I’m always amazed when some of the most dynamic, engaged moms I know balk when I tell them I’m doing a homeschool cooperative with my six year old daughter. “I could never do that,” they often say. “I couldn’t teach my own kid.”
Over the last year I’ve come to learn that this response comes from two sources: the first is an uninformed view of homeschooling (I promise my daughter is being socialized!). The second is a very narrow version of school and teaching.
When pressed, most of these moms say, “Well, of course we’re focusing on reading and of course we practice number sense and we do science experiments…when we have time.” Here’s the secret for you engaged parents out there: you’re homeschooling. My husband and I have discovered a beautiful, liberating thing through this schooling choice: when you see the world as a classroom, when you see everything you engage with on a regular basis as a learning experience, every day life presents you potential meaningful lessons.
Good parenting is homeschooling.
Now, I’m sure some homeschooling purists will be angry with me for saying this but I believe it to be true. Homeschooling is a mindset that each day I will make relevant connections for my child. It’s not about cramming in more stuff, more “experiences,” but rather making connections with things, and teaching them to ask questions. My goal each day is to ask my daughter to engage with something that interests her. Sometimes, this is just a conversation. Other times, we can create a project that covers math, science, language arts, and social studies. Most importantly, I let her know that each of her learning environments (her cooperative classroom, her gymnastics class, her music class) are opportunities to engage with her world and learn from it.
I know people feel like they don’t have time.
Time is a precious commodity. But this mindset can happen in really small ways. Say your son’s studying the desert in his second grade class, you could point out that “gee, we haven’t watered the lawn enough this week. See what happens in the desert because of low rainfall?” Making little connections tells him: what you’re studying in school is bigger than those classroom walls. It’s relevant to your world. When you’re at the grocery store and you encourage your daughter to buy the cereal that’s $2.49 instead of $3.49, you’re teaching less than/greater than language. That’s math, folks.
Homeschooling is seeing the world as your classroom.
I’ve been a college advisor for several years and I know what the colleges are looking for. They want kids who are curious, interested, engaged. They want thoughtful writers and students of math who make connections. I know it might not seem like this is true with the huge bulk of content thrown at students all the time, but it’s true. When I talk to college admissions people, they often sigh and say “I just want a kid who loves to learn.” It seems easy enough, but that “loving to learn” starts early and takes maintenance. It takes subscribing to a mindset that the world around us is lovable and learnable.