We are a secular family who has chosen a different learning path from the mainstream. We are not unique in our choices. An NCES statistic put the number of homeschoolers in the U.S. at about 1.5 million for the year 2007. That number has been growing exponentially.
The reasons for our choices are manifold. Most importantly, we consider freedom of educational choice to be a civil right. One day I will post all of our reasons, but not today.
Many would call us eclectic homeschoolers. I prefer no label, but if I had to choose one right now, it would be ‘secular eclectic learners’. We do not approach learning as being separate from living.
We do not subscribe to one philosophy of learning, but instead, draw from interest-led Project-Based Learning, the classical approaches of The Well-Trained Mind and Charlotte Mason, just to name a few. Piaget, Vgotsky, Montessori, Waldorf and Reggio inform and strongly influence my child-centered approach in structuring and nurturing our children’s lives.
Does this mean I have everything down pat and perfect? NOPE. I don’t purport to have it all figured out. It is all a work in progress. Children are not static just as life is not static. As they grow and learn, I grow and learn, their needs change and then I need to change my approach. I am able to tailor their learning resources and environment based on what they need at any given stage.
Yet, there are aspects to our approach that remain constant.
How I nurture a learning environment:
I do my best to start each day with a smile and hugs. It really does make a big difference.
We provide healthy meals full of relaxed conversation.
I approach our lessons with enthusiasm and encourage curiosity about the why of what we are doing. As in, “Why do you think it is a good idea to learn to write in cursive? Why should we have nice handwriting? Why are complete sentences important? Why learn about our bodies? Why is kindness important? Why memorize the multiplication table?” We actually discuss these things and then go search out answers on the internet to flesh out perspectives.
We do not do “school” at home. When you endeavor to seek education outside of an institution you have the opportunity to support a culture of learning that is not bound by walls or text books. We are not limited by politics, pedagogy or dogma.
I strive to nurture a daily rhythm that encourages a combination of structured learning and self-directed activities. We do not follow the school year calendar, but instead, make learning a year-round endeavor.
We nurture free-time and exploration through books, games, activities and people.
We include our children in as many daily activities as possible. When we are out and about I encourage my children to be mindful in how they interact with fellow human beings, animals and insects. It is important to practice kindness in everything we do.
I make myself available for the inevitable questions that arise when a child learns something new. Children need to be given the opportunity to lead in their learning and discuss what they are learning! They need freedom to follow all the “rabbit holes” they discover.
I love that I get to spend so much time with my kiddos but sometimes it is too much “togetherness” and I need a break. I make sure I get “me” time. It is important for the kids to see me nurturing myself by taking time for myself and my interests.
I don’t need to have all the answers. I most definitely do not have it all figured out.
We are learning this life together. We have never come this way before, nor will we walk this path again; at any point in time it is a singular experience.
For now, I am a leader and I am a guide but I do not get to choose their destination.
We get to influence (not dictate) their world view and expose them to all the wonderful possibilities.
How do you nurture a learning environment in your home and life?
On Children from “The Prophet” by Kahlil Gibran
And a woman who held a babe against her bosom said, “Speak to us of Children.” And he said:
Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.
You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,
which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them,
but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday
You are the bows from which your children
as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite,
and He bends you with His might
that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness;
For even as He loves the arrow that flies,
so He loves also the bow that is stable.