Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Homeschooling as a lifestyle, not just a method of education

I was surprised today when a friend came over and she thought we should have a "school room" for our home school. She was surprised that I cook and bake with my kids in the kitchen with me and that they learn while participating.

This time of year, many homeschool bloggers are writing about what they plan for the upcoming academic year and how they have arranged their various "schooling areas". Many have been brave enough to share pictures. I have to admit, I love looking at those pictures. It's comforting to see the bins and bins of what is used every day and the bookcases and bookcases of books.

To a non-homeschooling family, it looks like stuff. Maybe even clutter. They might wonder, "Do you really use all that? Why does it have to be in your dining room?" OK, yes, I do have clutter that isn't part of our homeschooling, but that's not what this is about. This is about the shelves and shelves of books and games. Did I say games? Of course. Didn't you know that kids learn best when they are hands-on and having fun? Did you enjoy learning all those dates in history? How many do you still remember? What about the states, capitals, and abbreviations? So many adults get the abbreviations mixed up for AriZona, AlasKa, ARkansas, and ALabama. You might even ask why you need to know those abbreviations. If your child ever has a temp, job, order entry job, customer service job, or even appontment setting for a major cable company, this is important to know. Can you imagine how uneducated they will sound when they pull up an account and confirm that you live in Little Rock, Arizona, because they think AR is Arizona? Or better yet, they don't know what it stands for, so they just say the abbreviation? Yes, it happens all the time. Do you have any idea what a mess many companies' databases are because kids don't remember these when they grow up? (I do. I've cleaned up a number of them in my database days.) My point it, the more materials that are used to reinforce the information and the more fun it is, the easier it is for kids to learn. The more books that are available, the more likely a child is to pull a book off the shelf and read. So, yes, we use all of that.

We use every room in our house. {Gasp} I know. Not a single room goes unused in our 3-bedroom, 1 bath, no-basement house (with 1 bedroom converted into a family room, where we watch tv and sometimes play video games.) Our homeschool takes place in our home and outside our home. We sit around the fireplace in the living room in the winter while reading the Bible and history. We sit at the dining room table to discuss language and math and work on writing. Science experiments are conducted at the dining room table, kitchen counter, or outside. The kids sometimes sit at the 3-child desk my totally awesome husband built for them (in a weekend when I was in a back-to-school panic), especially when doing anything on the computer (and sometimes they are distracted by a bird or squirrel out the window - and I like that. That distraction gives us opportunity to pull out a book about birds in our area and read about what they eat, why they live here, how they nest... This is something that if I just pulled the book off the shelf and read it to them, they may not be interested. At this moment they were distracted by it, so it applies to an immediate interest. See how this works for us?) I won't forget to mention that I use the couch in the living room or futon in the family room while helping Child C work on reading, but we've also done this in the kitchen. Really.

This video is from December. I am NOT wearing a sweater in August! :-)

Actually, the kitchen is my favorite place for "school." How many times in school did you ask yourself or someone else, "When will I ever use this?" Reading a recipe is real-life application math and science. I can't even guess how many times I've hidden the 1-cup measuring cup and told my kids to use to 1/4 or 1/3 cup. Two-thirds of my daughters knew basic fractions before they were kindergarten age. (I should get moving because my third is that age and apparently I've been slacking!) We love to double or triple a recipe and work out those calculations in our heads! It's a game with my girls and they consider it fun. Converting ounces to cups to pints to quarts is so much more fun when using them rather than just memorizing them. This isn't the only math education they receive, but it reinforces what they are learning on paper. Why not understand why baking powder is necessary in a recipe and what it does - or doesn't do when left out? Why not learn to read from M-I-L-K and B-A-K-I-N-G S-O-D-A? Some of Child A's first words that she read were F-R-O-Z-E-N F-O-O-D-S at the grocery store. Each one of my kids is learning to cook and bake along with math, reading, and science. Learning a life skill, coupled with their education.

I'm not just shoving information into their little heads and expecting them to remember it - I'm walking them through life. One doesn't have to homeschool to do this. It's a lifestyle. I remember when Child A was very little and everyone I came across said the same thing - kids are sponges at that age. Guess what? If information is presented in a fun or interesting manner, kids of all ages are sponges. They don't outgrow that.

So whether kids are educated outside the home or inside the home, they are still always learning. What they are learning is not always valuable or useful, but they are always learning. I like that my kids learn in every room of the house and that they enjoy participating in life with me. It's a great experience and it's preparing them for life in their own homes one day.


  1. I loved this post! Nicely written, and it's obviously something you're so passionate about. I agree -- much too often, "learning" is relegated to the stereotypical classroom. Thanks for articulating so well that this is, indeed, not the case :)

  2. I just wandered in here from another blog, but I concur wholeheartedly. The less I use the "schoolroom" prototype, the better our learning is!

    Also, when I attempted to transfer our cell phone service from Idaho to Ohio when we moved, I got asked not once but twice if our town of origin was "near Dubuque or Des Moines?"!!!