18 October 2013

seven | school ready :: a guest post

A guest post on homeschooling, from Sarah Elwell, a poet and writer. If you haven't visited Sarah's blogs, Knitting the Wind, or gnossienne be prepared to have your heart stirred and soul moved. What I especially love about this post, is that there is so much to take away from it, whether you are homeschooling or sending your children to a more traditional school. We can all benefit from the different ways our children learn...especially in nature. 
When I first began homeschooling, I didn't appreciate how vast our classroom would be. I had no internet in those days, and all my understanding of homeschooling was based on the scant few books I found at the local library. But the thing I did not realise back then, although I take it for granted now, is that when your heart is open to the world around you, the world opens its heart to you too.

Not even the best traditional school could provide the expert tuition children receive simply by being out in the daily life of regular society. From professionals to homeschooling parents, adults are endlessly welcoming and they actually like to share their knowledge. Firemen, paleontologists, zoo keepers, butterfly farmers, forensics officers, artists, potters, sportsmen, shopkeepers, ornothologists, geologists, historians, writers, flax weavers, lion wranglers ... There's no way one teacher, no matter how dedicated and brilliant, could replicate such breadth and depth of experience. And I don't see how any school could justify the resources needed to provide all the field trips homeschoolers can do easily and often.

And there's another great teacher from whom homeschoolers learn: nature. For example, our local homeschool group, on a woodland walk to sketch autumn leaves, found a stony river and the children spontaneously built a dam, learning about physics in the process. There was no need to insist on the leaf-sketching, nor to hurry them off at the end of an hour. We mothers sat in the sunshine, picnicking, discussing lesson plans and good books, while our children got on with their learning, socialising, and sheer fun.

Because they have regular opportunities to be outdoors, knee-deep in (and heart-full of) nature, a homeschooled child can develop a good weather eye, or an instinct for bird behaviour, or a deep connection with plants. They can sit for hours in the garden, counting bird species. They can go swimming in the sea on summer afternoons while school children are sweltering in classrooms. I know homeschooling children who forage for wild food, hand-rear baby birds, run backyard weather stations, tend their own vegetable gardens, and are experts on local wildlife. They may not necessarily know all the important dates of history (although then again they might) but they do know how to truly engage with the natural world.
Thank you so much Sarah!  xxoo


  1. LOVE this post. Would love to see more. Heading over to Sarah's blog now.

  2. Thanks Rebecca for inviting me :-)

  3. It sounds like an idyllic way to learn.

  4. Oh my how much more this makes me miss homeschooling!!! Though hopefully I will have some grandchildren to take out into nature for hours of learning. I took my children somewhere outside in nature every day of the 17 yrs we homeschooled. We went on so many field trips, daily outings, weekly zoo trips(we are members), the forests, the museums, the city, and yes we swam in the sea. They loved all of this about homeschooling. It truly is the best education. Now they are honor students in college and devoted employees at various jobs and they are social with all peoples. Thank you Sarah for being a leading encourager in home education.

  5. Beautifully said! Now that my two oldest are in college, I can confidently say that homeschooling did an excellent job of preparing them to be positive, compassionate, thoughtful, hard-working adults. One of my sons is an honors student in college (the top 1% at his school) and the other is working, volunteering, and just beginning to pursue higher education. My other three children are still enjoying being home educated--with the world as their classroom!

  6. This really rings true to what I believe to be important in teaching our children. Even though we are not homeschooling our boys, this is how we spend our free time with them, taking their lead, letting them be in nature, watching them learn in the real world, without screens and distractions. Excellent post!


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