Clara's Clearing

Clara's Clearing

Other curricular and extracurricular activities

Friday, July 22, 2011

This blog is part of Educating My Boy: Chronicles of a Free-Schooler

As I “homeschool” my son I am studying the question of what goes into educating a kid. (The reason I put "homeschool" in quotation marks is that as you will see a lot of the education happens outside of the home.) In that spirit I will record here other things we have done with Jack in addition to the official “lessons” I have been blogging about. Many of these activities we would have done even if he were in school but certainly not all.

Song writing and recording

Last summer Jack took a song writing and recording summer camp with Pamela Parker of the San Francisco Rock School. It was such a success that the summer camp developed into a three-month long weekly workshop. One of the homeschooling moms hosted the workshop at her house (all day on Tuesdays) which was a blessing to the rest of us moms! Jack got a Mac for his birthday so he would be able to work with the popular recording software used nowadays. That was in the Fall.

Drama class

In the Spring some of Jack’s friends enrolled in an improv drama class which he was inspired to join. The class for homeschoolers was given by New Conservatory Theater Center in San Francisco, taught by very cool actors and drama teachers.

Galileo and Iliad

A friend of ours, Valentina Emery, stepmother of one of Jack’s friends, is a very talented actress and part of Inferno Theater. She invited us to two of her plays which were of particularly educational value. One was a dramatization of the letters of Galileo to his daughters and the other a contemporary dramatization of The Iliad. The latter fit in nicely with the parody we had read of The Iliad (I wrote about it here) and the former was a good introduction to Galileo, his life and times as well as his science.

The San Rafael Film Institute

One of our luckiest finds is the California Film Institute at Rafael Cinema in San Rafael, where we now live. I discovered this fairly late and only saw a couple of movies there during Jack’s “sixth grade.” The most valuable film from an educational standpoint for Jack was The First Grader which was based on the true story of an 80-year old man in Kenya who decided to go to school for the first time. Wonderful film and a good introduction to the history of Kenya (and many other developing countries).


We read three classics this year: Steinbeck’s Travels with Charlie, Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, and Mark Twain’s The Prince and the Pauper. We are now reading Jack London’s Call of the Wild. The latter is in preparation for a homeschoolers’ trip to Jack London Park about which I will blog later.

The Exploratorium
While we no longer live in San Francisco we are still lucky enough to be able to make fairly regular trips to The Exploratorium. This is an excellent interactive science museum and interesting for kids of all ages as well as grownups. Jack and his dad Henry made quite a few trips to the Exploratorium this year. I’m sure Jack learned some science there!

Middle School interactive course

A friend of mine gave Jack as a present an interactive series of courses which I have to admit I never had a chance to really check out. Henry would occasionally assign some “lessons” from it and Jack spent some time fiddling around with it and discovering things on his own.

Marin Youth Center

Last but not least, Jack and I quite by accident discovered Marin Youth Center in San Rafael. This was an afterschool program for middleschoolers and highschoolers, run by a group of wonderful young people. Really, the center was almost too good to be true, complete with recording studio, metal working and other art studios, pool tables, an organic café run by highschoolers, etc. The courses offered were fantastic, from state-of-the-art softwares to organic cooking. And there were field trips: skiing, kayaking, mini-golf, etc. The center was open every day in the afternoons and for $45 a month the kids could drop in any time and stay as long as they wanted.

    Terribly terribly sadly, MYC lost its funding and will not be around after the summer. It was such a godsend for us. Jack got to be around kids (all public school kids) and a very nice young staff, learn a few things and get exposed to other things, and I could count on a few hours of free time when I needed it. All the kids were very disappointed at the news of the shutting down of the MYC. Jack started a letter writing campaign and collected signatures to show community support for the center, but unfortunately it was of no use. 

I record all these activities and resources just to give an idea of what a rich world we live in. Of course my family lives in a particularly resourceful part of the country but I am constantly reminded that any community can offer a great deal of educational opportunities for kids. Take colleges for instance, both community and four-year colleges.

The average drama or music or dance department has performances that they would love to have an audience for. If there are no movie theaters showing films other than commercial ones there is Netflix. One can visit websites of good theaters anywhere in the country, learn about interesting films, and then order them through Netflix.

I won’t mention libraries and electronic resources because that’s just too obvious. One quick trip to the public library will open up more opportunities than I need to even give examples of: reading and interactive materials as well as activities. Really, we live in the age of links: all you need is to start somewhere, anywhere, and then get linked to infinity. 

Speaking of links, the California Homeschool Association website is a good example of one spot in the infinite chain of links for homeschoolers. As far as I’m concerned a lot of homeschooling resources are just as valuable for school kids. I think the boundaries between school and homeschool are blurring.

It is all a question of time.


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