Why the guys have barely cracked a book all summer
That soon devolved to bribing - they'd earn one "Mom Buck" for each 30 minutes read, redeemable for cash or meals out when they'd accumulated seven.
That quickly deteriorated into letting someone else do the coercing - I signed them up for the library's summer reading program, hoping the introductory bling bag would motivate them to earn enough points for the bigger bling at the end of the summer.
None of it worked and, frankly, after 10 months of homework battles a year, I wasn't eager to spend the summer beaten into a bloody pulp. It's hard for me to relate, but Big Guy hates reading. Or, at least, he says he does. I suspect the hostility is more of a combination of our on-going struggle to find materials at his reading level that interest him combined with his hostility toward being forced to do anything.
So I gave up. I'm glad I did, because I suspect they've learned more from their summer un-schooling than they would have if I'd managed to browbeat them into sitting down with a book each day.
Instead, we've done science experiments. We've grown crystals and made goop and slime. They've discovered that quinine is fluorescent, which means that tonic water turns baby blue under black light. No word on if adding vodka changes that - I'll try that experiment some night after the guys have gone to sleep.
They've learned from their environment, figuring out how to calculate the age of a tree as they watched Pawpaw chop wood. They saw what happens when plants are deprived of sunlight by examining the yellowed grass after we took down our tent.
They've learned from their unrelenting questions, such as "does the water in Mawmaw's creek go to the ocean?" Yes, it does. Eventually. I explained the route, and we later traced it on a map in case there was any question as to the accuracy of my information. There usually is with them.
They've learned to use logical thought in practical ways, which Big Guy discovered after he did a Nutcracker maneuver off moss-covered rocks in Mawmaw's creek. He was much more careful climbing back up the bank, picking his way step by step and examining the rocks carefully for tell-tale shades of green that would send him flat on his fanny again.
They've learned from movies. "Thor" taught them that mythology is something old cultures used to explain what they didn't understand, and "Pirates of the Caribbean" sent them on a Web search for information about Blackbeard after they found out that the movie character was based on a person who really existed.
Yes, they've had to read - instructions for science projects and online articles when they've wanted to find out more about something. Yes, they've had to do math - calculations for distances and recipes. None of it, though, has been in a formal setting.
Are they likely to recall any of this? As we drove past West Virginia's Capitol on the way back to the airport, I became convinced that they would.
"I still don't understand why the bad guy spent all that money on gold when the people were poor," Big Guy said as he gazed at the gilded dome.
The previous summer I'd told them the story about how a West Virginia governor, who later wound up in prison on corruption charges, had insisted that the gold leaf be applied to the dome. Big Guy had remembered it for a year.
Long-term, I'm not sure if summer un-schooling is going to truly teach them or develop in them their mom's worst habit - I know a little about a lot of things, but I'm not well-versed in anything.
For now, though, it's working better than beating them into spending time with a book.
Copyright 2011 Debra Legg. All rights reserved.