Guest Post: Shaking up home education

The internet has a funny way of making with world smaller. It also has a way of opening doors to connect with people you would otherwise never meet. SisterLisa has become just such a friend. We are doing a bit of a blog cross pollination. Here’s her post.

It took me just over a year to shake the strict standardized style of education when I brought my kids home. Our homeschool days seemed so sterile, cold, rigid, and bland. I needed to draw out the adventure, intrigue, and exploratory imaginations of my children and the itemized memorization of facts wasn’t a success. How were we going to break out of the mold, how could I get the minds of my children off the conveyor belt of dictation, and how could I restore the youthful crusade for adventure they had before kindergarten?

I decided I would have to break the mold and halt all stagnant studying that was putting my kids into a slumber. I had to wake them up! Sometimes education can become so mundane that we get lulled into an almost hypnotic trance of numbness. We needed a spark, a jolt of excitement. I needed to go for the shock factor. So we put down the schedule and headed up to the hills to go for a hike.

What? No school today? Was this spur of the moment field trip mom’s fancy way of saying she hadn’t carefully scheduled out the lesson plans for the week? They were apprehensive about what I was doing, then again so was I. They sense that in us. They knew I was trying to fly by the seat of my pants that day and somehow it made them all a bit nervous, wondering what I was up to. I think we all had those inner butterflies and wondering if we would get in trouble for this. No classroom, no textbooks, no schedule. What was I thinking?

We packed up the water bottles and snacks, grabbed the sunblock and tied up our shoe laces. We were going to brave the outdoors as our classroom that day, we were facing what it meant to be organic homeschoolers. We needed to get out of the house and head out for some sunshine!

As we hiked up the small mountain before us, my son noticed an odd looking rock at the top and recognized it from a previous trail excursion with daddy. “Mom, look! It’s Monkey Face Mountain!” Such an odd name for a rock, but that’s just what it was, a rock formation that looked like a monkey face. It was my first opportunity that day to spontaneously teach some history about the city we live in. My oldest daughter joined the conversation as she shared about a report she once wrote about the woman who founded the city alongside her husband. General Bidwell and his wife Annie created a heritage for our town. This was the very park that she donated to the city in her will and we began discussing the importance of respecting the legacy she left us with and why it was important to her that we keep the park clean and as natural as possible.

Monkey Face by sisterlisa, on Pix-O-Sphere
{photo credit Sisterlisa at Pix-O-Sphere}

The conversation turned toward recycling and how the homeless helped to keep the park tidy as they collected any cans left by irresponsible hikers. When we finally reached the top, we could see the whole city beautifully garnished in green trees for as far as we could see. The history lesson continued on as I explained how Annie Bidwell and her husband imported trees from all over the world into the town and how our town has the nickname of The City of Trees. Then, right before my eyes and ears, I heard the most amazing thing as we sat on that mountain. Their imaginations began to flow again as they embarked on an imaginative adventure of day dreaming about walking trees and monkey mountain coming to life to join the adventure with us. The day of spontaneous learning had finally sparked and together we broke the mold of traditional learning.

We had so much fun that day and as we hiked down the mountain we planned to head straight to the library to find books about environmentalism, the history of our city, and social studies about how to be a community. My older two girls went straight for the library’s computer to look for books while I directed my younger two to the children’s section. We found an array of books on these topics for all their ages and turned the day into a vast unit study that the whole family could enjoy together. This was the kind of organic living that my heart desired for so long. This is what has helped to instill in my children a heart for this beautiful planet they live on. This was just the beginning of my daughter’s passion to speak up when rain forests are being destroyed unnecessarily.

Something new was birthed in my children that day, a charity of the heart for this home away from home. A new passion for living in the kingdom while still on earth, a passion to learn how to be a participating member of the Kingdom, a passion to be charitable, a reason to live and to learn how to bring the Kingdom to earth and how to care for the earth.

This was how we broke out of the box. It was a leap of faith to follow my heart, trusting in God to guide us that day, living in the spontaneous moment that only homeschooling could afford us. It is with much excitement that I share with you what gave us a new birth experience with our homeschooling.

