Monday, November 27, 2006
ROBOTS: The Interactive Exhibition
Now thru Jan. 7, 2007
Tuesday - Sunday
Take an educational, fun and exciting journey through a mechanical world.
ROBOTS: The Interactive Exhibition captures the imagination and excitement of the hit animated film Robots and translates it into an entertaining and educational experience for the whole family. See how robots can make our lives better today and in the future. Learn how the movie was created, play interactive games, and build your own robot!
Monday, November 20, 2006
New Carousel Animals/Contest
Endangered Species Carousel to Open Spring 2007
Every paid visitor in November and December receives a ticket to ride the carousel in 2007. Guess the weight of the animal (three winners) and receive a season rides pass for the carousel, good for all of 2007.
The Zoo will unveil a new carousel in May 2007. It will feature 36 hand-carved wooden animals, all endangered species.
See pictures on the website.
Sunday, November 19, 2006
Saturday, November 18, 2006
I can probably say more with pictures than in words:
An Egyptian Mummy
A big cat of some sort.
Rubbing the Buddah's Belly
If you are in Wichita, don't miss this museum. It's worth a road trip if you are looking for something to do.
Monday, November 13, 2006
This special exhibit is on display through November 30, 2006 at the Museum, 1737 Elgin Road, 3 miles east of Highland, Kansas.
Exhibit Ends: November 30, 2006
Thursday, November 09, 2006
Wednesday, November 08, 2006
You don't have to go far to hear dire warnings about the possible harm that can be caused by too much screen time. That's the nouveau term that encompasses television, computer, and video games. We are warned that they stifle imagination, dull kids' brains, and disrupt learning. You can find plenty of fodder for this point of view, so I thought I would offer another perspective.
I really believe that most people see at least some value in these activities. Otherwise we wouldn't own them. It's the fear that a child will become obsessed that drives this issue; that, if allowed, they will do nothing but watch TV and play video games all day. It is the very restrictions we are encouraged to employ to prevent this from happening that, in fact, make the worry true.
When children have trouble separating themselves from something like TV, video games, books, or anything really... it is because these items were restricted, thus putting a high priority or value on the activity. Don't misunderstand; if your kid is really doing nothing but fill-in-the-blank, it is a parent's job to connect. It might be time for a conversation that starts with, “I notice you have really been into ________, lately.” The point is to find out what need your kid is fulfilling. Kids don't fixate on an activity unless it is meeting a need. If they really are dwelling on an activity out of boredom, making a positive suggestion is a million times better than a restriction.
I’ve often thought that if I can’t use my wits and charm to convince my kid that some real life outing or project with me is not worth turning the TV off for a while, then I ought to consider finding a new gig. I can say things like, “Hey, you want to try out that new recipe with me?” or “Do you want to check out this new website I found?” Yes, it sometimes requires that I drop my own agenda and spend time focusing on theirs. Of course, the other part is knowing when to shut up and leave them alone. This is part of what makes unschooling special, the interaction and the relationships.
When I hear people assume that their kids would do nothing but watch TV all day (or play video games, or whatever), it makes me sad. It usually comes from people who have never tried unschooling, or if they did, they didn't give their kids time to deschool before making a judgment. At the heart of this sentence, I hear, “My kid is an imbecile, incapable of making constructive choices. My child has no natural curiosity and will not learn unless forced to. The bottom line is, I don't trust my kid.” This is an unfair indictment for children, in general, but especially for kids that need to heal from one kind of trauma or another. (And I believe that school experiences can be very traumatic.)
I have witnessed movies spark a child’s imagination, inspire their writing, motivate them to read a book on a subject, act out their own version of the plot in an imaginative, lets-pretend sort of game. I have explained complex math concepts because my child needed them to get to the next level in a computer game they enjoy. I have watched their vocabulary expand as they ask me the meaning of words they see and hear on screen. Best of all, I spend time doing these things with them. I watch shows they like, play games they like, and we talk about them. We have conversations about topics that might otherwise have never come up.
By refusing to place restrictions on screen time, I am sending a message that I value what my children care about, their interests matter to me, and I am available to talk with them about anything. I see screen time as not just a great tool for learning, but also for building relationships. These items make our worlds bigger and more interesting, taking them away or limiting them only makes your child's world smaller and less fun.
I have often mused that if we worried about, limited, screened, controlled our children's reading habits like we do other things, we would be wondering how to get our kids' noses out of books. I would be exclaiming that all my daughter does is study wildlife and draw. She has her nose in a book for hours each day and sure, she creates these beautiful things, but surely she isn't old enough to process their meaning yet. Or I would worry that my son is simply spending too much time messing with that tool. Does he understand the basic principles of engineering? Isn't that activity too mature for him? Maybe I should redirect that interest to make sure they are learning other things, to make sure they’ve mastered the basics first, or to make sure they aren’t getting involved in something beyond their ability to master.
