We’ve discussed, both here on the blog, as well as on other websites, Facebook, Twitter, and offline, the things we don’t like about public school, the reasons we homeschool, and the many ways the two are one and the same.
Without dunning public schools, I have to say that one of the great things about homeschooling for us, is the fact that we can come up with our own rather unique classes. The funny thing about these unusual classes is that, once upon a time, they weren’t really so unusual.
Here’s a few examples:
Once upon a time, woodworking would have been covered in something called shop class. This class was still around about 20 years ago, because I took something like it in middle school (my grandmother still has the wooden heart I made her), and my high school had the stereotypical shop teacher that was missing a finger or three.
These days, however, I don’t know of any schools that still offer a shop class. Nor do I know of any that offer a home ec class (another one I took in middle school). These just aren’t classes that are deemed important by the school system anymore.
For my kids, though? Crucial. They love wood. They love carving, cutting, sawing, and building. They love creating with wood, metal, nails and screws. They love drawing plans, tweaking them, and figuring out how to take them from paper to reality in terms of size, materials, and tools required. Since none of these classes are offered in school anymore, this passion would be stifled, and quite likely, it would eventually just disappear.
Side note: If you know of schools that still offer shop or hom ec classes, please share! From people I have spoken to in the last few years, this would be a very, very rare thing, indeed.
For the most part, this could almost fall under woodworking, as my kids make most of their knives from wood, as it’s plentiful and generally a whole lot safer than metal. But their grandfather did get each of them (himself included) a kit that allows them to make a real knife and they’ve been slowly but surely working on them.
Knives of all types, as well as swords and other weapons, are quite popular in this house. My oldest, in particular, loves to research and learn about the different styles, types of materials, and purposes of various knives. He then likes to try to come up with his own unique take on them, or come up with something new – again, usually out of wood.
This is the kind of interest that, in public school, would not only be discouraged, but it would likely result in me being called in and my son getting therapy for fear he’s a danger. He’s no danger, none of his knives have ever been used as a weapon, nor would they. He’s not a violent child. He just likes knives. He thinks they’re cool. That’s it.
Each of the wooden knives seen here started out as a branch, piece of wood or piece of plywood. All were designed by my son, although some may have been based on an image he saw.
Art is still offered in schools – well, some, if not all. But ours is different.
I don’t tell my kids what they have to work on. I let them decide for themselves whether they want to draw, take photos, paint, sculpt, or use some other medium to express themselves. I’ve got one who wields pencils and charcoals with an amazing amount of skill, while the other (like his mother) can’t draw a straight line with a ruler on each side of his pencil, but he can take some of the most beautiful photos, often without trying (also like his mother).
I don’t tell them the subject of their artwork, how it should be done, or when it should be done. I provide the materials and tools, they bring inspiration, talent, skill and perspective. And what they come up with is beautiful, even if only in their eyes, and that’s the way it should be.
Art is about freedom of expression, not about drawing what your art teacher tells you to draw, with what she tells you to draw it with, and in the short amount of time allotted.
I don’t know about you, but I hated this class in school. I mean, I despised it. If I could have gotten away with it, I would have had cramps every day that I had this class, no matter what time of the month it was.
My kids felt the same way – although they are both very athletic, active kids. This is where our ability to do things our way really comes in handy.
For my older kid, this class now takes the form of jogging, bike riding, weightlifting, and other various exercises – often, the same ones he would have done in school. Why is it not so hated now? Because he does it his way. He might still do 50 or 75 crunches or jumping jacks, but he does them when he wants, and if he wants to stop after 25 for a break or because he’s changed his mind, he does. If he feels like skipping a day, he skips a day. He’s also got a skateboard, so at park day, he’s on that – which means that even if he skipped a couple of days earlier in the week, he’s more than making up for it.
My younger kid, although athletic and active, has become more of a Minecraft freak in recent weeks, so it’s become a bit of a struggle to keep him active. He still goes on bike rides, at least. Before, he would also chase lizards, climb trees, race his brother, and run laps around the house.
We swim in the summer, and I have a couple of Just Dance games that I can sometimes rope them into doing with me.
We have various mini-classes that crop up throughout the year, based on things going on. For example, when the Medieval Faire approaches, we’ll do some studies on the time period: the food, clothing, careers, etc. as well as major events of the time.
These mini-classes have covered various time periods in history, specific events themselves, activities that go with a field trip, holidays, sports, TV shows, movies, books, businesses, and various little interests that have caught their attention but not long enough for an in-depth study.
We’ve been able to explore tons of interests that would otherwise go completely ignored or be relegated to such a small part of our day that they might as well be ignored. And in exploring those interests, other subjects have been covered. History and math are both covered in knifemaking and woodworking, as is reading, including comprehension.
We may not be covering the traditional subjects and topics that would be covered in school, but I don’t believe that’s a bad thing. Instead, we’ve learned about things that really interest my kids and might lead to their future careers. Blacksmithing is another thing that has been of great interest to them, and my oldest has even said that he’d like to be a blacksmith when he grows up – something he would never have learned about in school, beyond it being a vocabulary word and a career in the middle ages.
Don’t hesitate to explore interests that are outside “school” during “school hours.” You might be surprised at just how much they help with school, and you never know where it might lead for their future.