Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Not Going Back To School

Today, while many kids are hopping on the yellow school bus - there are still many who will not be joining them. Over 2 million children in the United States will be homeschooling and pursuing their own course of study away from the bells and crowded hallways of government schools.

For many homeschoolers, school did not even "end" in May or June. It's not that they don't "take a break", but rather that they understand that education is not a 9-5 weekday event that only occurs between September to June.

Education is part of life for most homeschoolers. They don't view learning as a thing to be accomplished within a specific time period...rather it is an inherent part of our growth and being. One does not need a brick building to learn times tables or study Chaucer, and learning about percentages can happen while shopping for sales at the mall as well as from a text book. Learning fractions can happen while baking in the kitchen as well as from a downloaded worksheet from the Internet. Many of us have seen how real life experiences and applications can make for more meaningful learning.

While snorkeling this past week in Bermuda, my daughter was fascinated by actually seeing and coming up close to the underwater creatures she had recently studied about in her Biology coursework. She pointed out to us all of the things she had learned about these creatures, some of which was also discussed by the leader of this snorkeling excursion on the boat ride over to the reef. And while one does not have to travel to such places to cement their learning, there is much to be gained by non-textbook and out of the classroom experiences. We all learned a lot during our time away; from how a ship operates, to another place's history and culture, to art of the 20th century (there were art seminars aboard our ship).

Unfortunately, the field trip (out of classroom) experiences are few and far between in government schools these days. I would even venture to say that the kids who need them most, like kids attending inner city urban schools, should definitely be exposed to more field trip (out of classroom) experiences. Homeschoolers enjoy, and regularly partake of, a steady diet of field trips to museums, parks, historical re-enactments, and so forth. Even a trip to town to run errands at the bank or the post office is a learning experience for our youngsters. But field trips aside, the point is that whether one is sitting at home studying or going out into the world, learning happens everywhere and anywhere. I might also add that one does not need a credentialed teacher to be taught anything either.

So "not back to school" doesn't mean not learning. And when you see a homeschooling family out and about, just remember that education happens everywhere, so please refrain from asking, "How come you aren't in school today?"

For homeschoolers, the world is their classroom.