This is the question that my children asked me a few weeks after they left school. I was shocked, not by the question but the source!
I expected those watching quietly from the sidelines to wonder when the learning will begin. Was I waiting for the textbooks and workbooks to arrive? Was I going to re-purpose a room in the house to set up school? How was I going to “catch up” on the weeks of school my children had already missed while we wandered around?
These aren’t questions anyone actually asked, but they were bouncing around in my head and I’m sure I heard implications in every seemingly innocuous inquiry as to “How is it going with the homeschooling thing?”
That question, from family and friends, elicited from me a diatribe about all of the different methods and curricula and how all the books recommend taking some time to decompress. I would also throw in the disclaimer that we might not be in the “swing of things completely”, but that we would continue to learn through the summer. The defensive mode that I slipped into so easily was not a reflection on the asker, but on my insecurities.
Not that all of those things weren’t true, but that was not the real answer. The real answer was that my children are learning things, real life, valuable and at the same time educational things! The real answer was that we would not rely solely on books and documentaries for information. I am comfortable with taking time to research and try new things because the learning never stops.
A perfect example is one morning we spent at the local farmers market.
We had a wonderful discussion with a farmer who showed us a picture and asked us to identify the fruit. When we weren’t able to, he told us stories about how he found it and took the picture, where they grow, how each apple only produced one cashew which explains why they are so expensive. In that one interaction we learned facts about biology, geography, and economics.
As we walked we noticed the kinds of items being sold and brainstormed about starting a homeschool business where we could buy and re-sell things. We began noticing trends in certain items and comparing prices as we walked. The boys excitedly came up with more and more ideas and we discussed the pros and cons of each. Again we were dealing in economics and analytical thinking.
We met a gentlemen from Africa selling Shea butter and black soap. He had an actual karite nut and we could see how he harvested the butter and packaged it for sale. He gave an informal talk about using natural products and the benefits of his product. The children, and I, learned biology and a few things about marketing from this man.
We saved the vegetable aisle for last. We did price and quality comparisons on the fruits and vegetables on our list to purchase that day. We had a specific amount we could spend and had to remain within our budget. Math in the real world. (I believe Victoria refers to these lessons as “consumer math“)
Thinking about the trip in these terms reinforced my conviction that all of life is learning and that children naturally want to know what, why, when, where and how! Who knows how many seeds of interest were sewn that day? And we’ve had many days like that, state parks we’ve visited, the nature trails we have walked, businesses we have learned about first hand.
So, back to the original question of WHEN we would begin. My initial alarm was that perhaps my children were doubting this path. Then I realized that they have been conditioned to believe that “learning” takes place when you are seated and doing exactly what someone (or something like a book, worksheet) tells you to do. And it is quite possible to learn that way, most of us did. But how much fun are they going to have figuring out that everything they do in life is learning.
That is the real value of homeschooling. I can re-ignite that spark of interest and curiosity that makes learning something they want to do, something they enjoy doing, instead of something they have to do.
As I calmly begin a conversation with them, talking about the outings we had, asking questions about the things we learned, I see a glimmer of recognition. I gently lead them to the understanding that we have, in fact, already begun.