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In early Colonial days there were no public schools. Children learned from their parents at home.

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Educational Moments

Part of teaching your children is being aware of the "educational moments" that happen in everyday life... Stuff that's not really part of your "curriculum", but certainly qualifies as education, nonetheless. And, by the way, this is the sort of learning activity that ALL families can enjoy.

When our children were fairly young, we went out to eat at a Chinese restaurant in Rapid City, South Dakota. Melody, about seven at the time, was entranced by the beautiful fish swimming in the dining room's fish tank. She asked me, "Mommy, are those fish from China?"

Not being up-to-date on fish species dwelling on the Asian continent, I remarked, "Gee, honey, I'm not sure..." And with a simple encouragement to ask the man at the cash register, my children embarked on a personalized "education" of life in another country, and class is in session every time we visit his restaurant.

"Excuse me, sir... but can you tell me (gulp), um, are those fish in that tank over there from China?"

A look of delighted surprise... "No, these fish are native to the U.S." Well, it was more on the order of: "No, tose fiss owr nat-tive to OO. ES." His accent made for two lessons in one.


"However," he continued, "in the old days of China, there would be lovely little gardens with tiny fish ponds in the center of the homes... Since many of the women did not leave their homes to go outside, they brought the beauty of the outside in to the home..." And he proceeded to tell a family of enraptured listeners about when he was a little boy, visiting his grandmother's home in China and seeing the fish in her pond.

An amazing educational experience began to take place that day, and still continues every time we visit that restaurant. We have learned about the amount of oil in the food of China and of Hong Kong and of OO. ES; about escaping from the Communists in China; how to spell our names in Chinese characters; the nature of restaurants in China.

We had another unexpected educational "encounter" when we checked out of a hotel in Texas the other day. We were gladly filling our tummies with the provided "continental breakfast" (which, when you have two very tall teenagers, takes approximately three hours!). As the contented sounds of munching around the table ground on, I overheard the hotel clerk checking people out of their rooms.

"Well, sir, good morning! I trust everything was to your satisfaction? Please don't feel that you need to leave yet... And, by the way, before you can check out, you must answer the trivia question of the day."

Hmmm... That's something I've never seen before... A gameshow host disguised as a hotel clerk... Wonder what kind of question he's going to ask... "What state, excepting Texas, is the most southernly state in the nation?"


"No, sir."

Hmmm... Rats, that was the answer I was going to give... Ah, there's my son, Isaac, walking by, let me just ask him what he thinks...

"Oh, mom, that's easy. Hawaii!"

Gulp. "Hawaii????" I'd never even considered that.

Well, let me ask Michael. Maybe I can stump him.

"Hey, Michael, what's the southernmost state in the nation, excepting Texas?"

Big grin. "Hawaii, Mom."

Aha. That's a homeschooler for you - knows stuff you never even thought about before!

Well, I was so intrigued by this hotel clerk's interaction with the guests, and so pleased that my children knew the answer to the trivia question that was stumping every single guest. So, I went up to him and told him about my children knowing the answer. We entered into a great discussion about geography trivia, and then he asked the question that stumped even my geographically-savvy homeschoolers.

"What state, excepting Alaska, is the northernmost state in the nation?"


"No. Guess again."

Shock... disbelief...I mean, after all, we spend much of our waking hours staring at the Rand McNally Road Atlas (a necessary resource in our travelling business)...

We guessed Washington... Michigan... OK. We were stumped.



"That's right, Minnesota. You see, in the most northern lake in Minnesota, there is an island which belongs partly to Canada and partly to the U.S. This island is 32 miles further north than the most northern point of Maine."

I couldn't resist. "How did you learn this?"

"Well, during one of my trivia question-of-the-day sessions, a man who worked for the U.S. Geologic Survey stumped me with his answer. I went home, looked it up, and sure enough, he was right."

There you go. Just when you thought you'd learned it all...

My encouragement to you for this week? Teach your family to keep their eyes and ears open as they go about their daily business... You never know whom you will meet - whom you can ask a simple curious question - who it will be - that can give you that unexpected learning opportunity, even when they aren't in your carefully prepared lesson plan!

Diana Waring has been married 25 years, has three of the best children in the world, has homeschooled forever, and has a passion for encouraging parents to enjoy their homeschooling/parenting adventure.

© Diana Waring -   Used by permission.

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