“Mommy, I want to go to school.”
Alexa made this statement right before we were going into the grocery store about a month ago.
Now, I know that most moms would be thrilled with this statement. They want their kids to be excited about school and look forward to going. But we’re an interest-led learning family. We’ve been learning and living every day in ways that hardly look like school at all.
We do some “school” things: reading lots of books, doing science experiments, and playing some math games, but we’ve never followed a curriculum or set schedule, never broke down learning into subjects assigned grades or even thought about what grade the kids were in.
But now Alexa was talking about going to school. I had always expected this conversation to come up one day. But I thought it might be when she was 12 or 13, not 6.
I guess I should have seen it coming. She had been asking questions about school all day long. What types of things did you learn at school? What was the schedule like when you went to school? What kind of work did you have to do?
At first I felt a little stunned. Was she not happy with the things we were doing at home? She always seemed to love all the trips we went on, the park days, the books we read, and the games we played. How could I not have seen this coming?
So, I gulped down feelings of inadequacy and tried to shush the voice screaming inside me at what a horrible mother I had been.
To Allow Kids to Decide Whether to Attend School or Not
Then we talked about school. We talked about how her life would be very different than it is now. She couldn’t wake up and start playing her favorite computer game right away. She couldn’t go out with Jared in the early afternoon and play pretend games outside.
I’ve always known that if the kids asked to go to school one day I would say yes. I know quite a few homeschooling moms who absolutely refuse to allow their children to attend school, no matter how hard they beg. I’ve heard many reasons for this; anything from they wouldn’t receive the same quality of education to they wouldn’t successfully be able to navigate the school environment and structure.
But for me, the decision to allow my kids to attend school one day if they wished has been pretty straightforward. I don’t want my kids coming up to me when they’re 25 bitter because they felt they had missed out on some important childhood experience.
And if they wound up loving their school experience, than that would be fine with me. More than anything I want my kids to be happy and fulfilled in how and what they are learning.
So after a half hour long discussion in the parking lot, I told her that I would look into registering her for school when we came home from our trip. I told her that after this week, she’d need to be prepared to leave the house at 8:30 in the morning and not get home until 3:30. And she would probably have to do a half hour to hour’s worth of homework every night.
And you know what? After all that discussion about school, turns out she doesn’t want to go every day for that long. She doesn’t even want to go for a whole year. She just wants to try out school for a little while but still get to do lots of fun stuff at home, too.
Then it finally hit me. I didn’t know how I could have been so dense before.
“Do you want to have times during the day where it’s kind of like school? Where we work on some of the same projects or topics together every day?”
Her eyes light up. “Can we? Can we play school every day at home? Can we have a math class and a reading class and maybe even an animal class?
Even the other homeschooled kids that I know don’t talk like this. I’m pretty much floored. We do lots of things to learn all the time, but I’ve purposely never talked about it in terms of classes and subjects and sitting behind desks and having quizzes and assignments.
But my daughter is asking for this…begging in fact.
And so we had a “school” day…..this Saturday…and then on Sunday, too. She couldn’t wait for Monday she said.
Here’s what our first two days of “school” looked like:
1st day (Mind you that most all of this was done on the fly)
Science class (we had to call them classes) – I read a page from the book Tell Me About: The World about what is a skunk’s defense mechanism. Then we had to have a quiz (I was cringing inside; the kids were cheering outside) about what they had heard. Then I asked them to write the word skunk on a sheet of paper without me showing them how to spell it.
Math class – I wrote up a little worksheet for them of two digit addition problems. I quickly showed them how to carry over numbers from the ones spot to the tens spot if the number was higher than nine (first time they had done this). They joyfully….yes, joyfully, worked on finishing their 15 problems.
Animal Class (Alexa specifically requested this one). I found a bunch of old National Geographic magazines and asked them to tear out a picture of a mammal, reptile, insect and bird.
Literature Class – I read aloud a chapter from a novel we’ve been reading together. They had to draw pictures of what they were hearing and then come up to the front of the “class” and share their pictures with everyone and summarize the chapter.
History Class – I read a short excerpt from the book A Treasury of Amazing Knowledge about women who were heroes in the Revolutionary or Civil War. Then the kids worked together to make up a short skit about Molly Pitcher. Alexa had me write down their script and they rehearsed several times before performing their skit for Steve.
Science Class – I read another page from Tell Me About: The World. This time the question was about if ostriches really bury their heads in the sand. Once again the kids took a little quiz and then wrote out the word ostrich on a sheet of paper.
Math Class- I read aloud the second chapter in the Life of Fred: Apples book. Then they kids did the four problems that were at the end of the chapter.
Recess/Gym Steve took the kids on a bike ride while I made a good dent in the laundry!
Animal Class: Steve worked with the kids on this assignment. I asked the kids to think about an animal they would like to learn more about. Then Steve wrote down five questions they had. Then they researched those questions on the computer and wrote down their answers. They also had to list where they found those answers. Finally, they had to practice presenting that information. They were so cute! They worked out who would say the introduction, who would tell the questions and give the answers and who would do the conclusion.
I learned a great deal this week about some things that my kids need more from me. It’s also made me think a lot more about what types of experiences my kids will need to successfully complete goals and projects of their own when they become adults.
I’ve decided that we need to make a few changes in our lifestyle. We’ll always be interest-led learners. I feel very strongly about that. But the way that’s going to look in our family might be changing.
I’ll be writing about this change next Wednesday. I’m really excited to share with you some resources I’ve found and ideas that I’ve been developing.
Photo Credit: Cast a Line