In the late days of summer, conversations with other homeschooling parents often include the questions of "Have you started school?" or "When do you begin the school year?" During the spring, conversations usually include questions and discussions regarding the completion of a school year. For us, conforming to the established school year has been secondary to living our lives together as a family, in rhythm with the natural seasons of the year and of the developmental stages and activities of our children.
The beauty of homeschooling is defining our own lives as a family. Humans, especially young humans, learn all of the time. If a family supplies a child with the basics; a physically safe environment including good nutrition, a nurturing home with adults who care and if those adults pay attention, are responsive and interact, they will all be learning. Conversations will encourage development of vocabulary and communication skills, a print rich environment will foster an interest in reading and encouraging responses from each family member will help a child develop self motivation to be an active participation in his or her own learning. However it's labeled, whatever the time of year, these are the basics of human development and learning.
It is a wonderful thing as a homeschooling family to have the ability choose our own schedule. Our "school year" of focused academic learning happens mostly in our own time frame. For us "schooling" follows the seasons more than it follows the standard public school calendar.
Energetic children need plenty of physical activity all year. That activity is easily pursued in the great outdoors. Where we live, the summer months provide the opportunity to spend significant amounts of time outside being physically active. During the beautiful days of late summer restricting outdoor time to begin intensive academic work has always seemed counter productive to learning.
When our boys were young, baseball participation dominated our summer days. Many years we capped off their baseball involvement with a trip as spectators to the Little League World Series in Williamsport, PA. After following local teams to their final games we watched teams from around the country advance to the popular tournament to complete the season. The Little League World Series extends into the accepted school year with player participants usually missing their first week of school to complete the series. As spectators, we enjoyed the final playoff games as well.
Enjoying summer has naturally led us into an appreciation of the beautiful crisp days of autumn. Following the harvest, we gained an understanding of the cycles of nature and how it influences food production and food availability. Learning to appreciate the harvest lends itself naturally to increasing our knowledge of nutrition, biology and economics. Gratitude for the abundance we enjoy brings it home to our own family table, to the farmers of our region in the mid-west and growers of our food world wide.
As the temperature cools, we settle into the coziness of winter with lots of reading. This is the time of year when we really dig into the academics. Reading together or individually on a cold winter day is a pleasure. A cup of hot chocolate and it creates a comfy cozy atmosphere with a warm memory of time learning together. We have included academic activities like learning to play chess. Winter focus on at home academics has also allowed me to avoiding driving on snowy or icy roads unnecessarily. Physical activity is never gone completely from our agenda. The DIY backyard ice rink still has it's fair share of activity during the winter months.
Spring always feels like it includes new beginnings even though it as frequently for wrapping things up. We are often planning for summer activities, recitals, travel and baseball practice. There are frequent reminders that in Northern Illinois spring holds onto traces of winter weather long into the spring. Despite anticipation for warmer weather most outdoor activities are rainy, wet and chilly. Early in the season, baseball games are usually uncomfortably chilly for spectators and provide an annual reminder that sometimes there is a need to review what we have learned in the past.
Happy learning to you and yours, no matter the season or calendar you enjoy!