While I was pregnant last fall, I had a woman ask about the number of children I had, and my age. I told her (smile). She shook her head when she inquired about homeschooling, proceeded to lament her teen son’s apparent lack of educational ambitions, and then said, and I quote, “If I were pregnant again you’d have to take me out to the woods and shoot me!”
Well. That’s sad, on a whole lot of levels.
I wonder if sometimes having any children at all is just a matter of having something to check off on the list of life. Then we push them to grow up as fast as possible so that we can get to doing whatever it is we want to be doing instead of being with our babies. Or maybe we keep them home and homeschool but then we still push them to finish the textbook within an allotted time-frame so that we can get them to the next one this September so that they could hurry up and graduate and go to the proper college to get the job that will, again, allow us to get to doing whatever it is we want to be doing instead. (You can ask your kid to diagram that last sentence. You’re welcome.)
How come just being with these little people isn’t enough?
I guess I’m wondering what the point is. Is the point just to have children, get them educated, and then…whatever….? What’s the rush? And what’s wrong with a 40-something year old woman having (a)nother baby? (Or does that only work if I put in 20 years into another career first?)
I’m wondering why learning can’t just be another aspect of living. Like eating. Can you imagine finishing up a good lunch, and before your lips swipe the napkin already fretting about the next meal, when it will be, how much time it might take, if the ingredients are all there, and *what if* it doesn’t assuage your hunger? But there we are as homeschoolers, already plotting and planning the curriculum for the next umpteen years even as our babies are just learning to read, fretting about *what if* we mess up their lives by choosing the wrong math book.
Are you struggling with this? I don’t have a website or book or method to recommend. You might laugh at what I recommend, and it is this: relax, already. As in, just park for a few minutes a day and read a book to your child without wondering if it’s on the list of must-reads in order for your 8-year-old to set sail for AP English later on. Because, frankly, your child might not want to go to college. Your child might want to run a landscaping business because he likes the outdoors. Or maybe swing a hammer. Or be a farmer. You do like pretty parks, right? You like living in a house? You like eating? Someone had to plant the plants, build the house, grow the food. Why not let your child bloom into his or her own interests?
Too many times, too many years, we press them into our own educational biases before we give them a chance to learn about what they’re interested in. Or we drag them to this and that when they just want to stay home or go fishing.
Many people ask about our homeschool, and I guess I’ve hesitated in sharing because it can be a contentious subject. But I think I’ve outgrown the comparison dance and my skin’s grown thick enough to withstand the withering opinions of others. We do other things than just “schoolwork”. We play. We play music. We do chores, bake, and take care of chickens. We ride bikes, play with Legos (a lot), and keep the sewing machines humming. Sometimes we act in theater productions, sometimes we dissect frogs with friends, and we are constantly putting books on hold from the library. And reading them. In other words, we just live life. And, somehow, perhaps miraculously, they learn stuff. And I have the test results to prove it 😉
I’ve dabbled in many different schooling methods over the years (my eldest is now 17 1/2). First of course was the school-at-home method, because that is what I knew both from being a graduate of AND an educator in the public school system. That was insanely stressful, because everything else in our lives rotated around the schoolwork. I wanted learning to be in every part of our lives, not just from this hour to that one. Recently, maybe it was the downsize, maybe it was the massive decluttering of not just stuff but of our lives, but I like where our homeschool is nowadays. It is, for lack of a better word, relaxed. Comfortable. Easy-going, and yet very productive and fun. It feels right. It is furthering one of my Big Goals: raising kids who not only know *how* to learn but *want* to learn. That will fit them for life rather well, I think.
Each of my kids has a planner. I ask them at the beginning of the day what they are *planning* to do that day. It’s a good way to check on chores (laundry day, for example), and I can also keep them moving along with whatever subject (“let’s see a couple of math pages done today”). Just the act of writing down their *plans* means that it is all more likely to get done. They’re aware of the day and their goals, and it keeps them on track. I also like that it puts the onus of learning on THEM. What I say around here is that it is MY responsibility to provide materials and to teach, but it is THEIR responsibility to learn. Furthermore, once a kid gets an idea they’re excited about (“I want to work for NASA!”), then the planner is a slam dunk: “Ok, then, let’s look at what their requirements are…oh, you need a degree in something like mathematics…which means, you’ll need to take these classes…”. Then, when we’re dealing with an unmotivated slug, I can shrug and say, “That’s ok…it just means it will take you longer to get to NASA…and do your math anyway…”
We try to get some homeschooling done every day, all year round. I could say, not including weekends, but that would be false, because my kids love to read and learn and I’m not about to ban them from books on certain days of the week. Like I said, it’s just living. Like eating. We eat on weekends, too.
So I guess my method right now is “slow school”. I dunno if that’s trademarked yet, but you (maybe) heard it here first 🙂 Here are some things we do in our homeschool, and some ideas for you to consider. Every day is blessedly different, and I don’t fret if we do less on one day than another. It just sort of all works out and I’m not spending a bazillion hours anymore “planning”.
Ideas for Daily Slow School:
Read aloud: lunch time (currently reading Swiss Family Robinson and The Fallacy Detective)…we will pull out unknown words and assign them for looking them up in that old-fashioned thing called a dictionary
WOD: (word of the day)…one word, discuss Latin/Greece roots, definition, etc.
spelling (we use Spell to Write and Read)
personal study on whatever topic (which is usually science or history related)
grammar/handwriting: read aloud passage, copy or dictate, check & rewrite as needed, Webster’s dictionary work, diagramming, project or report
homemaking chores (why is learning how to do laundry less important than algebra?)
Ideas for Weekly Slow School:
research topic…we’ve been picking topics out of a box, researching and writing reports, and then presenting them to our family. If you ever want your kids to really learn something, have them try to teach it!
handwriting: write out memory verses, make grocery lists, etc.
knowledge questions (5)….put up 5 trivia questions, such as “What is REM sleep?” or “How many teaspoons in a tablespoon?”
draw a topic out of a hat–talk on it immediately for one minute
write a letter
play board games….and turn off those screens
You know, you only have today. Yesterday is gone and tomorrow is just a wish. And children are a blessing, and that means even while they are at our feet…or in the womb. Enjoy them! And no, I’m not *announcing* anything 😉
Happy (and relaxed) learning!