A great way of thinking about home education is the opportunity to educate the whole-child. While many of our 21st century schools are not designed for this, with such a strong focus on reading and math, your home can be very much the same as homes have been for the last 100 years or so. From cooking to handicrafts, nature study to carpentry, sport to sewing there are so many skills children can learn at home, especially when you as the parent are passionate about them. I’ll share with you now one such experience.
Our Garden Story
Long before my children were ever born I was excited about starting my own garden when we bought a house. I thought about it a lot. I dabbled in other people’s gardens at homes I shared with friends and admired gardens of friends, relatives and strangers alike. I did not read a book. I just wanted to get in and get dirty. I wanted to experiment.
As we looked for a home to buy I had my eye on the yard, the slope, aspect, space, surrounding trees and soil type. The first summer we started our raised beds, built into the slope of a hill so we could use rain barrels and gravity to water during the drier summer months. I filled them all with a hodgepodge of vegetables, herbs, and flowers, learning which plants worked together and which did not. The next year we built a fence, I researched companion planting and bought a garden notebook to keep track of bed rotation and planting dates, as well as successes and challenges.
The evolution of learning through experience and research continued, and in the summer of 2016 our first child, F, was 4-6 months old. Although we got fewer plants into the ground that year we were able to get some basics planted, kale, carrots, lettuce, peas, green beans, cucumbers, tomatoes and basil. As I weeded and harvested throughout the summer I brought F with me to experience the sun on his skin, the soil between his fingers and toes, and the fresh vegetables in his mouth, even if only to gum them to death.
The following summer I introduced the ideas of beans to F. Now, 15-18 months and very curious, I showed my son how to poke holes in the soil with a finger and place one bean in each hole. He was delighted, EVERY TIME! He learned to fill the holes, pat them, and with a new child-sized watering can just for him, carefully water each one. That summer, he also got a set of tools including a hand trowel and hand rake to practice with in soil where nothing was planted.
We carefully watched and watered as the weeks passed. He helped me collect tomatoes and peas, taking taster bites as he moved in his squiggly way between the garden rows. On the days that there was a lot to harvest I would take my basket down from the hook in the kitchen and F would look at me with wide eyes and motion “please” asking for the small basket that hung beside my own. Carefully climbing down the porch stairs, and then running across the lawn, basket in hand, he was ready to join the work. Once in the garden he had learned, in small lessons throughout the summer, to walk more slowly, stopping at each plant, pulling fruits from their vines and placing them in his basket, and then moving on to the next plant, blissfully unaware that he kept tipping the basket as he went, leaving a little trail of vegetables behind him.
At the end of the summer it was time to harvest all the dried beans we had planted so many months ago. We removed the dried pods from the vines and took them inside. At his weaning table we dissected the first bean pod and discovered beans inside, just like those we planted, but MORE. He then removed them one by one into a bowl, very satisfied with his work. He worked for a long time.
When I observed how joyful he was to just be in the garden and how satisfied he seemed to be engaging in the work of the garden I decided this would always be part of our lives together. Since then, each summer we have chosen different vegetables for him to take care of from beginning to end. We now use the hose for watering and few vegetables get left behind during the harvest process. He is happy to join in and knows what to do, he is joyful and so am I.
While this is a lovely tale in its own right, it provides some important ideas about the benefits of sharing your hobbies with your children, and how to make sure it is a wonderful experience for everyone involved.
Why share your hobbies with your children?
Your children want to be in your presence quite often anyway (at least those under 10).
You need to fill your own bucket in order to be your best self.
Your children highly benefit from seeing you model joy in your own work.
You already know how to do the things you are passionate about and have chosen as hobbies, you have the competence, confidence and skills, so sharing them is a great way to educate the whole child.
How do you translate your hobby into a learning opportunity for your child and a pleasant experience for you both?
Expect there will be messes and/or mistakes.
Plan ahead and have on hand the supplies and equipment you will need to clean up and correct mistakes.
Plan ahead what you will say when messes happen and mistakes are made. (*A reminder that mistakes and even failures are needed to truly improve. It is a great opportunity to instill a growth mindset in your child.)
Expect a short attention span at first. Make sure you have stopping points in mind and a follow-up activity for the child to move on to so that you can continue to the best stopping point for the day. This will allow you to avoid frustration about having to move on from the work yourself.
Make sure you have supplies enough for you to work side by side with one or more children. If possible, get child sized supplies to ease the difficulty of getting started on a new type of hobby/work.
Separate the hobby into smaller steps or skills required. Pre-teach individual skills if it makes sense, or plan on only introducing parts of the work or hobby at one time.