Mason which discussed the idea of a Science of Relations. This resonated within me and I realized that as a home school mom I had underestimated the influence of a day long field trip and how fully immersing my children within an experience in an unhurried manner enriched their hearts and minds and assisted me in my job in educating them.

 Charlotte Mason says "Education is the Science of Relations'; that is, a child has natural relations with a vast number of things and thoughts: so we train him upon physical exercises, nature lore, handicrafts, science and art, and upon many living books, for we know that our business is not to teach him all about anything, but to help him to make valid as many as may be of–– "Those first-born affinities That fit our new existence to existing things. Because the relationships a child is born to are very various, the knowledge we offer him must be various too."

I came to realize that as a home school mom it is good to go out and use the environment and immerse my children in experiential learning.  They did not need to stay home and only do workbooks to learn.  Yes there needs to be a balance but we have the freedom to go on a trip and learn using all of our senses.  There are so many benefits to taking time and going on a trip. 

  • Variety in their learning
  • Allows all the senses to be involved in learning (see, touch, hear, smell and sometimes taste)
  • Plants the seeds of future possible vocations
  • Better understanding
  • Opportunity for hands on learning
  • Vocabulary expansion in contextual learning
  • Improves cognitive skills
  • Reinforcement of skills learned in class
  • Build long term memory
  • Cultural awareness
  • Having fun
  • Applying knowledge
When we take our children to a museum I now recognized that I was accomplishing the truth of this statement: The children should have the joy of living in far lands, in other persons, in other times--a delightful double existence; . . . (Vol. 1 Part IV--Some Habits Of Mind - Some Moral Habits, p.153)
Museums allow me the opportunity to immerse my children in a new culture and to see and experience things that I can not give them at home. We have seen so many delightfully interesting things together over the last two years. The trips afford us the opportunity to talk about and explore so much more. They have empowered me to reinforce our book learning.

On the www
Last year we went to the Ford museum and when researching this trip I discovered that they had a virtual tour of the museum. This has opened up a new realm of field trips for us as a family as more and more museums are offering virtual trips on their websites. It means that we can now see so much more of our wonderful world. YouTube is another wonderful resource for families who do not live close to any museums or places of interest.  Here are some ideas to get you started:
How do we do it
I have been asked how do we fit it in / plan the trips we do?  I had a look on here and so far we've been on over 30 field trips in the last two years. As a family on one income it has taken some creative saving and long term planning for some outings.  I think that over 90% of our trips are free as we choose to use whatever is available in our local community.

I researched options and discovered that in order for us to enjoy the museum and zoo it is better to have a year long pass.  If we went to the museum twice the entry fee for the three of us was the same as the cost of an annual pass.  We saved up for a year and paid the fee.  The Museum Victoria pass covers seven venues making it excellent value for money
  1. Science Works 
  2. Melbourne Museum 
  3. Immigration Museum 
  4. Melbourne Planetarium 
  5. Royal Exhibition building
  6. IMAX 
  7. Bunjilaka.

With Sir N being seven years old we choose to focus on one or two areas at a time and do multiple trips over the year rather than one big trip once a year trying to take in the whole museum etc.

In order to choose what to see and when I  have teamed up with a home school Mom of like mind and who has children a similar age to mine. Together we keep our eye on the local paper to see what's on in our community. We often look at the Museum's website to see what the upcoming displays are and then plan our trips accordingly. Some months we might only go out once and at other times three things might come up in one week.  On the rare occasion we have chosen to go to three outings in a week but on average we go between two and four times a month somewhere.

As part of the adventure we always pack a picnic lunch with a flask for a cuppa. The benefit of this is it saves us money and the children are building a memory of picnic's anywhere and anytime. We try to arrive at our destination at around 10 am have morning tea with a cupcake followed by a morning session in one area. At around 1 pm we will go outside and enjoy a lazy lunch followed with a second session at our chosen attraction.

We have chosen to do this because we have seen the benefits of enlarging our children's horizons and have enjoyed watching them form a network of relations within their own understanding of the world around them. It's been a delightful way of building a memory of picnics and discovery.

I leave you with one last thought to ponder which inspires me to seek out opportunities to build the science of relations via field trips

In this way: give your a child a single valuable idea, and you have done more for his education than if you had laid upon his mind the burden of bushels of information. - Charlotte Mason


This week
Pop on over and meet our new contributor for the series

Lucinda from over at Navigating by Joy who ponders: Homeschooling And Extra-Curricular Activities – How Much Is Too Much?


Linking with
Teach Me Tuesdays Hip Homeschool Hop Button The Homeschool Village


  1. Thanks for the welcome, Chareen. I enjoyed reading your take on field trips.

    I agree with you that a day worked around picnics is always a success!

    I also agree about focusing on one part of a museum at a time. If we tried to do the whole of the London Science Museum at once we would wear ourselves out and I would put my children off museums for life!

    1. :) You are welcome. Picnics are definitely becoming a bigger focus.

  2. This is a great post...thought provoking! I stink at planning field trips...need to do better at that. Thanks for the encouragement.

    1. You're welcome. I look forward to hearing about your field trips in the future.

  3. This is very though provoking, Chareen. So do they have jackets for the club of mothers who has done the "over booking the kids with activities?" If so, I guess we both get one.

  4. Field trips are so under-utilized in so many homeschools! I love this post!

  5. Thanks for your thoughts. One other "field trip" option I'm discovering is visiting others' blogs! You, for instance, live in Australia, a country that we are focusing on for geography. Reading about life in your neck-of-the-woods--even picking up on expressions you use--gives us a real insider's peak into life in your world!
    My latest: Bird's-Eye View of the Week: Ballet, Bugs and Australia

  6. This is a wonderful blog post. I have a friend who is considering homeschooling. I will be passing this on to her.

  7. We love field trips. We're so fortunate that so many in St. Louis offer free admission--the Art Museum, the Science Center, the Zoo. Even the outdoor ampitheater saves 1500 free seats for each of its Broadway shows.

  8. This is an excellent post. I'm inspired to ramp up the field trip planning.


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