At the core of unschooling is the belief that my daughter can spend all day delving into how Morgan horses differ from Palominos. She can read any mystery novel she likes. She can crochet, write a story, visit with her big sister, watch TV, catch up on email, and all of those projects are equally worthy. My son can spend all day on a new project with his toys, finish a software adventure, or read a book with mom. All these things are of equal importance because they, my children, care about them. My job is to value those things with them, not to prioritize or judge them.
Most of all, my job is to open their world up so they can meet their needs in the many ways they will discover. I don’t want to make their world smaller, or less sparkly, by taking things away.
This article was published in the May/June 2007 issue of Live Free Learn Free.
Monday, November 06, 2006
Furry Winged Demon ~ Issac, age 9
Genie ~ Erinn, age 7
Gladiator from Pompeii ~ Kaman, age 5
Gypsy ~ Karen, age 12
Gypsy ~ Victoria, age 10
Pirate ~ Maddie, age 8
Pirate ~ Benjamin, age 6
Robin, of Teen Titans ~ Joshua, age 4-1/2
Witch ~ Alison, age 13
View the 2007 Halloween Parade
Sunday, November 05, 2006
Friday, November 03, 2006
by Tracy Million Simmons
Our local unschooling list has had some wonderful conversation, of late, regarding television and the role of “screen time” in an unschooling world. It’s been an excellent opportunity for personal reflection on two levels.
First, to recognize just how much my mindset about television has changed in the last few years. Second, to reflect on how much my mindset has changed, in general, in the 8 or 9 years since my first introduction to unschooling.
It wasn’t all that long ago that I was still sorting television programs by those that were quality and educational and those that were not. I was still falling for a bit of the “good mom” cultural message that goes something like… good moms don’t let their kids watch too much television, or better yet, any television at all. I limited the time my kids spent watching television. I avoided channels that were heavily commercialized. And I had good, solid excuses (involving one television, small space, “important” things needing to take priority) for staying on top of the television habit in our household… or so I thought.
Thankfully, I never stopped seeking input from experienced unschoolers. I didn’t necessarily consider television a “problem” in our house, but I kept bumping up against advice that was pointing me in another direction, and I must have never been fully comfortable with the way we handled TV watching, because I kept trying new things (new restrictions, guidelines, tactics for getting three kids through a day, happy with their TV options).
The answer, of course, was right in front of me all along. Unschooling was working for myself and my children in so many wonderful ways. The fact that I still felt a need to control the television and its contents was… well, complete silliness, one of those “rocks in my head” as I’ve come to think of them… a notion that remains, though all the evidence I have about trust and life learning and healthy relationships with people (my children in particular) show me that my “wisdom” on the matter is not sufficient to give me power to dictate television rights.
We still live in a small house. We still own only one television. We still have to share and to coordinate and to be considerate of four other people in the house. Yet, I can’t remember the last time we had any problem balancing television time with whatever else was going on in our world. Some days I still marvel that an entire day has passed and the television hasn’t been on for a single minute. The kids no longer worry about getting in their daily TV time, because it’s available to them at any time. I see now that I had raised the value of screen time by limiting it. Other days I marvel at the programs my children discover, or the pieces of information they pull from the shows they watch. I find myself stopping to see what they’ve found and my kids, better than I, seem to know when it’s a good day to just curl up with a blanket and the remote and snuggle in with a good movie.
Finally, I am free to have true discussions with them about my thoughts on television. I can express my amusements and my distastes. I can explain why I dislike particular kinds of television and I can listen to what attracts them. We only found this freedom when I was finally able to step back and treat them as equals, allowing them the same power to choose that I have. Trust with television programming and screen time should be no different than trust with anything else.
The whole email conversation on television has led me to think back to my early introduction to unschooling. I was just beginning my journey as a mother, but I already had a lot of ideas about the type of mother I wanted to be and the kind of relationship I wanted to have with my children. When I first read about unschooling, it was a little spark that just wouldn’t go out. It felt true and right, yet I approached it cautiously. It was so different, after all, from all the other advice that was out there.
My first experience on an email discussion list was with a group of unschoolers. They were radical and amazing, thoughtful and full of words and ideas that inspired me… and perhaps frightened me a bit, as well. Looking back, I must have been exhausting to them at times. I wish there was a way to contact each and every one of them, to let them know just how much I appreciate their continued conversation, their words of wisdom and their gentle shakes to help me empty all those “rocks” from my head.
Now I continue to frequent those lists and I encourage others to do the same. Sometimes it takes an outsider looking in to help you recognize just where you still carry rocks in your head. You may think you have it down, thinking you are unschooling in the finest fashion, and then someone asks a question or gives an answer that makes you stop and ponder your take on a particular topic all over again.
Keep asking questions. Keep listening to the answers. As parents, we have at least as much room to grow as our children do.