Tuesday, January 27, 2009

A good education

Just a picture of some of our schoolbooks laid out for the day. I try to provide quality textbooks and it is quite a decision each year as there are SO many different curriculums to choose from. Some things I have bought only to return or re-sell on ebay as I was not satisfied, and in the early years we sometimes went through many different things before we found what worked, particularly with an ESL student struggling to comprehend this strange new written and spoken language.

Sometimes I feel inadequate and worry they are not getting enough. Most days I feel so thankful at what they DO get, because the most valuable things they learn are not in the textbooks. Our main curriculum is life itself and the exploring we do on our own outside the workbooks and texts. Most of what they learn and retain is what they seek out out on their own, the knowledge that comes from the desires of their hearts. For me, it is imperative that they have time to dream and the freedom to explore and act out and cultivate their ideas,

One week we read a vintage mystery set in San Francisco. The children in the book went to Coit Tower, rode streetcars, crossed the Golden Gate Bridge, went to Chinatown. We googled all those things, read about them, printed out photos of them. On our next library visit the girls sought out books about San Francisco and asked to check them out. We read the history of Chinatown SF and Chinese coming to America to work on the railroads and some of the injustices and prejudice they suffered. They were fascinated with the most crookedy road in the country. The children in the book were a blended family, so we talked extensively about this and the many different ways families come to be.

Lily was beyond thrilled when the book she played a part in and had her photo in was set in San Francisco, and we revisited many of the same places when we read it. To this day, San Francisco is special to them, and they will never forget the basic flavors of that place. And none of it came from a textbook and there was no quiz. Information freely learned is the sweetest and richest knowledge.

This is just one of countless instances where one small thing leads to another and yet another, and we can hardly wait to get done with the "proper" schoolwork so we can be free to chase all our current rabbits down all their widely broadening and sometimes intercrossing trails. These days the trails go deeper and deeper into the woods of complex thought and knowledge and sometimes into darker places than we really want to go, but there is always light to move towards and triumph to carry us out of the sorrowful.

And so we learn about life; we live it, we dream it, we learn from others who went before us and those who live out loud today. We explore it through song and dance and food and art. We discuss and marvel and grouse and grieve and laugh and savor all God's creation has to offer, be it hands on or vicariously through everchanging stacks of books and tapes and magazines and web sites.

At the end of it all, it will be just the beginning. Because my aim in giving my children a good education is that they learn to love to learn, so that their education will never end until the day their souls leave this earth.
So many comment they could never homeschool, yet every good parent I know is a homeschool parent because they nurture their children in their interests and dreams. They support them with a lighter and lighter hold as they grow and work their way free into the world to flourish as an individual of character and grace.
You don't need a teaching certificate to teach y9ur children. You just need the love of learning and the willingness to be an eager student along with them.


  1. Very well written. I am about to jump into homeschooling EmmaLi next year and some days I am just terrified of messing her up. Then my friend and mentor reminds me that I've been teaching her since the day I got her, the only difference is now we will have a "plan" on what comes next.

  2. What a fabulous perspective you have Jan. I thoroughly enjoy reading your posts! ~Sarah

  3. Jan, are the water and electricity back on??? I worry about y'all!