We studiously avoided all educational aspects of Disney World. I'm sure they were there, but we tried to ignore them. Did we learn anything, in spite of our efforts?
If you think about what you're doing, and plan ahead, and research, and prepare, and organize, you can learn a lot from Disney World. On the other hand, if you do none of those things, you can probably learn a lot too.
We did not think or prepare. We tried at every turn to avoid analyzing anything, applying ourselves, deconstructing the images with which we were presented, or allowing ourselves to expand and grow. We did not learn "Hello" in all the languages at Epcot's World Lagoon and practice speaking with the native employees. I did not prepare a scavenger hunt and teach children in advance what they would see, and therefore we did not identify the landmarks from the different countries. We bypassed all the interesting tropical ducks at Animal Kingdom and rushed straight to the biggest roller coaster, which we rode as many times as possible. We danced around like fools in the sun, rather than comparing Disney's Snow White with Grimm's version. When the ferry came close enough for us to see Cinderella's castle for the first time, we did not mention Neuschwannstein.
So, what did the kids learn from our trip, given our staunch refusal to teach them anything?
The biggest thing they both learned was that it's okay to really fully commit to earnest thrill. Because Disney World is devoid of sarcasm and smirkiness, it feels right for kids and adults to behave like giddy lunatics, to sing out loud, to gambol and cavort, and to shout "WHEE!!!" My children are naturally very unselfconscious. This place was their natural element.
They learned to volunteer. Benny volunteered to be in several different shows -- Turtle Talk with Crush, the Festival of the Lion King, Belle's Storytime, Woody's Cowboy Camp, and others. His experience with Disney World was, as a result, very interactive. He learned that jumping up and saying, "I WILL!" makes everything fun. In connection with this, he also learned some social lessons like waiting your turn, accepting the role you're handed, sitting down when your part is over, and being thankful for the fact that you're included. He did all this very gracefully. Sadie did not have the same experience -- she tended to shrink into Mom or Dad's chest cavity whenever anyone with a big giant head approached. :D
Here's a little video of Benny as Gaston in Belle's story show:
They learned to be brave on rollercoasters. This was one that Benny had already mastered (lunatic that he is) but that Sadie was able to experience this year, on her first roller coaster ever, which she rode four times in immediate succession, and never wanted to leave. The bravery of these children astonished us over and over during this trip -- they are truly going to be wonderfully bold adults if this kind of behavior continues! With the obvious exception of meeting people with giant fake heads, which Sadie needs more time to master.
Here's a picture of me and Benny riding Expedition Everest at Animal Kingdom:
They learned time management, as we discussed and decided what to do so that everyone got to do what they liked (Sadie liked Haunted Mansion and Pirates of the Caribbean, and Benny liked anything that went fast around corners and down terrible drops) and we minimized our line time and had food when we needed it. This was also a good lesson in sharing resources (time mainly) and enjoying other people's happiness. Yes, we rode the carousel about 16 more times than Benny probably would have chosen to ride it, and Sadie spent a lot of time waiting for Benny to ride roller coasters. But they didn't complain.
Benny learned a lot through pin trading. If you don't know, here's how it works -- Disney makes little metal and enamel pins showing a million different things. Some commemorate events, some represent characters or rides, some are special pins for holidays, etc. Kids (and adults) collect these and wear them on lanyards around their necks, then trade with other people wearing pins. If a park employee (sorry, "cast member") has pins on, they will always trade with you whatever pin you want for whatever one you want to give them. Benny loved interacting with people like this, and by the end of the trip had become an enthustiastic trader. He had never been exposed to the idea of "collecting" before, so the whole concept of one pin being more valuable or rare than another was new, the whole concept of trading was new, and this gave him the opportunity to talk to a lot of people, which he of course loves.
They learned patience in lines, although in the middle of October, especially in the mornings, the lines were nonexistent! They learned to try new foods. They bonded together as siblings in new ways. Benny met a host of new friends from all over the world. He came up with a new opening line for meeting people (his favorite pastime). On the monorail after the Halloween party he sidled up to a girl dressed as Ariel and said, "You're BEAUTIFUL." That, as it turned out, was a good opening line! He had a conversation with her and her mom all the way back to the parking lot.
We're back from Disney World, and we had a fantastic time, even me:
For more of my Disney videos, you can visit my YouTube channel here.
For more of our pictures, you can visit my Flickr gallery here.