My 5 3/4 year old son is not yet reading, is in fact fairly resistant to reading-prep activities, and is in my considered opinion not ready to read. I know this. I mentally believe "better late than early," and love the freedom to Not be freaked out about the fact that he cannot yet sound out "c-a-t." And yet emotionally, instinctively, I have this "school = reading" equation going on in my head that has been a real buzz killer as far as this homeschooling thing goes. That, combined with the fact that I am neither creating lesson plans nor setting aside a consistent time and place for school each day continues to drive me to offer the disclaimer "but we haven't really started yet" whenever I tell some new person that we are homeschooling.
And yet, I think we really have. I've no plans to be an "unschooler," and I fully expect to follow a curriculum starting sometime in the next couple of years, but that does not discount what is happening Now.
For instance, I am going to make an attempt to list all of the learning activities that we did today
- Both older kids practiced the Bible verse they're learning for co-op
- James emptied the dishwasher while Grace helped collect trash from all the cans in the bedrooms and baths: these are both paid chores
- Both older kids worked on tidying their own rooms
- We went on a long drive to visit a friend and her grandsons up in Washington. On the way James asked about
- Airplanes that use parachutes (this lead to discussions about momentum, how locked up wheels will make you crash your car / bike / plane, model airplanes, and more)
- The Concorde jet: why it's not longer in use, how a sonic boom is produced and whether or not all nearby windows will be shattered
- How many trees are in an average forest (I have NO idea but told him the questions we'd have to ask in order to find out)
- Why the "flammable" hazard signs on a fuel truck have little doors on them
- The names of the rivers we drove over
- What the funny shaped attachment on the construction truck was for
- Grace asked "Do my ears have bones?" I think both older kids were surprised when I said "yes!"
- I, ever the optimist, tried to interject a little letter-sounds activity during the car trip. It lasted a few minutes, but he was far more interested in the number of pumps at the gas station, why half of them were blocked off, what a certain truck was carrying, how the cars are loaded onto a car carrier, why another semi had a set of wheels in its trailer area, and at least 700 other things that I tried with varying levels of patience to answer. I, for once, was pretty exhausted by the end, and it wasn't just the traffic!
- While at my friend's house, she patiently demonstrated exactly how to use her sewing machine with all sorts of fancy stitches. We also played with play-do and painted some pictures, and made a car out of this weird building set where we ended up making the structure out of interconnected triangles.
- At home I announced I was making one of James' favorite dinners and he was desperate to help. He assembled our mini cheese sandwiches, and when Grace demanded to get involved, she used a pastry brush to "paint" each with melted butter in preparation for grilling.
- Before bed, Daddy read James several pages from his highly illustrated "How Things Work" book, one of which he was eager to explain to me in detail. Then I finished up "The Horse and His Boy", the fifth of the Narnia series we've read together - although only James is really interested so far.
There is also no end of puzzle building, Lego play, role-play, doll play, and every other sort of play you can imagine, all with little or no input from me. And even, yes, some very legitimate learning from Daniel Tiger and Curious George on TV. (I have Such a love/hate thing with the former! The annoying little ditties are always getting stuck in my head. But they're also getting stuck in the kids' heads, and leading them to, guess what, "Try new foods because they might taste good!")
So yes, self, I am talking to you. You are (still) not failing your kids. Frankly, you couldn't Stop them learning if you tried - try That on for size if you find yourself getting puffed up! But formal lesson plans couldn't be a worse for us just now. "Delight Directed Learning" may not be a total solution: there will come a time and place where drill and practice, testing and follow through must be part of the day. That time is not now. Relax. Keep schooling by accident. It's working.