As our daughter Nixi began to approach school age, my husband and I figured we’d go the traditional route and enroll her in school. Until one day, as I sat with my 3 1/2 year-old in the office of her prospective preschool, I realized that it somehow felt all wrong. The principal came-across as cold and unfeeling, not the least bit warm in her interaction with my child. It alarmed me to rethink it all. That was the day we began our journey into homeschooling; casually, without even realizing it at first.
I remember the school calling me up on the phone, questioning me as-to-why I had not sent in my daughter’s enrollment papers. I quickly told the school administrator that I had decided to keep my daughter home for another year. I was not sending her to their school. She clearly did not approve of my decision, but…since it really wasn’t any of her business, I did not succumb to her prying. It all turned around for us that day, and I started ordering books on homeschooling and un-schooling. I was intrigued by it all: the idea of keeping our daughter home to learn in a non-traditional way. I felt passionate about helping my daughter develop a deeper love of learning than most kids are allowed to reach in public schools; though there are exceptions in every case scenario…I must admit.
Two years later, I can’t say it hasn’t been a challenge to do things differently this time around, but I can say…it has been quite an adventure! Being a late-in-life homeschooling mom is someplace I never thought I would be at this age. And…I must admit, homeschooling isn’t for everyone. Even I have my days when I wonder if we are doing the right thing…schooling our 5 year old in a non-traditional way. I worry she might be lonely at times…for other kids her age. I worry she might get really sick of my company; me being her constant companion, teacher, mother, friend.
Then I see her with other kids, with other people, and I realize she doesn’t have one ounce of trouble blending into any situation. She is a very outgoing child. She makes friends where ever we go. I watch her just being a kid, while many of the other ‘traditionally educated’ kids stand back and seem almost fearful of being free…being kids.
It’s times like this when I realize the freedom and room to grow…to learn, we are giving her by teaching her in such a relaxed environment. Because she has developed a love of learning (especially reading) on her own, I feel she will not tire of it as she grows older, and into more difficult curriculum. She will already have-come to associate learning with freedom and no stress; unlike kids in traditional learning situations.
As a child, I remember liking kindergarten–recess especially–and that’s about it. I found school terribly confining and boring, stressful and traumatic at other times. The constant need to fit-in and be accepted was a real drain from my creativity and concentration; my entire ability to learn. And even though I did finally get through school, I cannot look back on it all and say it was a good experience. In fact, it was the opposite.
The old saying “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink”, stays constant in my reminder-to-self when I do have my weak moments of doubt. I remember how, even though I sat in the classroom physically, I was not there mentally. So the teacher was teaching, but my thoughts were a million miles away…wishing I could be anywhere but there in school. This is something I never want my daughter to experience: that desperate need to escape, feeling like you are in a prison-of-sorts. In my memories of school, from K to 12, that’s exactly what I felt 99% of the time.
Not until college, when I went voluntarily, was I excited about learning. I cherished each and every moment I spent in my college classroom. I loved just being a part of the experience that was higher learning. I finished all my classes with flying colors, my first go-round in community college. Later in life, when I was already a mom of two, I enrolled again in college. Just like before, I loved being there. It was what learning was supposed to be, in my eyes. I blossomed in so many ways in my efforts towards my AA in English. Not only did I maintain a 4.0 GPA, but I also ended up serving two years in student government, and contributing to the campus literary magazine.
These memories of ‘learning on purpose’ and loving it, are what keep me trying new…fun ways of teaching my daughter. –Ways she does not even realize are lessons, because she has fun in her educational efforts. It is true, kids are like sponges when it comes to learning. Our little-one loves books, she loves reading, word games, numbers too. It’s all fun for her; not a chore, an assignment load she cannot bear at such a young age. I feel that kids are given too much burden when it comes to lessons and homework in the public school system. It takes the fun out of learning.
As for our preschooler-turned-kindergartener, we hope to keep learning fun for her all through her school-aged years. We choose to let her remain a child, without all the pressures of fitting-in and growing up too fast. In an age of too much seriousness, stress, and pressures for children to grow up too soon, I feel Blessed that we can be here to guide our daughter. I feel so-very fortunate that she can learn…for the love of learning. After-all, living a full…abundant life (in my opinion) involves remaining forever young and seeing each and every thing around us as a lesson to be learned. Learning is everywhere we go — the world is our playground. We just have to be allowed to embrace it with an open mind…and open arms.