The fact that yesterday’s and today’s posts are both about homeschooling is actually by coincidence, but I think it works out really well. Yesterday I talked about what you might need to do to get started homeschooling, and today I’m going to share one of the things I love most about homeschooling: homeschooling through real-life experience. Today’s post was inspired by the kitchen cabinet project, and all of the things I saw the kids learn through my project.
My biggest reason for disliking school as a child was that I wanted to be like a grown up (specifically: like my mom), and school didn’t teach me that. I had some really good teachers and some just okay teachers, and yes, there were a few that really weren’t very good at all. I do appreciate what I learned there, but to be honest, the way I ALWAYS learned best was through real-life experience. I learned more from my time with my parents then I did from sitting behind desks all day. I learned more from being an adult than I ever did in school. To me, that’s what the draw of homeschooling is. Sure, we have other reasons for homeschooling, but that’s what initially piqued my interest.
And real-life experience has always, always, always been the best teacher for my children. They’re slowly learning all kinds of skills that they will need when they are no longer at home, and they are learning the “basics” through the things that we do every day. Not all too long ago, we had a really great learning experience here, and it happened while I was working on another one of my projects.
If you recall, when I wrote about the sink project, I mentioned that it was an awesome learning experience. There were multiple reasons for this, but the one that stood out to me the most was a random math lesson the kids got in one of those days…of their own accord.
As I was beginning to build the new cabinet for the kitchen sink, I was running in and out of the house, tape measure in hand, making cuts of 2×4’s and plywood. The kids were in the classroom, not far from where I was working, and I guess they were curious as to what I was doing. Nobody said anything, they just watched. One of the times I was out in the garage, they went and got their rulers out, and when I came back in the house, they were attempting to measure the cabinet and were shouting out their measurements to one another. Granted their measurements were something like “One ruler, plus half a ruler!”…the point is that they suddenly understood what a ruler was for, and had a basic concept of how to use one.
I’m not going to claim that they had no previous knowledge of what a ruler was used for or even how it was used, but this was different. They “got” it. They spent the rest of the day measuring doors and windows, furniture and each other. I didn’t really bother to explain measurements to them at the time because they were happy and busy, and I was busy as well. But later when we were sitting on the couch, reading a story together and Peanut was measuring the couch, we had a moment that was right for explaining a little more.
He asked “Mom, how many inches is 5 rulers plus a half of a ruler?” So we stopped and got a brief math lesson. “Well,” I said, ” one ruler is 12 inches, so you could add or multiply to figure out how many 5 rulers is. 12+12+12+12+12+12=60, and 5×12=60…either way, your answer is that 5 rulers equal 60 inches. But you have to add on another half of a ruler. Can you tell me how many inches are in a half a ruler?” He looks at the ruler and then at me and says “6?” To which I responded, “Yes. So what’s 60+6?” Adding to a zero number is easy, so he quickly answered “66!” and then proudly proclaimed “The couch is 66″ long!”
They also got in some painting experience and building experience. The boys helped Scott work on the plumbing, and they asked A LOT of questions about how the drains work, about why the cabinet needed to be built so sturdy (such a heavy sink), just to name a few of the other things they did while this was all happening.
I will admit that we don’t do all of our learning just through life experience, but it’s my favorite way for the kids to learn. We often have those random experiences that teach the kids something. When I was working on designing something for a project I am slowly working on, Pumpkin sat by my side watching intently. I was making a grid for my drawing, something I needed precision for in that particular design, and he could not figure out what I was doing. I had my ruler lined up against one edge of the paper, marking every 1/4″, and then turned it to it’s perpendicular edge and marked that as well. He kept going “Huh?” but never specifically asked me what I was doing. Eventually I had all of my lines drawn for the grid, and I started filling it in. Suddenly he said “Aahhhh! I get it!” And then he copied me, only using 1/2″ increments instead, and he came up with his own design. But in that little aha moment, he figured out a bunch of reasons a grid could be used.
Another “place” they get great life experience is when we have to go grocery shopping. Sometimes I let them take charge of the grocery list, occasionally I have them keep a count of how much we are spending (something I plan to do more of in the next year since Pumpkin is more capable). Sometimes it’s as simple as “take 3 boxes off of the shelf and put them in the grocery cart.” Other times it comes in the form of “social studies.” “Why does that girl have green hair?” “How come some people have brown skin?” “Why do the grandma’s always say hi to us?”
We had an experience recently when going to the grocery store that was a different kind all together. I’ll call this “health class.” I’ll try to keep the story short…Just as we were pulling into the parking lot at the store, I noticed a man lying down on the sidewalk, and quickly realized he had fallen and that there was a couple who was doing what they could to help him. The wife was running into the store for help, and the husband standing nearby. I went over immediately to see what I could do to help, telling the kids to stay put. I’m not a medic, so my experience is not great, but my kids have hit their heads often enough that I know what things to do and not to do, and what to look for.
The couple and I stayed with him until the paramedics came, and one of the store staff and a manager came out to make sure everything was alright. I spoke with the man’s wife on the phone to let her know her husband had been injured, and the manager later spoke to his wife again and was going to bring her up to the hospital after her shift to go see her husband. It was an eventful shopping trip to say the least, and I cannot even tell you how much the kids learned. There were so many questions asked and answered. Why did the man fall? What was his name? Why did the ambulance come? Why did the police come? Was he okay? He was bleeding a lot, was I sure he was okay? What was going to happen to him? Why was I on the phone? Who was his wife? Where do they live? Where were they taking him? Should we pray for them??? And then we had a talk about why it’s important to help others in whatever way we can, and what they should do if they ever witness an emergency and they are the ones who need to get help.
You know, those emergencies are rare, but it was a “good” thing for them to experience, because it was real, and they saw how keeping calm is important. But the reality is that most of our learning is in the form of the kids helping us work or watching us work. They see us pursue our passions, and learn about them as we go, even if they aren’t particularly interested in doing it themselves. My kids see that even though Mom does most of the cooking, Dad actually loves to cook when he has the time, and that even though Daddy is bigger and stronger than Mommy, Mommy is not afraid to use the power tools and build big things. They watch us sit and scratch our heads as we encounter problems, and the see us come up with a solution either by trying new things, asking for help, or looking it up. They see that sometimes life is frustrating, but that there’s always an answer somewhere, and I really can’t think of a better way to be teaching them than through that.
If you have ever considered homeschooling your children, I encourage you to look into what is required of you in the state you live it. It is FAR from always being easy, it is most definitely not always fun, and yes, there are days when I question myself my sanity…but it’s moments like the ones I wrote about that are why I keep going. And if you don’t homeschool your children, please don’t think I’m judging you…you’ve got to do what works for you.
Let me know if you have any questions or comments!