Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Learning Begins at Home

We have about six weeks left of homeschool. Not that we stop learning during the summer. It's just a more relaxed approach. We did well with some things and others we need to spend more time on. This is our third year of homeschooling and as I sit and watch the rain today, I'm reminded of how far we have come.

Homeschooling was probably the scariest adventure I have ever plunged into, yet it's been the most satisfying. This past week was public school vacation week. I watched as parents tried to cram in activities during the week and tried to keep their patience with their children. Over and over again I heard parents say, "I don't know how you could stay home with your children nevermind teach them." It's so sad to me that these parents see homeschooling as a burden and see their children as an even bigger burden. Many of these parents are devoting countless hours to their public school by serving on PTA's, working at the book fairs, chaperoning field trips and helping their kids with the ridiculous fundraisers. It seems as if they are helping their school and not their child. As homeschoolers we are blessed with the gift of time. We can visit museums, grocery stores, catch an afternoon matinee or just go to the park on a nature walk when we feel like it. It's quality, family time.
When my kids were in public school, they were gone all day. Their bus would arrive home at 3:50, homework, dinner, maybe some playtime with a friend, baths and then bedtime, only to get up and do it all again the next day. I had no idea who my children were.
I have often been asked what my "method" of homeschooling is. Again, this is a question that confuses me. I don't so much have a method as a philosophy. My job as parent and teacher is to teach them how to think, not what to think. So while many third graders are happily doing long division, my daughter who is ending fourth grade has just started it. Giving children the time they need to grow in their own learning is paramount to our homeschool day. Because we waited until Morgan was ready to tackle long division, we accomplished it in one day, including remainders, writing remainders as fractions and moved on to 2 and 3 digit division. There comes a point when you stop comparing yourself to what the kids in public school are doing, and just live and learn together as a family.
Don't get me wrong. We love our textbooks. Our whole family craves books of any kind and text books are no different. We've learned that textbooks are just a diving board for aquiring more knowledge. We may skip whole chapters or keep going back to the same chapter. The kids may want more information and search the internet or yet another book for more information. There is no right or wrong way. Watch your kids-they will tell you all you need to know.
Somedays, we don't pick up any books. Gasp! How could they possibly be learning anything without any books? This was part of last years harvest from our garden. I didn't ask my kids to come help in the garden, they just assume that they are and follow me out the door. What did they learn? How to measure out the garden, measuring plots, companion planting, square footage of plants, earth science, biology of plant growth, good soil vs. bad soil, how to use tools when we repaired the fence, water conservation from our rain barrels, length of germination of seeds, they studied bugs, worms and parts of the plants, learned about water and weather cycles and learned how to sustain our family through crop growing. Homeschooling isn't about sitting in front of a text book (although we do that too). It's about using every opportunity that life presents to you to learn.
Taking care of chickens (even those that need hugs) teaches about egg collecting, fertilization, animal husbandry, genetics, proper care of animals and feeding our family. A day sitting in the chicken coop is a day well spent.

Community events present wonderful opportunities for learning.

Hands on, creative work gets the kids involved in their learning. Patrick made this burial mask when we studied ancient Egypt. We also mummified a Barbie, made amulets and canopic jars, decorated a sarcophagus and built a scale model of a pyramid.

We call this our wall of wonder. As any homeschooling family knows, the endless books, workbooks, resources, art projects, posters, papers, supplies and maps, quickly spill out into every room of your house. We try to keep ours contained to one room. It used to be my office, but not so much anymore. Honestly, I love being surrounded by the kids accomplishments, art work and designs.

There are always days that you wonder if you are doing enough. Those are the days that I go through my planner and my endless supply of photographs and am reminded of the work, field trips, classes, days with friends, or sports activities that fill up so much of our lives. Each year, I keep a scrapbook for the kids to look through on everything we've done. It's a nice reminder of how much time we devote to being a family and homeschooling is so much a part of that. It also keeps me organized because homeschooling three kids at three different grade levels can be confusing. This book isn't so much a lesson plan book but a reminder of what we've done.
"It may be when we no longer know what to do,
we have come to our real work.
And that when we no longer know which way to go,
we have begun our journey."
-Wendell Berry


twentyfive2 said...

I loved this post.
I usually flip past all the updates in my google reader but this one I opened and actually sat through the whole thing.

Homeschooling is something I've always been interested in.
I love what you've written about.
I wish I could enbrace as much as you have with your kids.

I understand completely about watching other parents going crazy trying to balance their kids who they dont see that often....

I am a sahm and I want to continue to teach my kids when it becomes time for them to go off to 'school'

I have a question though about taxes... even if I had no children I would pay school taxes, so what happens if i have children but dont send them to the local school?

could you send me any resources, ideas or support for this?
I dont even know where to start - but your post got me thinking

Thanks again

homeschool mamma said...

Thanks Amanda-will email you off line.

Jane said...

Hi, Bev. This is a great post. It gives me a lot to think about with my daughter in a charter school, which have longer days than regular public school. She's getting a great education, but what about the other stuff?

Lots to think about....thanks.