Education is (1) the knowledge or skill obtained or developed by a learning process and (2) an instructive or enlightening experience. As a teacher, I tried to meld these two definitions in the classroom. My philosophy is that if it isn't fun for me as the teacher, it sure isn't going to be fun for the kids. And only an enjoyable learning experience is retained for life.
My late husband and I maintained the same philosophy regarding our children. We decided that it would be more important that I be a stay-at-home Mom than spend a lot of money on other things for our children. We were lucky that we had a summer cabin on Shuswap Lake and were able to give the girls vacations that included horseback riding, swimming, water skiing, along with educational experiences with the government campsite Rangers. They also learned geography, history of our First Nations, and music as we sang along while my husband played the guitar at the evening campfire. The girls learned to entertain themselves by making up plays and musicals on the beach. I remember them dancing to Whitney Houston's "The Greatest Love Of All" and "I Wanna Dance With Somebody," working hard to get the lyrics and dance moves just right. We also introduced them to lots of activities at home so they could get a "feel" for them and decide for themselves what they'd like to continue. Some of the things we took them to were ballet, gymnastics, figure skating, horseback riding, soccer, tennis, skiing, drama with acting lessons, music, swimming lessons, art, along with everything that the schools they attended provided.
In 1986, we had the privilege of moving to our nation's capital, Ottawa, for a 3-year stint with Telecom Canada. What better place to educate our two daughters than in historic Eastern Canada! Nervously, we sold our house and July 1, 1986 found us at the Parliament Buildings celebrating Canada's birthday. The girls had their photo taken with an RCMP officer, decked out in his official uniform. Two years later, one of Jamie's friends came to stay for the summer and we took them all back to the Parliament Buildings and climbed the clock tower. At some point during our time living in Ottawa, we also had the opportunity to take the girls to parliament when it was in session. That was a real educational experience!
During our vacation time in the summer of 1987, we drove East through Montreal and then South to New Brunswick, then East again to Prince Edward Island. In Moncton, NB, we found the house where my grandmother (my mother's mother) was born. I knocked at the door to ask if I could take a photo of the girls on the front porch but since no one was at home, I just went ahead and took their photo anyway.
We took the girls to the Magnetic Hill just east of the city. Magnetic Hill began as just local folklore in the early 1800's. Farmers living to the northwest of Moncton recounted wild stories of wagons running up on the heels of startled horses. Barrels and bales of dry goods were said to mysteriously roll "uphill". The hill moved from folklore to hard news in 1933 when three newspaper reporters spent an embarrassing moment stopping at the foot of every hill waiting for the magical magnetic forces to take over. Eight frustrating hours later, when the reporters were ready to give up, the phenomenon of Magnetic Hill was recorded as the reporters watched their 1931 Ford Roadster roll up the hill without them. Magnetic Hill was officially recorded by a skeptical group of believers. (from here) Now that was an educational experience as we sat in our car, turned off, and drove UP the hill...
Another educational experience we had in New Brunswick was seeing all the covered bridges. We stopped at the longest covered bridge in the world at Hartland, NB to take some photos and to walk its length.
We continued on to Prince Edward Island and that was an awesome experience for us. The dirt really is RED there! Native legends of old tell of a Great Spirit that, during the creation of the earth, reserved a small amount of red dirt. This red dirt was used to form "the fairest of all earthly places," Prince Edward Island. Today we now know that the dirt's rich red hue is due to its naturally occurring high iron oxide content. While in PEI, we went to all, literally ALL, of the sites related to the "Anne of Green Gables" books written by Lucy Maud Montgomery and published in 1908.
On the way back from PEI, we drove through the Adirondacks in upstate New York. The girls skated at the Olympic arena at Lake Placid where we stayed for a few days. We found out that Robert Louis Stevenson had wintered at Saranac Lake in the area in 1887. He stayed at "Cure Cottage" where he rested and recovered from tuberculosis. The house where he stayed and wrote during that time was open to visitors. As my late husband was extremely proud of his Scottish ancestry, it was absolutely vital that we go and look around. This experience brought to life our daughters' heritage. It was exciting to see all of RLS's belongings and to learn that he had written a number of his best essays here along with beginning his famous "The Master of Ballantrae."
Ottawa and its surrounding area is full of the history of early settlements in Canada. One place we visited many times was an old working farm that taught the girls what it was like to live on a farm back in the 1800s. We took scads of photos, but here is one of them at the water pump where they learned that every day someone would have to go out and pump the water from the well so they could drink, cook, and wash for the day. They checked out the "outhouse," the pig sties, the kitchen, and the garden before we went for a wagon ride out into the countryside.
We also took them twice to Upper Canada Village - I did a post on this last go round for ABCW and if you missed it, you can check it out here.
During our time in Ottawa, the girls learned a lot about geography. They learned how vast is our country! From coast to coast it's 5, 514 km or, for my American friends, it's almost 3,500 miles. They also learned that Canada's climate varies from place to place and that when people refer to a Canadian winter, they mean something like what we all experienced in Ontario during those years. Yes, it snows in the winter and it's extremely cold. And the winter is long. We all admitted that it was fun for a while, but we were very happy to return to Lotusland in 1989 where the climate is much more temperate .
We not only gave our daughters the experience of Canada during these years, but also took them to Massachusetts, where there is a rich plethora of American history. In 1988, we recounted the story of the Mayflower and took the girls (and a friend) to Plymouth to see an accurate replica of the ship, which is moored at the State Pier. We also saw Plymouth Rock and toured around the area.
We continued on to Cape Cod for a week and saw the JFK Memorial. Naturally, we had to tell that story and recounted where we were the day President John F. Kennedy was assassinated.
Of all the educational experiences we gave our two daughters, I believe moving temporarily to Ottawa was the best one. We had the opportunity to see and do so much more than we ever could have dreamt had we not dared to dream a bit.
Education is a journey. It's not just 12 years of plodding along at school. All my students had fun in my classes because I kept reminding myself that if how I taught didn't excite ME, it surely wasn't going to excite them. Education is a lifelong adventure that is open to everyone who is willing to open their bodies, minds, and souls to the experience. Here are a few quotes:
Nine tenths of education is encouragement. Anatole France
The aim of education should be to teach us rather how to think, than what to think - rather to improve our minds, so as to enable us to think for ourselves, than to load the memory with thoughts of other men. Bill Beattie
Education, therefore, is a process of living and not a preparation for future living. John Dewey
Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world. Nelson Mandela
Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire. William Butler Yeats
I will give the final word to Helen Keller: Have you ever been at sea in a dense fog, when it seemed as if a tangible white darkness shut you in and the great ship, tense and anxious, groped her way toward the shore with plummet and sounding-line, and you waited with beating heart for something to happen? I was like that ship before my education began, only I was without compass or sounding line, and no way of knowing how near the harbor was. "Light! Give me light!" was the wordless cry of my soul, and the light of love shone on me in that very hour.