I don’t start formal schooling as long as the weather is warm. We like to garden and swim and go to the mountains and the park. Summer flees so fast—we want to enjoy every green, luscious moment outdoors! When “pencil weather” brings a nip in the air, then we pull out the books and everyone seems ready to put in some serious study.
But it’s summer still! Every morning, Louisa and I go out in the garden to see what developments have taken place since the day before. We harvest, and weed a bit, give approving words of encouragement to our developing garden, and size up the growing cucumbers and the baby eggplants, so purple and glossy! While we were picking green beans, Louisa told me she was interested in learning about the human body and when we got back inside, I directed her to the bookshelf where I keep my health and herb books. She shuffled through them and settled on a thick medical volume complete with pictures of skin conditions, and illnesses detailed by symptoms. I didn’t pay much attention as she engrossed herself for hours in satisfying her interest. Then she began to diagnose conditions in her own body, and in others. She read me some informative passages about what I could do for my own ailments. She was teaching me.
Once again, I learned the lesson that keeps me homeschooling:
Children (and adults) learn best when they have an interest and seek out information to satisfy their yearn to know.
This does not have to be in a formal classroom. In fact, that type of learning seldom fills their need fast enough or thoroughly enough. As homeschool moms, we would do much better to consider ourselves “facilitators” than “teachers”. To facilitate is to “facil” (Latin root for “to make easy, to smooth the way”). If we could think of our job title as “Way-Smoother”, then we would be eager to find the books, take the kids to the library, help them locate the right website, take them to museums, find experts for them to talk to, get the supplies for their projects—we’d be eager to smooth their way in their thirst for knowledge.
I would always rather learn with my child, than teach at him! For one thing, it is a more respectful relationship when both persons are trying to learn together than when one assumes he/she knows the most and feels the other person should just open up his mouth and swallow everything that is dished out. No matter how wise you are as a mom or a teacher, there is always more to learn. And hard questions that you can’t answer are to be rejoiced in—they open the way for deeper study and learning together!
As I listened to Louisa tell me about various conditions, trying to say their medical names, and showing me pictures of them, I realized that it would be utter foolishness to try to pull a Health Ed class on her right now. I would hinder her way, rather than smooth it. She has so much more natural interest at the moment than I could ever generate with a textbook and lessons. She’ll feast and feast at the learning table until she is satiated, and no test or worksheet could capture the great enthusiasm she currently has! You can’t keep kids from learning!
Homeschooled children need 1) time, 2) resources and 3) someone to help smooth the way, and make learning easier—a facilitator. Be a good one today!