Quarter Midget School

As Quarter Midget parents, we have made an enormous commitment so our children can participate in this sport. We accept the huge financial commitment and realize dedicate hours to preparation and travel. However, sometimes we forget we are also very committed to our children’s education. We experience guilty feelings taking them out of school and experiencing the strange looks and negative comments from administrators and teachers. Let’s face it, many of the teachers and principals have never heard of Quarter Midgets and have no idea how positive the exposure to this sport is for our sons and daughters. As a community, we have our own language and culture. Each event, whether it is local, regional or national, creates a village of families, friends and competitors all working toward a similar goal. I truly value all the experiences these temporary “cities” and “neighbors” have given my children.

As a teacher, I can understand why educators feel frustrated when students miss classes; however, I also see the value of developing common sense or “real world” knowledge, experiences and interpersonal relationships. Quarter Midget racing helps develop these in our children. My two sons, who are eleven and six years old, are constantly getting geography lessons as we travel. We talk about the capitals of the states we travel through and in some cases, as with West Virginia, we actually travel right by the capital building. Now even my six year old recognizes this landmark. We even have had short discussions on the coal mining industry, generated from spotting the coal barges on the Ohio River.

Besides geography, they also practice math skills by understanding gas mileage. They aren’t necessarily calculating an actual number, but they notice we have to stop for gas more often if we are traveling in the motor home and pulling a trailer rather than traveling in their grandmother’s Prius. For years, my eleven year old has been taking mile markers and speed to calculate arrival time. Not only is this a great math lesson, but also a civics lesson illustrating the structure of the highway system, placement of mile markers and numbering of exit ramps. This even generated a discussion about why highways are numbered odd when they run north to south and even when they run east to west.

Culturally, the children see how different people live as we travel. Once settled in our “racing village,” they are able to reconnect with friends from all over the country and Canada. Together, they talk about the differences in where they live such as weather, school and shopping. These may seem like small, meaningless conversations; but by talking with my sons, I know they are learning that life is different throughout our country. We have a friend from Florida who, while in North Carolina during the winter, was hoping to see some snow because he had only seen dustings in his town. Even though the amount of snow we get in North Carolina is nothing like what our neighbors to the North get, our snow seemed monumental to him. This same little boy from Florida found it strange that a friend from Ohio had never seen the ocean. This is only one example of an impromptu life lesson on both climate and geography. When we arrive at our racing destination, we deliver Cheerwine to both of these racing friends because it isn’t available where they live. For us, learning the local favorite restaurants in the cities we visit has been fun and we use it as a lesson in culture based on regional agriculture and influences.

Even though we come from many different regions and are all different in a lot of ways, Quarter Midget racing is our common ground. When we all come together, our world consists of our children, their cars, the track and the unique experiences of Quarter Midget racing. We even speak a different language which centers around our cars. Words such as stagger, grip, pushing, loose and biking, have different meanings at the Quarter Midget track. Bingo, a lesson in vocabulary and homonyms!

While formal education is invaluable, these real life experiences are also a big part of developing a well-rounded person. By recognizing differences in people, sometimes as simple as accents from various regions of the United States, we help foster tolerance in our children. Even though this may not be a tangible fact they learn, this quality will help them develop relationships their whole lives. Many teachers will encourage students to complete some sort of project while on a trip. Maybe, as parents, we can even suggest this alternative and smooth the frustrations the teacher may be feeling. Learning is a lifelong process and can be achieved in any situation or from any experience, good or bad. So the next time you struggle with taking your children out of school for a day, think about the educational opportunities you can provide them while on your trip to a race.