A Beach near Tybee Island, GA
I met this amazing woman and her husband, and we got to talking about life and such when I started really observing their 2 sons who were around 8 and 11 years old. They really stood out in comparison to other children their age, as they wittily but respectfully, ebbed in and out of the conversation like little adults, entirely endearing me to the idea of one day having children of my own.
Later those friends let me know that they had home-schooled their children on and off over the years, and had found success in this means of education. At my request for more information, I was handed books from John Holt, and John Taylor Gatto, and more. I then did as much research as I possibly could on the subject of home, or not-at-school, education and so determined that any children I cast from my womb in the future, would definitely have this opportunity of being home educated.
New York City Fun!
Field trip to Great Falls National Park Figure drawing during Art Smart Summer Camp
So, my children were set up for homeschooling way before they ever came into being. I decided that even if I was inadequate in my ability to educate my children, that they would still have more chance at success because of a more winsome ratio than in a regular school situation, where someone else would have their noble affections overextended amongst a much larger number of children.
Missoula Children’s Theatre 2015 “Aladdin” –My Boy as Aladdin, My Girl as Genie.
7 things that I think we’ve gotten right, so far.
There are a number of things, I mention 7 of them here, that we have implemented from day one in the lives of our children which we think have really helped to get some wonderful results, in our eyes anyhow, but I may be a wee bit biased. (Insert wide-grinned smiley emoji here)
- Descriptive language
Being an artist, my “style” has always been visually motivated, meaning I have always used descriptive language from day one as a foundation to the education of my children. I didn’t just ask for them to bring me the ball, I asked them to bring the shiny red bouncy ball that is under the fuzzy blue and white striped blanket on top of the brown leather sofa in the living room. It may sound long-winded, but this style of speaking established them looking for details and knowing that everyday objects could have several adjectives. It has spurred both of my children on to love words, and choosing to use interesting ones to describe their situations, and they both are coming out to be wonderful writers and communicators.
- Playing Games and Discovering!
Playing board games, educational software games, and making a game out of everyday life chores or situations from early on, has been a wonderful way to establish critical thinking skills, inductive reasoning, and healthy competition against themselves and others.
- Read, Read, Read!
We made reading to our children from the time they were in the womb a priority. I couldn’t wait to read out loud to someone, and they were super-willing, in their earliest forms. I read lots of rhythmic Dr. Seuss, and nursery rhymes, and other stories where they would need to, and eventually wanted to say the ending themselves, and told stories with as much expression I could muster, whether it came from a book or not. I cannot explain the voracity for all kinds of reading that both of my children have, in any other way. Reading is one of the easiest gateways to learning there is!
- Meeting new and different people!
One thing we’ve never taken for granted, is the opportunity to exposing our children to people of all different ages, backgrounds, and abilities. This mostly happened in field trips, local team sports, parks, play dates, extended family gatherings, traveling, church activities, community volunteer activities, and the list goes on. This has helped them to appreciate our many differences and to be better equipped to relate to people as individuals, rather than lump-summing them according to some preconceived box we sometimes put people in.
- Exposure to all of the Arts!
Because of getting taken to great performances of all kinds, galleries, museums, and hearing the literary arts, our children have developed an intense appreciation for a large variety of the arts, along with some of the terminology which makes for a deeper understanding. Eventually we also had them be a part of these performances as well, for an experiential aspect of the exposure. Having a visual artist as a mom has definitely given them the advantage of understanding quite a number of ways of seeing and reacting to their world, using tools, techniques and various art materials, has been truly an asset to them now and will be in the future as well.
- Go Outside, Play, and Get Dirty!
Going outside, taking walks, hiking, gathering leaves, rocks, playing in the dirt, digging for worms, planting seeds, splashing in puddles, meeting little creatures and insects galore, are all things which have been an indispensable part of my children’s education which has truly awakened their love, passion and compassion for the beauty which is nature all around us.
- Be Curious!
One of my favorite things I have done over the years, is giving myself the task of being aware of the acute curiosity, of children in general, and my children in particular. This I did by forcing myself to see the world fresh again through their eyes. This has been invaluable for using and finding teachable moments, so that learning really is happening all of the time. One of the schools I taught art in as a substitute teacher, quite a bit was the International School of Amsterdam, and at the time their focus was on a small daycare in Italy, Reggio Emilia, who was getting a ton of media, and pedagogical attention for their ability to watch the child, listen to their current curiosities, and give them opportunities to explore and expand their information in those areas. The visual results of this method were stunning. Reggio Emilia was primarily a daycare with before and after care, and they had people whose only job was to present and create learning environments based on the whims of the children who attended daily, including at least one full-time artist. I loved the concept, as it lay within my own philosophy of learning as an adventure which is taking place more often than not.
5 things that I wish I knew before I started with homeschooling.
There are a number of information bytes that would have been wonderful to know and put into practice from the get go, and definitely would have decreased all of our learning curves.
- I don’t have to repeat school at home
If I had taken this to heart right away, I would have been much more creative in my choices, instead of trying to get my active children, especially the boy child to sit down and be quiet. Thankfully I did take my children to more field trips than not, with memberships to museums, science centers, zoos, and indoor play areas. The parks were free, and we frequented all of them within a wide radius.
- That I could have set up at least one or two mentors a year for them to learn from.
Based on my children’s interests, I would have sought out people they could interview, and spend time with, who were doing something either for a living or for a hobby, that they were interested in. We truly lost some precious time with this but there is no use crying over spilt milk, now is the time to live, and start fresh.
- That my children really are gifts to the world.
I would have been a bit more specific with seeking out what it is that my children were bent towards, instead of trying to fill them up like a bucket. Thanks to Chris Davis in his book, (Kindle Version) Gifted: Raising Children Intentionally (Softcover Book) Gifted: Raising Children Intentionally for that picture. I would have set up their education to reflect and empower these areas of strength, as opposed to just trying to appease what the state standards say they should know at some age or grade. Accidentally I tended toward this, but I think it would have been way better had I intentionally worked on this aspect early on.
- I could nurture an entrepreneurial spirit within my children from day one.
I think if we had spent more time explaining and demonstrating the value of working for yourself, and working more intentionally towards your dreams, financially speaking, we would be so much further along than we are now. Thanks to Rhea Perry, from EducatingForSuccess, we are making some progress.
- I wish I had understood the power of setting goals, as individuals and as a family unit.
Had we been having the children set their own goals but also working on goals as a family, we would have been so much more productive with our time, and I think things would have been way easier, way sooner than they are now.
How’s it going now?
Now that we are more acutely aware of some of these items, we are implementing them slowly but surely and “course-corre
cting” at the same time. Our goal of success for our children by age 18 can and will be fulfilled, especially as we have added, and are adding these, along with many more gems that there are to be had. Bottom line is that in spite of all of our mistakes, and lack of knowledge, I am super-pleased with the results so far, that we are seeing in the lives of my 12 and 16 year old children, and know that they are well on their way to becoming productive and beneficial individuals who will make a difference for the better on this planet.
Missoula Children’s Theatre 2016 production of “Peter and Wendy” My Boy as Mr. Darling, and My Girl as Wendy.
Much success to you and your family, as you continue with finding your own path, and continue to learn and apply all the many nuggets to improve your home education experience.
Feel free to use the contact page to reach out for encouragement, advice about home education, implementing visual art into your program, Art Smart Visual Intelligence Art Camp, or just to say hi. You can catch us now on Facebook, Art Smart Studio! and soon, you can join us at the Facebook group, The Art Smart Lady! and of course, please subscribe to our newsletter. Thanks, and keep being brilliant!