In a previous post about the parallels between education and maternity care I argued that although public health and public education are extremely important for equity reasons, informed homebirthing and homeschooling are probably the gold standard for maternity care and education respectively. After reading an article on ‘short-term homeschooling’ I wondered about short-term homeschooling for my 8 year old, who was unhappy at school for a variety of reasons. Since that time, I am pleased to say, things dramatically turned around and she became a lot happier and settled in her class. In the end it was mostly through bonding with one particular friend (she is an introvert but still loves connecting with particular others). She wants to return to school this year and we are happy to support her in that.
But as a family, we are all still quite interested in the idea of homeschooling and making that part of our everyday lives.
Holiday Homeschool Experiment
Yesterday, my husband sat down with our 8 year old and they discussed what she would like to do with remaining 4 weeks of summer holiday. They wrote up some ideas on a piece of paper, then divided the ideas into ‘subjects’.
She then went off on her own and created a basic schedule with ‘morning’, ‘afternoon’ and ‘evening’ and a suggested activity for each time. She tried to balance them between the various ‘subjects’. Some of the things are things she can do it home on her own, some require adult input, and some are trips and outings.
The idea is not to enforce this study, but to have a framework available for when boredom strikes, and to also make sure some family outings or activities take place. Our kids spend hours and hours in imaginative play, with dress-ups, huts, and elaborate adventure storylines — so these activities are meant to fit around that play, when required. We can also keep track of which ‘subjects’ we are spending more time on, both as information about what she is interested in and what perhaps we might have to find more innovative ways to teach/provide learning experiences. For example, our 8 year old didn’t really put reading into the schedule at all because she reads whenever she has the chance. But we might have to more intentionally plan for other things, such as cooking. Next week we are going on a roadtrip to explore the places my great-grandmother grew up in, escorted by my great-aunt and great-uncle. So next week we are planning a few activities around that: we have a family history scrapbook, and a kids roadtrip atlas of New Zealand. They will have a certain amount of money which encourages their maths and finance thinking (actually, they are payments for special chores performed this week, such as cleaning out the under-sink cupboards in the kitchen and bathroom).
What about the younger kids?
Our 4 year old and 1 year old are already experts in play-based learning, due to being regulars at Playcentre (a parent-run co-operative preschool). We are also used to providing learning experiences for them based on Playcentre philosophies. We like to follow their interests at this stage. Our four year old has always been interested in flowers, and we chose a book for her on Plants as a Christmas present. Since Christmas, we have been identifying the male and female parts of flowers, and she has developed an interest in collecting catkins, which were previously not ‘pretty’ enough for her. Now she has a scientific interest in them however! Other experiments she has ongoing is a jar of water with a sprig of mint in it — her book suggested that something interesting might happen if she put mint in a jar of water. We are waiting to see…
We are only on day two of our holiday homeschooling experiment. We hope to foster a curious spirit and self-directed learning in our children. The second thing I hope to add to this (which my husband and daughter haven’t thought of in their version) is something around household management and domestic work. This leads on from my thinking on emotional labour and domestic work. How can we better integrate learning science, maths, literacy and creativity with tasks that must be done to sustain life? They are already integrated — but we just need to highlight this better, I think, so our kids grow up valuing both the so-called ‘productive’ and ‘re-productive’ spheres. The third thing I hope to add are some daily rituals that transmit our spiritual heritage. We already use ‘prayer sticks’ — a jar of coloured sticks with people’s names on them, and a few with ‘virtues’ we would like to develop (kindness, joy) or ‘needs’ we or others might have (health-related mainly). Before dinner, we each pick out a random prayer stick and say a one line prayer for the person or with the word in it. Our four year old always prays that people will have ‘big muscles’, which is just so cute I think God is likely to be giggling along with us. I wonder how else we can incorporate the spiritual into our everyday?