An Appetite for Learning

Each morning, after breakfast and a few morning chores, the kids and I begin our school day together at home. Everyone grabs their basket, filled with their composition notebooks and small books, and totes it wherever we’re meeting that morning. On the best weather days, we’ll meet on blankets under the backyard trees. Most days we meet around our large table, slowly sprawling to the living room floor or sofa. Over the course of the morning, we’ll read from history, science, and literature books together. The kids will also work independently through math and spelling materials, and I’ll use this time to help each as they need it and work through individual reading lessons with my 5-year-old.  

I began homeschooling the year my eldest son would have entered Kindergarten. Although my husband and I were educated in traditional school settings, we were open to a new journey for our own children, something more flexible to each of their styles and paces of learning, but also more reflective of our family culture. During their toddler and preschool years, we noticed each child’s intrinsic appetite for learning through experience, play, books, and conversation. Young children naturally want to question and explore their environments. They want to learn about the adult world and mimic home life. They want to be near us (parents). As a mother and home-educator, I hope to encourage these natural wants in my children, to teach them academics, but also about life’s rhythms and patterns and that ultimately we are always learning.

In our home, sometimes this family rhythm is slow and methodical. We focus on specific rote tasks like memorizing math facts or important history dates or more practically how to fold a shirt or make a meal or use the toilet. In the home-school, these things can and do happen simultaneously, especially with multiple children. In other moments, our family rhythm feels almost frenetic, full of wild energy and creativity and curiosity. We make a wreck of our home often moving from one space or piece of work/play to the next. During these moments, we often explore the outdoors, produce new art and Lego creations, bake together, or write and illustrate bits of what we’re learning through history, science, or literature. Although our days contain similar content and activity, they rarely occur in exactly the same pattern or manner-much like life itself.

How do we as parents continue to cultivate an appetite for learning throughout our children’s childhoods? Like so many topics surrounding parenting, it’s not a science. It is something that moves with us through each of our family rhythms and journeys. We can borrow ideas and aspects of home-life from another, but in the end, each family must answer this question for themselves.  

Story and Photography by Bethany Douglass