The following is a guest post written by Kara Anderson of The Very Next Thing.
I was talking with a new friend recently. She is the first person who I have actually met who uses the same curriculum I do and it was a relief to connect with someone familiar with the work we were doing every day.
I was telling her how much we enjoy using our curriculum resources, but that I did have a mid-year panic attack over the feeling that I wasn’t “doing enough.” To clarify, this was not panic that my children were not learning enough. It was fear that as a parent, I was not doing enough formal teaching.
And that is how we started talking about the “spaces between.”
So much learning takes place in the time that is not formal home schooling, but sometimes as parents we feel like that doesn’t count, or even (if we are record keepers) that we are not allowed to count it.
I am homeschooling a 4 year old and a 7 year old. There’s a lot we do when we are not sitting at the dining room table — cooking, crafts, field trips, chores and spending time with friends.
But the following are the learning experiences that stood out to me, and they embody what I think we will all remember when we look back on these years spent learning at home.
1. The Birds
It began with a bird book, gifted at Christmas from a friend. And it started something amazing. My children have become amateur birdwatchers, and much of their free time revolves around winged friends.
We have checked out countless library books, we have built bird feeders and bird baths. We have talked migration (geography!), feeding, size (math!) and about the process from nest building, to incubation, to baby birds (science!). Nowhere in our curriculum did it say “comprehensive course study in birds,” but somehow, that is exactly what has happened.
I first noticed this with Curious George. Without me doing anything except taking them to the library, my children were falling in love with the works of H.A. and Margaret Rey. They identified deeply with George, who often learns himself through exploring the world around him.
Next, it was Beatrix Potter. I have an old set of her books from my childhood, and my kids love curling up together to read them. But this winter and spring, my children became interested in learning more about her and her works (Beatrix herself was homeschooled.) We read many biographies, and searched out some of her lesser known rhymes and stories. They also began incorporating her characters into their play.
One of the things I love about our curriculum is the focus on art. But I also love watching my children create on their own artwork, separate from school. When we make basic art supplies available — crayons, markers, colored pencils, paper, scissors, yarn, glue — my children spend afternoon hours drawing and making cards, books and other works of art.
Often, I see a current interest or beloved character reflected in their drawings — right now Louis (from the Trumpet of the Swan). This is another example of how they are going deeper into a subject, and reinforcing what they are learning throughout the day by processing it in their own way.
Along the same line as art above, my son enjoys writing books. It’s a hobby he loves, and we recently bought him a type-writer so that he could build an “office” in a corner of his bedroom.
Often, he writes about the things that interest him (birds, coins). He also likes to create “sequels” to famous works that pick up where the classic tale left off.
I see that for him, this is a way to continue a story that he enjoys. Often, if I ask him what a story is about, he feels shy trying to explain it. But I can tell that he is taking in what he reads through what he puts back out — beautiful adaptations that show a deep connection to the characters and a developing writing style all his own.
I feel like a lot of what we see happen here in the “space between” comes down to one thing — having time. When I resist the urge to pack their days, my children have the time to go deeper into experiences through reading, play, art, and writing.
As we approach the long days of summer, and I begin to plan for the next school year, I hope I will remember to allow time for my children to explore the world separate to the formal schooling that we do.
Because so many wonderful (and deeply educational) things happen in the spaces between.
What have you seen your children learn in the spaces between formal lessons?