Yesterday my oldest son caught a frog for the first time. The five of us were on a walk through the woods and I spotted it hopping along. After I pointed it out to the boys, Jack immediately darted after it to scoop it up in his hands. He and his brother took a good look at it then released it back on the ground. During our walk, they were alternately pointing out mushrooms, ferns, rotting wood, and swinging sticks to defend themselves from coyotes, (the latter was mainly my two year old).
Times like these spent outside exploring with my family bring me so much joy. The peacefulness of the woods is wonderful, but even better is the pleasure I take in watching my children discover new things and recount what they have already learned. It is in these moments that I am confident that our slow and simple approach to learning is right for us right now.
When Jack turned three last June, I remember thinking that he is so smart I could probably teach him to read by his fourth birthday. To be quite honest, I’m sure that there was some pride mixed in thinking how impressive it would be to have a child reading before he was four. I’m glad this hasn’t happened. I’m learning what is really important.
There are just as many ways of doing homeschool as there are homeschooling families. One thing I’m learning is that how I first pictured our start to homeschooling is not the best fit for us now. Story of parenting, right? With so many friends who love Classical education, I always thought that would be our direction too. But now I’m not so sure we will start there. I am finding that I really like a lot of Charlotte Mason’s approach to education, especially in these early years. Charlotte Mason’s emphasis on nature and great books– yes, please.
“Boys and girls must have time to invent episodes, carry on adventures, live heroic lives, lay sieges and carry forts, even if the fortress be an old armchair; and in these affairs the elders must neither meddle nor make.” Charlotte Mason
We read a lot at our house. Besides all the great books we have at home, we also have a standing overdue balance at our local library because we love to check out books on all our current favorite interests and then keep them too long. The boys have shown interest in a wide variety of subjects in their short lives. Our library bags have been stuffed with books on insects, cowboys, tools, all kinds of mammals, planets, trucks, dinosaurs, and on. And while the majority of time they prefer to read non-fiction, we read a good amount of fiction too.
Without any defined intention of doing so, we have developed a habit of interest-based learning. Books, videos, and toys all become focused on whatever they are most excited about. It all works together and is forming amazing connections in their brains. We are daily blown away by their ability to recall facts that they have learned. And of course it’s fun for them because it’s all play at this point.
Realizing that it’s now been a year since I first thought I would have a reading three year old by his next birthday has made me reflect on what is truly important for my kids to know in these early years. I am not worried at all about whether or not he will learn to read. I am certain he will. And honestly, we will probably start doing a few more structured “lessons” next year. But there are other things that I don’t want my children to miss out on during the fleeting years of littlehood. We have an amazing opportunity right now in this incredibly impressionable and exciting season to lay many important foundations that will serve them for the rest of their lives.
So while I am not stressing over teaching my kids their phonics right now, I am trying to enrich their lives with other priceless values.
I want to lay the foundations for them…
…to be at home in nature. I want them to experience the thrill of a waterfall, to be breathless after an invigorating hike, to take way too long on a walk because they are stopping to admire all the beauty around them. I want them to know how to step carefully in a river, how to avoid poison ivy, how to perfectly roast a marshmallow over a fire. I want them to be able to be still and quiet so they can hear the hoot of an owl, the chirp of a cricket, or the croak of a bullfrog.
…to love books. Real, genuine, flip the page with your fingers books. I want them to know that they can travel in time with a good book. I want them to go to books to discover new things about their world. I want them to learn more about themselves and the people around them without even realizing it from quality literature.
…to enjoy art. I want them to know that they are capable of creating and to be familiar with lots of different mediums. I want them to know the simple pleasures of the process and then to take pride in their products. I want them to know that it’s okay to mess up and start again.
…to know how to be a friend. I want them to know how to ask questions and show interest in other people. I want them to learn how to give the benefit of the doubt and be quick to forgive offenses. I want them to experience the belly laughs that only happen with the best of friends.
…to love their home. I want them to have deep, meaningful relationships with their siblings even after toy-grabbing, door slamming fights. I want them to know that they have parents who will be a shelter when the world is scary or sad. I want them to invite their friends over because they know our home is a place of hospitality with good food and comfortable rooms.
…to experience grace. In all these things, I want my children to see a heavenly Father who spoke the wonders of the world into being. I want them to know the true Word and to treasure the only book breathed by God. I want them to worship the creator of all beauty, the greatest artist of all. I want them to know the friend who sticks closer than a brother and to be humbled by a God who called men His friends. I want them to long for an eternal home, a lasting and permanent shelter, and to wait eagerly for the meal we will share with the Lamb of God and His redeemed.
School will start before I know it. Our days will be busier and other commitments will take more of our time. But for now, I’m enjoying the simpleness of life and all the wonderful learning that comes from just taking it in.
What are your children currently excited about learning?