Friday, May 20, 2011

Homeschooling - learning as a lifestyle even when we don't homeschool

Do you have certain hours or days in your memory that are more special than others?  There was some sort of intense joy in that moment which has surpassed the years?  One such memory of mine is a day when Stephanie was just at the end of her baby stage and we were shopping in my favorite department store (we probably had gone there after a well baby checkup)... which sadly no longer exists.

"We" spent some time in the china and kitchen wares department... Stephanie in her stroller and Mommy drooling over beautiful china patterns and Cuisinarts.  After stopping for a snack in their tea room (sigh... those were the days) we found our way to the small department which sold books where I purchased what was to become one of my favorite books about parenting and early child development.  No wonder I remember that day with such fondness... sharing fine china, tea time, and books with my baby daughter.

I loved inspiring my baby girl to learn as I would hang colorful crib pictures on the side of her crib, and read to her, and played music (I didn't sing in case she grew up not carrying a tune, either), and talked to her as I made dinner, and took her to the park to see the animals, and just had fun being with her.

I subscribed to a wonderful newsletter which shared ideas about child development for the month your child would soon be entering and I would pick and choose enjoyable activities to "encourage learning".  For those who knew my daughter as she went through school... it worked!

However, it turned out to become so much more than just about raising a little girl.  What was sparked during those early days of motherhood became the joy of learning as a complete lifestyle.  My own parents were very loving but both had left school at the end of 8th grade and while my father taught me a great deal about loving life and embracing beauty before he passed away and mom was always there for me... she never understood my love of reading and learning.  Once I had my own home, it was filled with the fascination of books and learning.

Stephanie was never homeschooled, except in the way all children learn at home... far more than most pick up in a school building.  Children learn the important stuff at home, hopefully much of it before entering the hallowed halls of an "official" building.  :)

Of course, for me the most important learning to take place was to introduce my children to Jesus... not as a tradition or a religion but as the Person... the entire Trinity come to think of it.  We would stop to look at pretty rocks and talk about how God made quartz so plain on the outside and sparkly within or pondered when we put together a meal the fact He could have given us manna to eat each day but instead He created a variety of tasty fruits and veggies (and isn't it interesting how many of the most nutritious foods are also the most colorful?).

When we were outside in nature, how wonderful it was to talk about His variety available to enjoy and how nature reflects His personality... from the beauty of a red rose or a yellow daisy to the apparent use of leftover parts from other animals to make the duck billed platypus.  :)

I wanted them to learn early to pray for needs as well as wisdom and always found it remarkable when the prayers of little people were answered in big ways.  The bookshelves were filled with Bible story books (as I liked them especially as they were just as new to me as the children), really good "Christian" biography and fiction, and... of course... the Bible.  Books to read about people in varied circumstances to whom God was very real.

Sometimes our reason for learning came about by circumstance.  For instance, I remember the first summer we lived in Iowa, which had been a very difficult move for Stephanie (who turned twelve during the move).  We lived in a very small town where there were no violin teachers or beautiful places near Lake Michigan where she had spent most of her early years.  While we both ended up making very special friends there, it was never an easy place for us to live.

One of our only fun activities available was reading.  She was already a prolific reader but I wanted her to begin reading bigger books which required more effort than her Mandy books.  So, to help her earn some extra spending money I offered her 50 cents through $2.00 per book (according to how big the books were... the Russians being $2.00)... these were early 1990's rates.  :)

I think her first book read that summer was Exodus by Leon Uris, which was one of my favorite books and had the affect (as so much of reading does) of  eventually leading her to similar (but more recent) books such as the Brock and Bodie Thoene series about WWII and the founding of Israel.  Her enjoyment of these books was soon "caught" by her father who enjoyed the entire series... good reading after a long day of working as an engineer.

Learning at home does not have to be officially schooling at home.  Each home can and should be a place where learning can take place with enjoyment and with no fear of being laughed at or to have one's first attempts met with a smirk or snicker (although it does happen from siblings)... but you know what I mean. 

Okay, so certain mothers have been known to laugh when certain daughters kept overdoing the salt when they were learning to cook... but that is the stuff of fond memories now.  :)

To me a Christian home should be a place where there is a love of learning... much like my recent Sunday Afternoon Tea post about creativity (inspired by my gazillinth reading of The Hidden Art of Homemaking).  Within us is the very nature of the Creator so we want to learn and to do and to create and to grow things and to make things (even if we do not officially homeschool) it is who we are... we are to be constant home learners.

