Putting the experience back in her education.
February 28, 2011

As soon as Donald and I made the decision to home-school Charlotte, something enormous changed in our family dynamic.  When we chose our path, one of us said “so we’re really going to do this?” and the other one said “yeah, we’re really going to do this” and that was sort of the end of it.

Last time we said those words, we wound up with a baby.  So they have a pretty good track record for us.

That conversation had been a long time coming and we had spent well over a year discussing every imaginable face of the topic, so it sort of surprised me that anything changed at all.  But it did.  When you have not yet chosen how to educate your child, you sort of have this underlying assumption that you can always just send the pint-sized pooping machine to terrorize underpaid college graduates at the school down the street.  It just seems natural.  You pay taxes and in return, the government lets your spawn torture idealistic youth.  Hello, free babysitting service!  THE GOVERNMENT IS FREAKING GENIUS!

Just kidding, teachers.  You people have the patience of saints, though.  I’m just saying.  If I had to put up with thirty kids, I’d be in a foul mood.  But if I had to put up with thirty kids, sixty parents, and a government hell-bent on making my life hard…well…I’d be writing this blog on the walls of a prison cell.

At any rate, as soon as we became the people responsible for making sure our kid knows what a derivative is, we began to view education entirely differently.  We started reading long-ass books about educational theories, plugging into active local home-education communities, and asking every child development guru we know for curriculum ideas and advice.

And then we just started teaching.

We stopped saying “well, she’ll learn that in kindergarten” and we started saying “can we do this at home right now?”  Surprisingly, the answer was often a resounding yes.  We sure can bring some terrariums full of insects into the house to show her their life cycles.  We sure can lay out paper on the driveway and spend the afternoon up to our elbows in paint.  We sure can tour the aquarium after-hours.  We sure can.

Donald and I have always done our best to put Charlotte’s needs first, but before we decided to take her education into our own hands, we sort of lived our lives with a baby in tow.  Once we made up our minds to educate her ourselves, we started living our lives as though the world is a classroom and every experience a part of education.  We started living our lives by putting Charlotte’s interactions with her world first.  And she began living her life with her parents in tow.

Yesterday, Charlotte and I laid in the field and learned about ladybug beetles.  I showed her the aphids on the blades of grass and taught her how to pick a ladybug up, how to spread your fingers so that it can crawl along them, how to encourage it to fly away.  I showed her two ladybugs mating.  Afterwards, we came inside and made ladybug and aphid art with potato prints.  We went to the library and checked out books about ladybugs.  Then we spent the afternoon pretending to be a ladybug (me) and an aphid (her) - and mostly the ladybug chased the aphid around the yard, but there was a little monster aphid action thrown in there too.

This morning, she saw our drying potato print art and got super excited.  She spread out her hands, twisting them back and forth the way she had when she was holding a ladybug the day before.  LAY-BUH, she said, making the sign for “where”.  I took her into the field.  She saw the aphids first.  AY-FUH, she exclaimed.  Then she saw a ladybug.  LAY-BUH, AY-FUH, LAY-BUH, AY-FUH, she screamed as she pointed back and forth.  Then she signed for “ladybug” and “to eat” and pointed at the aphids again.  (I don’t know the sign for “aphid” yet.)

It is remarkable to me even now, but when I made the effort to let my toddler soak up the world at her own pace?  There really was a difference.


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  1. By Jill on February 28, 2011

    Good for you, Sarah!  As a pregnant teacher, I spend every day hoping my husband will eventually agree that I should stay home and school our kids through kindergarten at least… Public school provides an important service, but there is NOTHING like watching a child who means so much to you learn and grow… Congrats on your decision and the fun you are having!

  2. By Momiss on February 28, 2011

    So happy to hear it and I think you made the best decision.  You will never regret it.

  3. By Alicia S. on February 28, 2011

    We’re hoping to get Matthew into the local charter school later on, but for now while I’m home with him I’ve decided to kind of home PRE school him. I thought I’d just be touching on the basics like counting and letter recognition, but without even trying, our lessons every week escalate so far beyond that. Since we’re not planning on home schooling him beyond the preschool years, I didn’t think it would be necessary to keep it very structured. I’ve decided to do it by keeping an eye out for things he discovers or takes interest in on his own - and then every week build a lesson around what I call our “inspired lesson.” (Each Monday I blog about our inspired lesson and the activities we‘ve done to reinforce it.) We rarely go anywhere without having a related learning opportunity present itself. It’s amazing the things that he’s capable of retaining—I’d never have known without this experience!

