When my oldest son was small we spent most of his little years exploring and reading aloud as an early learning style. We did simple math at the farmer’s market, caught tadpoles at a local boat ramp and went for nature walks close by. We watched the birds, the bugs and Grayson’s curiosity exploded with questions about anything and everything under the sun. I did not realize at the time that we were creating our own learning style.
When the traditional method of schooling did not work for Grayson, I began to wonder how I could use the outdoors to teach him what he needed to know. I was inspired by early home educators, pioneers in leading the movement in the seventies and eighties. They didn’t have laptops and endless curriculum choices. They discovered how to use everyday living to create an excellent education.
Two books have inspired me to create what I call a Learning Lifestyle Revival that I want to share with you. Things We Wish We’d Known, by Diana Waring and The Successful Homeschool Family Handbook by Raymond and Dorothy Moore. What I discovered in reading them was that home education gives us the freedom to create our own learning style.
It is woven in our daily routine, in the errands we run and the opportunities to get out and experience life as it is happening. When we allow ourselves to experience it, home education can teach our children how to live and the learning comes along naturally because of it. By letting go of societal norms of what everyone else is doing, the true gift of home education can unfold.
As I share a few ideas you will begin to see how each category is connected to the other. My goal is to inspire you to see how your own learning style can be intertwined with life instead of compartmentalized into subjects. When we grow up, our lives are not compartmentalized, they are intertwined with who we love, what we do and the activities we enjoy.
The Learning Lifestyle Revival revolves around four categories that I use to build our lesson planner and calendar for each year.
State and local parks are natural resources that surround us. Florida has 11 National Parks and over 171 State Parks and Trails for you to explore. History, science, math, and literature can be found in the centuries that span the growth of Florida and preserved within these parks. Take a walk or read under an oak hammock. You will be amazed at what your children will retain out in a natural environment.
Blue Spring in Orange City, Florida is a great example. Manatee is what draws people to this park, yet there are hundreds of years of fascinating history right there along the St. Johns River. Citrus, steamboats, famous writers and nature itself provide countless opportunities for education.
Farmer’s Markets and U-pick farms fall within community and seasons. Understanding how food grows and their season is important in making food choices. Farmer’s markets are perfect for allowing your children to ask questions, make purchases, compare vendors and learn where their food comes from.
Picking fruit and vegetables at a farm is more than hands-on, outdoor fun. It is an education in life skills math, science, and farming. Learning to cook and prepare the food you pick extends the lesson right into the kitchen. Food seems to taste better when you have picked it yourself and taken ownership of its preparation.
These opportunities are a concrete, experiential way for all ages to learn beyond a worksheet. Involve children in food choices, meal planning, and preparation. This is training them for their future as adults as well. When you expose children to changes in the natural world, over time it will build an internal rhythm for life. Their own learning style.
In the category of family and life skills, we chose to raise chickens. Our family raised seven chickens and along the way found that it meant more to us than a school lesson. It began with the coop. My husband and sons redesigned an old cedar playhouse into a chicken coop and spent time with power tools, cutting and measuring wood and an architectural plan.
Once the hens began laying eggs our boys learned entrepreneurial skills by starting an egg-selling business. Charting each hen and egg production became daily tasks and keeping up with customers. Soon the hens began paying for their own food with enough left over to pay for our dog’s food as well. This worked out better than expected! Everyone in the family had a role with the chickens from coop cleaning, feeding, collecting eggs, packaging and carrying on conversations with them of course. This experience was real-life blending with all facets of learning, spanning several years.
Find an opportunity that fits your family and lifestyle. Having your children take responsibility for an ongoing project that affects the family, gives them a sense of purpose and a connection that matters.
People often ask me how I take all of these ideas and put them into an organized schedule. My philosophy is to start with the basics and work up. I take a yearly calendar and write in all the things I know is happening ahead of time. What is migrating through, educational events, festivals or historical re-enactments, trips we have planned or family coming to visit?
For example, Manatees come in January, Strawberry season starts in December and goes through March, blueberries are in April. The flint knapping day is in February, the annual Native American education day is in March, the county fair is in November, so we need to start planning in September. Soccer is in October and archery starts in March.
We may not get to all of the activities, however, I have a base calendar to refer to each year. You can download ours to get started, ADVENTURE CALENDAR. Math, language arts and reading books are the constants in our week. Everything else gets a tentative schedule to work in over the year. We do seatwork when it is hot outside and we are on the go when Florida’s weather is beautiful. Our overall life has a definitive rhythm and routine, but our week’s activities can change. This lifestyle may seem odd to some who have grown up within a traditional school setting. However, if you can embrace one idea and give it a try the results will inspire you to keep going.
Shedding the unnecessary and committing to simplicity is what makes this learning lifestyle work. Family time is our priority and not over-scheduling outside events. When you can find your own learning lifestyle revival the true gift of home education will unfold. Building the hearts, minds, and character of our children is the backbone of why we chose this way of life. They are only with us in our homes for a short while, let’s make the most of it.
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