Written by Shawna Wingert of Not the Former Things.
This has been a crazy season for my family. Well, even more crazy than usual I guess.
My oldest son, who has High Functioning Autism, was also recently diagnosed with an autoimmune disease that causes chronic pain and fatigue.
My youngest son, is getting older. He is profoundly dyslexic, and I am finding that as he matures, he is also profoundly incapable of learning unless it involves moving, jumping, spinning and/or hanging upside down.
The more we move through this wonderfully messy life, the more I am realizing that our homeschool is not going to look like anyone else’s that I know, or the ones in many of the blogs I read.
For example, last week we had a series of doctors’ appointments that not only meant we were at the hospital for the entire day, but we had a two hour drive to get there and back.
And in a fit of desperation, we ended up at the local fish store (again), because my oldest is completely obsessed with aquariums right now.
And my youngest wants nothing to do with books, but thinks the skate park and his friend’s backyard might be his second homes.
I find that as I try and meet the needs of my ever changing family, we have been homeschooling at home less and less.
At first, I totally rebelled. I was sure if it wasn’t at home and part our routine for the day, then it didn’t really “count” as learning.
I tried and I tried on the days we were at home, to make up for lost time. In what might be the largest understatement I have ever typed, please allow me to say – it did not work. Not. At. All.
The more I pushed, the more stress we all felt. The more stress we all felt, the more emotions flared. The more emotions flared, the less anyone really ended up learning.
As we approached the end of the school year, I decided it was time to just let it go. I gave up and did the best I could, with the reality of our new, more hectic schedule.
Our learning consisted mostly of:
I didn’t know this was an actual term until this year, but let me say, it has changed my life.
Audio books in the car, when no one was really listening to the read aloud on the couch.
Learning apps on the iPad including, ‘Stack the States’ and ‘Presidents vs. Zombies’, when our US history curriculum was falling woefully behind.
Google searches using the smart phone when a random question about native birds comes up (prompted only by daydreaming and looking out the window on a long drive).
All have served our learning very, very well.
(That and we get from point A to point B without arguments, the repetitive “I’m bored,” or meltdowns. Please say it with me – Win Win!)
My son’s complete fixation on fish and aquariums meant we were at a fish and/or pet store at least three times last week (and four times the week before).
The crazy thing is, I cannot believe how much we learned in our time there.
Sometimes, my son would educate his younger brother about coral reefs or the difference between fresh water rivers in South America vs. Africa.
Sometimes, the shop owner would take pity on me and take over, discussing care and the operational aspects of tank ownership.
Most of the time, we just wandered, and both of my sons would talk non-stop about all the new things they had learned about this fish and that habitat.
When the fourth customer mentioned to me how smart my boys were, I decided to just relax and enjoy the time as a different opportunity to learn.
Exercise as a nonnegotiable
Because of my son’s physical limitations, we have had to be much more intentional about how and when he exercises.
In the past, I would choose the more “academic” subjects as a first priority. The math lesson just seems so much more official than jumping on the trampoline for 20 minutes.
Because of the medical necessity however, I am beginning to value the learning time spent outside on walks, or in occupational therapy as much, if not more, than any of our more “school-y” subjects.
More importantly, I am learning this is applicable to both of my children – not just the one with doctor’s orders.
As our not at home at all schedule has intensified, I have been tempted to eliminate the playdates on our calendar, and just stay home for a change.
I am so glad I didn’t.
Every time my boys are with their friends, I am encouraged to see how much they are developing – and not just socially.
Often, a playdate will consist of cooking projects, building things, recording videos, and telling stories. I was struck a few weeks ago by how much our playdate looked like a small school, with age appropriate projects going on all around us.
Although I am looking forward to life slowing down a bit, I am amazed at how much my children learn in our day-to-day activities.
As much as I crave the satisfaction of the completed worksheet, or time spent in focused learning at the table, this season is teaching me that what my children need most, are opportunities to engage their world.
Have you had a busy season like this? How did your children learn while not at home?