We are a homeschooling family. As such, I am often asked the following:
"Do you have certain hours each day when you work?" "Do you follow a curriculum?" When I answer "no" to both, I then get "So, how exactly does homeschooling work?"
Hmmm, how exactly DOES it work? For us, that is. There are as many ways to homeschool as there are kids and families. I wouldn't pretend to speak for any of them. But for us?
Sometimes, I just don't know how to answer. There is no "exact". How do I really portray what it looks like to be us?
And then I watch a day like today unfold and think, "This is 'exactly' how we do it."
Isabella and Andre had a friend over. They were trying to figure out what to do. Tree climbing came up as an option. A discussion followed about the problem with our trees (namely, they are all tall with difficult to reach lower branches). I heard one of them ask, "What if we use rope and climb?"
Them: "Mom, is it OK if we use rope to climb a tree?"
Me: "Yes, if I can check your tree and your knots before you get started."
They grabbed their rope and started out in search of trees. After nixing the tree that is notorious for its widow-making branches and the one in which they would have to trample the neighbors flowers, they found the right one.
Them: "Mom, we don't have enough rope. Can we bike to Maya's to get hers?"
Three young kids hop on bikes (all three kids with helmets- sensible homeschooled children) and ride a few blocks to Maya's house. Upon returning, they got busy. Several minutes later, I got the call that they were ready.
I checked out their choice of tree...great. Knots...well-tied and secure. Isabella built a harness out of rope and attached it to the rope that she had thrown over a low-ish branch. It didn't look like any climbing apparatus I had seen. I had to ask.
"What the heck are you doing?"
She walked me through her well-thought out plan, showing me how she would use the rope to climb up the tree...and how (if she failed to make the ascent), the harness would keep her from plummeting to the ground. She also had her bike helmet for extra protection and gardening gloves to protect her hands from rope burn.
Almost there...but not quite....and slowly, ever so slowly...she lost her grip.
I thanked heavens for the harness and the well-planned plan as I watched her fall. Then, they each had a turn, congratulated each other on their efforts and moved inside to some new project.
It happens like that every day. Sometimes, they are motivated to draw or paint or make up songs or plays or break-dancing routines. Sometimes, they want to make things fizz and bubble over. Sometimes, they want to construct and build.
And that is (inexactly) how homeschooling works...for us. We follow their lead and they bring equal parts of inspiration, self-starting, problem-solving, creativity, responsibility, safety, fun, experimentation, independence, inter-dependence, teamwork and above all, joy.
There is no formula that we follow except trusting that they want to learn and will always find opportunities to do so (with loads and loads of reading and a sprinkling of math thrown in for good measure).
p.s. I thought that was the end of the rope-works story and sat down to write this blog-post. Then, I heard a "Mom, get in here!!" that was filled with excitement. And behold.