The decision to homeschool is one that Ive made once before. About 4 years ago when my oldest son was 8 we homeschooled for an entire year. There were aspects that I loved and some that I didn’t. Looking back now I believe that I just hadn’t researched enough and didn’t wait until I found the perfect method that suited us. I signed up with a strong curriculum based program with grading and tests. It was a great online program but it was basically as if I had taken my son out of public school and started schooling him at home in the exact same way. I wish I had known then what I know now. Some children learn differently and the end result was a lot of stress and tears. All children are different and I hadn’t taken into account that my son needed a different approach. Although extremely intelligent and able to absorb information, he wasn’t one to want to sit and read or write a story. He needed a more hands on creative approach to learning which I hadn’t realized existed. So, long story short, I wasn’t prepared and the following year he went back to school. A part of me was relieved because it had all been so stressful but mostly I felt like a huge failure for not being able to succeed in something that I thought was the best choice for my son. In reflecting now I realize that Im not a failure, the dynamic just wasn’t right.
Fast forward to the end of 2016. So much has changed in the past 4 years. My oldest is 12. We also have a 3 1/2 year old and a 10 month old. We now live in Utah and live more of a homesteader lifestyle with chickens and a large garden and soon we will have bees. Its a completely different lifestyle than what we were able to have in LA. So now the discussion of preschool for our toddler. In speaking to my husband it quickly became apparent that his thoughts were very similar to what had been weighing on my heart. This boy is extremely self motivated. He wants to know and learn everything!! He can sit for an hour working on something, such as a puzzle,by himself without being asked to do so. He wants to cook his own food and know where the food comes from and how it grows. The choice to homeschool again was scary!! I was fearful and didn’t want to fail again. But I also had a knew out look and more knowledge about what is other and couldn’t let fear effect my decision. At this time I had come across a page on Instagram called Wild and Free.Co. I instantly felt a connection and knew I needed to research more. This is the homeschooling program I needed years ago! Although maybe then it wouldn’t have fit just because our life was vastly different from what it is now.(we have always been campers and nature people just without the animals and semi farm lifestyle) But Wild and Free focus’ on nature and being outdoors and learning from your environment. There is nature journaling and a wild explorers club. They focus on family, growing your own food, adventuring, and allowing the child to explore as a part of their everyday school “schedule.” I put that in quotes just because although there is structure in our day, it seemed to have come about very naturally.Not forced like some schedules can seem with children. Once you sign up with Wild and Free, you receive a monthly bundle. Every month has a different theme and a book to read with correlating worksheets. We take what we get from WF and then I add activities that focus on math and learning his letters ( at age 3 things are pretty easy and straight forward as far as what he needs to be working on). I have also research a lot about child led learning which is also something we have incorporated into our everyday routine. I take something he has asked about or shows interest in and we run with it. One week he asked about buying a cactus. So we learned about them and then took a trip to our local nursery to buy him one! Another week he saw something about dinosaurs which led to a trip to the BYU dinosaur museum, a giant dinosaur floor puzzle and lots of other dino based activities. We also spend a lot of time outdoors ( when weather allows) to learn about the trees and plants that grow around us. It has only been a couple of months but we are enjoying every moment. Everything we do is a learning experience. Making kombucha, homemade almond milk, growing mushrooms. All of it is a lesson. Even our recent trip to bryce canyon was full of information and the kids sat in the backseat and read all about its history as we drove.
(making calendula salve from a wild a free tutorial)
Last month our book of the month was “Farmer Boy” by Laura Ingalls Wilder. This book was a life changer!! At first I thought it would be too advanced for a 3 year old but he ended up loving it and asked to read every night before bed and sometimes in the morning also. He connected with the main character and even wanted to make some of the food that they spoke about int he book. In one chapter they talk about Almanzo’s birthday ( the main boy) so we went to the store the following day and bought the ingredients to make him a birthday dinner! This consisted of a roast, beans, corn bread and his favorite dish which was apples and onions. Cove was so excited for my husband to come home from work so he could sit with us and eat the meal he had prepared based off of the book. It was so exciting to him to eat the same food and his favorite character.
Although our oldest is still attending public school (by choice) he has also benefited from this process with our toddler. He gets involved with all of the fun projects and of course the outdoor exploring. Our weekly trips bring us closer as a family. He also participates in the nature journaling.He is kind of getting the best of both worlds. Although our situation may be a bit different, it is working for our family right now and I am excited to continue and involve our littlest boy as he grows and becomes big enough to take part in the learning aspect of our adventures.
To check out more about Wild and Free visit their website