Last weekend as we lay in bed, I was marveling at how quickly the week flew by. We were talking about various things and I mentioned school…hmm, school…what did we do for school this week? All of the sudden I realized that we didn’t officially do any school at all last week. And I am thrilled with it. Does that sound irresponsible to you?
I knew when we started this journey that the homeschooling idea I relate to most strongly for lower graders is called unschooling. It is all about learning by doing and being and experiencing life. It is natural and fun and play oriented in these younger years. It is all that my kindergartener really needs this year, I think. This week was the perfect example of true unschooling. Monday was MLK day, so with Daddy home and the weather not so great we just played around together and read a few books about MLK and talked about racism in very broad terms for the first time. Tuesday we had a playdate where the boys played legos and created complicated train tracks and jumped on the trampoline. Then we went to Ikea to buy some new playroom storage and they wrote lists with the tiny Ikea golf pencils and “measured” in their own ways with the free Ikea paper measuring tapes. Wednesday, Tyler’s preschool was cancelled so after Jake’s computer class we headed to Disneyland for a few hours. Thursday we sorted, classified, organized playroom toys, something which Jake is surpisingly opinionated about (No, mom, we can’t combine those two bins! Let’s make a category for medieval toys. etc…) And Friday Jake and Aunt Krissy created the really cool “Ladder Racing” multiplication/dice rolling/counting game above, complete with gold medal for the winner of each stage. This was my idea of a great week in homeschooling. It just so happened that we had only one outside class but had several playdates. Jake read a book to his brother for the first time. I am thrilled with his progress. And it’s so easy and natural. I am loving it.
I think the key to unschooling is a constant conversation. I’ve always been that weird mom who talked to her baby in the grocery cart, even when he couldn’t talk back. I’m constantly the explainer and the questioner, so that part comes naturally to me. In the past few weeks I’ve been trying to implement some ideas from Raising Godly Tomatoes, especially the idea of keeping the boys near me at all times, so as to understand their hearts and their behaviors and train them towards godliness. It’s not nearly as taxing as I’d thought it would be, and homeschooling certainly fits into the equation nicely.
I don’t have many friends who homeschool so I didn’t really know what to expect when we started our hybrid homeschool journey this year. But I think each homeschooler finds her own groove. I don’t think that lower graders need much more than to love learning and to become good readers, basic mathematicians and legible handwriters, so those are my “academic” goals for Jake at our “school”. With that in mind, we don’t do much book learning, even on a more “official” looking school week than we had this week. Field Trips have become a top priority, and we’re especially happy that the homeschooling community doesn’t mind little siblings tagging along. Each week I give him a Weekly Work Folder which we may or may not complete…I’m pretty flexible. I mostly do this so he can practice handwriting, but sometimes there’s a worksheet I’ve found relating to something he’s interested in in the area of science or math. We have a wall calendar that the boys play with sometimes (it was almost daily at first, now it’s more like every few weeks) and we do a bit of writing each week so I’ll have a book of his school year in June. Of course there is a lot of read aloud time, which was always my favorite even when I was teaching in a traditional classroom. And that’s pretty much the extent of his traditional kindergarten work.
I am constantly encouraged that this choice is a good one for us this year. And as I type this, Jake is creating a Lincoln Logs city “where I’m going to use all the pieces in the whole box!” I can hear him organizing his “worker” (read: Tyler) and telling him “First we need to make this. And secondly we need to make this. So I need eight of these pieces and two roofs like these…” I love the sound of learning.