Since the deferral of Juniper Glen's opening, we have made some important decisions for the education of our own children. Vincent, who adores his local preschool, has just been accepted to a three day a week program there this Fall. Also, our intention to enroll Althea into the new area Waldorf school has been deferred for one year at least.
Because of these unexpected detours, I began to realize that I now have an opportunity to fulfill my desire to homeschool and to get an actual sense of my children's learning. This Fall will be a time for getting back to a love of learning. That is to say, starting Vincent off with the right foundation and getting back to the basics of our family's pedagogical values.
These values include a belief that learning lasts a lifetime and that a sense of wonder serves humans far better than a roster of knowledge. Reading, observing outdoors, art and music are essential elements for a child as far as I'm concerned and I want more of that for my kids.
At the heart of learning is the greatest teacher of all: Nature! So! Allow me to present our plan:
"Homeschooling with the Four Elements"
Grounding is a concept we hear a lot about in yoga but I think it truly applies to all aspects of life. I need to settle in to our practice of homeschool in the same way we prepare to do anything - with mindfulness and intention.
A key aspect of homeschooling for me was to get grounded in a stronger sense of what my child is actually learning. Since we will be continuing many aspects of the Quebec Education Program, I am getting very familiar with the French and Social Studies program they use in our local schools. At the same time, I'm able to incorporate beauty and joy into the core of our days. We will be able to learn about science in the most authentic way -observing in the great outdoors! We will be free to meditate when we get frustrated or to just take a walk around the block. We will also use colourful cuisiniere rods to learn math in a hands-on way.
I intend to continue to use our beautiful Oak Meadow program and just slow. the. hell. down. This idea of grades, levels, and "keeping up" is a strange way of learning for many of us. As a youngster, I was an early reader and big time academic. I adored getting good grades and ultimately got my Masters degree. I've since learned that that version of ego through recognition no longer serves my life. I don't want my children to have to learn that lesson the same way I did. I want the kids to get off the damned "ladder of learning" and come back to earth to remember how it feels to just be children. Oak Meadow curriculum is beautiful because it really is a slow and natural progression of learning.
First, let me say I intend for us to have a few key areas of our homeschool that center on water
Ingestion: Regular afternoon tea times (the tastiest form of water),
Immersion: Weekly swimming lessons (that beautiful floaty feeling of water),
Expression: Weekly watercolour painting sessions (the glorious rainbow colours of water).
But the key to this element as part of our plan is just feeling like we can "go with the flow" in our homeschool. Curriculum doesn't suit? Change it. Feeling bored? Field trip. Sick? Take a nap. Raining? Good. Let's put on our raincoats and jump in puddles!
Of course, since we live in a riverside town, I feel that spending time by flowing water should be part of our programming. Pond, stream and river studies will feature prominently in our days. So much of Canada's early history has happened along the Ottawa river that I cannot imagine how spending time in it and by it could not enhance the vitality and authenticity of our learning.
Creating a warm environment in which to learn is a huge component of our plan for the year. Calm and cozy are my goals. Lessons feel sacred when we begin and end with candle lighting and snuffing. The acts help to bring focus to the space and a warmth to the learning. In winter, we will light fires in the fireplace and do much of our learning fireside with warm bevvies.
Since it's not our intention to replicate school at home, our spaces can be more casual than a typical classroom. The solarium settee warmed by the morning sun is great for curling up with a book and a wide, wooden table serves well for more formal lessons. Potted plants, soft lighting, relaxing music and soothing scents can be part of our day every day.
I can also appeal to the children's desire to learn through play by having our play kitchen, blocks and doll house right in the heart of the home. These items are staples in most Kinder classrooms but disappear as children reach the early grade levels which is a shame.
Activities like baking bread, rolls, tea cakes and cooking soup, stewed fruit and oatmeal will bring us together in the warmth of the kitchen and help us to share with friends and family. A cooking class at our local Homeschool Coop will be an incredible complement to our core learning!
Last, homeschooling will allow us to set a rhythm for the day, week and school year which mimics the natural rhythm of the breath and follows the cycles of the seasons. Focused and academic activities will always be followed by free play time, time outside or relaxation. This means a rhythm of in and out breath can be achieved so that we don't try to cram too much into our minds, tire our memories or dull our imaginations.
Here is what a typical day will likely look like in our home!
Breakfast and Circle Time Songs
Walk to Preschool
Table Time Lessons (French, Math, Social Studies)
Outdoor Play, Yoga or Swim
Quiet Afternoon Book Basket
Tea Time Lessons (Nature Study, Art, Story & Craft)
Walk to Preschool or Warm Bath
Candlelight Read Alouds
Celebrating the seasonal festivals in meaningful ways throughout the year will bring us closer to family, plant and wildlife and hopefully connect us to our little local community too!
Voila! There is our plan for our very first year of homeschool - would love your feedback and advice! What has worked for you?