Robotics Revolution

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Every August, The Muse organizes a trade show which focuses solely on robots. It’s called Robotics Revolution. We decided to go to it this year, which was their second show ever. Next year, I will have this on my calendar. It is too good to miss.

Robotics Revolution Knoxville

Telling the robot to pick up a pipe and drop it in the bucket

One hour is not enough to spend over there. Most booths have robots the kids can handle and program. There are tables with LEGO pieces and my children spent 30 minutes just building different structures – as if they have not seen LEGO bricks in a month. It strikes me as ironic because, on most days, our living room carpet is strewn with LEGO bricks.

Robotics Revolution 2016

Girls complain they do not feel nurtured in the sciences, so I made sure our daughter got a turn

Oak Ridge National Laboratories also brings several teams of scientists and interns to walk participants through a series of experiments, from creating an electric circuit to looking through a microscope at a 3D-printed ladybug and more.

Girl plays with a robot kitty

Playing with the robot kitty

If you want to start a First LEGO League team, this is the show to visit and make contacts. You can also learn from the pros. There are homeschoolers in the Oak Ridge and Knoxville area who have been winning trophies for years. One can learn from them and establish some good contacts.

Boy and girl building with green LEGO bricks

Three tables with green LEGO bricks welcomed builders of all ages.

This event happens in the Jacob Building at Chilhowe Park in Knoxville, TN. When driving on I-40, take the Zoo Exit and come toward the Zoo Drive and Entrance. Make a left before you reach the parking area, as if you were headed to The Muse or to the lower parking area. Stay on the left side of the pond. The Jacob Building is the large structure on your left (you should see lots of stairs to get to it), with parking in front and behind it.

If you get your tickets ahead of time, as we did, you will enter through the door which reads, “Ticketed Families” and they will locate you on their list. It would be a good idea to have your confirmation email from The Muse available on your smart phone in case there is a glitch in the system.

She Wants to Be “Mom”

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My four-year-old daughter wants to be “mom” when she grows up. That’s what she said. I asked her the other day for the first time: “What do you want to be when you grow up?” She said, “I am thinking…” I started suggesting things to her. She shook her head no to each one. Then, she smiled and said, “mom.”

You mean, in spite of all my shortcomings she looks up to me? She thinks my job is fun and exciting? She thinks “mom” is a good gig? I am surprised because I grew up not wanting to have children. The culture in Communist Romania did not relish children.

Abortion was illegal, but women risked their lives to undergo illegal abortions. They preferred to die or go to jail than to have another one. Women were overworked, beaten by their husbands, and completely treated as second class citizens.

The last thing I wanted to be was a wife and a mother. And here I am, a homeschooling mom. Who spends more time with her children than a homeschooling mom? It has been quite a journey to get here in my heart.

As a child, I focused on education. That was the way to empower myself to live life on my own terms and not depend on a husband.

I studied for every subject so hard, one of my teachers told my mom during a parent-teacher conference that I make all the other kids look bad. That it is not normal for a child to have a 10 in every subject (that’s straight As in the American system of grading). That I should just pick the subjects I like and focus on those. You know, like what every other child was told to do.

The problem with that approach was that I loved Humanities. I loved to read, to write, and to study foreign languages. But the borders were closed. The same teachers who told me to focus on what I liked, discouraged me from pursuing languages. They recommended I focused on “real sciences.” They said the computer was the way of the future and languages would only put me in this category of people the secret police would keep under constant surveillance. Can you tell the year was 1985?

But doesn’t it sound a bit familiar? Don’t you hear an over-arching emphasis on STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) these days? Everybody speaks English around the world, so why should American kids learn another language? It’s just a waste of time. And forget music or the arts. The world does not need another starving musician or artist. Let’s all learn to code. Code writers have jobs.

Look, I am not saying don’t learn STEM or coding. I am just saying there are parts in a child that would only be touched by music and art.

And I am certainly not advocating that children be “all-rounded” because that spells mediocrity. But let’s not focus so much on hitting certain parameters in education that we forget education is an art in itself. That learners are persons with feelings and thoughts and real desires and real talents, which must be found and encouraged.

Let’s not tell the children what to focus on. Let them read, explore, and ask questions. Show them how to arrive at answers.

Once they discover what they want to be, by all means make room. Make room for exploration and for delving into it. Make room emotionally and intellectually for their passion to flourish.

My daughter, at four, wants to be “mom” when she grows up. Sure, it might change by the time she is 12 or 18. Or sooner. For now, she is having fun with the idea. She owns her desire. How many adults do you know who own their desires? Their careers?

I am surprised that my imperfections have not given her the message that motherhood is too stressful to take on. Relieved, too.

My daughter may be right after all. Why shouldn’t she be? “Mom” may be the best gig in the world because moms get to influence the world as they raise the next generation of leaders.