It’s been a while since we made the decision to learn at home. Those were the times when my answer to people’s question about which school my boys go to was a somewhat unsure ‘They are homeschooled’. It’s been more than two years now and I am still learning about what homeschooling means, yet my reply comes firm and sure of itself: My sons are homeschooled.
Just like that. Now I hold open the gate that allows you to peak in, if you wish so, and I invite you to walk right in and get a good feel for what our days are like and our learning is about.
Full disclosure: The extra heartbeat and the occasional cloud of worries stationed right above my head on certain days are still in place. Yes, very much so. But that is also part of our curriculum you see. We bring up feelings too and allow what makes us human to shine through, successes and failures included, while also learning that no one is defined by deeds but by the determination to keep on trying. There is a lot of stuff to keep our eyes wide open, plus minds and hearts too.
Which takes me to the very concept: learning. It’s as complex as the world itself because that is what learning is. Can you pinpoint where it starts? Not a chance. But somewhere in there are those first long walks with a wee toddler whose curiosity defies any sense of time. Leaves on a windy day fluttering, drops of water falling from the sky. Why? How? A snail pulls its body inside its shell when you as much as get your finger close to its dot-like eyes. Why? How?
Why does your stomach gurgle and where do dreams come from? What are colours? Can you invent more? How do molecules become the yummy smell you feel when you make apple sauce? Why do flowers wilt? How can big trucks drive over bridges without collapsing them?
Curiosity does not ebb and flow, I dare say. It grows. It should. The more we learn, the more questions poke their heads out and the more makes sense. You realize how much more there is to learn.
Children learning about the world helps them understand where and how life fits in. I got to see many people roll their eyes and twitch their faces when I mention my science background. It sounds nerdy and scary, and science is kind of boring most say. Note to self: help the boys see past that misconception in our learning.
Biology, geography, math, physics, chemistry, history, and everything branching into specialized subtopics, which then branch some more and become even more specialized… that is the world around us. Each subject adds clarity to the big mystery that is life in all its shapes and forms. We know that bees make complex mathematical deductions to remember trajectories, and communicate to each other in ways humans have yet to understand. A bee is not just a bee. Children have the right to learn that. We owe it to them and to their curious minds.
That a topic is complex should never be discouraging but a powerful incentive to inspire us to look closer into the complexity that enables life as we know it. Learning, the way I see it and intend to make it a reality in our school, is the tapestry that keeps it all together with enough loose ends that will permit more learning to be added as we go. More weaving… That’s how the tapestry grows. That’s how the big picture gets revealed and finally, that is how the understanding that everything is connected to everything else and each strand holds the other in place, is becoming a reality.
Learning makes sense when subjects are not cut into separate slices or ripped apart like petals of a flower. It’s the whole picture with all the subjects included and connected that makes learning fun and exciting and long-lasting. It’s not about memorizing, but understanding. Memorizing happens without effort when things make sense. That invites humbleness in. Joy too. There is so much to know, those who learn constantly will say. Children do. If only we let them and provide them with free thinking space that encourage learning.
I like it when the boys’ eyes sparkle as they learn. It’s when self-consciousness cannot reach a child that he or she has the courage to learn by wondering, creating hypotheses, coming up with possible answers and not for one second becoming afraid of making mistakes. It’s when learning becomes ingrained.
A friend of mine made the poignant observation about homeschooling: she said that learning does not end at 3pm when children are dismissed from school. On any day and for no curriculum-fulfilling purpose learning unfolds with complete disregard for the time of day. It should not just apply to homeschooled children either.
Just turn off the TV and allow for playing, talking, reading and roaming in the great outdoors. Learning is bound to happen. For parents, too. Which is I guess one of the greatest, most humbling lessons homeschooling has provided: you learn side by side with your children. It never stops. That sense of wonder… Life unfolding. If you make time to see, to inquire and to turn yet another page.