Some of my most favorite hands on activities we've done were not planned. They were thought up on the fly, prompted by an inquisitive mind, or in this case inspired by a random picture book we snagged from the library.
When our oldest reached the age when we had to register with our state for homeschooling (first grade) I suddenly became a slave to curriculum. Our calendar was full of lessons we "had to" finish. The freedom we had experienced in her pre-kinder and kinder years suddenly disappeared. I was under this false guise that the made up have to's and shoulds took precedence over all the learning we had been doing years prior. I stopped trusting my gut.
There is an insane amount of pressure that we put on ourselves as parents not to mention all the pressure society heaps on us when it comes to educating our kids. We need to help our kids "get ahead" in life, give them a jump start, ready them for college, give them "the advantage". Instead of teaching our kids how to learn, how to seek the knowledge and love learning. Educating our kids tends to be viewed in a very linear way.
In those early school years we spent so many hours on assigned learning that when the learning was done there was no energy or time left to explore, dig deeper, ask questions, and nurture interests. I remember the 3rd summer after we had been using curriculum we took the summer off and our daughter read SO MANY books that I lost track. I asked her why she didn't read that much during the school year and she said that she was too tired and just didn't want to read any more after all her reading for school was done.
It was one of those aha moments. She was so bogged down with assignments that there was no space to read for pleasure. I knew this wasn't how I wanted our home school to feel. I knew this wasn't the environment I dreamt of creating. I knew something had to change.
That next year we ditched most of our curriculum. We made the conscious choice to shake things up, learn on our terms, free up the calendar, and make room for possibilities.
If you watched my Instagram live the other day then you know that the curriculum that we had been using at the time gave me the confidence that I needed to move forward with out it. I felt equipped to take what we had been learning and replicate our experience with out getting bogged down by busy work.
It took us a couple of years to find our way back to the care free learning we'd experienced in those early preschooling years and now that we are free to learn there is no looking back. I've learned that we can have the best curriculum out there, have the latest and greatest resources, we can invest in the best online courses but when those things run the show there is little room for much else.
I'm not saying curriculum is bad and I'm not saying not to use it. Learning to use it and not let it use you though is what makes a world of difference. Curriculum is just one of the many tools that we have available to us. And just because it says do this, on this day, this way doesn't mean you have to! Break the rules, skip assignments, change lessons, do whatever it is you need to do to make it work for you and most importantly your child. And if it's not working you can GET RID OF IT!
You're the teacher. You run the show. You know better than anyone else exactly what your kids need. They may need that structured curriculum or they may need you to pull back. When you listen you'll know. It's ok to pivot away from something if it's not working. Listen to your kids and I promise you'll find what works. And what works now may only work for now and it may look nothing like what works for me or for your friends. And that's ok too!
We work hard at creating an environment where our kids have room to explore, ask questions, learn, and grow. From the outside looking in it does not look like traditional education and I have learned to accept and embrace that. Making space in our home for rich learning experiences is a priority.
Seeing what happens when we leave room for discovery, exploration, and creativity is worth all the free space on our calendar.