By TMoM Team Member Laura Simon

I spend hours of my day in the car.


Every. Single. Day.

My kids play sports, and in this weird Covid reality, that means driving back and forth between two locations four times in a given day. I literally spend four hours each day in a car, waving to the same landmarks over and over again.

Trust me, when schedules began to be realized, I spent a solid week analyzing the feasibility of the whole thing. And after a lot of thinking and a lot of analyzing, I decided that all the wasted time in the car was worth the benefit my kids gain from their sports. I reminded myself that quarantine puppy enjoys car rides and greeting childing as they leave practice. I remembered that gas is still somewhat cheap.

But the time. Oh, my goodness. For a working, homeschooling mom of three, that’s a LOT of time.

Yet here we are in the middle of October, and I’m realizing that the time spent zipping up and down Silas Creek parkway isn’t exactly wasted. Something about car rides begets big questions, and even bigger discussions.

Maybe it’s the fact that we aren’t seating in positions where we stare each other down. Sometimes it feels safer to ask questions when you can’t make eye contact.

Maybe it’s because we don’t have much to distract us. In the absence of any possibility of getting on the PS4, there’s time to ponder the questions we had during the day’s lessons but didn’t ask because they stood between the asker and the delight of playing in the backyard.

Maybe it’s the CDs filled with school memory work that I play while we traipse around town.

Maybe it’s the overwhelming desire to avoid hard questions about why the dishes still aren’t done.

Whatever it is, my kids are ready and willing to have real conversations in our 2012 Kia that they would not initiate at any other time.

Removed from all the glittering trappings of technology, we have to converse.

The other day, my 8-year-old asked if he could meet Martin Luther King, Jr. I was initially pretty annoyed because their history curriculum covers his death. But I shut myself up and reminded him that MLK was assassinated. “Oh, that’s right. Like Lincoln?” he asked. “Why do people do things like that? Assassinate people?”

So he was paying attention, apparently. That conversation went deep, as you can imagine. We covered all sorts of big questions, and eventually he announced that he would never be a politician because he doesn’t want to get shot.

I guess we have a lot more to talk about. We also have time.

This is a conversation we wouldn’t have while we read his history textbook. It’s a conversation that comes from having time to mull over the material we covered – and having a huge chunk of low-key, unstructured time that lends itself to thinking. It’s a conversation that’s more meaningful when he starts it.

In the two months that we’ve been at this crazy schedule, we’ve covered theology, history, geography, science (wait, my bones really do need calcium?), and why the word “said” is pronounced “sed.” All fair questions, especially the last one. And they’re all questions that probably wouldn’t be asked if it weren’t for our car time.

Think about the dynamic in the car: I can listen for hours, but I can’t check my phone. I cannot run from questions about random football players. I have no reason to avoid the hour-long Minecraft conversation. In this weird experiment in intimacy, I’ve found I hear my children more than ever before.

Car time is perhaps the best teaching time I get all week.

What about you? Where have you found your most unexpected teachable moments?

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