I never expected to homeschool.
And then I had kids.
No, really, the decision to homeschool did not enter my ideastream until my oldest was ending her kindergarten year at a tiny, play-based preschool. We were lucky to get in early to this school and she was one of three children in her class. It was the only choice in our area to give children ample free time outdoors with plenty of art experiences and learning through means beyond worksheet work.
At the same time, my friends who had older children were sharing stories of what parenting and schooling looked like for their families. What I heard made me sad. There was talk of anxiety and pressure, loads of homework and practice testing. I already tried to keep a reign on how busy our family was with outside classes and sports, but I really started to question what she was going to face once she was “in the system”. (And, oh, by the way, I’m a former teacher who loves teachers and was raised by two. I support teaching and would love nothing more than teachers to be able to work their magic without the constraints of testing and furious reporting hanging over their heads. But that is a discussion for another time.)
Homeschool looked to us like an alternative to the jam-packed schedule. It felt like a more natural way to learn-outside playing and learning together, wearing out because there was too much running, climbing, exploring and mess-making…not because of seat work, testing and standing in lines.
Our choice gave us a great alternative: play. Play is essential to the socio-emotional development of children; so much so that even if there is nothing provided to play with, children still come up with pretend play. Play is a child engineering their own learning. But play is also where innovation and energy live. Without play, we are left with burdens and stale old ideas. When we allow our children to play, to be playful in their learning and living, we invite them to consider possibilities beyond the norm.
Lest you think we do nothing but play all day, let me assure you that work figures into play. Think about anything that you love to do, anything you become obsessed to learn more about. Say, homeschooling, for example (not that you are into that or anything *wink*). How do we turn homeschooling work into play?
To play with something you know little about, a new concept, if you will, you need to get a handle on the basics, understand different viewpoints, consider the problems you may run up against, observe and experiment. Once you have rolled the ideas around, maybe practiced them a bit, you begin to start to fiddle around, to play, with what works. So you look at your schedule, for instance, and realize your kids seem to enjoy getting seat work done first thing and want to wake up a bit before working later in the day on their art/history/science projects.
This is where I see the intersection of work and play. There is a base of learning we need in order to play. We need to put in some work to enjoy the payoff of play.
Little babes in arms have a basis of play and, as parents, we can do much to help them. Provide those initial understandings and then step back.
In order to play with numbers you need to develop some number sense first. To play with language, you need to build up a skill set to do that. Once a child learns a concept (their work) they can begin to use this new understanding to play with it. While this play can come naturally, sometimes we need mentors, allies and parents to help us along. And sometimes the play can turn back into work…especially on hard days or with new ideas to master. But the work can help you enjoy the play and vice versa. At least that is my hope in our homeschool.
And, so, just as varied as the families and choices for curriculum, so too is the reason to homeschool. Our reason came down to just one word: play. I didn’t want my kids to turn 5, attend traditional school and miss out on moving whenever they needed to in their day. I want them to have the time necessary to build imaginary worlds in their minds. I want them to rumpus like Wild Things. I want them to get dirty and fall down and investigate and dare and build.
Our yard especially reflects this hope of mine. It is as unpretentious as can be in the back; a huge hole dominates one corner, various tools for
destruction discovery another. Trails have been tramped down in the woods and kids regularly end the day needing baths to wash the grime from faces and other parts. Thankfully we live in a neighborhood where I am more than happy to let them roam, especially as part of the gang of hooligans that live here. Our modern day dinner bell is a pair of walkies-talkies with a nice range; I can be called for bringing water or bandaids.
When we regularly hear of the dangers of a sedentary lifestyle and the damage sitting can do, why in the world do we begin training kids so early to do it? I can’t justify it and I don’t want my kids to miss out on skinned knees, calluses from monkey bars or building forts in bedrooms.
We will get to the schoolwork-there is always time for book learning; I’m more concerned with the learning that comes through play. That’s what is most important to my family and why we made this choice.
Why did you choose to homeschool? Do you consider play to be a lost art form? How do you encourage play in your children–especially as they grow older?
Join me later this week as I introduce how I invite kids to play in our yard. And later on another fun planning post for you BuJo Junkies that I have neglected!