Rebecca is home / school / life magazine’s Curriculum Junkie columnist, and you'll be reading her first column in our Fall 2014 issue. Her writing appears in various national publications as well on her blog steampoweredclassroom.com. She is a community herbalist and interested in all aspects of sustainable, intentional living. She lives, laughs and learns on a small farm near the Adirondacks with her husband and three boys and a bunch of sheep, chickens and goats as well as their cat, dog and an unassuming pet shrimp named Weaver.
How I started homeschooling: When my oldest son turned three he announced his plans to become a scientist. He asked to begin school “immediately.” Seeing our farm as a perfect laboratory, we took on a hearty curriculum of worm hunting, puddle splashing, cloud gazing and dandelion picking. Our days were such glorious fun it never crossed our minds to stop!
My homeschool style: Learning at our place is usually messy and all-consuming. I do my best to adhere to a child-centered approach. The key detail is that my sons are driving their learning process. They are empowered and encouraged to help decide what themes we will explore together. This means lots of art, hands-on science, hours of reading, creative writing, walks to grandma’s and ample opportunity to seize inspiration from life, as it happens, all around us on our farm.
What a typical day looks like in my homeschool life: We generally start out over breakfast discussing the day ahead. Each of us shares our goals. Some of these are practical—math, using the microscope, bike riding. Many are big—find dinosaur bones, practice wizard skills, construct a robot. My oldest son and his dad do barn chores while the little boys and I clean up and prepare the homeschool room for the morning. The boys play till around 9, giving me time to do chores, think about dinner and do some writing. When we begin homeschooling, we usually start with whatever major theme we are working on. For example, right now the boys are interested in Ancient China. We’ll start off with a lesson that involves all three boys; this includes a family read, craft, travel video or some other hands-on project. Mid-morning everyone is able to enjoy some free time while I work one-on- one with each boy on math, handwriting and other age-specific tasks. We reconvene for lunch, which we make together and try to eat outside. Afternoon is spent doing science/nature studies. We take a walk most days and I usually go out with some specific goals in mind: find 3 signs of spring, hunt for monarch caterpillar eggs or tell me what you smell in the air. These walks ignite our imaginations; the formal science studies we do when we return home are fueled by these walks. Free time to play, read and run follows and takes us on into nighttime when dad is finally home. Stories of the day are shared with him and we eventually fall asleep tired.
Favorite readaloud: This is easy! Absolutely anything from Andy Stanton’s series of Mr. Gum books. These books are hilarious, imaginative, well written and full of zany creative fun. My whole family loves these books. The humor will appeal both to children and adults and they are perfect for reading aloud.
Favorite driving music: Like most moms,I can barely remember the last time I had a turn at the radio! I think, way back when, my first choice would be anything by the Dave Mathews Band. These days we listen to a lot of They Might Be Giants’ awesome tunes for kids. Our family’s favorite is Here Comes Science. My middle son is also a fan of Woody and Arlo Guthrie. I consider this fact my crowning achievement as a parent.
Things I like: Road trips and coffee, walking in the woods, Christmas time and wood fires. I love dirt roads in New England and any time spent with my family. I really like my chickens too.
Guilty pleasure: Expensive wool socks. They really are the only thing I splurge on for myself. I have only two pairs, but how I do revel in this secret little luxury.
What I love about homeschooling: All hours of the day our house buzzes with creativity: storytelling, picture drawing and science experimentation. I love the generous stretches of time homeschooling provides to explore whatever most lights up the eyes of my kids. I’m grateful that my middle son is home to feed his dog and that my youngest, not yet school-aged, is home with his big brothers learning from them all of the time. I’m so very thankful that there is time in the morning to read stories together while we are still in our pajamas. Picnic lunches in the middle of the week are awesome fun. I really could go on and on!
What I love about home/school/life magazine: The homeschooling movement is rich with people from all kinds of backgrounds; we all homeschool for a range of different reasons. I love that home/school/life magazine brings each of us to the same table. This really is a magazine for all kinds of homeschoolers, which provides for a fun, fresh exchange of worthwhile ideas and resources.