Despite being invited to a not back to school picnic, it did not dawn on me that public school started that same day. Summer activities occupied our schedule until the first week of September, because the weather was still summer. Since our family is not bound by provincial outcomes or guidelines, we don’t follow conventional school schedules or curriculum.
Our schedule is defined by our family’s rhythm. For many years, autumn has been our season to travel. I find it challenging to reign in energies before Christmas, so we don’t do traditional learning then. Family birthdays are equivalent to school holidays for us, so no traditional learning then either. 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).
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: printed words are for sale everywhere. Textbooks, workbooks, novels. Bookstores, homeschool mama blogs, Facebook threads. Curriculum fairs and websites abound.
Overbuying curriculum. Our first year homeschooling, I overbought, assuming we were able to cover more than we could. Every year in the last eleven, I have bought less and less, sometimes relying on the previous year’s purchases. Sometimes I heavily rely on library cards.
Kids choice of curriculum. I have even heard kids comment on curriculum: “I don’t want to get curriculum that I don’t want to use.” They know they will be expected to follow through with the use of their purchase. (This is also a way to discover how they learn and encourages them to take responsibility in choosing useful resources.) When they are engaged in their educational choices, they are engaged in their learning.
Every year is a lesson in learning my children. Not every resource we think we’ll use is quite what we thought. There are some wasted resources. One child prefers reading history independently. One child likes colouring worksheets. Kinesthetic activities like wikisticks in creating letters when one kiddo was learning to spell. A National Geographic chemistry set was purchased for three kids. There were many other science boxes over the years. Apologia and BraveWriter on-line classes have been used. One of my teens is taking a college writing class at present. Every child is different and every year is different.
I spend differently as a homeschool mom. 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 visited Zellers for grade specific supply lists: another box of non-broken crayons and a package of those smelly markers.
Now that I’m a mom and have collected six hundred and fifty two broken crayons (no I didn’t count, but I’m pretty 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 there are still 67 barely sharpened pencil crayons, I no longer do the official school supply trip. I buy what I need. I purchase kids’ clothing based on need, when seasonal shifts require it, and not on latest style (though my kids are definitely old enough to inform me). I definitely don’t buy indoor shoes, though every Christmas I provide fluffy socks.
What is an education anyways? If I thought of an education as solely ‘in the classroom’, or ‘textbook driven’, or ‘test proven’, or ‘teacher taught,’ I would follow the system, its schedule and 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 contains more knowledge than the most knowledgeable human might embody. Is our goal for an education to outstrip Google? I believe an education is learning to live this life well, engage in meaningful work, nurture our community, experience life and abide with the One who created us.
Our family might not be going to school, but we’re still learning in our way.
We enjoyed our home spun version of a not-back-to-school party. We planned our daily schedules in rainbow coloured pens and we took grade photos, and we discussed our academic plans. They each found a box of Smarties at the bottom of their new book stack…cause they’re about to get smarter.
Life is learning. In the meantime, we have Legos to play, dogs to walk, chickens to coral, trampolines to bounce on, garden bounty to process, and a few more late evenings.
“There isn’t a right way to become educated,
there are as many ways as there are fingerprints“.
John Taylor Gatto