You might be curious how our two kids did on this cross-country civil rights tour of the USA. Now that we have finished the educational part of our tour I feel like I can give you my honest assessment. On our trip, we visited a variety of of of of of of civil rights sites and museums. The focus of our trip was education. Learning. Exploring our country. We were clear. The trip is not about water parks and cotton candy. We were on a mission to LEARN.
Ozi is 17, almost 18. He will be a senior in high school this coming school year. Erez is 11 and is just starting middle school in the fall. He will be in the 6th grade. Both kids are very into their screens. They enjoy art, music, theatre…all the good stuff. But they LOVE their screens. And gaming. And socializing with their friends online.
Ozi was looking forward to the trip. He is interested in American history and social sciences. I knew he would be engaged for most of the trip. Erez, on the other hand, was not looking forward to the trip. He could not really see what was in it for him. An educational summer trip was not on his agenda. He loves to play. I always say that play is their kid job and Erez takes his job very seriously.
I figured I would be able to engage Erez if I could just get him to take on a positive attitude. Day after day. Since I do not get to spend very much time with him, given that I work out of town half of the week, turning my attention towards Erez and focusing on his experience turned out to be just what was needed. He had a personal docent where ever we went. This suited him well.
Buying a Nintendo Switch also helped. A lot. Right before we left I bought the family a Switch. The kids can play together on the portable gaming system-there are two controllers. I know nothing about video games except that they are an important part of Erez’s life. This system enabled him to be able to play live with his friends while he was traveling-including in the car. Erez was game to engage in all of the “out of the car” educational activities as long as I left him alone about the gaming when we were in the car or the hotel.
Once we were out of the car or hotel he was all mine. As long as we did it together, exhibit by exhibit, he was happy to learn. Enthusiastic even.
Ozi too was screen engaged. He was snapping away the entire time with his friends. I asked him how many snaps or texts he sends a day and he said over 100. I am sure he was making fun of us, but as long as he was on board for our educational agenda, I was cool with it. Both kids were able to spend quality family time and get their socializing/friend time in too. I do think this helped with their focus levels when we were learning.
Both kids were engaged at every stop. All of the museums had movies which gave overviews of the topics covered be it: Slavery, Emancipation, Reconstruction, Jim Crow, the Civil Rights Movement, Mass Incarceration, Internment Camps, Trail of Tears, LGBTQ Rights. There were some images and sounds that were upsetting for Erez but we talked it through. He was moved, not scarred. There is a difference. What moved within him was not a fear for himself but for our society. He was moved towards compassion in seeing and hearing in detail the suffering of his fellow Americans.
Most of the museums and exhibits were geared towards people grade 5 and above. All were good to excellent. None were poor quality. I think 11 was a great age to do a trip like this. Post elementary school age and older.
The number one thing Erez learned that was new to him was about the vicious violence. He did not know about the dogs, the hoses, the lynchings, the beatings. I do not think Ozi really knew either. Both kids received a good civil rights education at their elementary school- Lincoln Options. Neither had been introduced to the brutality of the civil rights movement. Neither child has been exposed to much brutality and violence in their lives. Period. They live a peaceful and relatively violence-free lives-with the exception of those video games. The violence was shocking. This captured their attention. Moved them.
My children are in general not children who are hesitant to complain. They do not usually hold in their thoughts of dissatisfaction. Though I regularly declare my personal space as a strict no whining zone-it is not at all a respected boundary! They complained. They complained about the heat and if the WiFi was not working. They complained about being around each other. Erez asked me today if I feel bad about bringing such an awful person into the world-that person being his brother. What do you say to that? Yes? No? There was much squabbling. And it did make me feel deeply agitated. Deeply and profoundly agitated.
The one thing the kids did not complain about was the educational aspects of the trip. I am grateful. I wanted to learn alongside my children. I wanted our family to come to love and appreciate our country in a new way. We imagined as we traveled what it would be like to live in the various places we visited, what it used to be like to live there: Wyoming, Pittsburgh, Selma. We visited grocery stores and bought unusual foods (for us PNWers) to bring home and try. We avoided chain restaurants in favor of using Yelp to find the best food within our price range in the area. We ate some really good food. We went to see a movie one night. We visited a couple of fun museums with usual non-civil rights content. We had fun. And I know I for one learned. My consciousness was expanded. On many levels. And I hope this is true for the kids too. I will probably not know for many years. Someday. I hope. They will reflect back to me the lessons they learned. In their adult voices. Baruch HaShem.
The kids did well! I am so relieved. And now I am thinking about where we can learn next.
FYI-our next few days are dedicated to as much hiking as possible. Outdoor time. Colorado and Utah-with an emphasis on MOAB. I promise you: they will complain and make every step a living hell. But I will enjoy the views and block them out.