1. Homeschool by faith: Lesson plans and schedules are great and needful, but spontaneous learning can happen anywhere.
2. Fear not: Don’t be afraid to follow the guidance of your heavenly Father in your homeschool.
3. Listen to your heart: He gives us the desires of our hearts and it is safe to listen within. The Spirit will teach you all things and bring to remembrance the things He has taught you.
4. Use your imagination: If we want our children to tap into imaginative learning, we must do so by example.
5. Be willing to use a variety of books: It’s ok to grab an elementary age book with beautiful illustrations to break open the imagination of your older children. Allow the whole family to participate in the learning adventure with many resources on the subjects you’re introducing to them.

Do you have any additional thoughts to spark the imaginations in homeschooled children?

Sisterlisa blogs at The HomeSpun Life and is a Contributing Team Member at The Homeschool Post. Other articles that might spark some imagination for your homeschool:
Homeschool Fun with Google Maps
God’s Curriculum
Eliminiate Distractions

Comments

  1. Learning can occur any time, any place, any where!

    I’m so happy to hear your story of spontaneous, authentic learning.

    As a public school educator, I constantly challenge myself and my teachers to focus on learning. Education should be more about LEARNING and less about TEACHING styles, etc.

    My question for you though, is HOW do you know your children/students learned what you believe they learned? Do you have any instrument, or method, to gauge their mastery?

    (True, I may be asking those questions from the lens of a traditional educator…but aside from traditional teaching/learning, there must be a measurement to determine student learning, no?)

    Keep up the outstanding work. So glad to have found your blog!

  2. Thank you, James. Excellent question! When Daddy gets home and asks what they learned and without any prompting from me, they keep daddy’s full attention as they share everything they learned. There will always be certain subjects that require more method style teaching and testing, but the subjects we covered that day do not. It wasn’t memorizing historical facts that day, history became alive to them and it was woven into their lives. It was the experience they will remember for a life time. I do not want to raise kids to be robots who quote facts I want to raise kids who embrace their education as a part of the fiber of their being. I aim to help weave their learning into their educational DNA, if you will. :) It becomes a part of their soul.

  3. Monica @ paperbridges says:

    Brilliant example of how learning can be child led. Well done, kids!

    James, as a college-educated adult, I feel there are few areas that I’ve mastered. I’m always learning and I hope I never stop. That’s what I want for children too. Learning for interest and pleasure, not so much as for checking a subject off a list. :)

  4. Very nice! I love when learning just HAPPENS. We tried the rote dictation methods too and they flopped badly with my left-brained (hair-brained?) kids. We fluctuate between structured and nonstructured learning, and I try to go with the flow of my kids’ interests too. Right now the boys are asking to make a potato battery (and a potato cannon, but Daddy already has one of those!) so I think we’ll be doing some experiments with electricity soon. :)

  5. I’m still trying to break out of the box in so many ways….yet, find my children enjoy learning…different ways every day. This past year, my son had to take a Stand. test. I was really concerned he would not do well (pride issue, here)…because that might mean I’m not teaching him well. I had to realize that some of the things covered in school…we are not covering. Example: We just finished two years of World History, while the public schools were on different topics. However, it was amazing to see his scored when they arrived. We found areas we need to work in…overall, his scores exceeded those in schools. I don’t think that is a direct relation to my teaching, yet does speak to his ability to learn. What I’m loving the most…is that my children are learning to learn…and learning to love learning. Some things..we memorize, others, we narrate…and some, we put into full on full body learning….
    I’m often amazed at the conversations we have around the table..someof the little things they pick up on…and when we do have to take a test…that the scores far exceed my expectations…because…as a homeschool Mom, I’m still trying to overcome the obstacles the world wants to put out there…and that make me think (some days) I have to be perfect…it’s the days I let my hair down..the days that learning is a joy…that make the most impact. On that…we’re off to a unit on The Slime Eel….excited about it..because we just finished learning about Blue Diamonds…do you know how the Hope arrived at the Smith. Inst….I do..and.am.amazed.it.made.it! Be blessed! (sorry for the ramble!)

  6. Rebecca, “my children are learning to learn…and learning to love learning.” That’s it right there! and when they LOVE to learn, they’ll make it a lifestyle to be learners for the rest of their lives.

  7. You can definitely see your expertise in the paintings you write. The arena hopes for more passionate writers such as you who are not afraid to say how they believe. Always go after your heart.

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