A New Way To Learn . . . For All Of Us
By Joe Darak
While my wife is busy with college classes and homeschooling our three young children, I thought that I’d cover this “Adventures in Parenting” for her.
I guess homeschooling is the biggest new adventure to come about lately, so I’ll talk about that.
My wife came to me for advice before the school year started about whether to switch to homeschooling. Of course, since she would be doing the teaching, I said I would support whatever decision she made. I did suggest that she ask all three children which they preferred. All three wanted to leave the public school system and try homeschooling.
Our youngest daughter, a veteran of preschool, said that her previous school gave her “crazy brains.” Our oldest daughter said that she didn’t learn fast enough in school. Our son agreed with his sisters. The decision was made to homeschool.
Actually, it’s a combination of unschooling and homeschooling. Unschooling is when you let children explore what interests them, when it interests them. An example of this was when our oldest daughter, now eight, asked, out of curiosity, how the eyeball worked. My wife asked her how she thought it worked. Our daughter answered and startled us with a lot of accurate information. My wife then suggested they both draw eyeball parts and she filled in the details about cones and rods for her and explained everything. It was a great child-instigated learning experience.
Field trips are also a big part of homeschooling. Besides the big adventures to Albuquerque to the Natural History Museum, Botanical Gardens, Rio Grande Zoo and the Aquarium, my wife has taken the children to the Courthouse (for a day-long lesson on the justice system and the government), the Children’s Library (with discussions on everything from the murals that decorate the outside to the Dewey Decimal System), and the La Montañita food co-op (and explanations of organic farming, mass marketing, accounting and employee relations). Lessons are everywhere, and the children are fascinated by it all.
Of course, there is the sit-down time of homeschooling each day at separate times for each of the three children. My wife uses a whiteboard and hundreds of index cards as well as workbooks and worksheets. She found lots of great curriculum for homeschooling on the Internet.
Five weeks into the school year, the kids love homeschooling and don’t miss school. They’re learning almost twice as much in less than half the time “regular” school takes. I used to ask them every day what they learned in school and, usually, the answer was “nothing” or, in the boy’s case, “Did I go to school today?” Now, they excitedly volunteer the many things they learn every day.
I knew it would work out with my wife as the teacher. She’s the smart one in this marriage. Did I mention that she and the children took up gardening as part of this learning approach? The kids learn a lot about horticulture and Daddy gets to eat the food. I also get to take care of recess. I take the kids on nature hikes, to the playground and play games with them that they and I often make up. Dice games are a big hit (and math bonanza). All three children mysteriously have gotten into playing chess. Our son, five, is especially hooked on it. Soon, he will be beating me at this thinking game.
Well, it was another big decision in our lives, another adventure in parenting.
We learn with the children as we go, and they teach us as much as we teach them.
Now, if I could only figure out how to teach our youngest daughter, 4, from asking for a new doll every day . . .