Somewhere along the line it occured to me that all education happens, not at school, but at home. As parents I think most of us start out with a great feeling and hope for education and for supporting our children who will of course be brilliant students, artists or sports people even if we’re not, even, close.
So we have these great intentions plus some ability, or very little, but the desire and the intention at least to guide and support our children in reaching their full potential. The thing is I don’t think we ever really know how intensely we homeschool them without thought or intent and yet it goes on, without our conscious involvement. So I asked myself,what my homeschool looked/looks like? The one I came from and the one I now run.
I don’t think my parents thought much about education and they certainly weren’t starry eyed about prospects. They were one generation removed from the one where survival was king, I think their parents hoped all the children would live and I think they thought we’d finish school and then get a job, but they were avid readers, still are.
When they were children, my mother tells me, they were mad for reading but the only books anywhere were school books. Before my Dad went to England as a teenager he’d only seen school books and the occasional penny western so imagine how he felt when the first book he read in England was Steinbeck’s, Of Mice and Men, it changed his life he said.
“In every bit of honest writing in the world, there is a base theme. Try to understand men, if you understand each other you will be kind to each other. KNOWING A MAN WELL NEVER LEADS TO HATE and nearly always leads to love. There are shorter means, many of them. There is writing promoting social change, writing punishing injustice, writing in celebration of heroism, but always that base theme. TRY TO UNDERSTAND EACH OTHER!”
― John Steinbeck, Of Mice and Men
Another big influence in our education was that my mother came from a long line of storytellers. Her father used to claim he wouldn’t be interested in works of fiction but also that he’d read Jack London’s ‘Call of the Wild’ I think it was, and found it so good he never needed to read another book.
It’s more likely there was nothing else to read but their’s was a house that was full of neighbours on long winter nights for his stories and like all children she was listening and learning as her father must have done when he was a boy.
Her homeschool was rich in resources of love and history, poetry and storytelling that reached through the generations and is still felt in our home today. My parents then, without any plan, expanded our curriculum to something like this…
- Storytelling and Poetry
- Politics and society, culture, social justice
- The natural world – awareness, understanding, respect and admiration
- A sense of people and places
- Discussion, debate, questioning, analysis
- Freedom of expression
- Musicality, Dance
- A dash of unconventionality
- A craftiness, good at making things, artistic.
This was our homeschool. What I find fascinating is what happens at the intersection of what is given us, how we learn it, how we pass it on or change it, plus personal strengths and abilities, where these things collide, and if the personal abilities themselves came from nature or nurture or both?
These ‘subjects’ were woven in everyday life for us and we excelled more in what related to these both at school and in life, crucially I think, they’ve remained life-long subjects, not thrown out with the school bag after leaving cert.
I’ve seen that with my eldest, the subjects she enjoyed most and would still enjoy now were the ones cultivated at home, like history for example. Everyone in our family loves history and would discuss it pretty regularly, it’s an interest bordering on passion for some while more of us enjoy poetry, literature and so on.
I feel the unconscious, the natural is key, that it has to be organic, not forced, but when nature meets passion and flair, magic happens. That part is more mysterious, harder to pin down.
I imagine this is where the best or perhaps the luckiest child prodigies come from, not from being forced into something by over zealous parents trying to live their own dreams through their children, but where those natural, organic ingredients come together in passion and work of course! We have to add work for a prodigy level.
For the rest of us I think it’s where the most natural, musicians, to take one example, may come from. I’m fascinated, again, always fascinated, by the idea of growing up in a house of…music or art or writing and the difference these things being natural makes to people, whether they know it or not. But I think its wonderful to grow up like this, to have even some things gifted to you in this way because I think it makes for a better life.
Without the environment, the home education, you have to take up the mantel yourself. You have to fight, the world, even yourself.
That’s if your’re lucky enough to even know what it is your’re fighting for, to have that self awareness. But it can be done, the homeschool should never end. I’m adding to my own list everyday.
Of course if your interest is something like sport you’d be lost in a house like ours. The new interest is always going to have to work harder without the environment to support it.
Now I’m passing my parents ‘curriculum’ on to my girls with additions from Adrian and his homeschool. We are conscious but still doing it unconsciously, because that’s just the nature of it, you can’t sustain this level of education with no foundation, no love behind it. We have however expanded the list as befits our interests and each new generation, we’ve added…
- Growing and cooking food
- And I really, really want to add music, appreciation goes without saying but practice is different. None of us play an instrument and my eldest girl fought me every step of the way on that so we’ll see!!! If I can get it in we can perhaps keep it! I think that’s how it goes.
- An even greater touch of bohemianism, being unconventional is such a blessing : )
That’s what our children’s homeschool looks like, well some of it, because lets not even begin to think about all the dreadful things we teach them and things we don’t even know about, but of course that’s all part of the mix too.
I mentioned how we all want our children to be happy and reach their full potential when the sad fact is most people don’t. Something gets lost along the way. I don’t know what the answer is but I believe the world would be a very different place, a better place, if we were all supported in a more organic form of education and in reaching our potential.
I’ll tackle that another day. For now I think the important take away thing is that we have the power, that what we do matters. Not being a sergeant major about homework but more in what we talk about, what we are doing with our time, what we are passionate about.
What does/did your homeschool look like? I’d love to hear your thoughts in comments below. If you want to read about what I learned at school click HERE but I warn you, it’s not pretty!
Talk to you soon : )
If education is an interest you will enjoy this talk by creativity expert Ken Robinson on TED which is also referred to in my school post, Click Here
And here’s an interesting article from the Guardian on the state of formal education today Click HERE