At least once a week when I am about town with the kids, my four-year-old daughter is asked if she is in school. Nope. So said stranger usually asks if she is in preschool. When I say no, then there is that awkward silent trail off to the formerly peppy conversation. Yep, I am homeschooling.
I never planned on homeschooling. Then again, I never planned on preschooling our children either. My husband had brief experiences with preschool, and I never went at all. We both had ample time to play with our siblings and neighborhood kids. We climbed trees and went to the beach. We helped at home and started to learn what to do with down time. On the flip side, I was terrified when I started kindergarten. I didn’t know what it was about and I wasn’t used to the structure of a classroom. But was I really at a disadvantage by not having an extra one or two years of school? I don’t think so.
Living in a cohousing community, our kids are regularly around 14 other children of varying ages. My daughter is one of the only young girls in the community. She has learned to assert herself, to come out of her shell, and to stand up for what she believes in. She has 30+ adults watching her back daily and understands that she is part of a community – in cohousing, in our neighborhood, and beyond. My son is warm, joyous, and playful. While he is very attached to our family, he is also learning to trust adults outside of that circle. I don’t imagine that kids get this sort of social exposure in preschools or daycare.
What about the kids’ education? Well, first and foremost, I rebuke the idea that my children need preparation for kindergarten so that they can excel in more standardized and assessment-based instruction in their early years of schooling. I hear stories about this and if I felt like their desire and ability to learn would be compromised by their school system then I wouldn’t think twice about homeschooling them K-12.
So my goal today is to build a structure to our days where we embrace learning together – fun, experiential, and hands on. And the first month has been going swimmingly. Basically, we choose a topic together (example, cows) and then plan a week of instruction and activities to learn more. The Internet is an amazing resource – especially the parents who are homeschooling their children and blogging about it. Online documentaries and youtube shorts take us into realms where field trips and library books don’t get us to. I aim to get the kids to one of two playtimes at a local neighborhood center; this center serves an incredible diversity of families (mainly of Vietnamese, East African, and Hispanic descent.) I find that an hour and a half of play with children who don’t look or talk exactly like them is enough to keep my kids curious and inquisitive selves open-minded.
I have selfish reasons for embarking on this path. I love my kids. I love the way my kids play together and the ways that they are learning to work through the challenges of sharing things and people. And being around them is the greatest instruction for me. It puts me in touch with my loving side, of course, but often connects me with moments where I am impatient, angry, and controlling and having to work through these difficult emotions.
I just learned that early registration is open for kindergarten in our area. I told my daughter and she has started to get excited, and also a little scared about being alone at school. I am so thankful that we can work together over the next 11 months to prepare her for the start of something new. For her, for her younger brother, and for her mom who is finding out ways to steal a little bit more quality time with her.