Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Homeschool Memoirs: the When and Where

I have the unique opportunity to be a homeschooled homeschooler. And though I still have many of the same questions as other new homeschool moms, there's no doubt my memories (and my Mom) play a huge role in answering some of those questions. So, I'm going to try writing a series of homeschool memoirs, in hopes that maybe some of your questions might get answered, too.

My earliest homeschool memories are of doing school at the kitchen table, with a blue dish tub full of A Beka homeschool books, and my mom trying her best to mirror the experience we'd had in our private school setting. My younger sister schooled at the table with me, and my brother (six years older) did his work in his bedroom, away from our elementary noise. Kindergarten, second grade, and eighth grade was what my mother began with, back when homeschooling was much less defined and understood.

We said our pledge, sang choruses, memorized Bible verses, and practiced math speed drills with the same regularity I'd known in the classroom. And any time there was any deviation, I would remind my mother, "That's not how Mrs. Bell did it."

But we grew and learned together. We turned from strictly A Beka to a mix of curriculum, and I welcomed Mom's changes more graciously.

When I was twelve, we sold our house, moved to some acreage, and began living in a 40 ft. RV while Dad worked on building a new house. For two years, we did homeschool at the small table or back bedroom mattress of our RV. It was a true testament that learning can take place absolutely anywhere.

And while other children assumed homeschooling meant that I had the privilege of going to school at 10 a.m. in my pajamas, it was far from our reality. At 5:30 every morning we were dressed and outside bottle-feeding our calves. I was finishing up with my other chores and heading inside for school as the local school bus flew down our dirt road with the other school-aged kids. We were done with school when our work was done.

We took our school on the road to dentist appointments, grocery trips, dance lessons, and homeschool co-op meetings. I learned to concentrate on an assignment through an assortment of chaos and learned to memorize a list of spelling words through any number of distractions.

When I was about fourteen, our house was finished enough to move in. Bare cement floors and walls without sheet rock were a very welcome change to our tiny home in the RV. My school space moved around through out a day from kitchen table, to bedroom vanity, to a desk inside a large walk-in book closet. Our curriculum changed yearly as well. For one, there were more options now. And, too, we knew when to identify when something just wasn't working. My sister studied from one curriculum, I learned from a couple of others, and we made changes as necessary.

Overall, the greatest lesson I took from this experience was the fact that education is not a one-size fits all. Different lifestyles, patterns of life, and personalities all factor into the decisions of when, where, and even how of homeschooling. Now, as I launch out on my own journey, I'm more free with curriculum and confident that I do know my children best. And although I thoroughly enjoy our school room space, I know it really doesn't matter where we pull out the books.

Learning is not a place or a textbook; it's a process—a glorious, stressful, fun, terrifying, fabulous experience that teaches a family much more than math and history. It teaches us to make every memory a learning moment.

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