I only recently realized that homelearning was the only real option for our family. I had already embraced the philosophies of homeschooling and unschooling, but looking back I realize that I was still too afraid to take that plunge and say “yes, this is what we are doing”. Since DD is only just 4 there was no pressure to make a decision yet, but I did so nevertheless after realizing one day that I’d already made the decision, I just hadn’t known it yet.
I started perusing the Homelearning Forum of my fave parenting board, hosted by Mothering magazine. There was a thread asking people to describe one thing your child does that you wouldn’t expect them to be doing if they were in school, and one thing they would be considered “behind” in not doing. In writing my response to that thread I realized that we have already begun homelearning. Indeed, if you follow the unschooling philosophy, it began the day my first child was born. After all, think of all the things your child learns between the ages of birth to 3 years (when many start preschool). Why is that not considered an education?
I am lucky to be surrounded by a wonderful community of homelearning families, a group I had already integrated myself into long before the issue of schooling even came up. We came together through MDC, united by our philosophies on parenting: attachment parenting, gentle discipline, natural living and so on. Through these families, both online and IRL, I learned what homeschooling was not (i.e. it’s not creating a miniature classroom in your living room) and what homelearning could be for us. So I am blessed with access to resources I might never have found on my own, and ideas that have stood the test of time in other families. One idea that I loved right away was keeping a record of our homelearning days. This is especially helpful for unschoolers, who try to avoid setting curricula and meeting goals that other people have set for their children, and who generally tend towards an unstructured, child-led approach to learning.
My DD has recently come through a phase of being obsessed with ladybugs. We go to our local library almost every week, and during that time it was all books about ladybugs. She learned what a ladybug larvae looks like (I’d seen them before, but never knew what they were) and that ladybugs love to eat aphids. She pointed out an aphid to DH one day on a walk when he hadn’t been able to identify the insect. At the time I hadn’t thought of it as “schooling”, and hadn’t thought of us as being a homelearning family. Now I realize that I could have used that interest in a variety of ways, such as painting rocks to look like ladybugs, or bringing home one of my mother’s aphid-infested houseplants and treating it with a box of ladybugs (you can buy them at a nursery – release the ladybugs and when the feast is over they’ll fly away). We could have put together ladybug costumes, and written a play about a ladybug. And we could have collected a few ladybugs and made notes about their size and shape and colour, etc. Of course, this would all have depended on whether or not DD was interested in such things, but I never even suggested them. Now don’t get me wrong: I’m not beating myself up about this and I don’t consider this a lost opportunity. My point is simply that learning is happening NOW for us. I thought homelearning was something we’d “begin” at some defined point. But now I see that the opportunities for me to turn interests into learning are happening already and there is no need to wait. Right now she is really into dinosaurs, so I’m going to try and incorporate the above ideas into that subject and I’ll let you know what we come up with.
So, I hope you will stick with us as we begin this amazing journey. And, if you are homelearning yourself or just considering it, I hope you will find it useful for the links, ideas, and resources I will pass on as they have been passed to me. And perhaps it will serve as an inspiration, too, the way so many homelearning mamas and blogs have been for me. I am truly excited about what lies ahead for us!