Guest Post: Homeschool mom Anna Berend talks about her experiences with Ordway Education
Anna Berend 4/24/20
Anna Berend is a homeschooling mother, contract attorney, planner of family adventures near and far, lifelong learner, amateur photographer, and painter living in the Twin Cities, fueled by faith, hope, coffee, and chocolate. She and her family are frequent attendees to Ordway Education school matinees. In this blog, she shares how the Ordway has impacted her.
Almost five years ago, we embarked on a journey that we had never planned, homeschooling. After figuring out that both of our sons are dyslexic, armed with an Orton-Gillingham based reading curriculum and the help of my mom, a retired teacher, we decided that the homeschooling route was our best bet. And we have never regretted.
By education and licensure, I’m an attorney, not a teacher. So, this was all new to me. However, I do love research, learning, and planning adventures. So, I jumped in to design a curriculum that was engaging, fulfilling, and effective for my kids; it’s an ever evolving process. I was thrilled to learn that the Twin Cities area is full to the brim with such wonderful educational opportunities to supplement our school lessons, and not just for homeschoolers.
Recently, I’ve been thinking about my teaching style, and I think I’d call it weaving. I take various strings and pull them together and weave together history, science, literature, culture, art, music, theater, current events, and more to make a beautiful tapestry of knowledge. This is how our world takes shape and how we can make sense of the past and present and work toward a better future.
For instance, if we read a poem written in 1864, we would talk about what was happening in the U.S. during this time, and in reviewing the Civil War, which we’ve studied in the past, this might lead us to civil rights and in turn to reading from a book of prayers written by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. that we picked up in Atlanta while visiting the King Center, which could lead to a discussion of Katherine Johnson and the other African-American women who worked for NASA in the 1960s and their importance to the space program which inevitably leads us to the landing on the moon, and then on to the Mars rovers and what progress NASA has made regarding sending a manned space vehicle to Mars… Well, you get the idea. So, our school lessons take us to our bookshelves and the Internet searching for information to answer the questions that our discussions unearth. Of course, there are math, grammar, and typing lessons too, but these meandering discussions are much more interesting and act as a review of what they know, help hone their analytical and research skills, and help us discover what we want to study in depth on down the road.
Part of creating our tapestry of knowledge is taking in as much of the arts, sciences, and history as we can. We love to get out and learn with hands-on, sensory-filled experiences as often as possible, which means at least once a week. Fortunately, there are many affordable opportunities out there in our community through memberships, teacher/student discounts, free events, and educational matinees.
Some of our most cherished field trips have been at the Ordway. Ordway Education offers amazing programming for equally amazing prices throughout the school year. We typically buy tickets for just about every show offered, including the Flint Hills Family Festival shows. And in the 4.5 years we’ve been homeschooling, we have attended a lot of shows.
Now, for some the arts, meaning theater, music, dance, and visual art, feels stuffy or elitist or boring, but I love how the Ordway Education programming never fails to feel inclusive, relatable, current, and is always so much fun! I love that thousands of kids are getting this exposure to a place and a performance that many might never have the chance to if not for the Ordway and their phenomenal sponsors.
I was just talking to my boys, ages 13 and 11, about which performances have been their favorites or left an impression on them. This, of course, led to a conversation of all the programs we have loved or were so striking they are unforgettable. Some were fun, some left us in awe, and others left us thinking about it all for a while. Often I am moved to tears by the performers’ passion and talent and messages. A few of our honorable mentions were the Ordway Cabaret shows and the Broadway Boys; we loved the heart and soul of those shows. The absolutely sweet and touching story of the multi-sensory puppet show adapted from the book The Man Who Planted Trees. The musical SIX, of course! It was so fun and sassy and had us looking up all the wives of King Henry VIII to learn more. Balloonacy – no words were spoken, but I went through every emotion, and its beauty has stayed with me for years. Diavolo Dance Theater was so beautiful and engaging and flawless. The musical Once On This Island, what a lovely twist on ‘The Little Mermaid’; we got to sit on the stage, and it was amazing to see it all up close and a bit behind the scenes. And lastly, quite literally the last show we saw at the Ordway this season, HERbeat: Taiko Women ALL-STARS; it was utterly fantastic, and we felt it thrumming through our bodies and blew our minds.
Now, it’s great to be entertained at these shows; we always are, but really it’s about educating ourselves about different cultures, instruments, musical styles, music genres and their histories, dance styles and their histories, storytelling, acting, telling your own story, being true to yourself and respecting others, allowing yourself to see the world through another’s perspective, and letting the whole world open up to you. That is what the arts are about to us. Our experiences at the Ordway have pulled together all kinds of strings to be woven into beautiful tapestry of knowledge, and we are so very thankful for all of the opportunities we have had to learn and grow through the Ordway Education programming, and we can’t wait to get back there next season!