- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 4, 2005

Our family does a lot of experiential learning. We take advantage of opportunities to do something interesting and exciting, which allows us to learn in unique ways.

In November, for instance, we went to New York for a Young Actor’s Workshop. It was a two-day program involving working with professional actors, directors and casting directors and completing a number of assignments that teach various skills, including street theater, improvisation, etc.

Our family traveled there with a few other home-schoolers and held a training session in some performing skills along the way. We helped with the filming of the entire two-day project.

A few weeks before that, we were involved in a video production, which involved the entire process of scriptwriting, storyboards, filming, editing, adding the soundtrack and doing special effects. We needed to rent professional lights and sound equipment, monitor the sound and picture quality, work with the talent, and maintain the shooting schedule. A professional documentary filmmaker directed the project, and my daughter, who is taking a field production course at our local cable access television station, was able to learn an enormous amount from that single project.

My son is learning music recording technology with the assistance of a manual, a software tutorial book and a very distant tutor who is teaching him and a few other young men by conference call how to use the computerized recording and engineering system to produce professional-level recordings. The guys are working out both the hardware and software needs, and how to use the system effectively.



My daughter sometimes helps at an organic farm that grows fresh salad makings and sells them every weekend in a number of local fresh-air farmers markets. She is picking up information about planting, rotation, harvesting, cleaning and preparing fresh produce for sale.

We often are invited to events around the District in which organizations are hosting discussions or workshops. Oftentimes, the host organization has put a lot of effort into having great speakers, materials and events — but the events usually are not that well attended. The groups usually welcome youth attendees or volunteers to have representation from the young, but also to include the talents or arts they may have to add to the event.

In this way, our family has met congressional representatives, ambassadors, experts in various geopolitical areas, and leaders of many governmental agencies. We recently attended a discussion on Sudan, in which governmental, academic, media and leaders of nongovernmental organizations spoke about the factual situation of that nation and the difficulties faced in developing peace there.

Even in our entertainment, we often find new opportunities to learn. My husband found a wonderfully funny and touching Japanese miniseries that we were hooked on. For several nights, we were mesmerized by “Densha Otoko,” which means “Train Man.” Although we read the subtitles, hearing Japanese helped refresh our children’s memories of the language, and since then, they have been using more phrases and conversing more with their dad in Japanese.

One home-schooler I know will soon start an internship with a graphic designer to learn how his hobby of art can be practically applied in a profession. I am certain he will learn more from working in the field than he would learn from studying a book and turning in assignments.

Home-schoolers are fortunate to have a cornucopia of avenues for learning available to them. We can go beyond the 9-to-3 system of time-slot lessons and take advantage of the places we live and the people we meet. Not only is this a much more interesting way of getting information, but it also allows us to make connections with people who are in action in the world around us.

Youth is the time for exploration, for adventure and for training. So many times, however, we send the message to children that learning is simply punching a timecard, turning in assignments and getting a grade. The textbook of life is right in front of us, waiting to be opened. Showing our children that they can go directly to the source to learn is a lesson that will have an impact on them every single day of their lives.

Kate Tsubata, a home-schooling mother of three, is a freelance writer who lives in Maryland.

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