A common statement I often hear among homeschoolers is that it’s not necessary to do hours and hours of seatwork with elementary kids, because so much of learning at that age is of an informal nature.
You don’t need to recreate the 5-6 hour school day at home because real learning happens in the unplanned hours.
They learn during the evening read aloud. And when they run around chasing each other in the backyard (PE). They learn when you take them to the park in the afternoon (nature study) or to a museum exhibit (history) on the weekend.
This is all true, absolutely!
But these informal learning experiences aren’t reserved for homeschoolers.
Children who go to brick and mortar schools have them, too.
I remember playing “Civil War” and making bandages from torn strips of muslin with my brother in the backyard. I remember biking all over the neighborhood.
I remember bisecting (yes, I did say bisecting, not dissecting…isn’t it interesting how one has a double “s” and one does not…if I were feeling so inclined, I’d do a quick study of word roots and find out why, but I digress, ahem) a worm in my neighbors backyard.
And learning that flour and water make a very sticky paste.
And that it’s hard, sweaty, heartbreaking work for a parent to have to dig a grave in the backyard for the family pet.
I ingested books. I wrote and daydreamed and created things from recycled stuff (although we didn’t recycle back then, then it was just trash).
I played dress up and invented a songwriting contest and made creatures from sea shells and tried to sell them through a roadside stand.
I learned to draw in a summer from Mark Kistler on the Secret City on PBS.
And I attended public school.
Sure, there are gaps in my store of knowledge (as there are in everyone’s---no one person can know everything), but I continually pursue personal knowledge on my own. There would be gaps in my knowledge regardless of how I was educated.
There is hope for every child who wants to learn. We might point at public school performance and standardized test results or shudder over Common Core (I don’t personally, but I know some do), but if, as homeschoolers, we don’t believe that those things truly measure the knowledge of our own kids, it stands to reason that they don’t truly measure the knowledge of public school kids either.
If our young ones only need a couple of hours as day of dedicated instruction, it’s equally true that most publicly schooled kids can probably get by with the same, and while you might possibly call lining up for class or waiting for your classmates to finish or put away their supplies a waste of time, these things don’t necessarily cause harm or lessen one’s educational experience.
In fact, they may be opportunities to learn empathy, patience, and being at peace in a distracting environment. And these are areas that all my homeschooled kids struggle with. Ahem.
And if it sounds like I’m trying to defend public schools---nope. I just grow weary of the “us vs. them” thing I see going on so much of the time.
Public schools are not evil. Period.
And parents who send their kids to public school want what’s best for them. They’ve simply chosen a different path.
There’s no one perfect way to educate your kids.
And something I have to continually remind myself---my kids have a vested interest in their own education. It’s not true that if I don’t teach them something, they won’t learn it. It’s also not true that if a child is not taught something by his teacher in public school that he won’t learn it.
Learning is a lifelong adventure. Let’s enjoy it, no matter how we pursue it.
But let’s also try to remember that what our kids learn is not limited to what we teach them or what they are taught in school.
True learning is bigger than schooling.
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