Growing up, I was presented with countless opportunities to learn. My mom took me and my siblings to the Zoo and the Aquarium. She took us to historical monuments and art museums. She even took us to see the inner workings of a bakery and a fire station. My dad’s military job gave my family the opportunity to live in different countries, an opportunity that no doubt helped further my education. But at the end of the day, I truly believe my education began and ended in the home, regardless of where our house was.
My earliest memories are of being taught piano by my mom and exploring the creek and the park close to our house in Missouri. When we moved overseas for the first time, we no longer had access to a library, but my mom filled our house with books—picture books, novels, science books, biographies, histories, poetry books, etc. They still have those books, and I love looking through them when I visit home to thumb through what I have read, what I would like to read, and which books I want my children to read someday. I distinctly remember reading a book in our home library about Greek mythology when I was 10 years old. I still remember what I read in that book to this day. That book was one of many which shaped my education.
Throughout my life, reading was (and has remained) a favorite pastime. I would encourage everyone, no matter what age, to jump at the chance to read a book. In fact, that is one of the biggest reasons I enjoy teaching Literature at The Thinking Kid. I think reading was one of the most integral parts of my education, and I want to help my students discover new worlds and ideas as they read for class. When I was young, my mom introduced my siblings and me to “SQUIRT time,” in an attempt to get us to read on our own. SQUIRT stood for:
S - Sustained
Q - Quiet
U - Uninterrupted
I - Individual
R - Reading
T - Time
It may be referred to as “reading time” by others, but I remember being very excited to do SQUIRT time and running to grab my book and find a quiet spot to read.
When we lived in Italy, my family drove 45 minutes both ways to get to swim team. We listened to musicals and audiobooks; we made it through all of the Harry Potter books, The Penderwick Series, The Inheritance Cycle, and a number of others. That was way back when audiobooks were on CDs. Now books are even more accessible through apps and the internet. My mom would also read to us at the lunch table and before we went to bed. It was then that we made it through The Chronicles of Narnia and the James Herriot books. When we couldn’t stay silent during meals, my mom would read cards of trivia questions about dinosaurs, history, and wonders of the world.
My mom had loads of interactive activities for us! I remember laying on the dining room table as my mom draped strips of plaster on my face to make a mask that I would then paint to resemble the Inca masks. I ground cloves for history because cloves were what Columbus was searching for when he found the Americas. Being my science teacher as well as my history teacher, my mom was the one to teach my brother and me the different muscles and bones in the body. When she told us to “run grab some markers,” I guess we both grabbed permanent markers, because neither of us could wash the big words like “FEMUR” or “TRAPEZIUS” off of ourselves before going to swim team and ballet class. In case you were wondering, it is possible to read “FIBULA” through a pair of ballet tights. As you may have guessed, I was not the only one who learned the parts of the body that day!
I have a plethora of memories from my homeschool education. The ones I have just told you were some of the highlights of my childhood. Of course, there were times I didn’t do my homework or didn’t listen to the books. I wasn’t always the best student, but I always loved to learn. I am grateful to my mom for distilling that love of learning in me. The lessons I remember most were the ones taught by my mom.
I began online classes when I was 12 years old. My favorite questions were always the application questions. “What adventures have you experienced that are similar to Homer’s Odyssey?” or “Why does everyone trust Hercule Poirot? Who is someone you trust? Why do you trust them?” My favorite assignments were active and hands-on: drawing a comic strip to visually represent a scene from a book, creating a PowerPoint presentation to be shown in class, or interviewing a grandparent to ask them what they remember about the Cuban Missile Crisis. These are aspects of learning that I try to incorporate into the classes I teach for The Thinking Kid. Even though my learning had shifted online, my mom still played a huge role in my education. I knew she wanted the best for me and that I wanted to make her proud. I wasn’t always the best student, but I learned through my mistakes because my mom believed I could.
Although she was not joining me in my online classes, my mom would ask us what we learned during dinner. We would talk about the importance of integrity, resilience, and freedom of speech. She was always there to discuss and help. While telling you about my childhood education, I have told you a lot about my mom. That is because the two cannot be separated: my learning was founded in our home.
This was my homeschool experience. My siblings may remember it differently, as they may have experienced it differently than I did. Every child’s homeschool experience will be their own—no two children will have the same experience. But for me, I wouldn’t change a thing. I learned about the world while getting to spend time exploring it. I read books at a pace that worked for me. I was able to ask any question I could think of. And I was able to do it all while spending time with my mom.
As I graduate from SVU this May, I realize that my learning experience is still founded in the home. I will always be “home” schooled because that’s the way I learn best. I have filled my home with books as my mom did. I watch documentaries to learn about different cultures and places. I listen to classical music to learn about the composers. I am still learning, and I hope I never stop!