At first glance, the title of this post may seem redundant. If my children have never been in school, why would we need to transition into homeschooling? It may, indeed, seem a silly proposal, but hear me out…..
Children are natural learners. Just watch any child that is pre-school age, and you’re bound to see someone who is itching to find out as much as she can about the world and wants to do it independently and immediately. Your child has been learning since birth. Naturally. Spontaneously. Voluntarily.
Just because the school system has set up an arbitrary compulsory attendance age does not mean there is something magical that happens on a child’s 5th or 6th birthday. Choosing to keep your child at home instead of sending her off on that yellow school bus may seem scary, and you may feel obligated to start holding your own little miniature school day, but it is not necessary. The reason children who are in school become apathetic to learning is because they get used to people “giving” them an education instead of discovering things on their own.
Two years ago when my youngest was 8-months-old, I had an epiphany about just how unnecessary it is to coerce children into learning something and wrote about it here:
“… I started to think about her journey up until this point. Sitting. Rolling over. Laughing. Crawling. My point? She did all this on her own. I didn’t teach her how to do these things. I didn’t hold classes, ringing a little schoolbell saying, ”… Time for crawling lessons! Put your blocks away! It’s time for school!”
Absurd, right? But isn’t that what happens to kids everyday? They’re pulled away from enjoyable, often educational, activities to learn something they would have eventually learned on their own. “
The late (but great) education reformer and “Father of Unschooling,” John Holt often referred to young children as scientists. And if you think about it, that’s what they really are. They’re full of questions and, if encouraged, are unafraid to ask them repeatedly. They want to know how things work, why they work, and if changing something will make them stop working. They sit at the windowsill watching houseflies “wash their faces” over and over again. They hunt for minnows at the creek and salamanders in the yard. They are full of wonder, excitement, and the joy of living life, and they are an inspiration to anyone who takes the time to watch them.
This is not to say that workbooks and formal learning are a bad thing, only that they are not required for attaining and grasping information. Some children, like my 5- and- 6- yr.-old daughters, may ask to “do school” when they see their older siblings hard at work. If this is the case, then by all means, go for it.
When we started our current year of home learning, I had no expectations of my daughters doing any type of seat work or, as we call it, “table time.” In fact, I didn’t even have any books for them because I was so intent on allowing them to learn through playing and exploring , as they had always done. They, however, had other plans.
When I sat my 7-yr.-old son at the table for some phonics practice and math, they each sat down with us and asked where their books were. I was a little surprised but quickly pulled out some old workbooks we hadn’t finished from other years and gave them “assignments” from them. Shortly afterwards, I made a quick trip to the dollar store and found them each two workbooks, thinking they would quickly lose interest and that would be that. That was not the case. They’ve each gone through several workbooks since then, and my Kindergarten-age daughter is currently halfway through a 1st-grade math workbook that I ended up picking up for her at a bookstore because the dollar store ones were too easy.
What it boils down to is this: no matter what your children are doing, they are learning. If they are content with playing in the sandbox or play dough, then let them play. Those sorts of activities are actually wonderful for developing fine motor skills. If your child asks to “do school,” then do it, but do not get upset if some days they want to do other things.
That’s okay. Life is learning. There is no separation between the two.