Thursday, 14 April 2011

Life Is Learning

We are just now completing our 6th year of Home Education.  Six whole years.  Oh, yes, I've capitalized those words ~ for emphasis, importance and validation.  Choosing to educate children at home is not for the faint of heart.  It will strip you down to your core being faster than anything I know of on this earth.  Anything.  Raw, exposed and insecure are adjectives that come to mind...  The sheer weight of the responsibility is real ~ a tangible load.  Home Educating is harder than anything I've ever undertaken (or attempted to undertake) in my entire life.  Unquestioningly.  The sacrifices, the effort, the energy, the commitment, the sheer hard work if it, is character building like nothing else could ever be.  My faults and weaknesses have been exposed time and time again, necessitating near constant "self work".

All that "hard stuff" said, on the flip side of things, this journey of educating children (and oneself in the process) is more deeply satisfying and rewarding than anything I've ever endeavoured to accomplish.  It's freeing, lighthearted, fun, enlightening, engaging, contagious, forward thinking, creative, inspiring and absolutely nothing short of miraculous.   How can something so hard be so incredible all at the same time I'll never know :)

We don't "do school" at home anymore.  We used to, when I was new to home schooling and I didn't trust in a child's innate desire to learn.  Good grief, that sucked the fun out of everything!  Instead, we learn rather naturally as we go about our day.  Questions pop up and we seek answers. We have time to do that.  In providing a rich and stimulating environment with lots of resources and opportunities to engage the mind, education happens whether we like it or not.  Kids (heck, humans) are natural seekers.  Children seek knowledge and curiously want to know how things work and why.  Our kids write about subjects that are of passionate interest.  Their writing is of an infinitely higher calibre when they are well and truly interested and curious about a topic.   Assigning a writing assignment on a topic that interests ME (gardening for self sufficiency), would feel like a form of torture to a child who is not interested.  To Paige (8), writing about animals is not the least bit trying.  It's absolutely downright enjoyable for her.  Reece (6) writes fantastically descriptive pieces about remote control cars.  Megan (14) writes factual based reports/essays on topics of interest to her.  She's a non-fiction girl, just like her Mom.

We read.   Oh yes, we read!   Good books.  Challenging books.  Classic Literature well beyond the standard fare for their "grades" and non-fiction books about topics ranging from alternative energy to sewing.  Books written in rich language, peppered with strong, descriptive vocabulary.  Books that leave you wishing they would never end.  We "Google" and we "Wiki".  Often!

Does all this mean that we don't sit down and do ANY "schoolwork" with our children? No, it does not.   We DO sit them down to attend to some basic matters such as math.  Do they do endless pages in workbooks?  No.  If they can demonstrate mastery of a certain lesson, I allow them to skip to the next lesson ~ sometimes that means only doing 3 questions (if they get them all correct).  Sometimes they need more practice to really "get it" but rarely do they need to complete the entire lesson (and review work) to effectively master the questions.  That's a huge waste of time to finish every question and it rather effectively kills the desire to learn.  Math surrounds us in every day life.  How many eggs make a dozen?  How much will you earn by selling 3 dozen eggs?  How much paint do we need to paint the shed?  How many linear feet of vinyl to side the house?  If we double this recipe, how much of each ingredient do we need?  We can teach and learn MUCH by honing in on those "teachable moments" that come up through the day.

Now to the S word.  What about socialization?  If I had a quarter (heck, a dime!) for every time I've had that questions asked, I'd be wealthy.  I don't believe that kids need to be surrounded by 30 other children the same age to "get socialized".  Frankly, that's unnatural and very likely NOT a situation to occur in "real life".  Have you ever had a job where everyone was the exact same age and from the same community?  I'm doubting the odds of that.  We aren't raising children, we are raising (hopefully), functional, competent adults.  Kids need exposure to all different ages of people from all walks of life in order to develop compassion, understanding, and life experience that all combine very naturally and organically to form a well adjusted adult.  Homeschooling provides the ideal opportunity to interact with a vast network of people.  We've got time to go places and check things out.  We've got time to connect with people and interact with them in meaningful ways while running errands, through sports teams, at the recreation centre,  at the senior's home, at the neighbour's house and at the farm.  The list goes on...  THAT is socialization, my friends ~ REAL socialization, in real time, live, right now.  Homeschooling doesn't mean staying home.

So, we continue our journey, not satisfied with the mainstream offerings here.  We want REAL living and REAL learning, where we can experience what it is that we are learning about first hand.  By doing, we comprehend and retain.   Encouraging the development (and usage) of good, old fashioned Common Sense is a wise investment of our time. So many children today (and adults) lack this vital discernment.

We visit the elderly, we volunteer, we donate time and "things" to those in need.  We work hard to find, get to know and support local farmers who in turn, are working hard to produce food in an organic, sustainable manner (an education in itself).

We grow a large garden, we listen to music, we keep chickens, we build things, we study the great works of artists and composers and we fix our own cars.We bake, cook, can, dehydrate and freeze.  We watch documentaries and listen to audiobooks.  We sew, scrapbook, paint, draw, sketch and construct.  We invent solutions to everyday problems, we do science experiments, we write letters, we take art classes, play team sports and take ballet lessons.  We debate.  We appeal.  We lobby.  We get involved.  We swim, we sled, we run, we jump on the trampoline and ride bikes.  We build forts, and climb trees. We study the night sky and the cycle of the moon. We read in the hammock and drink tea on the deck.  We watch the abundant wildlife walking past our home each day and we visit the pastured cattle across the road.  We dissect small animals who's lives have come to an end.  We study the cycle of life that exists all around us.

We take in the sights and sounds of life and we question everything from sun up to sun down.   And then, exhausted (but content), we go to bed, sleep soundly, and get up to do it all over again the next day :)

THAT, my friends, is an EDUCATION.

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