Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Home School Field Trip Extraordinaire

Have I ever told ya'll about the time in college where I thought I'd branch out from the English and French literature courses, the Chinese language, folklore and history and take a course in the Engineering school titled Solid Waste Management? It's dim in my mind, but I trudged over hill and dale to a part of the UNC campus unknown to those immersed in Auden and Balzac and learned about how our waste is managed. God, it was awful. The textbook was graphic, as I recall, and the professor insanely dull. I have no aptitude for such practical matters. It was probably the worst class I'd ever taken, right after Advanced Calculus. I remember absolutely nothing about it except for that. I blamed myself for the desire to be well-rounded.


Nearly thirty years later, I participated in a field trip today with other homeschoolers to the Edward C. Little Water Recycling facility, the largest water recycling facility in the United States. After donning a hairnet, safety glasses, a vest and hard hat, we were taken on a tour throughout the actual facility, and it was easily the second best field trip I've ever been on (after Alcatraz). Fascinating stuff, ya'll, and not a little sobering. We walked over vast vats of bubbling sludgey water and were so high up at one point that I felt a little nauseous and had to talk myself out of crawling across what to you might have looked like a steel catwalk but to me was a precarious vertiginous path to nowhere. I knew Oliver would rather have jumped into said sludge than see his hair-netted matron of a mother on her hands and knees, so I sucked it up and looked straight ahead.

Weirdly enough, we've been delving into chemistry and had just read about chemistry and technology, so this was just about the most perfect accompaniment we could have imagined. Days like this make me so grateful that we've made this decision -- Oliver AND I learned so much today it was almost exhilarating. I'd even go so far as to say that in 2014, I'm far more well-rounded -- in every way -- than I ever was in 1985.


  1. Would it surprise you to know that I'm OBSESSED with waste management?

  2. This is simply wonderful! Funny, isn't it, how things we never imagined doing would end up to be so perfectly fantastic?

  3. Your college story is classic - if we only knew then how well life itself would "round us out!" It reminded me of a course in "Consumer and Environmental Chemistry" - a.k.a. science for artistic types - which I took. We also went to a wastewater-treatment plant - this one in the Midwest. The most memorable part of that fieldtrip for me was hearing one of the staff say, "You know how it is when you flush a toilet - the water (etc.) just goes 'away?' Well, that's where you are right today - we're going to show you 'away' today." Very funny at the time!
    Your son is one lucky dude. Respect.

  4. Water recycling is such an important topic -- and Oliver looks pretty calm and happy, which is a good way for learning to feel,
    of course!

  5. Your decision for Oliver's education does seem to be constantly proven to be the right one! I snorted with this line: "hair-netted matron of a mother". And I love love love that pic of Oliver - it is freakin' awesome!!

  6. Well, even if it backfired, your attempt to be well-rounded in 1985 was admirable. I tried to be well-rounded too but I don't think I ever went quite THAT far. I'm glad the modern field trip turned out to be worthwhile -- I thought you were going to tell us it was terrible!

  7. Okay, that last picture? Oliver looks great. The background - ugh. UGH! I love that you guys did this and it just goes to show that my theory about lifelong learning being not only possible but enhanced as we get older is right. I swear I've learned more in the last ten years by simply being curious and tagging along with my kids than I ever paid for in college.



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