It’s Back To School week! I’ve seen so many adorable photos this week from parents sending their children back to (traditional) school. I guess that signals the start of a new school year for us, too!
We had a great “end of summer” with Paprika’s birthday celebration. (I realize I rambled on way too long last night in my post about Mermaid Linden. I went back and read it after I got some sleep and realized it was verrry wordy. I was just so exuberant – I’m sure you could tell! Ha!)
Anyway, it’s Back To School time now. It’s that time of year when regular school families are forced to buy lots of school supplies from ridiculously long lists (I know, because I had to do that when Paprika went to kindergarten). They spend oodles of money on new back to school clothes, if they can afford it.
There’s a lot of buying happening. I’m really glad I’m not buying into that! 😉
During Back To School time, I always get asked TONS of questions about curriculum and the materials I use to homeschool.
Specifically, the first thing most people ask me is: How much money do you spend on curriculum?
I think the answer would surprise people: As little as possible, and as much as needed.
I have always maintained that all you really need to homeschool is: Curiosity. Curiosity is a a powerful tool for learning.
Beyond that, a library card and an internet connection go very far. A pencil and paper are helpful! Anything else is just gravy.
I try not to buy into the idea that we need a certain curriculum to be successful in our homeschool. There are SO many homeschool products to choose from – many are expensive – and most of them are companies trying to turn a profit (that’s the point of a business, right?)
Many homeschool moms get wrapped up in the “fun” of buying curriculum and forget that companies are trying to sell you on a product that – most likely – you don’t need. And many companies prey on the insecurity of parents. They push products to “guarantee” a better result or to give the student a perceived advantage. But, it’s just not true.
I’ve been really lucky, in a way, that the girls are very motivated, curious people. They all learned to read very easily and early (we’ll see about Ellie Belly). They have endless questions that they want to answer. They love science, play, and exploration. They love to write stories (spelling, handwriting, language). They love to draw and make creative projects from the things they find in our house. They love to play the piano – our house is constantly filled with their music.
They are never ever bored – and they are always busy learning. I know that sounds like a cliche, but it’s true.
I feel like my role is to facilitate and encourage their learning. I’m not really their teacher, not in the traditional sense. I provide them with the tools and the time to learn. And so far, it’s working very well.
For example, right now Ginger (7) is on a Jack London kick. She’s read everything he’s ever written. She begged me to get his collected short stories in print because she loves them so much. (I had no idea there was even a collection of short stories!)
Her love of Jack London got her curious about Alaska and the Yukon – so she researched that. She wanted to know about dog sledding, so she researched that! She wanted to know about Jack London’s life, which led her down a rabbit hole full of history and geography. Questions create more questions…and pretty soon, we’ve stumbled upon a wealth of knowledge.
Everyone says: Well, that’s all fine and good, but what about math? Everyone always asks about math! LOL
I do use a curriculum called Teaching Textbooks for mathematics, since it’s really important to their Dad. Paprika (10!) is finishing up their 8th grade math program right now and will move on to high school math this Fall. (And I’ll get to learn a bunch of concepts all over again – Yay!)
We also do a lot of math in everyday life. And, I’m always looking at ways to make math more exciting and attractive to the girls. I’ve tried a bunch of things to get them excited about math…apps, games, you name it.
But, I’ve come to the realization that maybe the reason that they don’t do a lot of spontaneous math is because I don’t really care for it.
I’ve found that young children tend to care about the same things their parents care about. So, my kids love to read and write – because that’s what I love to do. If I want to get them excited about math, I need to model that for them in a visible way.
(Paprika, ever the storyteller, staying up late at night to write more of her Mermaid Mysteries):
So, if I want the girls to get excited about math, I might print off some Sudoku Puzzles – or maybe I’ll start playing Math games when they’re near me. (Just thinking aloud here.)
But, I certainly don’t need to go down to the Kumon center and spend a fortune on Math tutoring. And my guess is that most people don’t need to do that, either. (Not saying it’s bad if you do that – just understand that you really don’t need to do it.)
This is all a long, round-about way of saying that you don’t need a shiny new curriculum to start your homeschool year off on the right foot. You can just go down to the library and check out a stack of books (classics, preferably) and start there!
When I was in law school at Berkeley, most of my classes were taught using the Socratic Method. That’s just a fancy way of saying that the professor answers a student’s question with another question. It’s always up to the student to uncover the answer from his/her own mind.
So, that’s what I try to do here. We ask a lot of questions in our homeschool. And those questions lead to more questions! And pretty soon, we are excited about learning – and digging really deeply into our subjects. It’s not about getting the right answers or filling in the correct bubbles on a test. Or cramming just to get an “A” and then forgetting it all over the summer.
I’m taking a leap of faith that my method will result in independent thinkers, who love learning and are empowered to find solutions to tough questions. I want them to keep that spark of curiosity, and find ways to share their love of learning with others.
Maybe it won’t work out at all! We’ll see. But, I have to think that it’s off to a pretty good start…
Happy Back To School! 🙂