We learn each time we take up a new hobby, or sew something never sewn before, or try a new quilting or knitting pattern, or build furniture, or bake a bread we've never tried before, or assemble a new soup, or design a garden, or plant a never-tried-before vegetable, or design and build a playhouse or tree house, or decide to raise chickens or cats (chickens are probably easier), or even to paint our first landscape.

We learn with each trip to a new location, each new person we meet and get to know, each new ethnic food we try, each dinner party with exciting conversation, every concert we attend, and every time we give sandwiches and a bottle of water to those in need.

We obviously learn with every class taken and book read but I find myself learning when I sit at my favorite coffee shop on campus, usually waiting for hubby or son, and watch the various students and professors and researchers and philosophers and scientists and the guy from a small town like me... and to listen to all the conversations and be amazed at the smallness of the world... I learn.

I must admit it was easier for me to think about and plan for learning when I had children at home and before the affects of chronic illness took hold.  There came a time last year when I was having some challenges (that yucky period when antibiotics were not working) when I just wanted to sit and do nothing.  When one is physically tired, the mind can become just as tired and the soul becomes weary in its' dark night.

It suddenly struck me one day in the midst of days and weeks of just... nothingness... that I wasn't going down for the count without a fight.  After a lifetime of loving to learn new things... of living a creative lifestyle... of living a learning lifestyle...  I had let the weary-ness of life take away my joy of learning or to find myself tiptoeing out into the unknown with a new project.

I made a decision to purposely begin a lifestyle of learning again... to try new activities, expand my recipe collection, plant flowers I've always wanted to try, etc.  Nothing which takes a lot of time or energy..
and that is why I decided my word for the year of 2011 was... create.  :)


matty said...

I am nesting so much these days, Brenda! And, I keep thinking of your post from months ago about how we never know who is watching us and learning. This meant so much to me! When the Airman was small, it was easy to model. I knew someone was watching me. Then, he left home and I felt adrift. Alone. Things didn't seem to matter as much. After all, he didn't seem to be watching me. Then, I started having tea with you. And, I have picked up and started living more fully again. My word for the year?

Moderation.... :P

Anonymous said...

How inspiring!!! This post brought back a lot of memories too of raising children and grandchildren. Lots of GOOD memories!! Yes I have begun to blossom again too and have started going to some free classes and meeting people who like doing the same things I love and so it gets my creative juices going. What joy! That naturally gives me more to tell and teach my children and grandchildren! The circle goes round and round! Sarah

Anonymous said...

Thank you for sharing your experiences with home schooling. My son had a lot of difficulties with schoolwork. Unfortunately, home schooling wasn't an option for us.
Instead we decided to stay with the school system and supplement.
Kind of a 'Home school-After school'

We did many of the activities that you did-lots of reading, trips to the library and educational outings to City Hall(excellent tour), the Zoo, local Pioneer Village, Science Centre...

They had an 'art basket' with crayons, markers etc and lots of paper so everything for being creative was handy.

We had a penny jar and the kids would practise counting, adding + subtracting,later multiplying and dividing groups of them. Board games(counting) and baking projects(measuring) were great favourites.

Don't tell them they're doing Math :)

Our kids are grown up and through university now. Although home school
ling wasn't possible for us, I think these extra activities helped them with their education.

Rebecca said...

Yes. Always yes to a lifestyle of learning!

Vee said...

Hmmm, I thought this was going in one direction and it turned on a dime there at the end. Very interesting discussions throughout, Brenda. Very.

Anonymous said...

How blessed you are that you and your daughter share the love of so many similar things!!

I too have struggled the last couple years since my car accident, to just stay afloat...thinking how I have let slide almost all the fun creative things that have given me pleasure down through the years...need to find a way to get motivated again...

Blessings, Elizabeth in NC

SUGAR MOON said...

Enjoyed your post.

The Country Mama said...

Oh thank you Brenda. Your posts are so lovely. I find myself bookmarking many of them to come back to and drink in again.

I especially love the book recommendations and really everything else that you write. ~smiles~

Carol said...

Brenda, You mentioned Christian biographies and fiction that your children read. I don't know if you have ever posted a list of those books. If not, if you have the time to create that list, I'd love to read it. (in MD)