I knew this was on the horizon since I found out I was pregnant with my first child but then it seemed such a long way off and now it is upon us. If we were living in the States, I would probably have sent Boo off to preschool just like all her little cousins and never given homeschooling a thought. However, since we live in the middle of a wildlife reserve in Southern Africa, traditional school is not an option for us.
As parents we naturally encourage our offspring’s development through play, exploration, and exposure to different stimuli, but, if we choose to homeschool, how do we utilize these innate skills to guide our littles along a path of learning that will ultimately lead to articulate, well-informed, free-thinking adults with the desire and capability to make a positive contribution to this world?
Does this sound lofty when I’m talking about preschool? Probably, but it is the goal isn’t it? Although I’ve never read Stephen Convey’s book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, I firmly believe in Habit 2: Begin with the End in Mind. It is how I’ve tackled most challenges in my life so why not homeschooling? Today I look at my 35 month old Boo and my 21 month old Kooks and I know they have the potential to accomplish anything they put their minds to. When they are six, twelve, eighteen, twenty-four, and so on, I want to feel the same way.
Since I’ve decided to homeschool, the buck stops with me. If my children grow into illiterate fools, I won’t be able to blame an underfunded education system that let them fall through the cracks. I’ll have to turn that finger around and point it right back at myself. Then I’ll have to explain to my two daughters why, when at 35 and 21 months they were bursting with potential, I denied them a proper education. I have woken up in a cold sweat on more than one occasion with visions of my two beautiful girls as teenage idiots dancing in my head. For a moment, I think about packing up this life of ours and moving back to the States to let a professional handle their education.
Then, as I’m drinking my tea in the morning, a group of elephants come to our waterhole and while they play and feed we try to identify who is the big Mama and who is the littlest baby, and I think this life is the best possible education for my daughters. In the light of day I feel more confident. I look forward to putting a curriculum together that will teach them the skills they need to know and value their own unique life experiences.
While I do worry, often, that I’m not a trained teacher and that I might miss something and leave huge, gaping holes in my children’s education, I feel I can overcome that by doing my research and making sure that we cover all the basics. ”Start with the End in Mind.”
What excites me the most about homeschooling is that its options are limitless. We get to decide the where, when, and how, so as long as we arrive at our destination of a specified set of skills, we can choose whatever path to those skills we like the best. If we start out on one road and don’t feel like it’s taking us where we want to be, we can double back to try another or we can blaze our own trail.
If I’m a disaster and my children become illiterate fools I will certainly be to blame but the other side of that coin is the ability to tailor an education to best meet their individual needs and to help them unlock the potential I see in them today. I have nothing against the institute of education. I graduated from a public school and attended a state-related university and I consider myself to be an educated, free-thinking individual who makes a positive contribution. I was lucky to grow up in an area with a well-funded public school system and even luckier to have parents who were educators and nurtured a love of learning early on.
Isn’t an education based on my girls’ individual needs, learning styles, and interests the best possible education for them? Won’t seeing their parents doing meaningful work that they are passionate about be a lesson in following their dreams? Doesn’t growing up as a minority within another culture foster a world view and a compassion for people who are different from you? How can participating in animal relocations and protected area management from a young age not instill a sense of responsibility to all the inhabitants of this planet and their environments? By choosing to homeschool, I am choosing all of these things.
My kids have the opportunity to be kids in an extraordinary place where elephants can wander up to their home and baboons can steal their toys. There are hundreds of learning possiblities in their everyday life and some incredible childhood memories in the making. I hope that homeschooling will give my children the freedom to enjoy and explore their childhood to its fullest. They only get one childhood and I want it to be magical.
There is also the selfish side of homeschooling. Through homeschooling, I’ll be the one that gets to see the sense of wonder in their eyes when they find baby birds in a nest that used to contain only eggs. I’ll be the one cheering them on and watching their confidence grow as a the light bulb goes on and indistinguishable letters become words that can take them on journeys to fantastical places. I knew I would be homeschooling before my children were born but I only recently thought about that aspect of it. I get to stand beside my children and rediscover the world through their eyes much longer than many and that unexpected side of homeschooling is something I am overwhelmingly grateful for.
I am still terrified of the challenge ahead but the more I learn about homeschooling the more confident I become that I can do this and that it is the best possible choice for my children. There will be plenty of mistakes along the way, I’m sure, but mistakes are also learning opportunities so I will endeavor to embrace them and teach my children that you can always start again. After all the Kaondes who we lived with in Zambia always said, “it is to learn by mistake.”
In my quest to achieve a much higher standard than illiterate fool, I will be doing a lot of research and I will be posting all my findings here. If you are also homeschooling, I would love to hear your story and your why, where, and how. I’ll be looking for advice from the veterans as the littles and I pave our own path. If you, like me, are just starting out, I would welcome the company so stay tuned and speak up.
- How to Start Homeschooling Your Child: Purchased Curriculum or DIY
- Thoughts on how to Teach Reading to my Kids