In this post I wanted to share some thoughts on homeschooling and why we chose to go that route.
Before I dive into this topic, I want to say that it should not be taken as a critic against teachers. On contrary, I think very highly of teachers. But it is the system with which we don’t align.
What lead us to it
I grew up in former Soviet Union and were not homeschooled, but attended a public school. I greatly enjoyed my time at the school — learning was easy for me and of course school was a place I got to see most of my friends. So I imagined my kids to have the same experience when I would become a parent.
My first re-evaluation of what my children’s education should look like came when Ale´ was 1 year old and we went to tour a little Montessori school. My first disappointment came when I saw an outdoor playground — it was smaller than our yard and had almost no vegetation, just some plastic playground equipment. Then I learned that outdoor time was very minimal and most time children spend indoors. Since Ale´ birth he spent most of his time outdoors — napping or crawling next to us while we were gardening, and later watching bees, smelling flowers and picking berries. I simply couldn’t picture him spending most of his day indoors.
Every school we looked into since then had similar approach of children being mostly indoors, playground being small and lacking any living forms. It was just not compatible with our way of life. So our children continued living home and learning from us by helping in the garden, or in the kitchen, reading books, watching my mom sewing or all of us building a greenhouse, hiking, camping.
Moving along their own path
I watched my boys growing up, expanding their knowledge of the world around them and being so fascinated with it. Seeing their passions develop and change into new ones. And some passions becoming only deeper with passing years.
I came to realize that one of my most important roles as a parent is to help my children discover themselves, to understand where their hearts belong. And for that, I believe, they need as much direct interaction with the world as possible. I want to help my boys to learn about the world in which they live through direct experience with it and through that help them find their place in it and work towards their dreams, not waiting when they turn 18 years old or older.
I came to realize that one of my most important roles as a parent is to help my children discover themselves, to understand where their hearts belong. And for that, I believe, they need as much direct interaction with the world as possible.
I did not want my kids to spend their days in classrooms (usually with minimal or no windows) cut off from direct interaction with and participation in the world. I wanted them to have as much hands-on experience as possible as they continue to grow up.
I most definitely did not want them to be measured against someone’s arbitrary standards and tests, and with that them start to question themselves. I did not want their sense of wonder and curiosity to be replaced with anxiety about tests scores.
I feel strongly that no grades or scores matter if a person doesn’t have their personal interest and reason for learning. And helping a child to find their passion in life makes learning more engaging, and everything they learn retains better.
Lastly, to be completely frank, mass-shootings that happen routinely in US schools is something I can’t get comfortable with.
And so, as we watched our boys grow and learn at home in an effortless organic way, as we watched them developing more and more confidence in their skills, being passionate about so many things in life we came to feel that homeschooling would be the best we could give them. Because with that we could tailor their education to their specific interests, needs and development.
How it is going so far
We do very little formal homeschooling. I’d say that only in the last year we started keeping a more formal schedule, still it is no more than 20-30 minutes a day, and we usually only do it 3-4 days a week.
In case you wonder how we are doing and if the boys are truly learning as we homeschool. Here are few things that I consider our accomplishments so far, boys being 4.5 and 6.5 years old. Everything we’ve learned so far was done with the minimum formal learning, mostly learned through play, through direct participation in activities. And also, as a result of us (parents) watching for boys’ interests and facilitating further learning along the line of those interests.
- Both boys are confident with using a variety of tools, including hand saw, electric drill, hammer, scissors since very early age.
- They can easily identify any plant that grows in our garden.
- Both boys are excellent at using different kitchen tools, and can be trusted with cutting fruits or veggies even in small pieces for different dishes during meal times.
- Eleon, who is 4.5 years old, especially loves garden work and cooking and is excellent at many tasks in those areas. In the kitchen he can be trusted with doing the dishes, assembling and using various kitchen appliances. And he is better than me at making dough, thanks to all the time he spends in the kitchen with grandma. 🙂
- For some time now they both have excellent grasp of geography knowing different continents and the types of natural environments present on those continents.
- They both have tremendous amount of knowledge concerning animal world — animals, birds, insects, reptiles.
- Both boys, but especially Ale´, have deep and detailed knowledge about Earth geological eras, such as Jurassic, Triassic, Cretaceous, and how the life on Earth has evolved through those periods. This comes from their strong passion to dinosaurs, of course. 🙂
- Ale´ is excellent at drawing and sculpting using playdough.
- Both boys are fluent in two languages – Russian and English.
- Both of them know well the letters of each alphabet. Ale´ reads in Russian (which is phonetic language) and reads well the phonics books through Level 3 in English. Eleon can read well small words in both languages.
- They are great with their arithmetics as well — not only counting, but having good understanding of addition and subtraction operations.
- Both boys spend a lot of time outdoors, good hikers and good for their age rock climbers. Ale´ attends forest school, where children hike and play outdoors 3 days a week for 5.5 hours in any weather. Eleon attends forest school less frequently as he loves hang out home helping grandma in the kitchen or garden. :). Both boys are physically fit, have good endurance of elements and very confident with the use of their bodies.
- Most importantly, from our point of view, is that they continue to retain interest towards learning of new things. And they have a lot of confidence that stems from having real life skills where they feel themselves equal to a grown up.
If you are interested, I’ll keep you posted on how we are doing as we go through this journey. I’ll share separately about our homeschooling approach, as it is different for each family that chooses this route.
As always, thanks for reading, and I hope you enjoyed the post or found it useful in some way.