By Deborah Wood, Ph.D.
Why am I homeschooling my grandchildren?
With cases of Covid-19 straining the limits of area hospitals, and in the midst of a related school bus driver crisis across the nation, the daily news reassures me that homeschooling two of my grandchildren was a reasonable option for our extended family.
I’ve known a few families who have homeschooled – either some or all of the children, from as little as one year to all the years. Until now, there hasn’t been a pandemic to draw them away from crowded buses, hallways, and classrooms. Rather, the reasons generally concern the fact that school and their children are not well-matched.
The draw to homeschooling for me has been the close attention that can be given to each child’s interests, rhythms, and best modes of learning. As a novice homeschool teacher, I aspire to protect and preserve each child’s natural desire to learn about the world and their natural motivation to increase their skills. I’m also getting reacquainted with children from whom I’ve been physically separated as we kept ourselves safe from the virus. So I’m paying close attention to which topics and activities best suit them. Thankfully we are neither limited to specific content, nor confined to a certain building for our time together.
“Are we having a field trip every day?” was a question joyfully asked of me last week. Released from limited visits in pre-covid times around their school schedules, my grandchildren and I currently have the freedom to explore parks and playgrounds to our hearts’ content. I am learning to relax the pressure on myself to fill the days with structured activities and to let the day plan itself, more or less. Homeschooling veterans on the Maryland Homeschool Facebook page say they may spend about two to three hours per day on “school” without counting the spontaneous learning that occurs no matter what a child might be doing.
In our first eight days of homeschooling, we’ve been to a park, playground, or both, every day. We’ve already been apple picking and the kids want to go again. I see lots of homemade apple sauce in our future. I tied that trip to the second grader’s Earth Science studies – the sun, soil, and rain provide our food. For the fifth grader, the trip also brought up the settlers’ need to cultivate crops for their survival. Leaving the orchard we looked for buildings made of stone (Earth Science) that could be a couple hundred years old (American History).
The lovely late summer weather certainly calls for us to spend as much time outside as we want to. So we will take advantage of being able to walk among historic sites in Annapolis, noting the colonial architecture and who lived where, and how the state house was once the country’s capitol. A future camping trip is under consideration to visit the colonial cities in Virginia: Williamsburg, Jamestown, and Yorktown.
We are looking forward to our first camping trip this week, yes, in the middle of the week, which promises to be overflowing with learning opportunities. Granddaddy will bring his fishing gear, so if we’re lucky, this will lead to experiences in gathering food from the wild and cooking over an outdoor fire.
One of the aspects of American history I am mindful of is that the first people in this land were here since at least 10,000 years ago. While we are traveling to and from Maryland’s eastern shore for our first camping trip, and another, later this month, we will look for place names – Chesapeake, Tuckahoe, Choptank, Nanticoke, Assateague, Chincoteague – that tie the land to these early inhabitants. For bedtime reading, I found some Lenape folk tales through Marina, the public library’s interlibrary loan system.
I hope to immerse the children in more folk tales, crafts, and cooking during Native American History Month in November, but since we’re not bound to any rigid scheduling, there’s no harm in going with the flow of our September camping trips.
But back to the 1700’s. I wanted to be sure to include a diverse perspective on what was happening in the colonies. I found a picture book entitled, “The Escape of Oney Judge: Martha Washington’s Slave Finds Freedom” by Emily Arnold McCully. The fifth grader was appalled. “I thought George Washington was a good guy!” The three of us had lots to talk about as I read the book aloud. I mentioned the Slave Memorial at Mount Vernon, which they hadn’t remembered from our visit four years ago when they were six and three. We’ll have to look for it on a field trip, we decided. The children were rooting for Oney to evade capture and were delighted with the successful ending of the story.
The more we learn, the more we want to know.
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