I just want to say that I have the most amazing wife EVER! I was extremely stressed about finals and my upcoming comprehensive exams. My wife wanted to go camping, but I don't have any good breaks during the summer with my teaching schedule and the research that I should start over the summer. So the result is that I was wondering if we were going to go. I owed it to my wife and family to spend at least a little time with them before I get in over my head with a dissertation to write. So early last week I took a look at my schedule and decided that I had from Friday to Monday that I could take a break. I didn't have time to plan anything or make any sort of arrangements, I just had time when I didn't have to be at school. I told my wife and she planned one of the best vacations I have ever been on.
So what made this vacation special? There were a few things that really made this trip special. First of all and most importantly, I was with my family. It was just the five of us and we had lots of time to spend together. All activities involved all family members (except for a little spelunking that was beyond the physical ability levels of the younger two kids). The second thing that really made things special is an ideal that I've always had, but never really been able to live. I did not have a watch all vacation, and it never mattered. When we were hungry we ate. When it got dark we went to sleep. When the sun came up, we woke up. I don't know what 'time' it was. I did keep track of the day so that I could get back to school for my appointment this afternoon (oh the irony). The final thing that really made the trip special was that we had nothing to do. Not only did it not matter what time it was, but we had nothing planned. We had reservations (thanks to my wife who planned the whole thing at the last minute) at a couple of state parks, but we had no plans. We arrived with a variety of options and we chose. We didn't spend time arguing or planning, we decided, "we want to go find hidden canyon in Zion's" and we went and looked for it (it's not accessible to young children FYI, but echo canyon is and it's not far from there).
While my children were not perfectly behaved, it was great to spend that much time with them. It has been too long since I've spent every waking hour with them for several days. I look forward to doing it again.
The only reason this whole thing happened is because my wife put it all together. While I liked the spontaneity of it, my wife did a considerable amount of planning at the last minute to make sure that we weren't driving aimlessly looking for a place to put up a tent. I've said it before and I'll never stop saying it, "My wife is AMAZING!".
I also got to think a little about education. I think my boys learned more during our vacation than they would at most schools. We looked at things, we thought about things, we let the older boy lead us on hikes and see if he could find his way back. It was a wonderful experience and I hope a great learning experience for the boys.
I watched a couple videos on TED earlier today about education. One guy talked about what he thought should be done to improve education. He suggested that we get computers OUT of the classroom. Kids are forgetting (or not learning) how to think. This man then used a couple of things he had on stage to come up with some measurements and calculate the speed of sound (math done with a slide rule).
Then I came across a guy who had five things that every kid should do. On the list were playing with fire, playing with knives, pirating music from the Internet and driving a car. While his ideas sound dangerous at face value, I would argue that overly protecting our children is one of the most dangerous things we can do as parents. (With that said, I still wouldn't take my kids on the hike to the Hidden Canyon at Zions with the two foot wide trail and a several hundred foot drop.)
Finally I ran across the guy who had solutions. He started some tutoring centers and actually won the TED prize (whatever that is) by giving students individual time with adults who care about their thoughts. Kids don't need more 'education' they need to learn to express themselves and explore.