Seven Things I Learned When We Took Off School

Seven Things I Learned When We Took Off School

As tradition has it, we take our vacation the week of Labor Day. Which means we did no official school work this week, but we learned plenty. I could tell you we studied nature, Ohio history, physical education and zoology. But, the lessons I learned this week from our experiences were a bit more complex.

1. Do the hard things, but don’t try too hard.

We started off our vacation with a difficult return to my husband’s parents’ home. His mom has been gone just two months, and the wounds are still fresh. The emotional turmoil began before we got there for me. I wanted to do things just right and make things as easy as possible. Instead, I made things much worse for myself and everyone around me. Especially with grief, it’s better just to do the next thing and let the details fall into place on their own.

2. Read classic literature, but still use your filter. 

I think at times I’ve had the impression that classic works are so intelligent and necessary for the “educated” to read that they are above all reproach. I discovered the crack in this theory the first time when reading after a French author of bygone centuries years ago.

This week I decided after hearing about it my whole life, I would read To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee. I truly enjoyed the story and the whimsical way Jean Louise narrated it. I didn’t expect some of the language, but I skimmed over it. What I appreciated the most was the moral behind the story and the glimpse into the prejudice of the 1930’s. “Shoot all the bluejays you want, if you can hit ’em, but remember it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird.” 

3. Sometimes kids are bored because they want bigger challenges. 

Our Metro Parks system holds a Fall Hiking Spree every year. Families or individuals can hike 8 trails in the three month period and earn a shield for their walking stick provided the first year they complete the challenge. We have done the walks most years since our oldest was in a stroller.

The last year or so, they have groaned a bit about doing “our walks” as we call them. We found out why. Because of their grumbling, we had been choosing the easiest trails. While the scenery was nice, it wasn’t challenging enough. Our seven-year-old, who happens to be the biggest grumbler of all, asked to do a Level 3 walk this time. The hillier terrain made the 1.2 mile hike more exciting for all of us. Never underestimate what your children can do, especially if it’s their own idea.

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4. Learn to embrace new experiences and let old ones go.

My husband decided it was time for us to experience one of our state’s caverns. None of us had ever been in a cave before. Several of us are claustrophobic and extreme temperatures bring out the whine in a few others. However, we decided to try it. It was really a neat experience, and we were all glad we went.



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Since everyone loved the new experience so well, I was sure they would love one of my favorite childhood activities: miniature golf. This was admittedly horrible when they were babies, so we haven’t gone as a family for quite some time. However, the opportunity presented itself on our vacation, so we grabbed balls and clubs and headed out to the (mini) green. At hole six, three of them were asking how much longer the game was. At hole nine, those three quit. Three of us stuck it out and enjoyed the game reasonably well. A 50% return was a little disappointing to this mom and my high ideals. In the future, we will save miniature golf for kid dates with those kids who actually like to play.  

5. Things are not always as they seem.

The next three lessons, I learned while at the zoo. A little sign informed me that ostriches do not actually stick their heads in the sand. It is an illusion. What they are actually doing is….wait for it……putting their heads down to eat from the ground. Things are not always as they seem, but illusions can make untruths common perceptions. 

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6. How something is worded affects perception.

Speaking of perception, all of the trash cans in the zoo were labeled Landfill. Something as simple as throwing away my trash has never caused me to feel guilty. Until the zoo changed the word Trash to Landfill. A few other common word switches that come to mind? Weird vs. Unique, Hyper vs. Energetic, and Impossible vs. Challenging. I must be more careful how I word things to my children and others around me.


7. The ancients realized the value of my work.

One of my favorite parts of the zoo had to do with words. Actually, all the things I learned at the zoo involved words. Go figure. As you know, I am quite unique (wink)While observing the elephants, I noticed a quote circling the upper wall of their indoor area. In the middle of a week when school happened out in the world rather than in front of a textbook, I was thankful for a validation from an ancient Chinese proverb:

If you are planning for one year, plant rice.

If you are planning for a decade, plant a tree.

If you are planning for a lifetime, educate a child.


What we are doing has an impact on eternity. Ready for another week?


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