Monday, March 14, 2011

Unschooling on Vacation in Florida Part 1

The term "vacation" doesn't really apply to unschoolers, who are not regimented into a time schedule or specific learning space. But since our family has just returned from five weeks in Florida, and English doesn't have a better term for that kind of sojourn, I'll just call it a vacation.

What always amazes me is how much one can learn simply by stepping out of the everyday routine. We did not design an educational field trip. This trip was a celebration of my parents' 50th wedding anniversary. They invited my husband, my sons, and me to spend the month of February with them in sunny, warm Florida to get out of the frigid northeast winter. They rented a house off the internet in Jensen Beach on the Atlantic Coast and we just planned on being with my parents, hanging out by the pool, and playing on the beach.

We took this trip in stages. My younger sons, 11 and 14, and I left freezing NJ the last weekend in January, driving towards Florida. First stop: friends in Catonsville, Maryland (outside Baltimore). Aside from visiting with my delightful friends, we wandered through music stores and toured Baltimore. We spent half a day at the acclaimed National Aquarium, wandering from rainforest to arctic, then cheering on the trained dolphins as they leapt and splashed.

Leaving Monday morning, I drove south, watching our car's outdoor thermometer slowly creep up from 29 degrees in Maryland, to 36 in southern Virginia, and finally a balmy 56 when we stopped for the night in Charleston, South Carolina. The boys and I ditched our warm wool socks and left our winter coats in the car.

The following day we arrived in Jensen Beach, Florida where the temperature was 79 degrees! The home my parents rented was unbelievably large, beautifully decorated and filled to the gills with original artwork! At dinner, we discussed the quantity of the paintings on the walls, which sparked the boys to estimate how many. Younger son guessed 45. Older son thought the number was much higher, in the 70s. My parents thought there might even be 80. After dinner, the boys carefully counted every painting hanging in each room of the house, including the outdoor bathroom and discovered that everyone had guessed too low: 106 paintings! Most of them were done by Cuban artists. Fascinating. Surrounded by all this art, we felt as though we were living in a very comfortable museum. Along with the art were many books about Cuba, art, and antiques.
The patio housed the swimming pool and spa, and backed up to a nature sanctuary where many nature birds nested and fed. The boys photographed pelicans, cranes, and even a bald eagle.

And they swam! Living in NJ and having no pool, we don't have many opportunities to swim.
Little guy set a goal: by the end of the month he'd like to be able to swim 25 laps. Day One he swam three laps.

If you are keeping track, by the time we had spent one day in Jensen Beach, the boys had covered science, social studies, art, math, and physical education.

To Be Continued...