Friday, February 28, 2014

"What Did You Learn Today?"

When I decided to homeschool, our 5th child was 2 years old.  A friend had given me a book which started my whole journey called;

A Thomas Jefferson Education: Teaching a Generation of Leaders for the 21st Century.

Up until that point I never imagined myself to become a homeschool mom or understood why a parent would homeschool.  What happened was that upon reading this book I realized that the philosophy spoken in the book had always been my own innate idea of how a child learns.  What stood out to me the most was the 4 Learning Phases of a Child that was taught.  I took some of the key elements from these phases that made sense to me at the time and decided that I would homeschool child number 5. 

4 Phases

Core Phase
Love of Learning Phase
Transition to Scholar Phase
Scholar Phase

Read about the phases here:

Phases of Learning

The Core Phase is ages 0 - 8 where the child learns through reading and discussing good books, physical movements and play in their environment, games and having fun through their family values and structure.  Lessons in self-discipline, perseverance and pursuit of excellence are modeled by the parents, and experienced by the young child, in mostly physical ways.

I figured that this was the best way for my child to learn and the phases made practical sense.  

What I experienced was quite unexpected.  Within my core being I wanted to have this type of environment for my child and to foster her foundation to be strong for lifelong success in education and life.  Feeling at times completely unqualified and questioned by others, specifically family members who were expressing themselves through genuine love and concern, I was constantly battling some inner doubts the first 4 to 5 years.  To combat this I surrounded myself with others who had been on the same journey with their children for quite a few years, met with other families with young children who were also just starting their homeschool experience and carried on. I read, I researched, I found mentors, great alternative schools and I started to see a whole new world emerging. 

There would be weeks and months where I was completely satisfied and pleased with the progress and environment I created in our home to facilitate a love of learning through play, games, acting, household chores, fun cooking activities, singing, dancing and reading.  As my daughter grew from the preschool age to the kindergarten to Grade 1, the questions increased from those around me who did not fully understand my decision. Then there would be weeks and months where I would question myself.  When it came to the age of where my daughter should be reading like all the other grade one kids, we had a problem.

The problem was not that she wasn't reading, but 'almost' was, the problem was that other children would question her as well as family members.  In all the years of homeschooling the most asked question my child was asked on a weekly basis from well meaning family members was ' What did you learn today?' It was asked with the connotation of 'what possibly could you have learned and what are you missing out on if you were in school', at least that's what I heard it sound like!  As a mother/new teacher I would cringe inside of the question being asked as my daughter would always answer the same way.  'I don't know!' That's all she would say after I thought we spent the most magnificent day learning as we explored the world around us! Of course I would stand there and defend her, myself and my wonderfully creative home environment and remind my daughter all that she had learned that day such as patterns as we took a long walk and pointed out every pattern we saw from flowers, to sidewalks to houses, to trees and leaves.  Alas, it never seemed like the answer that was good enough and only because I had yet to master my own confidence in my own decision and stand by that.  There were days when teaching her to read because I felt so pressured, I would wonder if I was actually doing her a disservice and I would start to compare her reading level to other children that went to school.  She belonged to many outside social groups so other kids that knew her and grew with her would ask her why she was homeschooled, in which she would reply 'I don't know!' (me, again cringe)

One of the concerns of parents today that are taking the homeschool route are those same things I concerned myself with in the beginning of self doubt and confidence in their ability to provide the best for their child.  The great news is that we live in a time where information and support is at our fingertips.  Surrounding yourself with those that have children who are older and have gone through their whole education in the home and seeing their success will ease those concerns.  At the end of the day, it is you as a parent that understands your child's true potential.

My daughter who is almost 12 today is an avid reader. As she grew she became interested in music and acting.  She started playing piano at 6. She performed in a few musical theatre productions  and picked up the guitar at 9 and with a mentor started self teaching.  She became a songwriter and  composes a song on the guitar in as little as 20 minutes, lyrics and all.  She is articulate, smart, and is now in the the next phase, the love of learning.  This stage is where that foundation that was fostered in the Core Phase now comes into play. She has deep questions, not just about what a text book is telling her but how things work in this world.  She creates art, music videos, street performs and has written chapter books for kids and is working on her third.  She loves to learn!  I think we are doing pretty good.  She doesn't get grades, she doesn't take year end exams, she is followed by a home learning consultant and can communicate effectively with her peers and adults. 

I can say that starting out with little understanding of the 'how' I was going to do this, I unschooled myself from my own schooling and learned and experienced along the way.  My daughter suffered from anxiety from the time she was 3 to 7 years old.   Everything I knew or was learning, I had to look at to see if this was the best for my child.  It was not that any one thing was wrong, it was more that I could provide so much more for her since there was her and I in a very experiential free flowing environment which happened to be a more natural environment.  This has paved the way for me to become confident and sure based on results and one happy child.  The road is not always smooth and I still am always learning as she grows. 

There is still that question I hear sometimes, 'What did you learn today?'  Instead of me answering (cringing) or having to defend anything I simply stand and smile while she says "Well, let me tell you all about it..."

To Be Continued... 


  1. This is just awesome! I love that it has turned out as such a big success for you! Learning should be fun. I wholeheartedly believe that.

    1. Thank you Katja! Its definitely a learning process!