Written by Kari Patterson of Sacred Mundane.
Spring’s come early to Oregon and the chickens are laying again. The picture below is the real-time view from my perch here on the back porch, as I watch the kids creating animal farms in the yard.
Yes, “animal farms” are as simple as they sound: tupperware containers filled with worms, spiders, centipedes, snails and slugs.
To the left are the chickens.
We joke that we only raise the finest “free-range” chickens. Of course they are free-range, we leave the gate open and let them roam around the yard during the day.
Achieving “free-range” is much easier than it sounds.
But “free-range” is a funny thing, right? It’s a label we attach that conjures up an image that’s probably far from reality.
More and more we are becoming label-obsessed and label-dependent, and while I’m certainly not here to take issue with the food industry (I’m just happy to have food on my table!), I’ve noticed that the label-happy mentality sticks itself to our homeschooling habits as well.
Classical, TJED, unschool, Charlotte Mason, Montessori, Waldorf, and there’s more … all of these have excellent elements, and one of them may be the perfect fit for your family.
You may just be a loving, responsible parent educating her children to the best of her ability, drawing from many rich sources, and keeping a close eye on how each child is developing.
I’m in the middle of Jamie’s helpful book recommendation, Free-Range Learning, which is giving some great encouragement along our education journey. What I find about myself however (not a weakness of the book, but of me) is that I often find myself doubting, “Am I free-range enough? Am I too Classical? Am I too unschool?”
Once again, I lean too hard into labels, finding my confidence in whether I’m adhering enough to a certain educational model.
Instead of studying labels, I’m better off studying my kids.
Certainly not knocking educational models–I love them! I’ve learned loads of invaluable information from many different books and models, but I know a good egg not by the label on the container — I know a good egg when I see it.
Raising chickens has ruined me for regular eggs. I know the warm feel of that fresh-laid egg, the dark yellow-orange yoke, the rich flavor. Mmmm…
Again, not here to argue eggs. My point is:
Let us beware of endless labeling, of an obsessive adherence to a certain model. I find my most consistent success when I keep a closer eye on my kids than anything else. I know a “good egg” thing when we’ve got it, even if it doesn’t come in a curriculum-carton.
Even the label “homeschooler” can be sticky.
The truth is, all responsible parents train, nurture, and educate their children in a wide-variety of ways. My best friend public-schools her kids and does this. My sister-in-law immersion-schools her kids and does this. Most of us here homeschool our kids and do this.
Photo by hardworkinghippy
We have so much to gain from each other when we peel off those labels, and learn from each other. We begin to relax our shoulders a bit and ask questions:
- How do you balance structure with free-time?
- How do you teach your kids to care for the environment?
- How do you instill your family’s core values?
- How do you help your kids with math?
- What most helped your kids learn to read?
- What extra-curricular activities have most benefited your child?
- Is there anything you wish you had done differently?
- What do you most enjoy about how you’ve chosen to educate? What are the challenges?
When we care less about our labels than we do learning, we’ll more readily study our children and openly engage with others whose education models are different from our own.
Oh, and that “free-range” thing: It’s so much easier than we think. Sometime during the day, whether that’s after your school or it is your school, let them roam around a bit and dig in the dirt for worms.
Chickens and children alike thrive there.
What have you learned from others whose educational model differs from your own? Thanks for reading!