So many people think that homeschooled children are limited in their academic pursuits, but as the mom of a homeschooled first grader, I’m discovering that this couldn’t be further from the truth. What I’ve learned as I teach my daughter is that the freedom of a homeschooled schedule allows her to find herself and her creative expression in a way that formal schooling may not allow. I often let my daughter’s interests take the steering wheel of her school day. What I have found is that her brain functions best when allowed unlimited creative expression. Anytime I’m painting, knitting, cooking, singing, doing my hair—you name it—she is right there with me asking how it is done and if she can do it too. The best thing is that I often find that the places her brain yearns to go tie into what she is learning in school. At first, it’s hard to find this place where learning and a child’s desire intersect, but with time, it becomes naturally evident. In our school day, it often includes the following:
Reading allows our brains to delve into unknown worlds and fuels our ability to find our own special stories. My daughter and I usually have two or three good chapter books going at a time. Since she was three years old we’ve snuggled together to the words of Little House on the Prairie, The Boxcar Children, and Ramona the Pest. She loves those times so much that she quickly learned to read those sorts of books on her own. Now, only a first grader, she regularly sits quietly reading books like Nancy Drew and Kirsten, an American Girl. Sometimes, even though she doesn’t need me to do it, I still read aloud to her—or better, she reads aloud to me.
2) Story Writing
We have been writing stories together since she was about three years old. We have a story journal we’ve kept for years and when she tells me an awesome story, I’ll write it down and she will illustrate it. Now that she’s on the cusp of being able to write competently on her own, she often writes in the journal quietly on her own.
3) Fairy Boxes
Fairy boxes are the kinesthetic expression of her storytelling abilities. You see, my daughter likes tiny things. She also finds a higher purpose for even the most useless piece of trash. No, that isn’t a crushed donut box, it’s a bed for her dolls. No, don’t even think of throwing away that nasty twisty tie, it’s gonna be a Barbie tiara. I got sick of fighting with her over whether or not I could throw away her trash, and I started giving her a box in which to keep the bits that have the most creative potential. A couple times a month, she old drags these boxes and their contents upstairs and creates fairy boxes—little houses for her Tinkerbell and Polly Pocket dolls. She uses things like bottle caps for table tops and broken headbands as hammocks and she is happily lost in her little world for an hour or two of uninhibited play.
Makeovers are always fun. While I’m more of a bohemian, low management type, my daughter loves fashion, nail polish, elaborate hair styles, and crazy make-up. She has watched me put on make up no more than five times in her little life and something about the process resonated with her. So, I gave her all my makeup and bought her some of her own and she loves creating beauty on my face. If you’ve ever perused limecrime.com, you may have found Founder Doe Deere’s Lime Crime blog. She has some creatively artistic makeup and hair (and beard!) creations on there as well as some other fun artistic pursuits. Think along these lines and you will understand my daughter’s aspirations as she experiments on her Mommy. I get to relax with a book or a knitting project while my daughter’s creative expression flows. It’s really a win-win situation.
5) Crazy kitchen crafting
Our last fun activity is an all out craft-a-thon that involves opening every craft drawer we have and taking out felt, popsicle sticks, glitter glue, stamps, and printed paper and creating books, tiny towns, paper dolls, and hair accessories. You name it, my daughter can create it. When she looks at the pile of construction paper and begins folding, rolling, or cutting it, it’s as if she’s letting the paper speak to her and tell her what it already is. Watching that sort of creativity roll out of a seven year old is inspiring.
A common misconception is that school and learning are restricted to the academic. In reality, the real world is the best school their is. Kids naturally want to learn. If you let them take the reins, they are able of learning much more than what is taught them in a more formal setting and they are also able to better cultivate what may become their true calling in life.