I remember rambling along in a long yellow bus filled with 60 second and third graders heading to the La Brea Tar Pits. Another month, another trip to see and touch the history, social science and life we'd been learning about in school. I saw tide pools, art exhibits at LACMA,Olvera Street and more. Learning used to include a vital tactile element. Today, my kids learn to test, not learn to learn. And certainly with the sad, sorry state of California schools, we are not teaching or learning for the benefit of building a whole child.
I refuse to allow my children's education to be reduced to filling in bubble exams. Call me truant. I'm not going to stand for a lesser education for my kids because the California economy has held our schools hostage, reducing their education to test taking frenzies.
So. I'm a truant mom, taking my kids' education into my own hands and taking advantage monthly to support their public school education with what used to be best practices: Shark "hunting" at the Monterey Bay Aquarium, Fleet Week tour of military ships in San Francisco, a hands-on experience of planets and space at the Academy of Sciences, building claymation videos at Zeum to demonstrate art and computer science, and, the Impressionists exhibit at the DeYoung museum yesterday.
I'm not a home schooling type. It's not my thing; it's not the kids' thing. But yesterday… yesterday was magic. We named our day: GO-GONE (in nod to Gauguin). Here's how we spent the day:
8 a.m. - Spell out Van Gogh, Cezanne, and Gauguin for kids and have them research the artists they will see today. We used Yahoo! Kids to do the research.
9 a.m. - Draw and paint. Kids used Impressionist book to gain inspiration on drawing. We made paper airplanes and banners using colors of the artists. We talked about cubism - how a cone can be a tree and a circle its fruit. We drew what we thought was cubist in style.
10 a.m. - Meeting! We ate French crepes at a patisserie nearby in honor of the Muse d'Orsay (where the Impressionist collection is on loan from), and discussed one thing about each artist we knew. We cut out pictures of our favorite things we wanted to see. Van Gogh was the most popular: Sunflowers, Starry Night, the Artist's Room. The kids knew that Cezanne had two sisters: Maria and Rose (my aunt and mother's names, respectively). These tiny tidbits of information excited them.
11 a.m. - We head to the bookstore to find kid-friendly books on impressionist artists. Two books of Van Gogh led the kids to be bounding around the store talking about the Sunflowers and can't wait to get to see them later today.
2 p.m. - The De Young exhibit is packed. The kids get their own maps, their own audio tour head sets (Thing 1 called it the "Mini DJ"). They hit the exhibit with excitement. One piece by another Impressionist featured a straw hat. My kid told me, "This is by Van Gogh." When I told him it wasn't, he told me, "Then why is Van Gogh's hat in the bottom right corner of the painting?" A man standing nearby tapped me on the shoulder, "You have got to be kidding!," he told me. I beamed - beamed! - with pride.
4 p.m. - We write stories on our Un Dia del Museo - an essay in Spanish on our day at the museum. Words come flowing from the kids - writing pouring from their minds to the page.
My babies fell into bed last night, exhausted and filled-up with colors and images and textures drifting them to sleep quickly. I am reminded again that parenthood cannot afford to be a complacent role. I literally saw my children learning by observance, growing from experience and applying their in-school learnings to real world beauty. I'm a truant mom. And I'm okay with that.