A bug I found in the yard reminded me of our homeschool journey. Learning by living, or unschooling, is what we have always done naturally. Embracing it and walking away from traditional school was the best choice we could have made.
This was written six months ago. Life changes a lot and very quickly.
This sweet bug! I found him strolling across the porch this morning, just as I was coming out to water my plants. I ran inside to get a jar and picked him up, running around the house showing it to my son as he was on his lunch break from work, and my husband, even though he was not on a break. My younger son was still sleeping so I decided to make a video to show him later. Never. Ever. Wake up a teenager to see a bug.
He was only about an inch and a half long, so put him down on the ground and plopped my camera alongside him so that I could get a good shot of all those legs moving along the sand. He looked like a monster from a Godzilla movie until my cat walked into the frame and sniffed it!
I knew he was a millipede and not one those nasty centipedes I have found in the yard before. I wasn’t sure if he would bite, so I Googled him and found that he didn’t. I posted my video of him to Facebook so my friends could share in my discovery.
When my younger son got up, I showed him the video and we decided he looked like a long pill bug! If my kids were younger, they would have wanted to keep him a while. They’d have gone out to the laundry room and dug out the terrarium they had saved, put some yard sand in it and a few twigs and leaves, and deposited Mr. Millipede so that they could watch him over the next few days.
They’d look up what they eat and how they get water. Would it need shelter? A rock to hide under or a few leaves to eat? They’d take pictures of him, talk to him, draw cartoons of him growing into a monster and taking over a city, and then get bored of him and set him free in the yard again.
I would have written down “natural science, bug collection and species classification” in the log I kept for education. That’s how we homeschooled their whole lives. Everything is interesting. Every day an adventure. Sadly, those days are gone. They’re grown! (insert mom sniffle here)
We homeschooled the boys through the private school option out here in California. At first, I tried to imitate the public school model that I grew up in. I had paid $500 for a pre-packaged curriculum for the year and a lesson plan all set up.
I quickly fell behind the planned schedule with a preschooler and a kindergartener. I just couldn’t see taking time out to learn about something from the prescribed book when we were already spending the day at the zoo or the science museum. I couldn’t figure out how to get them to sit and write letters on paper when they were busy climbing at the park or digging holes in the back yard. So many more interesting things were happening every day, that I couldn’t bring myself to follow the curriculum. I gave up using them after the first month of our first year of homeschooling. They were learning so much already.
At the same time I was stressing myself out over how we were going to afford curriculum for both the boys and stick to it, I went to a local homeschool conference and learned about unschooling. What they described was what we had been doing since they were born, what had worked to get them to the level they were at already, and what we were trying to throw aside to make room for a pre-packaged state-approved curriculum. My worldview changed drastically that day. I was not alone.
From then on, I kept a log of what we did every day. We focused on experiences and following their interests. There were no tests. There were no grades. I spent the week finding fun things to do around our area. We went to parks, museums, libraries, and zoos. We watched tv shows. We read books. We drew pictures and played. We ate when we were hungry, and we napped when we were tired. Somewhere among all that they grew up and started looking outside of what I could give them and eventually started doing things for themselves.
It’s been fascinating the last few years, watching them move out into the world, start college, get jobs, and make friends. They come home each day and have so much to share with me, so much to teach me about the world as it is now instead of how I remember it.
I’m starting to see less and less of them every day and that’s ok. There were days when they were little that I would have sworn that the needs would never end, that they would never make a sandwich on their own or ever be able to help with housework, but here we are.
My sons are rapidly becoming self-sufficient and it brings me a lot of pride to see my life’s work take off before my eyes. Soon, they’ll be completely on their own and I’ll see them and eventually their own families on holidays and birthdays.
And the amazing part? Never at any point did I need to force them to learn anything. There was no lesson plan for our life. No sitting down to learn reading, writing, and arithmetic. No chores and consequences for not doing them. No making them eat things they didn’t like or going places they didn’t want to. We just lived together as peacefully as growing people can.