Saturday, July 18, 2020

Homeschooling is looking a lot like Pokémon over here

Dutch Blitz cards were scattered across the dining room floor as my kids and I sat to play. 
"I SEND OUT BLUE PLOW!" my firstborn cried, flinging a card in front of him. 

Our homeschooling looks a bit like a Pokémon battle over here, I thought. 

Even though we're still in the long, hot days of summer, a lot of people are talking about school, and for good reason: With the unpredictability of this pandemic, many people are experiencing changes and transitions regarding school. Some families, due to certain circumstances, have no choice aside from the brick-and-mortar schools. Other families are choosing to homeschool for the first time. Even those who were homeschooling prior to the pandemic, and will continue to do so, have new transitions to work through. 
As each family decides what they are comfortable participating in, and as restrictions on group gatherings loosen or tighten, a lot is up in the air. I recently attended a planning meeting for a Catholic homeschool group across town, and while we had some great discussions and laid some good groundwork, it was challenging to specifically outline a plan for activities in the coming year. Who knows what the situation will be like two weeks--or two months--from now?

With all the talk about education that's happening in our neighborhoods and online, I thought it'd be fun to reflect on what I imagine we'll do for school this year. With a preschooler, a toddler, and a baby on the way, we don't need to have a strongly academic focus. Yet, my first two kids love doing "school stuff" and my firstborn especially is at the age where he wants to learn about everything. 

We're going to keep our focus.
As I mentioned on the Homeschooling Saints podcast last spring, several months ago I read a short phrase about how "classical education" is directed to the pursuit and cultivation of virtue. At least in the Catholic homeschooling circles I've encountered, people always rave about classical education--and they usually talk about the Shakespearean plays their kids are acting in, the Latin their kids are reciting, and numerous other awesome projects that their kids are diving into. This is all good, but when I began pondering the purpose of classical education, I mentally pulled away from all of the wonderful academic opportunities that are painted as "necessary" for a classically educated child. I began thinking about how my children's education needs to be directed to the pursuit and cultivation of virtue. This is our focus right now. Whatever isn't serving this purpose--as awesome as it may be--can just slide away. 

We're going to cultivate wonder and awe for what God has created.
Spending time outside is really important, and something that we love to do (except when it's excruciatingly hot). We did "nature school" several times last year, where we'd read nature poetry at a local park, and I hope to continue this. Not only are we learning about the glorious world that God created, but we're also learning about the amazing bodies that God has made. The kids have really been enjoying Who Has What? All About Girls' Bodies and Boys' Bodies, by Robie Harris, and I appreciate how the book simply discusses the basic differences between boys and girls (I do wish that there was a little more information in the book, but it's a great introductory read). We've also discovered some science books with a simple comic strip format, which my kids are loving. There have been many times when, at the dinner table or shortly after a meal, my preschooler will excitedly declare that his food is travelling down his esophagus, into the stomach, and into the "little intestine." We love books over here, so we'll continue finding good books to read that encourage this joyful zest for learning. 

We're going to express ourselves artistically.
I do not love organizing craft projects, but I love certain handicrafts, and the kids love anything related to art. However, for the past million months, most of our art and craft supplies have been rather disorganized and inaccessible. Well, as a fit of "nesting" hit me recently, my wonderful husband bought and assembled a nice big set of shelves to put in the office. Now that we've been able to arrange our supplies on the shelves, it is much easier to access them (the toddler now frequently runs in there, grabs the box of playdough supplies, and asks to work with them at the table). My personal stash of yarn, lap looms, knitting & crochet supplies, and spindles is now very easy to access, so it will be easier for me to expose the kids to these forms of artistic creation. 

We're going to continue building community in small ways.
I really don't know what kind of group activities will be able to happen in the coming months, but we can do small things to build our homeschooling community with others. I've come to realize that--at least in this point in time--I am not a "co-op person." There are some lovely local co-ops I've heard about, but everything I've looked into is a much bigger commitment than I'd like, especially since I have young kids. So, I'm hoping to do whatever small things I can to engage in fellowship with other families (particularly those who don't have a co-op that takes up a huge chunk of the week) with nature walks, outings, or whatever else we can think of. I don't know how much we realistically will do, but I'd at least like to do something.

Our Sushi Go cards have undergone the same Pokémon battle treatment:

On one recent evening, I was strolling through the park with my kids. They scrambled across the ground and spontaneously grabbed small sticks to scratch the dirt. My preschooler purposefully navigated his stick, drawing a distinct X. I made "x!" he declared. 
"Great!" I called over. "I'll make v."

Bending down myself, I traced a twig through the dust to make a v. My preschooler walked over from the other direction, and looked at it from an upside-down perspective. Using his stick, he added a line, proudly announcing that he made A.

I've found that even with homeschooling only younger kids, it is so easy to overcomplicate things. We see all of the work that young kids are required to do in the public school system, we page through manual after manual of homeschool curricula, and we can get overwhelmed by it all. I've found that it's much better for my sanity if I keep things simple. I currently don't adhere to one curriculum or homeschooling philosophy; I want to draw together elements of Reggio-Emilia, classical education, Montessori, Charlotte Mason, and whatever else seems like a good fit for us.  

Some days, our homeschooling may consist of tracing letters in the dirt outside. Other days, we may be performing "Pokémon battles" with playing cards. We might, alternatively, spend hours of a week absorbed in beautiful picture books that fill our minds and hearts with the beauty of splendid art and good storytelling (this list of books looks amazing). Or, we may happily read through a comic or graphic novel together, and learn about the various forms that artwork and storytelling take. 

If we spend our days striving for and cultivating virtue, if we immerse ourselves in the beauty of God's world and art, and if we nurture a love and endless thirst for learning, then I think it'll all work out. 

1 comment:

  1. This was a sigh of relief for me! I’m starting kindergarten with my oldest soon, and I have found myself completely overwhelmed by how intense some people are. Keeping it simple and cultivating virtue are exactly what I want as well. Thank you for helping me adjust my perspective.