My older son, Miles, will be 6 this month. He is technically “in kindergarten” although we are not part of any structured academic school, curriculum, or “plan.” Like a few million other parents in the United States, we choose to homeschool our children. Miles nor his 3 year old brother, Fred, have ever been to preschool or daycare and we love homeschooling so far. We are part of a large, colorful, secular homeschooling community here in Los Angeles that offers classes for free, classes for fees, and a variety of social and field-trip activities that keep us rarely at “home” as we homeschool.
(There is also a terrific Jewish homeschooling community in Los Angeles that I teach higher level science classes for. They offer opportunities for religious families to satisfy both secular academic and religious academic goals in a homeschooling setting which is amazing!)
Our homeschool community holds its classes and weekly get togethers along the same academic calendar that conventional schools do, with spring break, winter break, and summer breaks falling at the expected times. During the summer, our field trips generally involve beaches, water parks, and other such outdoor activities. As a homeschooling family that tends to favor the unschooling approach to education (encouraging child-directed selections of learning and not generally subscribing to one particular academic philosophy and/or curriculum), our whole year kind of feels like summer in a good way, since we love the laid-back approach we can take to life by homeschooling.
Here’s what we did over the summer which we will continue with more regularity now that the school year is upon us:
1) Piano, Geography, and Hebrew (reading and writing) – I teach these to Miles.
2) Basic math, telling time – my husband teaches these.
3) Miles acquired a penpal this summer who lives in Florida and we have been learning about letter-writing: form, content, how to address envelopes, select the appropriate number of Star Wars LEGO stickers for envelopes, and the like.
4) Use every possible day as a potential to see how the world works, how society functions, and how people interact.
Here are some goals for this academic year:
1) Completing the Hebrew alphabet including vowels and final letters; achieving fluency in reading and writing.
2) Starting to teach basic davening; practical aspects and spiritual significance of Shabbat prayers and/or daily prayers (to be determined by Miles’ interest.)
3) Complete our map of places Miles has been in the state of California, the Unites States, and the world using mama-made maps and photographs.
4) Miles has started to show an interest in reading English so we will begin that as well.
5) Continue to use every possible day as a potential to see how the world works, how society functions, and how people interact.
Here are the things we don’t do:
1) Purchase new clothes, new school supplies, or a new fancy backpack for Miles.
2) Purchase a set of books from a school, unless we decide to purchase an online curriculum which we may or may not do depending on how the first months of this academic year progress.
3) Express excitement that our “baby” is going to school/express distress that our “baby” is going to school, or some socially acceptable combination of the two.
4) Plan what kinds of fantastic things we can do now that our child is in school and we have all of these hours of the day to run errands, clean the stove, have sex, etc.
Homeschooling, like many of the other things we do (sleep with our kids, practice Elimination Communication, nurse them into toddlerhood) is not for everyone, but we love the flexibility, the ability to “control” what our child learns when and how, the ability to let our children progress according to their own timetable with no pressure of standardized tests or social pressure, classes of children of varying ages learning together, and the way our community welcomes all different kinds of families, including celebrity mamas whose husbands are full-time dads when mama is working.
Our life is busy. Our life is full. We camp, we scout, we have a large varied social community for our kids, and we like being with them pretty much all of the time. It’s exhausting, but it’s worth it for us.
Think of me when you take your kids to school. On any given morning I can be found doing one or another publicity phone interview in my fuzzy slippers while having an adorable 3 1/2 foot tall person who looks a tremendous amount like I did at that height shout at me not entirely unkindly, “When you are done on the phone and you are done helping Fred on the potty, can you just make me a smoothie please no kale in the smoothie and then can we do a lesson before you go to work and I don’t want Fred here while I have my lesson because he always wants to butt in so can Dada watch him?”
Happy start of school to all of you, and enjoy whatever this academic year brings!