Written by Purva Brown of The Classical Unschooler
What interesting times we live in! Never in a thousand years did I ever think that the majority of people would be homeschooling.
And yes, while veteran homeschoolers will scream that “this is just distance learning, not TRUE homeschooling” until they’re hoarse, the truth is that there are more homeschoolers today than there were last year. That’s something to celebrate.
However, even as someone who has been a classical unschooler (afflink) for the last decade, I have fallen into the trap of seeing education through the very limited lens of work that takes place when seated at a desk. We even refer to the time we spend on focused textbook work as “school.” We do it because no other word fits as easily. “TIME FOR SCHOOL!” just fits. Sigh.
But I don’t want to equate text work with an education. We can’t let the definition of “homeschool” become something only institutions prescribe and families follow.
It is especially during these times that we cannot forget that there are other things we do that count – perhaps not as “school,” but as an education.
And that is, after all, what we want to give our children.
As my children get older, these are my most treasured times with them. I long for deep, meaningful conversations. They don’t need to happen at dinner either. When they were little, I remember them asking where money came from.
Recently, my middle son (10) piped up in the middle of our conversation about our retirement accounts, “So what is a stock?” More importantly, he listened and understood as my husband explained it to him.
So much gets conveyed through conversations that will never make it into textbooks. The fact that this is an election year makes the time even more poignant. Sure, it’s a difficult time, but difficult times make conversations even more necessary, intense and therefore more nourishing.
Conversations are the heart of our homeschool.
Now that I am working the night shift full-time outside the home, the children have had to do more around the house. It turns out that all those years of training them have not gone in vain!
Of course, my husband has to do some hand holding and some (a lot) of prodding, but I couldn’t be prouder of my children. Recently, they surprised me by picking blackberries, finding a recipe online and baking a blackberry pie without me even having to lift a finger.
I can directly trace their taking on more responsibilities like making food, vacuuming, doing laundry, mowing and other chores to the time when we first started training them. We would pay them for the work they did – we still do. But paid or not, the fact is that everyday work teaches many lessons!
Chores teach more than just the knowledge of how to do a task – it teaches them that they can have a clean house, that they alone are responsible and that if they don’t do something they’ve been assigned to do, it doesn’t get done.
That last lesson, self-reliance, I believe, is the most important.
My oldest daughter (12) has recently decided to take up the guitar again. I was adamant not to push her into lessons unless she showed real interest.
My husband is a bit of an autodidact and taught himself how to play it. She would watch him and eventually got interested. Then she abandoned it for a bit and now she’s coming back to it. Hobbies can be that way and that’s okay.
When you share what you love doing, it is infectious. Of course you can’t force interest – it’s either there or not. More importantly, when you do something that is dear to you and that makes you come alive, they notice.
If homeschooling is at least partially teaching children to find their own path, this one is huge.
I find it helps me to remind myself of these three ways often. It helps especially on days when I’m tired or the children are having trouble with their math.
Taking a view of homeschooling that focuses solely on what is in a textbook kills the true meaning and joy of what we set out to do in the first place! Instead let’s focus on teaching our children, watching them come into their individual selves, and spending more time with them along the way.
How do you homeschool, even when you’re not at a desk?
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