Thursday, January 12, 2006

Unschooling - the expanded version - part two

When I last blogged about my nephew and niece visiting, I mentioned how surprised I was at their reaction to our educational philosophy. I wanted to expose them to the kind of activities that form part of our life experience (although our pace is normally much less hectic). I tried to intersperse (relatively) quiet days at home with days out. Even our days at home resulted in new activities for both our children and their cousins.

One activity that kept them busy and fascinated for many hours was playing with our marble run. They set it up in different configurations and raced marbles down it to see which one would win. When I suggested that they tabulate the results they told me that they were already busy doing that. They kept track of the results by marble and then changed marbles to determine if any marbles were better than the others or they themselves were particularly lucky or unlucky. It was soon clear that one particular marble was the champion. If we had more time, I would have shown them how to graph their results using this website. The boys spent much of their time at home playing the computer games they had bought on some of our shopping forays, watching movies, listening to music, playing card games (traditional and trading cards) or reading.

My niece, Taryn, and I have a lot in common, so I found it really easy to keep her occupied. Like me, she loves food and she was always willing to get involved with cooking and baking. She tried out every non-alcoholic gl├╝hwein and all the seasonal delicacies at the various Christmas markets. She loved the medieval houses in the Schnoor, the oldest section of the city of Bremen and got quite interested in the various impressionist paintings at the nearby Kunsthalle.

I don't know what the highpoint of their visit was, but two big contenders were playing in the virgin snow (you don't get much of that stuff in Johannesburg, South Africa) and visiting the Universum, a hands-on science center. My nephew Frank, who thought he was going to be excruciatingly bored, was bowled over by the variety of interactive experiences there.

Near the end of their stay, we paid another visit to the center of Bremen, partly with the intention of seeing the mummified bodies in the Bleikeller, which was unfortunately closed for winter. Instead we popped into the Cathedral, which awed the girls. On our way out Rowena, my 8-year old sighed, "It's so beautiful. Thank you for bringing me in here." That evening the girls had yet another new experience when they discovered that they so liked the artichokes my mother-in-law had bought that they polished half of them off.

The worst experience of their trip was being stranded on the way to the airport in the middle of nowhere at 5a.m. when our water pump went kaput. Thanks to Taryn's excellent time-keeping habits (she had insisted in being at the airport two hours before departure), the taxi-driver who came to our rescue dropped us at the airport well in time to check in for their flight.

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