  4. By Brigid Keely on February 28, 2011

    If you haven’t seen it already, you might enjoy this blog: http://www.electricboogaloo.net/wordpress/ it’s a rambly blog by an artist (nerdy baby!) who is homeschooling her two kids. She talks about their curriculum and what they’re doing sometimes, and it’s totally awesome.

  5. By kbreints on February 28, 2011

    Great post! I love, ‘And she began living her life with her parents in tow.‘

    Awesome.

  6. By janeen on February 28, 2011

    found your blog from top baby blogs :)
    this post is awesome and inspiring… i also plan to home school my daughter and it’s good to get this perspective on it…

  7. By on February 28, 2011

    That’s so great! Children are always ready to learn, no matter what their age.

    I’m an education major (I can start teaching in just 18 months), but I constantly think: “Would I like to homeschool my future children?“. And I really do believe I would. My sister homeschooled and I could tell from the first time that I watched her teach my nephew that it wasn’t for them. And I told her that and, after staying home for kindergarten, he is enrolled in a private school for first grade. I am hesitant in talking about homeschool right now because I feel it might be weird bringing it up after I talked to her about how it wasn’t a fit for their family. But I do feel it will be a great fit for my (one day) family.

  8. By on February 28, 2011

    Your 30 kids, 60 parents and the government statement made me giggle. 
    I teach high school.  I’d revise that statement to say 36 kids in 34 desks, 4 parents who won’t leave you alone, 10 parents who only show up at conferences, 3 parents who threaten you when their kids screws up, 20 parents who haven’t seen their kids in at least ten years, and a government who is hell-bent on making my life difficult. 
    But at least I give a rat’s ass about your kids, so public school could be worse.  I mean, I am totally awesome.

  9. By on February 28, 2011

    Very inspiring!  My daughter is 3, my son 2 and although I don’t plan on homeschooling I love teaching my kids anything and everything!  It always amazes me how quickly they learn.

  10. By on February 28, 2011

    If I could teach grade 5 outside and create my own curriculum, I would be a happy happy woman :)

  11. By on February 28, 2011

    Wonderful. What a grand decision you two have made. Charlotte will be all the better for it. :-)

  12. By Jule on March 01, 2011

    I think thats the best you can do and its for sure the right decision.

  13. By on March 01, 2011

    I don’t know what educational theory you will use, but you should check out the Waldorf Education. My mom started a Waldorf School in Birmingham, AL when we were children. The motto is using “hands, hearts, and minds” in all the lessons. The curriculum is based on the child’s developmental stage and is individualized for the specific children. Anyway, it might be something you’d like to use some of for Charlotte’s education.

  14. By on March 01, 2011

    I was curious ...  Are the ladybugs in your area a native species?  Sadly, where we live, the “ladybugs” are almost all European lady beetles, an invasive species.  Charlotte’s probably a bit young for this concept, but I think it’s important for kids to learn about native flora and fauna since these species are often more under pressure and sometimes at risk of extinction due to the presence of invasive species on their environments. 

    (This is one of the reasons that, sadly, I LOATHE the story “Miss Rumphius”.  It would be an absolutely wonderful story if it didn’t encourage spreading invasive plants everywhere as somehow a good thing to do.  If it weren’t for that, I would really love this book.) 

    Of course, non-native species can still teach children important lessons, including the lesson about the life cycle that you are working on.  Non-native species can have their place in backyards, etc, but we need to take care that in introducing them, we aren’t threatening the native ones.  Good work with Charlotte’s education!

  15. By Sarah Christensen on March 01, 2011

    Ellie - I have no idea!  We love to teach Charlotte about native plants, and we’re hoping to integrate mostly native edibles into our homestead, but I don’t honestly know very much about either native flora or fauna in our area.  Our field is about a half-acre of just random flora - and it gets overrun by aphids and ladybugs every year.  It never even occurred to me to find out whether or not it’s native.

  16. By on March 02, 2011

    Check out the California Native Plant Society!
    http://www.cnps.org/

    California has a great community of people interested in protecting and promoting native species.  I used to live in California, and I was always impressed by the naturalists I was constantly meeting in everyday places!

    Anyway, don’t get me wrong, I still like ladybugs!  It’s just that I like them ever so little less knowing they don’t belong.  Charlotte is going to have such a great time with her experiential education!

  17. By Rocus on April 18, 2011

    “The world is a classroom and every experience a part of education.“ This is so true! Growing up with nature is one of the most important things i think. If you look at some schools there is too often no respect for nature or also for other people. I think it´s a gift if you are able to teach a child as lot as possible by yourself. Just going out to nature - there is so much to learn and discover for the small ones.


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