Often the simplest things — in the weirdest places – yield the most in homeschool. Remember the last time your child put water in sink? What about that time with the sticks and the empty tissue boxes? And could you have ever predicted what would happen to those cardboard tubes you were throwing in the trash?
In my home, I often find things that don’t belong, in places they shouldn’t be — turkey basters, wood scraps, balloons, pillows, balls, broken bars of soap, ice cubes, rubber bands — you name it. I don’t think I can remember a day when either a floor or table wasn’t almost entirely covered with confetti dots or scrap paper.
When I first started homeschooling, this bothered me. A lot. As a very organized mom and somewhat compulsive housekeeper, I tried to contain the learning in my home to make sure it only happened in designated places. I thought educational things should be kept in classrooms — not scattered around the home. I didn’t want timelines taped to my walls and tadpoles on my kitchen table! I was a product of traditional schooling and trained as a teacher myself. My beliefs came from learning within the four walls.
Luckily, it only took a matter of schooling my own kids for a few weeks to realize learning happened everywhere, and came in the most unexpected ways. Within months of establishing our first homeschool “classroom”, I began to “allow” learning to creep into other areas of our home as well (not that I could help it from happening anway). It’s funny when I think about it now. I’m grateful those thoughts of containment passed quickly.
Over the years, I welcomed (well…usually) opportunities for my children to learn within the four walls (our homeschool classroom) but also all over the place. I watched as my kids used everything and anything for learning — from the most structured, planned educational experiences and products I provided for them, to the most unexpected and impromptu life experiments they created on their own. They built reading nooks (a/k/a blanket forts) everywhere, dropped completed projects and those in progress just about everywhere, and left an endless variety of “stuff” on our window sills and counters. We continued to use homeschool curriculum for the most part, but my children learned from everything else in between.
I can’t even believe I did this, but I eventually dismantled our classroom entirely!
Did their messes still bother me? I’d be lying if I said they didn’t. Did I worry they learned “enough” or “correctly” when it wasn’t controlled (by me)? Definitely. But I began to see the value in complex learning gained in very simple ways. It was as if my kids knew what they wanted to learn and figured out ways to learn it, too.
Does this sound familiar?
I am sharing this experience for those stuck in thinking that learning only happens within the four walls, too. I can only imagine what my children might have missed — what fun and learning our entire family might have missed – had I forced my children to sit in our classroom all day.