Because the Well-Being of My Children is More Important than Math
I tend to get caught up in my To-Do list. Before I know it, days, usually weeks, go by before I realize our routine was so rigid, the playful spirit had been snuffed out of my children. I once read an article about a nurse who would ask the elderly, at the end of life, what they regretted most. They regretted time not spent with loved ones. They regretted missed opportunities and unrepaired relationships.
One day, my son said, "I use to want to explore but since we never get to do it, I guess I will have to wait until I am older." These words pierced my heart. Where had my wonder gone? The explorer inside of me who took every opportunity to be outdoors and discover new things seemed to have vanished. Where had the little girl, who wanted to grow up to be Indiana Jones, gone? It was then and there I decided to make a change.
We are a homeschooling family with fifth and ninth graders. I have gotten into a rut of checking the boxes, handing out worksheets, and teaching out of a textbook. But textbooks are not life, are they? They have their place, of course, and math is important, but there are things unseen that needed my attention. Sadly, I missed them, but it was not too late.
Thank God my son made that comment and I was in a place to hear him. How many times had my children made little mentions of things I dismissed? As I rushed from throwing in a load of laundry to adding items to my grocery list, I ignored the cries for help uttered in spoken crumbs that tumbled from the lips of my children; to see how I would react, react at all, listen, or, more importantly, understand what was not being said.
Did I squash all wonder from my children? I believe I did. The comment stopped me in my tracks. From him it was innocent, but in a divine sense, I believe it was meant to pierce my heart, to make an impact. I am only motivated to make a change when the situation gets uncomfortable. That is when I implemented a new tradition called, Explorer Days.
What are Explorer Days?
I am so glad you asked.
Each Thursday, I choose an activity for my children and me to get out of the house and learn what we cannot from a textbook. Because my children are in a class all day on Wednesdays, I decided a Thursday would be best. Also, some locations are crowded on Fridays, so Thursdays seemed perfect. I do not make a school lesson out of it. There is no need. They learn by doing. An Explorer Day can be as simple as a picnic or more involved like a snorkeling day in the Gulf. ( We live in Florida) It can be fishing off the pier in the morning or at the zoo in the afternoon. It can be a couple of hours or all day.
We sometimes invite friends but this is not a day of organizing large groups. I tell friends where we are going to be at what time and they are welcome to join us if they are free. This is a stress-free day. If I was organizing groups, moving times around to accommodate others, and coordinating details, it would not be a fun, relaxing day. Depending on the activity, the day may have to be changed to another day of the week but that is rare.
After a couple of weeks of doing Explorer Days, the light in my children reignited. They look forward to it each week. They even concentrate better on school days because they are not beaten down by a monotonous, consistently boring schedule. They know the work needs to get done and are more likely to dig in knowing an Explorer Day is coming.
Water slides and exploring a tide pool.
What Explorer Day is Not
An Explorer Day is not a day I take my kids to the park, sit on a bench, and scroll through my phone while they play. I do not have to go down the slide but I can take those moments to SEE my kids and offer a "good job" or "way to go." I block several hours in my day to not look at my phone. The only time it comes out of my pocket is to take a picture. They are watching and I cannot HEAR them when they need me if I am involved in what is happening on social media, text, or email.
Two hours at a trampoline park
So what about math? Math is important, just like all the other school subjects, but when I look back on my life, I will not regret doing math four days a week instead of five. I will look back on those days of adventure, exploring and the deep conversations that never would have happened had I focused on checking laundry off my list. The laundry will be there
I have a minivan. My friend has a convertible. We swapped for a couple of days.
Some ideas for Explorer Day:
Beach Day (snorkeling, boogie boarding, sandcastle building)
Pack an Operation Christmas Child Shoebox
A long walk in a new area
Visit an animal shelter
Raining? Learn a new hobby/craft or art project
Build a snow fort/snowman
Decorate for an upcoming holiday
See a movie in the morning or the middle of the afternoon (let them pick their own candy)
Volunteer (make sure they are old enough)
Make a meal for a family in need
Have a cooking class with your kids
Visit a pumpkin patch
Visit a Museum
Take your kids to a place that meant a lot to you as a kid. Give them the details of why. Let them see it through your eyes.
Let the explorer out in you. They will be excited to see that side of you.
Water Balloon Battle
Build a fort in the living room and watch a movie marathon
Rent a boat
Drive around and look at Christmas Lights
Board Games on the back porch
Surprise people with an act of kindness
The possibilities are endless.