When I was pregnant with my oldest son I made him a promise, and his brother after him, that I would do my best to give them happy childhoods full of wonder and magic, that I would prepare them for adulthood as best I could and give them the tools to live fulfilling lives.
That promise was at the center of my thoughts when we decided to homeschool and is the first thing I think about when I sit down every week to plan our schedule.
Next year my son will officially begin a classical curriculum, so we are introducing some academic material in the form of songs and memory work through rhymes, but this year we are mostly concentrating on play and experimental learning, and that leaves all of the planning up to me.
Having a plan is sometimes the only saving grace in a week filled with art projects, places to be, and little people waiting on me to make their breakfast and start their day. When my feet hit the floor in the morning I have a hard enough time remembering how to make tea, and if it weren’t for the calendar I keep with easily interchangeable project ideas and tasks to finish before the week is over, the enormity of all there is to do would stop me before I began.
When I have “10 minutes of letters” on my calendar it looks a lot less scary to me than the idea that I am the one who is tasked with the job of teaching them to write. Instead, I know that my son will learn to write just as he learned the alphabet, with daily repetition disguised as play. For now, I avoid activity books and flashy “teach your child to write” programs, and instead ask my son what he’s painting and when he replies, “a dog,” I ask him if he knows how to spell dog. He thinks and says, “D- something?” so I write “D-O-G” on his picture and he smiles.
I do my best not to push or overschedule my two boys who are only 3 ½ and 1 ½ and have so much of their childhood left to live. I want them to develop a genuine love of learning, so most of what I concentrate on revolves around inspiring their natural curiosity and can be changed or added to based on their whims.
We hunt dinosaurs one day, and stopping to look at the sky, I explain what a cumulus cloud is. Later, I hear him repeat what I told him to my mom on the phone.
We sing songs about the presidents as we build forts to hide away in and read. And sometimes we spend half the day in the kitchen making challah to deliver to neighbors as an erev Shabbat surprise or cookies or frosting a cake. Some days we make paper mache parachutes and occasionally in the summertime when it’s warm, spend the whole day at the river collecting rocks, eating lunch, and trying to count all the geese we see fly by.
Next year will be a little different for my oldest. The program he will be in will require more memorization and we’ll be spending one day a week in a classroom with children of all ages learning some things that will be new for him and some he’ll already know. I try to keep that in mind and have already begun to think of how I will help him to prepare for that change.
But for now, I spend my nights planning our days and our days dancing, singing, and adventuring in the hopes that both of my boys will have a childhood that is carefree and wonderful and that as they grow they’ll have a little magic that will stay with them all their lives.
For more on homeschooling, read how Mayim Bialik does it and why nobody should have to explain their education choices to strangers.