Oftentimes a friend will ask me, "Have you begun homeschooling yet?" Our kids turned five, three, and nine months old this summer, so I know they're mainly talking about our young son Rig, the oldest.
I think what they're trying to ask is, am I starting to deliberately, methodically teach him any reading, writing, or math? Have I chosen a curriculum? Do we have a routine? Does he have a desk?
But I usually stand there a little befuddled for a moment or two, finally responding with one of several mischievous responses:
Right now, and probably for a few more years (gasp!), the plan is to let them just be inquisitive kids."No, there's really no start date in mind."
Or: "You know what they say, better late than early!"
Or, if I'm feeling particularly cheeky,"Begin? In a way, we've always been homeschooling. Kids start learning at birth!"
But that doesn't mean my husband and I are lax about our children's education. We just have a different vision as to what's beneficial and best.
Right now, and probably for a few more years (gasp!), the plan is to let them just be inquisitive kids. Playing, exploring nature, storytelling, singing, asking a million questions, and listening to music, adults conversing, and the sounds of life. Along the way comes a natural learning of family expectations and a developing of self-discipline through our modeling and guidance.
Later on, there will be musical instruments to practice, Bible verses to memorize, math problems to solve, books to read and discuss, and exploding Alka-Seltzer volcanoes to clean up. But I'm convinced that this will all unfold as each child needs in such a beautiful way that even the best curriculum planner couldn't have orchestrated it more seamlessly.
Right now, we have the freedom to homeschool, and to keep our young preschoolers out of school, as we see fit.
Why would someone choose this, and what does it look like?
We live on a farm in a tiny house, so our lives are simple. Gathering eggs, counting them, sorting them. "An araucana laid this green one!" exclaims my daughter, Firebell.
Rig takes it upon himself to count by twos in 12-egg cartons, then by threes in 18-egg cartons. And with the bigger egg flats, "Four rows of five eggs makes 20!" He grins proudly.
We read a couple pages from the richly illustrated book Dinotopia about the people of Treetown hoisting themselves up into the canopy with baskets and ropes. Tracing with our fingers where the ropes on the page go, we talk a little about what a pulley is. Emptying out a couple baskets holding lemons and avocados, the kids hoist stuffed animals into their high chairs with string for ropes, solving problems of balance, slack, and weight as the baskets sway and tip.
"Mommy, what if you had no arms?" Firebell asks me one day during lunch. I smile. "Well, I'd use my feet!" I say, and attempt to show them how I'd put a spoon between my toes and lift my foot to feed myself. Then I find a video of an inspiring mom who really lives life to the fullest without arms, and the kids love it.
Watercolors, play doh, crayons, colored pencils. Showing Rig the successive steps to write the letters in his name. Rig showing me a drawing of his ten-legged honey spider and marveling how the oscillating fan with its concentric metal circles looks just like a web.
Our goals for the kids are just things that have been taught for thousands of years without any state-run education. Rig dictating letters to me, thanking grandparents for gifts and signing his name. Showing him where the stamp goes, and walking it down to the mailbox with him. Reading The Seven Little Postmen and discussing the intriguing way the mail is gathered, sorted, and delivered.
Reading our comic book-style Picture Bible together on the couch. Answering unending deep questions on life, death, and how tall Goliath really was.
Relating to nature as an extension of the home. Flitting around as ladybugs, building dens as foxes, or sitting on eggs as chickens after witnessing these things just outside.
Singing, humming, tapping, drumming. Our rendition of I'm a Little Teapot turns into Mammi's Little Baby Loves Shortenin' Bread, with the kids squealing and me stomping my foot as the bass drum and slapping my leg as the snare. Boom chick boom chick boom chick boom chick...
Listening to instrumental music echoing times of old: Praetorius' peasant festivals, Vivaldi's country seasons, the Budos Band's chill palm tree nights.
These things don't take a lot of money, and there are no lesson plans. What's vital is caring for their bodies and minds with sleep and good food and creating an atmosphere that's calm and conducive to a natural, free flow of activities.
Times of rest and books, times of creative play. Times of eating and chatting at the table. Times of outside work, laundry, cooking, and chickens. Times of playing with each other while letting Mommy nurse the baby and write this post on her phone.
I truly believe that any parent who can talk with, spend time with, and seek out good people and opportunities for their children can successfully homeschool.
I also believe that the benefits of homeschooling are vast and far-reaching.
Our far-reaching goals are many and specific to us.
In essence, they boil down to a desire for our kids to have literacy in the realms of:
- Spiritual life: through Bible study, prayer, sermons, and church engagement with the aim of spiritual maturity and the fruits of the Spirit.
- Nutrition: through practice in traditional, whole foods-cooking with the aim of lifelong health.
- Finance: through study of economics and personal finance with the aim of wise stewardship of resources.
- Love and understanding of people and creation through history, literature, science, music, art, travel, communication, and the outdoors.
- Problem solving and practical skill competency through math, technology, home and vehicle repair, caring for animals and plants, starting a business, and organizing outings and purchases.
This all may sound like a lofty mountain to summit, but honestly, I don't lose any sleep over it. These things are the natural outcome of kids living in an engaged family and community and are things that have been taught for thousands of years without any state-run education.
So when someone inquires whether homeschool is in session here at the tiny house, perhaps I should respond, "Yes! Always. We all are learning, and the learning never stops."
Because it's true. My husband has a sermon playing in the garage while he figures out how to make a railing for the loft, which is probably the thousandth thing he has had to learn this year. And I have a motley stack of books on Jesus, macroeconomics, and the Supreme Court on the wood stove by my chair.
My phone currently has tabs on how to make a barn quilt and what to do with chokecherries. Tomorrow I'm calling another tiny house friend to share, laugh, and problem-solve our lives together.
The beauty is that life is the freest, truest classroom there is. It is ours to receive the gift and resist anything that would stifle this freedom.