Oftentimes a friend or acquaintance will ask me, “have you begun homeschooling yet?” Our kids turned 5, 3, and nine months old this summer, so I know they’re mainly talking about our young son Rig, the oldest.
I think what they’re trying to ask is, am I starting to deliberately, methodically teach him any reading, writing, or math? Have I chosen a curriculum? Do we have a routine? Does he have a desk?
But I usually stand there a little befuddled for a moment or two, finally responding with one of several mischievous responses:
“No, there’s really no start date in mind.”
“You know what they say, better late than early!”
Or, if I’m feeling particularly cheeky,
“Begin? In a way, we’ve always been homeschooling. Kids start learning at birth!”
But that doesn’t mean Big Country and I are lax about our children’s education. We just have a different vision as to what’s beneficial and best.
Right now, and probably for a few more years (gasp!) the plan is to let them just be inquisitive kids, playing, exploring nature, story-telling, singing, asking a million questions, and listening to music, adults conversing, and the sounds of life. Along the way naturally comes a learning of family expectations and a developing of self-discipline through our modeling and guidance.
Later on, there will be musical instruments to practice, Bible verses to memorize, math problems to solve, books to read and discuss, and exploding Alka-Seltzer volcanoes to clean up. But I’m convinced that this will all unfold as each child needs in such a beautiful way that the best curriculum planner couldn’t have orchestrated it more seamlessly.
Back to the present, what does this homeschool preschool of sorts look like?
We live on a farm in a tiny house, so our lives are simple.
Gathering eggs, counting them, sorting them. “An araucana laid this green egg!” exclaims Firebell.
Rig takes it upon himself to count by twos in 12-egg cartons, then by threes in 18-egg cartons. And with the bigger egg flats, “4 rows of 5 eggs makes 20!” He grins proudly.
We read a couple pages from the richly illustrated book Dinotopia about the people of Treetown hoisting themselves up into the canopy with baskets and ropes.
Tracing with our fingers where the ropes on the page go, we talk a little about what a pulley is. Emptying out a couple baskets holding lemons and avocados, the kids hoist stuffed animals into their high chair treetops with string and measuring tape for ropes.
Getting frustrated. Solving problems of balance, slack, and weight as the baskets sway and tip.
Then their baskets turn into sailing ships. And as they do, the wind suddenly rushes in, billowing our bedsheet-turned-curtain. “We’re sailing on the high seas!” we sing.
“Mommy, what if you had no arms?” Firebell asks me one day during lunch. I smile. “Well, I’d use my feet!” I say, and attempt to show them how I’d put a spoon between my toes and lift my foot to feed myself. Then I find a video of an inspiring mom who really lives life to the fullest without arms, and the kids love it.
Playing with their matching cards and wooden toy sets: a rainbow stacking cone, stacking tree branches, tea cups and saucers, a tool bench, and fruit to cut with a little wooden knife. Mixing and matching pieces from the toys. Problem solving when the tool box’s hammer claw is missing by using another toy as a tool to do the same job.
Watercolors, play doh, crayons, colored pencils. Coloring on a white board with the alphabet printed on it. Showing Rig the successive steps to write the letters in his name. Rig showing me a drawing of his Ten-Legged Honey Spider and marveling how the oscillating fan with its concentric metal circles looks just like a web.
Rig dictating letters to me thanking grandparents for gifts and signing his name. Showing him the different addresses on the envelope, where the stamp goes, and walking it down to the mail box with him. Reading The Seven Little Postmen and answering his questions about the intriguing way the mail is gathered, sorted, and delivered.
Rig snapping clean cloth diapers together while Firebell folds wipes. And then the couch suddenly becomes a burrito kitchen food truck, with the diapers being rolled into made-to-order lunches!
Reading our comic book style Picture Bible together on the couch. Answering unending deep questions on life, death, and how tall Goliath really was.
Relating to nature as an extension of the home. Flitting around as ladybugs, building dens as foxes, sitting on eggs as chickens after witnessing these things just outside.
Singing, humming, tapping, drumming. Our rendition of I’m a Little Teapot turns into Mammi’s Little Baby Loves Shortenin’ Bread, with the kids squealing and me stomping my foot as the bass drum and slapping my leg as the snare. Boom chick boom chick boom chick boom chick . . .
Listening to instrumental music echoing times of old: Praetorius’ peasant festivals, Vivaldi’s country seasons, the Budos Band’s chill palm tree nights.
These things don’t take a lot of money, and there are no lesson plans. What’s vital is caring for their bodies and minds with sleep and good food and creating an atmosphere that’s calm and conducive to a natural free flow of activities.
Times of rest and books, times of creative play. Times of eating and chatting at the table. Times of outside work, laundry, and chickens. Times of indoor work, cooking, and picking up. Times of playing with each other and letting Mommy nurse the baby and read and write this post on her phone.
I truly believe that any parent who can talk with, spend time with, and seek out good people and opportunities for their children can successfully homeschool.
I also believe that the benefits of homeschooling are vast and far-reaching.
Our far-reaching goals are many. But in essence they boil down to a desire for our kids to have literacy and enthusiasm in the realms of:
- Spiritual life: through Bible study, prayer, sermons, and engaging with church and family with the aim of spiritual maturity and the fruits of the Spirit.
- Nutrition: through study and practice in traditional, whole foods cooking with the aim of lifelong health.
- Finance: through study of economics and personal finance with the aim of wise stewardship of resources.
- Love and understanding of people and creation through history, literature, science, music, art, travel, communication, and the outdoors.
- Problem solving and practical skill competency through math, technology, hands-on work, home and vehicle repair, caring for animals and plants, starting a business, and organizing trips, outings, and purchases.
This all may sound like a lofty mountain to summit, but honestly, I don’t lose any sleep over it. These things are the natural outcome of kids living in an engaged family and community and are things that have been taught for thousands of years without any state-run education.
So when someone inquires whether the Liberty homeschool is in session, perhaps I should respond, “Yes! Always. We all are learning, and the learning never stops.”
Because it’s true. Big has a sermon playing in the garage while he figures out how to make a railing for the loft, which is probably the thousandth thing he has had to learn this year. And I have a motley stack of books on Jesus, macroeconomics, and the Supreme Court on the wood stove by my chair. My phone currently has tabs on how to make a barn quilt and what to do with chokecherries. Tomorrow I’m calling another tiny house friend to share, laugh, and problem-solve, and yes, I’ve invited ourselves over to yet another friend’s house on Sunday.
The beauty is that life is the freest, truest classroom there is. It is ours to receive the gift and resist anything that would stifle this freedom.