by Jessica Frierson, June 2022
“You’re doing your school work right now,” I replied with a laugh.
“No, Mom, I mean our REAL school work!” she answered back before filling in the rest of the chart she was making to show the difference in germination times for the various seeds she had planted that day.
Score another point for homeschooling! That moment was one of many that I consider homeschool victory moments. My children were having so much fun learning that they didn’t even realize that was what they were doing.
We put our schoolbooks away for several weeks each spring and learn in other ways. We often take a family trip to a new destination. We get a head start on our garden by sowing seeds indoors. Summer projects get planned. New crafts or hobbies are explored. But most of all, as the world awakens from its winter nap, we spend every moment we can watching the new life spring forth.
All of these activities encompass a host of learning opportunities. Wherever our travels may take us, I research the area as well as the route to get there ahead of time. I look for historical points of interest, museums, and unique landmarks that we can include in our visit. We look at maps to see what new places we will travel through. My children each keep a running list of the states where they’ve been. As they add a new state, they look up some facts about it, including its capital, neighboring states, chief resources, and events of key historical significance that have occurred there. We have even driven an hour out of our way simply to give them a new state to add to their list!
Planning home improvement (or self improvement) projects hones important life skills, involves higher level thinking skills, and helps a child see that they have a role to play in family life. Learning to coordinate projects with other events on the calendar and working within the family budget helps young people learn to prioritize, distinguish between needs and wants, and make decisions that are for the best interest of all. We may WANT to pressure wash the fence, paint the front porch, build a treehouse, and put in a backyard pond, but time and money may only let us choose a couple of these projects to complete this year. Including the children in the decision-making process for this has many benefits, not the least of which is preparing them to be wise and conscientious adults one day.
Enough could not be said about all of the ways a garden enhances a child’s education. Even a young child can start some seeds in a homemade greenhouse made from recycled produce containers and be enthralled with seeing the cloud formation that takes place inside it each day when the sun’s rays shine on it. The excitement on their faces when they discover the first tips of green poking through the soil is all the reward I need to know the value of gardening for a child. And then there’s all the math and science they can do—without even realizing that they are doing math and science, as my daughter demonstrated. Pollination, germination, soil ph, evaporation, condensation, seed preservation, bed preparation, the needs of each plant for soil drainage, direct or indirect sunlight, pruning…the list is virtually endless of all the hands-on learning they get as they plan, plant, tend, and (hopefully) harvest their fruits, flowers, herbs, and vegetables.
The transition from spring to summer is a season of new life and growth. The world around us is full of the business of creating. This often has the effect of inspiring us to create as well. Whether we use watercolor paints, oil pastels, or a basket of broken crayons to capture them, we find a plethora of ready models beckoning to us outdoors. The birds returning to last year’s nesting place under our eaves, bees buzzing around the blossoming apple tree, squirrels scampering up and down the oak tree, and drifting pillows of clouds floating across the azure sky summon us to join them in the celebration of life.
The spirit of industriousness is contagious, and we soon find ourselves trying a new recipe or searching for the perfect crochet pattern. My sunroom table is quickly covered with paper clay castings of animal prints discovered in the woods, special rocks, a butterfly wing, and many other wonders of nature that are the newest treasures brought to me. One child wants to know how the bees will help bring about a harvest of apples. Another is looking through a field guide to identify a new kind of bird she spotted on the fencepost. She uses an app on my phone to listen to bird calls to confirm that she has properly pinpointed it. Oh, the learning that is taking place is so great, and yet not what is typically considered “school.”
Spring is rapidly disappearing in our rearview mirror now. As the hot summer days arrive, our textbooks and workbooks will make a reappearance on the dining room table. We will time our outdoor activities for the cool of the day and read our way through the heat. We will take a lighter load through the summer months, balanced with lots of board games, puzzles, and some fun indoor projects. The dolls have been promised a new wardrobe so our sewing skills will be put to the test. Watching a series of baking shows has generated a list of tasty culinary experiments to eat our way through. The nature of homeschooling allows us to gift our children a love for learning about the world around us and an insatiable desire to add something beautiful and useful to that world.
I anticipate many more homeschool victory moments ahead, whether we are in a season of book learning or have shelved the books for a while. “School never really stops, does it?” my daughter so aptly determined after I explained to her that we had been doing school for the past few weeks even as we traveled, painted, hiked, and planted. My wish for her is that it never does. That would be the ultimate homeschool victory for me.
Jessica Frierson is a homeschool graduate and has been homeschooling her ten children since 2000. She serves as the secretary for NCHE, writes for GREENHOUSE, and is the lead blogger for the NCHE blog.