Friday, June 18, 2010

Conversations: The currency of homeschooling

by Marty Layne

Overwhelmed by all the materials available to help your child succeed at homeschooling? Items that promise to help your child learn better, faster and more? If I were just starting to homeschool today, the sheer volume of products would confuse me. I’d be panicking because my budget couldn’t cover the cost of all that’s available and I’d be worried that I’d make the wrong choices and jeopardize my children’s future.

It is so easy to get bogged down when you homeschool. It’s similar to how you felt when you had a new baby and you felt like you never accomplished anything because you did the same things day after day. But, when you look back you realize that you accomplished quite a lot. Your baby stayed alive, in fact more than likely thrived, as you brought her along to the grocery store, sang as she fell asleep, played goofy rhyming games with her, and fed her. Then, low and behold, after a few years of days that felt at least 10 years long, you have a six-year-old. And you are homeschooling. Again, you feel like you are not accomplishing anything. You make lunch, clean the bathroom, read stories to your child, think of something to make for supper, and go to the grocery store while worrying that you’re not doing anything to educate your child. And maybe if you only bought that curriculum you saw advertised you’d feel better.

You drive to the grocery store and your 6-year-old tells you all about the spider she saw in the bathroom this morning and how he was going home to his family carrying a brief case. Your mind comes back from thinking about curricula and you ask your child to repeat what she just said and she says, “I was just kidding mom ’cause you weren’t really listening.” And then you listen and she tells you things you had no idea she knew. You walk go into the grocery store together holding hands talking about what kinds of foods people ate before there were grocery stores.

This conversation and others like them are much of what homeschooling is about. In the process of daily life, our children learn all sorts of things in conversation. It seems so very radical and scary to let learning take place in such a seemingly haphazard way. But that is really how all learning takes place - in an organic serendipitous fashion regardless of our attempts to contain and control it.

And so those times spent in conversation with your child, perhaps even about the ads that appear in homeschooling publications, can be just as, if not more, educational then the products the ads are trying to encourage you to buy. I don’t mean to say that you shouldn’t have stuff for your child to do, play with, manipulate, etc. or have materials to help you teach them the skills they will need. But remember conversations are one of the most important parts of homeschooling – and they are priceless and impossible to buy, yet free to anyone who takes the time to listen and converse with a child.

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Marty Layne is the author of Learning At Home: A Mother’s Guide To Homeschooling. You can find out more about Marty at her website martylayne.com