Homeschool Amazing Race, May 2015

It was winter and I did not want to drive the kids to their friends’ houses in the cold and snow. I thought about busses and trains. Growing up in the Ohio  suburbs, the only bus I knew took me to school and every teenager longed for a drivers license. Before that, we lived in a larger town in southeast Pennsylvania and my mom would take me places on the city busses. In my 20’s I went to England and revelled in the car-free ways of getting around. English friends would describe their teenage years of traveling in their country and even other countries on trains. 

These days, I take public transportation to work and I value the service. I like not driving. We also have access to car share and bike share programs, though we do own a car and we use it quite a bit. As my kids get older, though, I would like them to become comfortable with busses, trains, trolleys, etc. As I considered this, and Fiercely’s peers, the homeschool teens, I thought about them learning to use the public transportation system. They would be more comfortable in groups. Heck, we could make a game of it, a scavenger hunt, and set them loose in a big city. We could host an Amazing Race style experience. 

I decided to talk to other parents and put it together. When I spoke with Mr. Fantastic, it somehow became about…zombies. The next thing I knew, the date was set, the plan was in place, and it seemed another homeschool mom and I were slated to portray imprisoned mad scientists. Our post was outside of Eastern State Penitentiary and we wore prison numbers, called each other “doctor” and made vague references to rare, possibly illegal ingredients in an antidote to the zombie epidemic as the kids came by in groups, wielding transpasses and looking for the next clue. It was the Zombie amazing SEPTA race for homeschool teens.

We had so much fun doing this so I wanted to write something about it. Unfortunately, I don’t have any pics other than KJ and myself as inmates:

She’s an actor and accomplished improv performer and teacher; hardened criminals would not smile like me there! The link a few sentences ago has a Philly newspaper article with more pics. 

So the way we did it was like this: Mr Fantastic and I came up with a list of places we wanted the kids to go to, such as the Penitentary and Laurel Hill Cemetary. Mr. Fantastic made up an awesome storyline to send the kids to various places. It went something like: there’s a rash of zombifications in the city and we suspect an epidemic. There is an antidote, and you teams are tasked with finding out what the ingredients are and locating them. A particularly important ingredient was brains – chocolate brains from the Reading Terminal Market at Muellers “Your source for anatomically correct chocolate body parts” Chocolate (check out their website; I could not make this up!). Along the way, they got advice from various parent actors. They all had day passes for use on various trains, trolleys, busses, etc. They used SEPTA and Google map apps for planning their moves. Their smartphones took a beating as they tried to find the quickest way to the next clue. The day was long, about eight hours.

We ran the route by car a few days before the event to scout for potential problems, such as the fact that the Italian Market stores are largely closed on Mondays. Especially important to us, the exotic meats butcher with the taxidermied animals would be closed the day of the Race, so we wouldn’t be able to scandalize all those homeschooled vegan kids like we’d planned LOL. 

The day of the Race, we all met at City Hall so that all the groups could start at the same time. For safety, the kids had to stay together in groups and had to have at least one smart phone per group. This took place on a school day, so just in case they were questioned by any authorities, we gave them letters with details on what they were doing with adult signatures and contact information. (They weren’t questioned, by the way)  Adults stationed at the different locations would call Mr. Fantastic as each team left. Mr. Fantastic went by car to check up on the groups at times. A parent accompanied one group of tweens, since the kids wanted to be with their friends rather than have older kids accompany them. At the end of the day, all of us met for dinner at an Indian restaurant. 

It was a good time. The kids had some adventures navigating the system, making decisions together, and in one case getting a little lost in a somewhat sketchy neighborhood. They learned something about reading bus and subway maps, getting around without a car, and working together. Incidentally, the city was saved!

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