Monday, June 8, 2009

Learning on our Days Off

It is the end of the traditional school year. Last week all the schools in our area, both public and Catholic, shut their doors for the summer and sent all the kids home for a few months of "freedom". My children, being home schooled, will not be blessed with this wonderful vacation from their education. In fact, we finished up our last school year last Friday and jumped right in, starting the new one, this morning, on the very next Monday.
Though they think I am mean, we are not taking the summer off. With a new baby due in August, I decided it was more practical for us to keep working until baby comes. We will put our school books aside, at that time, to settle in and adjust to having a baby in the house again. But even on our break we will continue to learn and experience new things. Which brings me to my a home schooling mother, I feel blessed that education is a part of our whole life. In so many ways, we never take time off! Now, that being said, we do have days without formal, book-work schooling, but I hope there is never a day we do not learn something worthwhile!
Learning in the midst of living our everyday lives is (among many, many, many other things) the beauty of home schooling. It is so wonderful to me how my children gain new knowledge all the time, and how, contrary to what they believe, they really truly enjoy so much of it. Though they do not always look forward to working in their math books, or taking their spelling tests, they absolutely love to explore the world and delve into all it has to offer.
I have tried to incorporate learning into our lives in a variety of ways. Some of our favorite, and easiest, ways of integrating discovery and instruction into ordinary life include reading together and experiencing the beauty and wonder of nature.
We read aloud together a lot. Everything from great literature to short stories to poetry to historical fiction to biographies. We all love reading and have probably learned much more from stories than from any workbook on our shelf! I have read them stories traditionally meant for children as well as some not necessarily intended for their age group. Just this pat school year alone, they have heard George Selden's A Cricket in Times Square and Franz Kafka's Metamorphosis. They understood and eagerly anticipated the next chapter of The Lord of the Flies by William Golding as well as Swiss Family Robinson by Johann David Wyss. They memorized The Road Less Traveled by Robert Frost and My Beard by Shel Silverstein with equal enthusiasm. They enjoyed the stories of Shakespeare's Othello, Romeo and Juliet, and A Midsummer's Night Dream. The world of books has opened the whole world up to them! And, if I was willing, they would listen to me read aloud to them for hours on end, everyday!
Science seems to be as fascinating as literature to my children. As we study each chapter in our science text book I take the children to the library and check out books related to the topic than bring them home and have them around in case anyone is interested in finding out more on the topic. I rarely use any of the books in a formal way and I hardly ever even mention them after bringing them home. Almost all of them are read, however. In fact, the kids like this extra reading so much that lately when we go to the library, we bring home non fiction books, on rocks, reptiles, fish, molds and slimes, etc...without my ever choosing a book off the shelf.
Our very favorite science lessons, though, are our weekly nature walks together. Again, there is nothing formal to this walk. We often do not even know where we are headed until we arrive at one park or nature trail or another. We do not bring along field guides or books of flora and fauna (though the children would love it if we did) but simply walk together through nature- talking, getting lost, or enjoying the silence and scenery. The older two children bring along their cameras and take pictures of the beautiful or unusual things we see along the way.
The world is a fascinating place and children are naturally curious and interested in finding out more about it. I feel so blessed to be able to witness most of my children's discoveries, as both their mother and their teacher. They have, in many instances, taught me a thing or two about this world we live in, as well. So, why would we want to take a break from learning? It is a magnificent way to strengthen our family by just being together and sharing our interests. And one of our greatest discoveries is that there is no better way to appreciate God's wonderful creation than to encounter it and experience it together.

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