Despite being invited to a not back to school picnic, it did not dawn on me that public school started that same day. I’ve just returned from an anniversary weekend reading, eating, walking on the beach and visiting wineries in southern British Columbia. Summer activities still occupy our schedule, so there’s no shift to a school schedule for us. Till next week.
Since our family is not bound by provincial outcomes or guidelines, we don’t follow conventional school schedules, or school curriculum.
Our schedule is defined by our family’s rhythm. We have often taken a month in autumn to travel, volunteer or vacation. There are other conferences my husband does that enable a trip for the rest of us. I find it hard to reign in energies a couple weeks before Christmas, family birthdays are equivalent to school holidays, and since there’s so much to do outside in May, we direct our energies toward botany (gardening & nature drawing) and weather study (just a good excuse to use outdoor activity in science). July and August there are just too many summer camps and lake activities to ignore.
I am often asked about our less than conventional approach, and if we’re not following public education outcomes, where do we find curriculum?
Our world is filled with books and printed words are for sale everywhere. Textbooks, workbooks, novels and well, you name it, someone wants me to buy something. Curriculum fairs abound and websites love to let you know where to buy your curriculum.
Our first year homeschooling, I overbought, assuming we were able to cover more than we actually could. Every year for the last ten, I have bought less and less, sometimes relying on last year’s purchases and sometimes even just using a library card.
Even our children engage in curriculum discussions: “I don’t want to get curriculum that I don’t want to use.” They know that they will be expected to follow through with the use of their purchase. (It’s also a way to discover how they learn and encourages them to take responsibility in choosing wise resources.)
Yes, there are some wasted resources. Not everything they think they’ll use is quite what we thought. One of them preferred reading history independently, so get some books. One of them liked to colour worksheets, but definitely not all of them. Incorporate kinesthetic activities like wikisticks when learning to spell (that’s not a book, but officially I had to buy it). A National Geographic chemistry set was purchased for nearly every child. And so many other science boxes. Apologia’s textbooks and on line classes have been used by two kiddos. But it’s very detailed, so we haven’t always made it through in one year. Every year is a lesson in learning my child.
When I think back to my school experience, I remember tucking my new outfits into a bunkbed drawer that I wasn’t allowed to touch until the first day of school. I still have that blue plaid two button shirt. We also visited Zellers for grade specific supply lists. Another box of non-broken crayons and a package of those smelly markers.
Now that I’ve collected six hundred and fifty two broken crayons (no I didn’t count, but I’m really sure I’m close) and purchased oodles of white erasers that seem to only resurface under sofa cushions, and now that there’s only eight Crayola markers that didn’t dry up by the end of the ‘year’, but 67 barely sharpened pencil crayons, I no longer do the official school supply trip. I buy what I need. So I buy a lot of books. But I only purchase kids’ clothing based on season and need, not on latest style (though my kids are definitely old enough to inform me). I spend differently as a homeschool mom.
If I thought of an education as solely ‘in the classroom’, or ‘textbook driven’, or ‘test proven’, or ‘teacher taught’, I might follow the system, might follow its schedule or purchase its curriculum. An education includes academics, of course, learning theoretical stuff, but the sky’s the limit to what we could know and how we could know it.
Google is called google for a reason, and it might contain the content of human knowledge (but obviously doesn’t, cause we’re always learning new things), but do we have we a fantastic education because we can outstrip Wikipedia? An education is learning how to live this life well, creating meaningful work, nurturing our community, developing self-discipline, character and work ethic, really experiencing life and abiding with the One who created us.
We might not be going TO school. But I’ll still plan a back to school party–it’s just plain fun. We’ll decorate cupcakes with chocolate frosting and gummy apples (tradition!), plan our daily schedules in rainbow coloured pens, and maybe even write a ‘what I did this summer’ report. I’ll take grade photos, as each of them stand in their new fall outfits with a board declaring their grade (this will be the only time I’ll remember all their grades upstairs), we might even do a scavenger hunt for school supplies and they’ll see a box of Smarties at the bottom…cause they’ll always be my Smarties (even the one who is prepping for college).
In the meantime, we have Legos to play, dogs to walk and chickens to coral, trampolines to bounce on, garden bounty to process, and a few more late evenings. Life is learning.
“There isn’t a right way to become educated,
there are as many ways as there are fingerprints“.
John Taylor Gatto