Kalahari 2013

We just returned from a week-long stay at the Kalahari, a large, indoor waterpark and hotel/convention complex in northwest Ohio. This was our fourth year attending an annual homeschool/unschool conference there.

The first time we went to this conference, O7 was 3 and S8 was 4. We didn’t go to any of the scheduled activities, just hung out in the waterpark with another family.

The second year, we participated in the family dance and maybe one workshop (they are called “funshops” here!). I think we also attended the carnival.

Last year, we played the Fairy Godparents game and the girls hosted a funshop called Elementary Ballet Steps. S8 (then S7) also did the talent show: she played Jingle Bells on her violin. We went to the movie night and the family dance, too.

This year, we did all those things plus the Nerf War and a meetup for 18″ dolls (i.e. American Girl dolls). Last year, S-then-7 was 48″ and could go on all of the slides, but O-then-6 was just 44″ and could only do about half of them. (She also had to wear a life jacket the entire time, even though she was a pretty good swimmer.) This year, they’re both over 48″ so (a) no life jackets and (b) all the slides are open to us now! We went on pretty much everything, other than the single-person toilet bowl slide. Because ewww.

This conference is wonderful for kids and parents alike. While I never identified as an unschooler as such, I am beginning to see that we are more along those lines than I originally thought. It was my mistaken impression that unschoolers did nothing but play video games and watch media all day long, but that’s not necessarily the case. I assumed that, because we are kind of scheduled (violin, swimming, art classes, science classes at the museums, etc) we didn’t “qualify” as unschoolers. And truthfully, I really don’t care; I’m not looking for a tribe or a label or a clever word to describe what we’re doing.

On closer examination, though, I suppose we do qualify as such, after all. We don’t really follow a curriculum, other than the Suzuki method for violin. We learn very organically and in a very unstructured way. We learn because we want to, not because we “have” to. Well, except for violin. But that’s a strange and sticky topic we’re kind of grappling with at the moment.

Meanwhile, I am exposing the girls to as much as I can possibly squeeze in while they’re still young and their minds are still wide open. Soon, they will start to focus on specific things and have narrower interests, and that’s okay. I don’t think “well-rounded” is necessarily a good thing. It means you’re a vague generalist, and you don’t really have a firm grasp of any one thing. Now, many people argue that you’re supposed to save that specialization for college. But I don’t agree. If you find something you’re interested in, why wait? Why not just jump right in and learn now? Why does someone else have to give you permission to learn it? That’s just ridiculous.

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