Most children throughout history have been educated at home, learning from life experiences in their families and local communities. They learned how to grow and procure food, and, if the knowledge was available, how to read, write and figure sums. They learned local and family history and lore through storytelling.
Many people in the world have found themselves
again home educating, but with a great wealth of virtual resources at their
fingertips. Children are inherently curious and creative. Ever been around a
toddler who asks a million questions? What a little scientist in the making! We
can keep that curious spark alive in ourselves and our older children simply by
nurturing it. If you plant seeds with your children or bake together, they may
want to know how photosynthesis works, or how yeast makes bread rise. Reading
fiction books together may spark curiosity about ancient Egypt or astronomy or
historical fashion in the 18th century. Life is filled with opportunities to
learn. Curious about how your immune system works or why spicy foods make you
sweat? YouTube is great resource for covering any of these topics. We
particularly like CrashCourse and TED-Ed.
Learning does not have to feel like school. Learning can also feel like play. If a child loves to build forts, watch their engineering skills improve as they try new ways of building or testing out materials they haven’t used before. Sylvia (13) has been working on a structure near our house made from branches and woven grasses. She is building and weaving trellises for her own garden plot. She is growing medicinal herbs and foraging wild edible foods from the forest. She listens to audiobooks and podcasts almost constantly and loves to discuss plot devices and the choices authors make to create intriguing literary characters. She keeps a writing journal and an art journal. Ayla (9) and Sylvia enjoy playing Minecraft together as well as adventuring on our property. I see learning happening in each of these scenarios. Ayla loves animals and helps care for our cats, dog, geese, ducks, chicken and rabbits. We learn about animals all over the world and their natural habitats through documentaries. We read books aloud together, play educational games and video games, sing, dance, laugh and cry. We talk about the things that frighten us and about the things that uplift us. We gain emotional awareness as we manage high and low energy moments, and honestly, this type of life skill is an essential part of education!
Whether our children have been home from school due to social distancing or are life-long unschoolers, we have all found ourselves in similar boats. Non-essential businesses and social gatherings have been shut down. We haven’t been able to go to art classes or libraries or gather with other families for field trips. We are sheltering in one place, but that doesn’t mean that learning stops, or even slows down. It shows up in a different form. My oldest child, Cam (16), was unschooled (learning without curriculum) until high school and then chose a project-based local school with a focus on independent learning. During state-mandated school shutdowns, Cam has been keeping up with high school and early college courses online. It takes roughly an hour each evening. The rest of the time is spent working as an ‘essential worker’, learning Spanish or Japanese or sign language, playing with siblings, keeping up with friends online, and catching up on sleep (important for a teenager).
Life is not all about productivity and progress, especially in these uncertain times. Life is about presence, showing up in the moment, being proactive but flexible. Besides encouraging my children to follow their own interests, I also provide them with attention, supplies, and ideas for learning opportunities (I love a good science experiment or art prompt). I protect their health and their wellbeing. I allow space for their feelings and their messes, their creativity and their curiosity. We can do this.
Nikole Verde is a mama to three children. Along with her husband, they live on a small acreage in the middle of Wisconsin, with a dog, five cats, four chickens, and a goose named Jupiter. She shares photos and stories of their everyday lives on Instagram as @verde.mama.