Homeschooling with Pop Culture: Smokey and the Bandit Edition

HomeschoolingContrary to the original “in the box” ideas I had about what homeschooling should look like, I have learned to find the educational nugget in just about anything. Gone are the days where I envisioned us sitting at the kitchen table and completing workbooks quietly, of completing daily science projects and beginning each morning with a prayer and the pledge. Nope. That might work in some houses, but not mine. We have certain things that we DO complete daily… or on most days, anyways… and then add other stuff in as I see fit. If something is piquing their interests, we pursue it.

There are days when I feel like my ears are bleeding and that I cannot take one more defiant look when I ask one of the boys to finish his schoolwork. I wonder why in the hell I thought homeschooling my kids would be a good idea, and I bang my head on the wall in frustration at the check my hypomanic idealism wrote that my crumbling mind is now having to cash. Then there are other days when I feel like I am the best mom in the world, champion of all things, and amazing giver-of-knowledge. Those are the days where my kids make startlingly brilliant observations about things like the American Revolution and dazzle random people with their knowledge of geography. They play nicely and don’t yell mean things at each other while I look for chocolate and wish it were late enough in the day for Scotch. I think to myself, “Self, homeschooling was the best idea EVER! These kids are learning so much, and we have so much fun together. I will ALWAYS homeschool!”.

And sometimes I have a day like today. We watched Smokey and the Bandit. Yep, Burt Reynolds, a Trans-Am, and a truckload of bootlegged Coors beer. The boys had been hearing the theme song, “Eastbound and Down” on a local classic country station, and I explained that it came from the movie, and the basic plot. Being that they’re little boys, the thought of a movie featuring fast cars, running from angry cops, and a song they liked sounded good, and they’ve been begging me to watch it. I’ve been putting them off because the language and the subject matter isn’t kid-friendly, but when we sat down this morning after taking the girls to school, we saw that it was on TV. It was on a station that I knew would censor the rougher language, so I consented to their pleas to watch it. Sometimes, you have to just say to hell with the day’s mundane plans of math workbooks and laundry, and watch Smokey and the Freaking Bandit. It was everything I thought it would be and more…. and totally justifiably educational.
Allow me to explain the subjects of academia that we covered while watching Burt Reynolds’ mustache and Jackie Gleason make a hilarious ass of himself. I call it Homeschooling with Pop Culture.

1) Geography- The kids have learned the layout of our great nation this year as a part of their curriculum: states and capitals, mountain ranges, rivers, you name it. They knew right away where Texarkana had to be, and the states Bandit would cross during the trip.
smokey and the bandit map

2) Economics- My oldest said to me, “That’s kind of brilliant that they didn’t allow Coors to be sold east of Texas… Made everyone want it even more that couldn’t have it.” Me: “Yes, son, it’s called Supply and Demand.” Him: “So, if someone wanted to make a lot of money on something, they could find a way to make it illegal and make even more money, right?” Me: “Yes, but that’s against the law… they could go to prison.” Him: “Only if they get caught.” God, help us.
3) Science- How CBs work versus how cell phones work, and Newton’s Third Law of Motion (When one body exerts a force on a second body, the second body simultaneously exerts a force equal in magnitude and opposite in direction on the first body) as we watched all of the awesome car crashes in the movie

4) Criminal Justice- They learned all about bootlegging and police jurisdictions…. which made them laugh even harder at the Sheriff as he raced across state lines in an attempt to arrest Bandit. My younger son had this to offer: “So if you do something bad, just keep running until you cross into another jurisdiction, and they can’t get you, right?” Me: “Um, technically, yes… but law enforcement works together across jurisdiction lines… They could call their police friends and tell them you were coming, then THEY could arrest you.” Him: “That’s a problem. Maybe Bandit could share the beer with the cops if they catch him.” Me: “That’s called bribery… against the law” Him: “If the cop wanted the beer, why would he tell?” Me: ….

5) History- The 1970’s CB Craze and life before cell phones. We also discussed contraband and why Prohibition didn’t work back in the 1920’s… and why it DID work to the advantage of the bootleggers. This brought up an interesting discussion about legislating morality (my terms, not theirs) but that was interrupted by another car crash, on-screen. If you ever want to mesmerize a little boy, just show them things crashing or blowing up.

6) Math- How many beers were they moving if there were 400 cases of Coors beer to be brought back? How many hours could they spend in each state if they had 28 hours to do complete the beer run? Not only are these real-life type questions… this is the stuff that I lie in bed trying to figure out late at night. And yes, we really did complete the math for those.

I’ve learned that school doesn’t have to be sitting in a desk and being forced to listen to another person droning on about a subject. Learning is a a conversation, whether it’s in traditional school, homeschool, or everyday life. My kids are continually learning from everything around them… so am I. So just remember, next time you see Smokey and the Bandit on TV, or any other movie, you can probably find an educational angle if you look hard enough. Or just a killer Trans-Am.

Comments are closed